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Line rental and broadband price rises on the way to BT Retail

Friday 29 April 2016 11:08:56 by Andrew Ferguson

Where BT Retail goes others usually follow so for those looking to escape the latest round of retail price rises from BT Retail you need to pick carefully or just accept that you will be exercising your right to exact a contract early due to a price rise several times a year.

The majority of the latest round of price rises take effect on 3rd July 2016 and the list of key changes is:

  • Line rental going up to £18.99/month from £17.99/month
  • Line rental saver rises to £205.08 (equivalent of £17.09/month
  • Call set up fee rises to 19p
  • Weekday calls will be 11p/minute
  • BT Kids, Kids Extra and Music rising to £4/month
  • Standard price for Unlimited ADSL2+ will be £20/month
  • Standard price for Unlimited Infinity 1 will be £26/month
  • Standard price for Unlimited Infinity 2 will be £32.50/month
  • Standard price for Unlimited Infinity 3 will be £45/month
  • Standard price for Unlimited Infinity 4 will be £52/month
  • BT Total Entertainment will be £16/month

The announcement comes at the same time as the last round of BT Reward Cards finished, and offer prices have been re-jigged with a series of price offers available until the 5th May 2016.

For existing BT customers those who will be affected by the price rises should get the appropriate notification and even if in a minimum term contract and are affected can leave without penalty, but in a broadband market where set-up fees often apply moving may not always save money. One tactic that can work for some customers is to negotiate a deal once their contract comes to an end.

The price rises are not the result of any wholesale price rises, but one presumes things like employing more call centre staff may be adding to the costs and the continuing popularity of streaming video which means core network capacity is continually upgraded may be behind some of the broadband cost rises. Another less popular reason may be that rather than a BT Sport Lite pack the broadband packages appear to have access to BT Sport channels 1,2, Europe and ESPN again.

With sixteen years of experience we believe it is safe to say that what we will see in the rest of 2016 is other providers increasing their line rental, with most electing to undercut BT Retail slightly. For those hoping Ofcom will put an end to the annual rises, remember most major complaints have been that BT Retail is too cheap compared to the wholesale costs.

With the entry level unlimited superfast service from BT retail costing £44.99 per month once all the offers expire, then is plenty of scope for vertically integrated operators to undercut while also rolling out their network. It does not soften the price rises, but some 15 years ago everyone got very excited when Pipex reduced its 0.5 Mbps ADSL pricing to £30 per month (line rental was around £10/month extra but you had a freedom to choose any provider for that).

Update 7:15pm There are some other changes on the way and these changes for some people may just be enough to offset the price rises. Existing Infinity 1 customers should see their package upgraded to the up to 52 Mbps download service as provided to new customers, though only those hitting the artificial up to 38 Mbps limit now will benefit. BT Cloud storage is increasing existing 5GB users should get a new 50GB allowance and those with the old 50GB (e.g. Infinity 2 users) will see a jump to 500GB, the unlimited Infinity 1 package is being listed as having a 100GB online storage option now. For those on the entry level usage capped broadband packages there is also changes, 10GB monthly allowances will rise to 12GB, 20GB to 25GB and 40GB to 45GB. Also customers will be able to get BT NetProtect for free. Finally perhaps in response to the constant moans about broadband and phone repair times, BT Retail is opting for a higher level of service from its suppliers in other parts of the BT Group, which should mean if a fault needs an engineer attending they should be sent 24 hours quicker than previously - oddly one of the BT Retail competitors reduced the care level it has on its services recently.

Broadband speeds in 42 UK cities

Thursday 28 April 2016 10:17:13 by Andrew Ferguson

uSwitch has published a new round of analysis on broadband speeds in the UK, and has focussed on the 24 biggest cities where it a significant amount of data to give meaningful results for the period 9th August 2015 to 8th February 2016.

