Web Browsing over DSL and 3G Compared Side by Side

Web surfing over 3G must be slower than over DSL, right? To see if this statement is correct, I used two computers side by side, one connected to to Internet over a 3 Mbit/s DSL line and the other one over a 3G dongle. The 3G network of choice was that of Vodafone Germany in Cologne with the base station at least supporting HSDPA category 8 (7.2 Mbit/s) devices.

For the first web browsing test I used a Huawei E220 3G dongle with a somewhat older but very reliable HSDPA category 6 software load. Computer screens side side by side I simultaneously clicked on links to load web pages, both visited and never visited before, to see on which computer the pages displayed first. The result: In this test, the web pages took around one second longer to be first displayed on the 3G connected computer but the difference was quite minor. Definitely less than what I expected.

In a second test, I used an HSDPA category 8 + HSUPA capable E176 which has been available on the market already for a little while. Definitely not the latest and greatest anymore but still good hardware. With this setup the side by side comparison showed no difference anymore, pages on both computers showed up almost instantly. Sometimes, the page would show on the DSL connected computer a fraction of a second earlier, sometimes it would be loaded a bit quicker over the 3G connection. Fantastic!

A little caveat: At the time of the test the network was only slightly loaded so one of these days I have to find a time at which it is a bit busier and repeat the test to see if that makes a big difference.