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A new study has named O2 as the top UK internet service provider (ISP) based upon mobile broadband speeds.

The communications regulator investigated the downloading speeds available to dongle users across the UK, studying a number of broadband providers.

The research involved more than 4.2 million tests, measuring both the download speeds and overall performance of the five main mobile ISPs in 3G networked areas.

O2 outperformed T-Mobile, Orange, 3 and Vodafone on both dongle speeds and service quality, justifying the firm's heavy investment in mobile broadband services.

The ISP was found to have lower latency than its industry rivals, meaning broadband connections are more responsive to users.

Ofcom found that the standard UK dongle user is able to download at a rate of 1.5Mb, with individual pages taking an average of 8.5 seconds to load.

But consumers who use a fixed broadband connection still benefit from significantly faster broadband speeds at 6.2Mb, with pages taking just 0.5 seconds to load.

"The slower speed of web page downloading on mobile broadband compared to fixed broadband is largely the result of higher levels of latency," Ofcom explained.

"In addition to increasing the time for web page downloads, high latency may make connections less suitable for some online games and VoIP."

However, despite the slower download speeds on offer, the number of households relying on dongles for internet access has continued to increase in recent years.

Some 17 per cent of UK homes currently take advantage of mobile broadband services, Ofcom reported, with seven per cent now reliant on their USB Modem for web access.

Back in 2009, when the regulator previously investigated dongle usage, just three per cent of homes said mobile broadband was their only means of accessing the internet.

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