Rank UK City/Town Average Download Speed
1 Middlesbrough 34.46 Mbps
2 Belfast 34.34 Mbps
3 Brighton 33.8 Mbps
4 Swindon 31.83 Mbps
5 Nottingham 30.43 Mbps
6 Cardiff 30.23 Mbps
7 Bristol 28.63 Mbps
8 Huddersfield 27.71 Mbps
9 Plymouth 27.33 Mbps
10 Southampton 27.03 Mbps
11 Sunderland 26.73 Mbps
12 Liverpool 26.6 Mbps
13 Bournemouth 26.57 Mbps
14 Glasgow 26.32 Mbps
15 Leeds 26.18 Mbps
16 Birmingham 25.79 Mbps
17 Wigan 25.52 Mbps
18 Barnsley 25.34 Mbps
19 Leicester 24.76 Mbps
20 Derby 24.54 Mbps
21 Warrington 24.52 Mbps
22 Preston 24.41 Mbps
23 Manchester 23.81 Mbps
24 Stoke-on-Trent 23.2 Mbps
25 Reading 22.73 Mbps
26 Northampton 22.64 Mbps
27 Coventry 22.48 Mbps
28 London 22.44 Mbps
29 Swansea 22.29 Mbps
30 Bradford 21.93 Mbps
31 Peterborough 21.79 Mbps
32 York 21.29 Mbps
33 Newport 21.24 Mbps
34 Newcastle Upon Tyne 21.14 Mbps
35 Edinburgh 21.07 Mbps
36 Norwich 19.43 Mbps
37 Doncaster 18.38 Mbps
38 Sheffield 18.36 Mbps
39 Wakefield 17.49 Mbps
40 Milton Keynes 17.1 Mbps
41 Aberdeen 15.67 Mbps
42 Kingston Upon Hull 12.42 Mbps

Of course we have our own analysis from our speed test results and a deeper analysis of your area available via the postcode search on on coverage and speed tool. Our analysis also breaks out the average speeds for the different technologies in an area.

What has been interesting about this release of data is the way it is being reported and it is almost being used to try and show that the Governments target for 90% superfast coverage which we reported on recently being met is actually a sham and failure (for the record the Q1/2016 average speed for VDSL2 was 28.2 Mbps down and 7 Mbps up, medians of 26.5 Mbps and 6.1 Mbps). Alas this overlooks the realities of the broadband market and that no-one is twisting the arm of people to upgrade to the newer faster services. Encouraging people to spend more per month on their broadband can be a difficult task and there is a real possibility that the often negative headlines about speed, coverage and customer service issues mean the average person feels better off staying with the service they have.

Looking at Kingston Upon Hull in a bit more detail, we have a slightly higher average speed of 16.3 Mbps down and 3.7 Mbps up (median 5.9 Mbps and 0.7 Mbps), the average actually rises to 17.1 Mbps down and 3.8 Mbps up when we filter out the non KCom customers. The reason for Hull being so slow is that only around 4 out of 10 premises have access to KCom Lightstream (take-up will of course be significantly lower) and looking at the technology split we see KCom ADSL2+ customers with an average of 4.9 Mbps and 0.6 Mbps and even though Lightstream a 250 Mbps option using FTTH it looks like the up to 50 Mbps option is the most popular as Lightstream has an average of 35.5 Mbps down and 8.2 Mbps up.

The popularity of the fastest broadband options or rather the low popularity is very clearly demonstrated by the City of Nottingham, where the theory says if everyone purchased the fastest available connection an average download speed of 186.5 Mbps is possible. The 186.5 Mbps figure looks implausibly high, but with Virgin Media available to 91.5% of premises and their fastest option being 200 Mbps (and now if you ask you can get a 300 Mbps service in some areas) it is possible. The reality we are seeing for Nottingham is an average 33 Mbps down and 4.6 Mbps up, FTTC/VDSL2 customers average 30.6 Mbps down and 7.8 Mbps up, cable 47.9 Mbps down and 5.7 Mbps up, mobile 11.6 Mbps down and 2.5 Mbps up and finally ADSL2+ 7.1 Mbps and 0.6 Mbps up.

