Virgin Media is wading into the current round of broadband speed battles with research by ICM. The research indicates some nine out of ten people find broadband advertising misleading and some 67% are frustrated with providers who fail to deliver on promises.
The survey which talked to 1000 people, showed that price followed by speed are the prime drivers when choosing an ISP. What is unknown is what broadband providers these people were using. If it was a representative split of the UK broadband landscape, roughly 20% of those surveyed should be using a Virgin Media cable broadband service. In theory cable customers should be happier, since there are none of the issues with regards to telephone line length, which is the largest factor in people not reaching their 'up to' speed.
To help inform its customers Virgin Media now plans to publish the typical average speed received by 66% of customers over 24 hours. These will be published each month for its 10Mbps, 20Mbps and 50Mbps services on the website http://www.virginmedia.com/speedhonesty. The testing is carried out by customers who have opted to run a Samknows performance testing device in their home.
It is not totally clear whether the Virgin Media National products will be included too. The use of M/L/XL for the national product names means some may confuse them with the cable products that use similar naming (Virgin Media cable services pass just under half the households in the UK). In the press release Virgin appears to gloss over its own DSL based products that suffer from the same degree of speed loss due to line length as all other DSL providers. In a survey of one, when trying to order a Virgin Media National product it claimed a speed of 5 to 6Mbps right now on my line, while BT Wholesale estimated 5Mbps. What is odd is that while it lists the UK average speed as 6.5Mbps, the estimate was considered 'Great news! Your phone line is lovely and speedy'. Strange that something that is below average is lovely and speedy, confused - I'm sure some people would be. Virgin Media it seems needs to do some more communication between its various business units.
Cable broadband products which are a mixture of fibre and coax will always have an advantage speed wise compared to DSL products. With DSL, even if the providers had no contention/congestion, only around 78% of lines would connect at 5Mbps or faster.
It is good to see a provider trying to communicate speeds better to users, but at the end of the day, typical and average figures do not explain to an individual why something like paid for video download onto their games console is taking a long time, or why one site is faster than another. The whole speed issue is complex and for too long was glossed over. In the days of fixed speed broadband lines there was little issue, but now with products ranging from 0.1Mbps through to 100Mbps on sale in the UK, users are bound to be confused. Many will assume a webpage that takes 10 seconds to load on a 0.5Mbps connection, would be many times faster on a 10Mbps connection (in theory 20 times faster) and while it will be faster, the protocol (HTTP) behind webpages results in lots of small chunks of data, so you might only see a doubling in loading speed.