3G vs. HSDPA: Does speed matter?

3G or HSDPA — most mobile users would not mind the difference these two have when it comes to connecting via mobile 3G internet. This is mainly because most people think 3G in the Philippines is slow anyway. I looked into this to see if the difference between 3G and HSDPA speeds really matter.

3G (3rd Generation of Telecommunication Standards) is a standard of cellular connectivity which allows for speeds of up to 384 Kb/s downstream and 64 Kb/s upstream.

3G HSDPA is a 3G enhancement — HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) is a new mobile data protocol and is sometimes referred to as a 3.5G. Theoretically, HSDPA speeds can reach 3.6 Mbps downstream and 348 Kbps upstream.

My 3G vs. HSDPA test included the ff.:

Smart SIM
Nokia E51 (for HSDPA)
Nokia E63 (for 3G)
Standard Nokia USB Cable
Desktop PC on Windows XP + Nokia PC Suite
SpeedTest.net & 2Wire.com (on Google Chrome Browser)

Using SpeedTest.net (to target a local server) and 2Wire.com (a US server), I took 11 samples for each phone (one on HSDPA and the other on 3G). I dropped the highest and lowest scores and averaged the remaining 9 test results.

Results are as follows:

3G (on Nokia E63)
Download Speed: 448 Kbps (SpeedTest) / 306 Kbps (2Wire)
Upload Speed: 226 Kbps (SpeedTest)
Latency: 274ms

HSDPA (on Nokia E51)
Download Speed: 1,534 Kbps (SpeedTest) / 650 Kbps (2Wire)
Upload Speed: 346 Kbps (SpeedTest)
Latency: 94ms

The numbers might not be definitive but the speed difference is significant between 3G and 3.5G (HSDPA). The speeds will be noticeable especially when you’re downloading torrents as the 3G will hit a speed cap at around 50KB/s while you can still go up to 400+KB/s on HSDPA.

The more surprising result was the latency (response delay) between the two. Latency is significantly lower on HSDPA compared to 3G which means playing network/online games will be much better on HSDPA.

Hope this test results will help you in your next phone purchase with a 3G or an HSDPA. Of course, results will vary depending on the network you are on (in this case, I used Smart 3G).

26 Comments on this Post

  1. I’m very happy with my Sun Mobile Broadband. Thank god there’s HSDPA signal where I’m at and I’m able to easily hit 3.6 Mbps during off peak hours.

    … I didn’t even expect Sun’s HSDPA to support 3.6 Mbps, I thought they’d start with 1.8 Mbps then move up from there.

    Reply
  2. B. Mangahas

    Lucien, what’s sun’s average speed during peak hours?

    Reply
  3. That’s pretty neat. :)

    Reply
  4. Andre Marcelo-Tanner

    I’d like a Globe VS Smart comparison :)

    Reply
  5. speed really does matter. I don’t want to waste time by waiting for something to finish downloading. I don’t have that much patience… my bad…

    Reply
  6. sana hinde lag sa garena.. para di ak ma first blood

    Reply
  7. pretty nice but basically it really depends upon your location since it’s a wireless technology there would be a lot of attenuation.

    Reply
  8. During peak hours I usually get around 700 kbps…

    I think my connection was about 300 kbps the other day though but it only lasted for like an hour then I was back to HSDPA speeds. I usually experience HSDPA speeds more often than non-HSDPA speeds.

    Reply
  9. where are you when you got those speeds?

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  10. They are significantly different. With mere 3G, you’re sometimes getting speeds which are worse than dial-up. Their ad is frankly misleading.

    I own an E51 and it is quite good using an HSDPA with speeds comparable to PLDT DSL at home with prices quite cheap.

    Reply
  11. hourglass

    cool… But I think it really depends upon the location… Considering the attenuation and interference. Thanks for the info! Great blog… More power!

    Reply
  12. Visibility anywhere in Katipunan sucks. -_- Should’ve gotten Smart Bro na lang, if not for the hassle of needing a Smart Phone/Sim to reload the credits. Grr

    Reply
  13. Hi Abe and others,

    I’ve been a DSL user until I realize I have to get wireless esp on HSDPA.

    You’ve mention about using Smart. Is it the ordinary sim that they have or I need to acquire a special sim for HSDPA?

    I have sony ericsson w760i phone capable of HSDPA…hopefully I can harness its functionality.

    Thanks in advance guys.

    Reply
  14. @ferdz – you can sue the ordinary SIM card from Smart, Globe and Sun Cellular as long as you have an HSDPA-capable handset to use with it.

    @techie – Makati area.

    Reply
  15. useful info, have you tried N95?

    __________________
    Filipino Community
    http://kasikas.com

    Reply
  16. Hi, i have a nokia 5800. It says it has 3G HSDPA. I don’t know what that actually mean but how will you know (using your laptop w/c is connected to your phone) if your using the 3G network or the HSDPA network? Thanks.

    Reply
  17. try HSPA850 capable phones (HTC TYTN II) with smart sims, it supports up to 7.2 Mbps downlink.

    Reply
  18. NJNGuy

    Not all 3G phones are the same. The maximum 3G design speed on a Nokia E63 is only 384Kbps. Your test results may be invalid.

    http://europe.nokia.com/find-products/devices/nokia-e63/specifications

    Reply
  19. I was using smart 3G for years, even on remote islands such as Siargao island or Banaue rice terraces – in most areas I had 3.5G signal with 1Mbps, later I found out that my 1Mbps only was limited by my bluetooth connection from laptop to my Nokia.
    My latest phone was Nokia N900 for internet.

    Right now these months I am in Cambodia, using 3.5G with up to 4.5Mbps night time and half in daytime. Connecting laptop via N900 or N6-01.

    Reply
  20. I could never get speeds like this. Maybe the network coverage is important too?

    Reply
  21. May be one overlooked criteria is signal strength at the precise location of your USB stick or mobile phone and the relative position/location of your device to the nearest network tower. That is specially important when indoors and on one side of a building and the ISP antenna tower is on the opposite side of the house.
    Best always is line of sight between your mobile device and the provider tower, or just look at the signal strength indicator on a mobile phone. Only MAX signal gives ideal speed. even a little less than max signal may reduce speed to half or less. half or less signal may make internet communication fragile/interrupted or impossible.
    within cities or amidst high buildings signal strength may often show max, but the signal actually is a signal reflected on the walls of surrounding high buildings and often a distorted signal.
    In addition you may have max signal but also max interference signals from industrial communication. I noticed such many times in Baguio city with max signal but Internet AND voice communication was of terrible quality.
    As a helpful rule:
    If you can make loud and crystal clear voice calls on same mobile, then you also get max speed available when indicator shows 3.5G

    Reply

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