The big driver for getting faster broadband at home will be teenagers and multiple occupancy, since the days of everyone watching the same TV show from a choice of 3 channels are a dream from the 1970's. The shift of BBC Three from broadcast to an online TV channel shows how established online video is as the killer app for broadband and for any home so long as their connection can cope with the viewing habits of the household encouraging them to upgrade to spend more is harder, in fact we have seen a trend of people who have bought the fastest package downgrading to save money once they look at what speeds they actually need rather than what the marketing people say they need. We had expected the BBC Three online shift to cause a big outcry from millions not able to stream it, but beyond the complaints about the change there has been very little in terms of complaints about not being able to watch BBC Three content.

Virgin Media lays claim to largest FTTH roll-out in UK

Wednesday 27 April 2016 13:25:23 by Andrew Ferguson

The coverage of pure fibre (Fibre to the Home) may be about to accelerate significantly based on an announcement from Virgin Media, namely that at least a quarter of the four million premises that will be covered by Project Lightning will be connected using Fibre to the Home (FTTH/FTTP).

Project Lightning is aiming to expand the Virgin Media footprint to 17 million premises by 2019 and started last year and with the 250,000 new premises covered already we have seen the cable coverage figures rise from 48.5% to the current 49% and if 2016 sees the promised 500,000 premises delivered this will rise another 1.6%.

"Our £3bn investment to bring ultrafast connectivity to more parts of the UK is not just about better broadband, it’s about future-proofing the country’s network infrastructure with the best and most modern technology.

While some companies talk a good game, Virgin Media is putting its money where its mouth is and laying fibre to the premise alongside our superior HFC network - delivering the fastest widely available broadband speeds.

In just over one year we’ve laid enough new cable to stretch all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats, reaching a quarter of a million more homes and businesses – and there’s much more to come.

Tom Mockridge, CEO of Virgin Media

For the consumer other than actually having a piece of fibre optic cable direct to the home there is no difference in the products compared to the existing Virgin Media range and exactly the same modems and TV set-top boxes are used, as the service is delivered as RFOG (Radio Frequency Over Glass) which then adds a small converter to extract the signal from the passive optical network and present it in a coax format to the consumer hardware. As there is no difference we have as yet no added any Virgin Media premises to the FTTH coverage figures on our trackers, we have asked Virgin Media if they are happy to share this subset of premises so that the we can both track the changing Virgin Media coverage like we already do but also add the subset to the FTTH figures.

Given the ultrafast battle that is now on the front burner after a decade of simmering away on a low heat it will be interesting to see how BT and others react. BT appears more receptive to the idea of rolling out higher volumes of FTTH than it has been for some years and if there is a proven volume of demand (rather than the usual 1% of suspects buying for bragging rights) for speeds beyond what G.fast can offer we might see a shift from BT too.

If Virgin Media delivers 1 million premises on FTTH, and BT and others continue on the same path as they are now then UK will have FTTH coverage of around 5 to 7% in 2019. If we ignore technology labels and concentrate on just speed, it means even if BT does not roll-out any G.fast we are looking at ultrafast broadband (100 Mbps, 200 Mbps or 300 Mbps definition) availability of 60 to 65% in three years time. If the BT Group deploys G.fast in volume it could be significantly higher maybe around the 80% mark.

Lincolnshire ends first phase of gap funded rollout

Wednesday 27 April 2016 10:20:53 by Andrew Ferguson

The joint project between Lincolnshire and BT has announced the end of the first phase of its roll-out project and is claiming more than 90% of homes and businesses are able to access superfast broadband in the county.

Our figures 24 hours ago indicated that we believed 87.3% of premises in the county had access to a superfast service of over 24 Mbps download speed, and searching for new cabinets unveiled a small amount of native FTTP, a couple of new VDSL2 cabinets, Exchange Only Line (EOL) upgrades and additionally corrections affecting 1,500 premises (Lincolnshire comprises over 300,000 premises to give an idea of the scale involved) and this has raised the coverage level to 88.2%.

