Hurricane Irene and that rare East Coast earthquake slowed mobile web performance during the last couple weeks of August, but overall page load speeds improved, according to Keynote System’s August 2011 Mobile News and Portal Index provided exclusively to Wireless Week.
Both Hurricane Irene and the earthquake drew additional traffic to the news sites monitored in the News and Portal index. Two news sites saw their page load time drop by over 3.5 seconds when compared to the same hours between Aug. 22 and Aug. 23. The same two news sites also experienced reliability decreases of more than 15 percent.
During the seven-day period from Aug. 22 to Aug. 28, several news sites had their slowest mobile page load time. Certain mobile news sites had their greatest slowdowns on Thursday, Aug. 25, and Friday, Aug. 26, when people located up and down the eastern seaboard were preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irene. However, all of the mobile news sites included in the report resumed their normal levels on and after Saturday, Aug. 27.
USA Today had the largest page load time improvement in August. It increased its average download time by 6.98 seconds to 15.27 seconds. This moved USA Today from being the slowest site in July to the 11th fastest site in August. Two other sites improved their page load times by more than one second. ESPN was 1.68 seconds faster with an average download speed of 16.85 seconds and Yahoo! was 1.44 seconds faster at an average download speed of 15.71 seconds.
FOX News had the largest reliability improvement; it gained 6.73 percentage points for an average of 98.23 percent success rate. Another site that had more than 1 percentage point gain is USA Today, with a 1.25 percentage point gain and an average for the month of 98.07 percent.
Fully 17 out of 21 sites had an average reliability drop in August compared to July. Keynote attributes this drop at least in part to major news events, like Hurricane Irene and the East Coast earthquake, which occurred toward the end of August and brought sudden traffic surges to many news sites.
Keynote says that travelers who were affected flocked onto airline and travel mobile sites when the average voice call wait time to a reach a customer service agent reached a crawl.
Next month, Keynote will take a look at how mobile sites performed from the Travel and Hospitality industry and will compare and contrast the data from 30 mobile sites including travel portals, airline, hotel, rental car and destination sites.
Keynote repeatedly tests the sites in the index hourly and around the clock from four locations over the leading four U.S. wireless networks, emulating the browsers of four different devices: the iPhone 4 on AT&T, the HTC Evo (Android) on Sprint, the Motorola Droid X (Android) on Verizon Wireless and the BlackBerry Curve on T-Mobile USA. Data is collected from: San Francisco, New York, Dallas and Chicago and then aggregated to provide an overall monthly average in terms of both speed and reliability.
For a full look at how the 20 sites included in the report performed, take a look at the chart below.