Sure, I have blogged about the iPhone 3G reception before and how it could probably be improved a touch. But in general the speeds have not been too bad.
Generally, Tech (possibly most ?!) stories in mainstream media are usually pretty poor quality. Unfortunately, The Age have continued this by today writing a bogus article regarding some random guy who is complaining about poor 3G speeds. Is he aware that the tool he is using, iNetwork Test, is contacting a server in the USA to test his speed with ? Of course he will get slow speeds !! It will only be as fast as the smallest pipe. And quite frankly – being a MD of a security company he probably should know better how the Internet works. Also – if he cares about his privacy, he probably should not have shown everyone the Lat/Long coordinates where he performed the speed test.
For more accurate speed tests, use http://www.ozspeedtest.com/bandwidth/ and pick a local mirror. I am on Optus, and using iNetwork Test I got about 175kbps, and on ozspeedtest.com using the 600kb file test, I got 1.2Mbps for my speed.
None of the speed tests are very accurate, due to many factors at play. 3G networks are “bursty”. That is, you do not get guaranteed bandwidth and it depends on how many people using your cell at the time you do the test what your result will be. Also, 3G networks have quite a bit of latency, which means that from the time you send your request, the response will take a bit longer to come back than if you were on a wired connection such as DSL or Cable. This will affect the reported speed test result, unless it is smart and takes into account the latency in its calculation – which is possible.