This means based on the original target of 88% superfast announced for the project, it seems the goal has been met, but still shy of the 90% in the BT press release. One possibility is that our pessimism on the range of VDSL2 and the impact that cross talk will have may explain the gap and better to under estimate performance, something that the public, Which! and MP's are actively campaigning for.

thinkbroadband calculation of Superfast, USC, USO and Fibre Broadband Coverage across Lincolnshire and its constituencies
Data from 27th April 2016
(change singe 10th November 2015)
Percentage is based around the number of homes and businesses able to access a service according to the column title. The difference between the fibre based figure and the superfast figures show how distance impacts VDSL2 speeds.
Area % fibre based % superfast
24 Mbps or faster
% superfast
30 Mbps or faster
% Ultrafast % Openreach FTTP % Under 2 Mbps USC % Under 10 Mbps USO
Lincolnshire County 96.3% (+3.7) 88.2% (+5.3) 86.9% 24.4% 0.01% 2.5% 7.2%
Boston and Skegness 92.7% (+2.5) 85.3% (+6.2) 84.1% 0% 0% 1.7% 9.1%
Gainsborough 97% (+3.6) 85.2% (+5.9) 83.1% 12.1% 0.04% 4.3% 10.1%
Grantham and Stamford 96.3% (+4.3) 91.9% (+5.6) 91.1% 35.7% 0% 1.2% 6%
Lincoln 99.3% (+0.2) 99.1% (+0.7) 99% 89.1% 0% 0.1% 0.1%
Louth and Horncastle 94% (+6.2) 79.9% (+5.9) 78% 3.6% 0% 4.8% 12.9%
Sleaford and North Hykeham 98% (+4) 88.9% (+7.1) 88.1% 24.3% 0% 3.3% 7.4%
South Holland and The Deepings 96.7% (+5.2) 85.9% (+5.9) 84% 0.4% 0% 2.1% 6.7%

For those looking at the change figures in brackets, there may be some who wonder how the superfast coverage in six months can jump more than the level of fibre based services, this is because the model we have created over the last few years is far from static and is being refined all the time, or put another way as we see take-up and speed tests on the various cabinets it helps us to identify cabinets where the automatic model may have the cabinet in the wrong place and therefore require a manual search on Street View. Some of this refinement is needed as exchange only lines receive a new cabinet offering VDSL2, or are re-engineered to connect to an existing cabinet in some cases. Once you know that there are over 75,000 cabinets enabled for a VDSL2 service across the UK the scale of the challenge becomes apparent. Our original aim with the coverage information was to ensure that someone was keeping a cold hard eye on what was being delivered, rather than just relying on the PR machines of BT, Ofcom and the Government.

So what about those who have missed out in Lincolnshire so far? Well phase 2 is looking to extend superfast coverage to 95% by the end of 2017 and the county already has widespread availability of fixed wireless services, which hopefully means not too many people will need to fall back to the worst case situation of applying for a USC voucher and ordering satellite broadband.

Hopefully more Fibre to the Home will feature in the phase 2 project, but this is often a case of balancing the cost and speed of roll-out against the various targets. Its a little like buying your first car, you don't save up for 15 years to buy your perfect car that you will keep for a decade but for most people it is a case of finding something that will meet your transport needs and is within your budget and should run for a couple of years.

Sky adds 46,000 broadband customers in the last quarter

Friday 22 April 2016 09:52:49 by Andrew Ferguson

Sky may have added the smallest number of broadband customers for some time with 46,000 new broadband additions in the three months to the end of March 2016 but this is offset by a 15% increase in operating profit. Looking back at our records July 2014 with 50,000 additions reported was the last similarly performing quarter.

Sky is still firmly the second largest broadband retailer in the UK with some 5,943,000 broadband customers and while the latest results do not give any detail on the split between ADSL2+ and VDSL2 products, but given we know Openreach supplies VDSL2/FTTP to around 1.8 million connections that are not via BT Retail we suspect Sky has somewhere in the region of 750,000 VDSL2 (FTTC - Fibre to the Cabinet) customers.

