Ofcom has this morning released findings of its broadband speeds research showing that in the last two months of 2010, the average UK broadband speed increased to 6.2Mbps which compares with the average advertised speed of 13.8Mbps.
The telecoms regulator will be submitting a response to the consultation being caried out by the Committee of Advertising Practice and its broadcast counterpart, arguing that broadband providers should be required to publish 'typical speed ranges' which give consumers a clearer picture of the speeds they would expect to achieve. These will be based on speeds achieved by at least half of users. Ofcom is further arguing that if an 'up to' headline speed is quoted, the typical speed range should be given 'equal prominence'.
As most broadband users use ADSL-based services delivered through a telephone line, their broadband speeds will be affected by a number of factors including the distance between the telephone exchange and their premises, as well as the quality of their line and any extension wiring inside their homes. There is a significant danger that broadband providers could move customers with slower speeds onto other packages, so they can advertise faster typical speeds on their top-end packages. The other problem with this approach is that it doesn't give users the understanding of what speeds they would be able to receive, so those very close to the exchange may be put off by ADSL technology, despite meeting their requirements. It also does not address traffic shaping, and how advertisers should deal with explaining how some traffic may be slowed down at peak times, either by type, or if you exceed some pre-defined usage allowance.
Unsurprisingly, Ofcom's research shows that ADSL services are most affected by speed variations, often delivering less than half of the advertised speed, with BT's fibre-to-the-cabinet services fare better delivering 75% of the speed (30.5 to 33.1Mbps for an 'up to 40Mbps' package), but Virgin Media continues to lead with speeds ranging from 43.9 to 47.2Mbps on its 'up to 50 Mbps' broadband service delivered over coaxial wiring, which isn't susceptible to the same distance issues.
|Average download speed|
|BT 'up to' 8Mbps||4.1 - 4.8Mbps||3.8 - 4.4Mbps|
|Orange 'up to' 8Mbps||3.3 - 4.3Mbps||2.7 - 3.5Mbps*|
|PlusNet 'up to' 8Mbps||3.4 - 4.4Mbps*||3.3 - 4.2Mbps|
|Virgin Media 'up to' 10Mbps||9.5 - 9.7Mbps||8.9 - 9.4Mbps|
|BT 'up to' 20Mbps||5.9 - 8.7Mbps||6.8 - 8.5Mbps|
|O2/Be 'up to' 20/24Mbps||9.9 - 11.6Mbps*||9.5 - 11.0Mbps*|
|Sky 'up to' 20Mbps||7.4 - 8.8Mbps||7.3 - 8.7Mbps|
|TalkTalk 'up to' 24Mbps||7.7 - 9.3Mbps||7.5 - 9.0Mbps|
|Virgin Media 'up to' 20Mbps||17.4 - 18.6Mbps||16.5 - 18.0Mbps|
|BT 'up to' 40Mbps||30.5 - 33.1Mbps||27.4 - 30.3Mbps|
|Virgin Media 'up to' 50Mbps||43.9 - 47.2Mbps||43.1 - 46.6Mbps|
* These figures may be based on smaller sample sizes or normalisation could not be as effective, so caution is advised.
It is important that as a consumer you ask your service provider to give you an estimate of the speeds you would expect to receive before you sign up to a broadband service. Keep a note of this and if you find that your service doesn't meet expectations, consider switching to another provider.