"In the UK and Ireland we had a good quarter of growth, following a strong first half. We focused our marketing on building brand awareness for Sky Q, ahead of the first installations towards the end of the quarter. In Q3 we added 70,000 new retail customers and 438,000 new products, including 46,000 new broadband additions. Churn for the quarter was 10.7%, reflecting our decision to limit discounts; we believe this impacts the quarter by around 10,000 additional customers churning. Revenue was up 6% to £6,161 million (2015: £5,824 million) which, together with our strong focus on operating efficiency, delivered a 15% increase in operating profit to £1,154 million (2015: £1,004 million)."

Extract from Sky results for period ending 31st March 2016

The reason for the drop in growth is hinted at in the report to investors and that is in a highly competitive retail environment where once people get above the basic speeds needed to deliver streamed video the biggest drive is price and signing up to a service with the best offer, be that low price or free gifts.

Sky has been working with CityFibre in York on a joint venture also involving TalkTalk and while we have been seeing plenty of TalkTalk users testing connections in the area, as yet no identifiable Sky users and an article in The Times may explain why. While during the run up to the big once a decade review by Ofcom Sky was calling for Ofcom to hive off Openreach out of the BT Group, it now appears the tide has turned and Sky is comfortable as a wholesaler of Openreach's fibre products. This suggests that the joint venture in York is not going to be the prelude to Sky rolling out a similar network to millions of homes, but rather a continuation of the sale of Openreach VDSL2 and perhaps once G.fast and FTTP roll-outs accelerate using those. The York service was always described as a trial, with the aim to pass some 20,000 premises which apart from a few small areas has been done. For Openreach this will all be good news, as even if Ofcom goes all Defcon 1 on a full split (which it claims to have retained the ability to do) if Openreach does not perform, it is highly likely that the two largest broadband retailers would be on-board as anchor tenants.

BT Reward Cards are back on the BT Broadband range

Thursday 21 April 2016 17:55:59 by Andrew Ferguson

The BT Infinity 1 service was revamped last week to increase the package speed from up to 38 Mbps to up to 52 Mbps and this is now backed up by the return of the BT Reward Cards for new customers ordering online before the end of 28th April 2016.

The BT Reward Card is as usual a prepaid MasterCard that you can claim once the service has gone live and varies in value from £25 on the cheapest ADSL2+ service through to £125 on Infinity 2, 3 & 4.

The pricing is unchanged from a week ago, so Unlimited ADSL2+ is £7.50/m for 12 months plus the £17.99/m line rental with a £50 BT Reward Card (after 12 months broadband rises to £18/m). Or you can add the TV starter packwith the basic YouView set-top box for no extra cost in the first 12 months with the broadband price after 12 months rising to £22/m.

For those chasing the Infinity (FTTC/VDSL2) products, Unlimited Infinity 1 with its £100 BT Reward Card is £12.50/m for 12 months rising to £25/m after the 12 month contract with the £17.99/m line rental applying from month 1. Infinity 2 is its usual £30/m plus £17.99/m line rental and has a £125 reward card. We know some people have seen Unlimited Infinity 1 at a higher £20/m but this is because depending on your journey to the BT site you can sometimes see different prices, so be sure to click the Infinity 1 link above to get the £12.50/m price.

While Ultrafast Infinity 3 and 4 are available for just under 1% of UK premises where Openreach FTTP is available, they still qualify for the highest value £125 BT Reward Card. The FTTP products carry an 18 month contract rather than the usual BT 12 month contract.

For those chasing a 4G SIM only deal, there are £10 to £40 iTunes or Amazon Gift Cards up for grabs. The 2GB 4G data allowance service for those joining online who are not BT Broadband customers also has a price offer running of £11/m rather than £15/m for the 12 month contract period.

Grant Shapps and BIG turn big guns on broadband advertising speeds

Saturday 16 April 2016 12:11:53 by Andrew Ferguson

Grant Shapps and his BIG group of MPs have started a new campaign this time aimed at resolving the 'British Broadband rip-off', or put simply the lobby group wants the rules around broadband advertising torn up and the speed that the slowest 10% on a product to be used in its advertising and also an automatic right to compensation for providers don't meet promises and making contract cancellation easier.

"It’s a scandal that official watchdog rules allow Internet Service Providers to claim download speeds which only 1 in 10 of their customers actually receive.

Consumers expect refunds when their trains are late or a flight is delayed, yet there is no similar compensation for lousy internet services which fail to deliver the speeds advertised.

Given that a decent broadband connection is viewed as the fourth utility by many British families, this overcharging and under-delivery is a scandal every bit as big as PPI miss-selling and the VW Exhaust emission scandal.

Grant Shapps MP talking to The Telegraph

The current advertising rules require providers to be able to show that 10% of those buying a service get above the advertised speed, and well over 90% of UK broadband connections are with a provider who is signed up to the broadband speeds voluntary code of practice, which means that before people part with financial details they will have received a personal speed estimate and they are free to cancel the contract if speed promises are not fulfilled.

A change to drop advertised speed to the bottom 10% is a massive change in direction, and comes just days after Ed Vaizey MP called for broadband speeds advertising to be reconsidered, though a more measured approach based around a median (average) result in advertising was what we thought was meant.

With our extensive speed test results we are able to provide some much needed data on UK providers into a debate that has been waged across the globe, i.e. broadband speed issues are not a uniquely British problem. Based on the speed test results for March 2016, we have published the speed of the slowest 10%, median speeds and fastest 10% for 25 providers (we have dropped upload speeds to avoid a table too full of figures, but the full table is still available.

25 Fastest Median Speed UK Broadband Providers in March 2016
(ordered by median speed)
Smaller providers without enough geographic data samples are not included
Provider Download Speed of slowest 10% Median Download Download Speed of top 10%
Venus 24.6 Mbps 97.7 Mbps 462.4 Mbps
B4RN 9.4 Mbps 47.6 Mbps 290.8 Mbps
Virgin Media 7.4 Mbps 41.3 Mbps 102.8 Mbps
Hyperoptic 9.2 Mbps 40.5 Mbps 232.1 Mbps
Wessex Internet 16.8 Mbps 29.1 Mbps 54.6 Mbps
Gigaclear 14.8 Mbps 28 Mbps 214.2 Mbps
Vodafone Broadband 4.8 Mbps 28 Mbps 59 Mbps
Metronet UK 3.2 Mbps 27.9 Mbps 84 Mbps
Keycom 1.2 Mbps 22.4 Mbps 98.8 Mbps
AAISP 2.5 Mbps 16 Mbps 72.5 Mbps
Zen Internet 2.1 Mbps 14.8 Mbps 61.5 Mbps
BT 1.5 Mbps 14.5 Mbps 40.5 Mbps
EE Mobile (3G/4G) 1.8 Mbps 14.3 Mbps 43.8 Mbps
IDNet 2.1 Mbps 12.5 Mbps 55.9 Mbps
Vodafone Mobile 2 Mbps 12.3 Mbps 36.5 Mbps
Claranet SOHO 1.1 Mbps 11.4 Mbps 56.4 Mbps
Relish 0.9 Mbps 10.9 Mbps 30.3 Mbps
Plusnet 1.3 Mbps 9.8 Mbps 37.9 Mbps
O2 Mobile 1.7 Mbps 8.9 Mbps 32.2 Mbps
TalkTalk 1.6 Mbps 8 Mbps 33.9 Mbps
Sky 1.4 Mbps 7.9 Mbps 29.3 Mbps
Three 1.3 Mbps 7.6 Mbps 31.5 Mbps
KCom 1.8 Mbps 7.3 Mbps 54.7 Mbps
Daisy Wholesale 1.1 Mbps 7 Mbps 37.5 Mbps
EE (ADSL2+/FTTC) 1.2 Mbps 6.9 Mbps 33.2 Mbps
Eclipse KCom outside Hull 0.7 Mbps 6.3 Mbps 35.7 Mbps

As you can see the bottom 10% varies a lot and may surprise some, with even providers often seen as being fast or using fixed speed connection technology (e.g. FTTH/DOCSIS) showing that hitting the speed on the tin is not always that easy, and factors such as computer specification, Wi-Fi versus Ethernet, time of day, local congestion, congestion in providers backhaul or peering congestion can all be a factor. These factors mean that even if the slowest 10% figure was to be adopted it would still have to be an 'up to' figure in advertising, or any 'guarantee' would have to come with half a page of legal speak.

Large Provider Fibre Based Connection Speed Tests March 2016
Provider Download Speed of slowest 10% Median Download Download Speed of fastest 10%
FTTC Overall (excludes Virgin Media) 12.1 Mbps 28.3 Mbps 47.9 Mbps
FTTC Up to 38 Mbps Product 10 Mbps 24 Mbps 34 Mbps
FTTC Up to 76 Mbps Product 37 Mbps 47 Mbps 70 Mbps
BT 13.1 Mbps 30.4 Mbps 54.4 Mbps
EE 10 Mbps 27.2 Mbps 37.2 Mbps
Plusnet 10.9 Mbps 30.6 Mbps 57.4 Mbps
Sky 10.5 Mbps 24.9 Mbps 37.2 Mbps
TalkTalk 13.4 Mbps 27.5 Mbps 39.1 Mbps
Virgin Media 7.4 Mbps 41.3 Mbps 102.8 Mbps
Virgin Media Up To 200 Mbps 72 Mbps 90 Mbps 150 Mbps
Virgin Media Up To 100 Mbps (*) 37 Mbps 45 Mbps 54 Mbps
Virgin Media Up To 50 Mbps (*) 2 Mbps 18 Mbps 34 Mbps
Vodafone 15.2 Mbps 31.8 Mbps 60.3 Mbps
(*) Product splitting due to legacy products is notoriously difficult with Virgin Media so treat these figures with some caution. Experience has shown that asking users to identify their product is also very prone to error.

For the overall FTTC and Virgin Media range we have split our data up a little more than usual and the results could make for some interesting purchasing decisions by the public and given a new rule around only advertising speeds of the slowest 10% providers those on longer VDSL2 (or ADSL2+) lines may find it hard to have a provider who will accept their custom.

ADSL/ADSL2+ Connection Speed Tests March 2016
Provider/Area Download Speed of slowest 10% Median Download Download Speed of fastest 10%
All Providers 1 Mbps 5.2 Mbps 14.7 Mbps
BT 0.8 Mbps 4.6 Mbps 14.5 Mbps
EE 0.9 Mbps 4.7 Mbps 14.1 Mbps
Plusnet 0.9 Mbps 5.3 Mbps 14.5 Mbps
Sky 1.1 Mbps 5.3 Mbps 14.8 Mbps
TalkTalk 1.2 Mbps 5.4 Mbps 14.4 Mbps
Rural ADSL 0.7 Mbps 3.8 Mbps 10.2 Mbps

Perhaps the largest problem we can easily foresee with a bottom 10% advertising rule is providers refusing service to people to ensure certain products maintain their decile range. Another issue that may arise is confusion from the public particularly amongst those with 5 to 10 Mbps speeds from ADSL2+ now, since the advertising for the dominant VDSL2 technology will be around the 10 Mbps point and for the extra money people may not actually click through or call to find out their personal speed estimate which 90% of the time is actually going to be higher, i.e. the rule change may ruin attempts to improve take-up on existing superfast services. Critics of the VDSL2 heavy roll-out will quickly highlight that this would not be the case if pure fibre (FTTH) had been used, but while the connection speed is fixed, the variation in speeds will still be experienced.

If a new honest speed advertising regime with automatic compensation does become the norm for the UK we sincerely hope it does not mean 'ambulance chaser' spam to claim compensation for slow broadband and also safeguards will be in place to stop people abusing the compensation system by serially switching providers using the speed guarantees and thus end up not paying for their broadband or maybe even making a profit depending on the level of compensation.

Perhaps someone should found a thinkbroadband world tour so we can spend time in various countries to see how broadband is advertised and whether the physics of broadband and internet connections are different in other countries.

Sky making VDSL2 up to 38 Mbps services cheaper

Friday 15 April 2016 15:56:17 by Andrew Ferguson

Sky has re-jigged its VDSL/FTTC fibre product pricing for new customers, with the broadband element of the entry level 25GB monthly usage allowance version available for free in the first year once you pay the £17.40 per month line rental. For those embracing the world of big downloads and video streaming the unlimited product may be a better option which is on offer for £10/m for 12 months plus the £17.40/m line rental.

Both products are based around the up to 38 Mbps download and up to 9.5 Mbps upload VDSL2 service and carry a 12 month contract. An activation fee of £35 may apply. Standard price for the 25GB service is £10/month and the unlimited service is £20/month plus the line rental at £17.40/month.

In Fibre to the Home news, Sky has started promoting its FTTH service in York, with the entry level service at £10/m plus £17.40/m line rental with a guaranteed 50 Mbps download speed - though the guarantee only applies to the router and has caveats to guard against the times when people get a slow down because the web site host is slow etc.

Openreach to trial 18/2 Mbps service aimed at slow ADSL lines

Friday 15 April 2016 15:06:31 by Andrew Ferguson

One of the many complaints since rate adaptive DSL products appeared on the market globally is 'why should I pay the same price as someone getting a lot faster?' Well a new trial Openreach is set to trial whether people are willing to pay a little more to get a better speed than now but not get the full speed benefits of VDSL2.

The trial is set to run from June to December 2016 is based around an 18 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload connection speed profile and will only be made available on lines and cabinets that Openreach profiles as offering a slow ADSL service. In short it will provide a cost effective way for those who want to stream SD and HD video but without the full £10 to £20/month premium that the standard pricing of VDSL2 commands. The trial is looking at an annual price of £48+VAT (£4/m + VAT), and lines signed up during the trial will continue with this price point even after the trial ends.

No idea which retail providers are taking part yet, and no detail on which cabinets are involved though providers should be finding out very soon according to the briefing.

Whether the 18/2 service will remain up for sale after December 2016 will clearly depend on the demand during the trial, but as a way of increasing take-up in areas where cost of service has been a key decision driver for people it should help drive take-up. With the continuing focus on people only paying for what they receive if Openreach was to shift to a full-time portfolio of 18/2, 40/2, 40/10, 55/10 and 80/20 products this would go a long way to addressing complaints from those who feel they are paying over the odds while not seeing the advertised speed.

BT Infinity 1 to now offer up to 52 Mbps download speeds

Friday 15 April 2016 00:08:27 by Andrew Ferguson

The BT Infinity 1 service is changing, for new customers signing up the product will utilise the new 55/10 VDSL2 profile from Openreach. This means customers will potentially have up to 52 Mbps downloads and up to 9.5 Mbps upload speeds.

Existing customers will be able to swap from their existing up to 38 Mbps service, but this will involve re-contracting and it should be pointed out that the up to 52 Mbps will only be worth upgrading to, if you are already seeing the maximum connection speed from the existing service.

The new entry level speed point means that as people join or upgrade we should see the average speeds for BT FTTC services rise and in the advertising battle that can be all important. Another reason for the shift is that with the 52 Mbps service the product specification is more inline with the requirements of live streaming BT Sport in UltraHD - live UHD streaming is generally more demanding that pre-recorded material.

"Our research has shown that it’s what you can actually do with your broadband that matters most to consumers. We want to give them a faster speed as standard so that everyone in a household can be online at the same time and still enjoy watching their favourite YouTube or HD content without buffering or bickering over whose turn it is.The new, faster BT Infinity 1 service is about giving consumers a premium broadband experience as standard, allowing them to enjoy all the digital world has to offer."

David McDonald, director of broadband, TV and sport bundles, BT Consumer

The 55/10 service is available to other providers on the same terms from Openreach, so if it does prove popular we can expect to see more providers switching their entry level service to this tier.

The offers on the BT Infinity 1 service have just finished with their latest round of BT Reward Cards, so the Unlimited Infinity 1 service is £12.50/m + £17.99/m line rental for the 12 month contract period (price from month 13 is £25/m + £17.99/m line rental).

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