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Ofcom: Average broadband speeds rise to 6.2Mbps
Wednesday 02 March 2011 06:20:31 by Sebastien Lahtinen

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
Package 24-hour 8-10pm weekdays
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.


Posted by cyberdoyle over 6 years ago
The research doesn't take into account all the little people on very slow connections and even dial up, which will bring the average down even further. I don't know of many samknows routers in rural areas but am prepared to be proved wrong if anyone knows of any other than mine.
At least this proves beyond a doubt that for years people have been misled, and it has to stop. Now.
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
If you read the Ofcom report, it shows some panellists up to 7km away from the exchange, and a reasonable number up to 4.5km from the exchange - these are straight line distances so actual line lengths will be higher.

There's plenty of detail in the report about differences between urban and rural performance. It also tells us that 4% of the population are on "less than up to 8Mb" services.
Posted by tcrooks3843 over 6 years ago
Cannot see how the Ofcom idea of requiring broadband providers to quote a 'typical speed' range is going to help when advertising. This is just as meaningless as a headline number.

I'd prefer a standard image of a set of concentric circles, the inner showing the typical 'real world' speed range where the point of delivery is less than 1km from the exchange, a ring showing typical speed at 2km, another at 5km, and an outer at over 5km.

The one variable that people need to discover for themselves, Virgin cable users excepted, is distance from the exchange.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago

Estimates weren't that bad then
Posted by alewis over 6 years ago
And with that "person" on R4 this morning advocating this form of advertising, and a presenter unaware of the issues, it doesn't address the white elephant in the room; the use of the term UNLIMITED, which is far more misleading.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
Offering an average is daft. That's unlikely to be an accurate figure for anyone. At least 'up to' accurately describes the technology and a little research can get you a personalised estimate.

It also overlooks the issue that most ISPs have no control over connect speed. The only way they can raise their average is to drop customers on longer lines.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
It would be better if they were to concentrate on throughput v. connection speed. Throughput *is* under control of the ISP and can be a major differentiator. Make ISPs quote average throughput as an %ge of connection speed with some indication of peak v. off-peak.

Oh and yes, ban 'unlimited'.
Posted by mike41 over 6 years ago
At last some useful figures. I'm 3km from exchange and my 'up to 8mb' BT connection averages 4.4mb but I would not know this except for the brilliant TBBmeter graph function.

At least I know it's in the middle of average range. Contention slows it considerably at times but it does all we want. Might be different if we were downloaders.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
Those that got to the end of the 130 page report will have noticed that many of the stats are based on Market 2/3 exchanges only and exclude >5km straight line distance from the exchange.

Who buys broadband these days anyway ?
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
CARPETBURN!!!! Where are you now!!?!?!?

"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)"

I told you didn't I? I told you the average would not be 25Mbps or whatever you stated. You told me to come back and poke you with a stick when the figures came out and here they are and just as expected.

Shame your not around, well ok not that much of a shame ;)
Posted by nadger over 6 years ago
I have one of the Ofcom/Samknows devices attached to my wireless router. I'm about 3Km from exchange and my hourly (24/7) monitoring shows 6.5Mb download speeds. On 21CN but, as report say, there was only a marginal increase from 20CN.

I could now have FTTC but not a heavy enough user to warrant paying more than £5.99/month
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

BT based products don't optimize very well.

TT LLU via reseller with a line length of 4km I get 5.5Mbps to give you perspective, you should at least be getting 7-8Mbps.
Posted by nadger over 6 years ago
@otester I have 7.15Mb profile, hence 6.5Mb download speeds - graph is straight line 24/7 so no complaints from me. Obviously I don't want TT LLU at any cost.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

Whoes your provider? You should get the full IP profile.

Resellers just utilize the equipment, backhaul and support is supplied by themselves.

No different from using a C&W based LLU or O2/Be based LLU.
Posted by chanmaster over 6 years ago
i've read through the article on BBC News that relates to this and i don't like what Virgin have said about other ISPs, a "damning indictment that consumers continue to be treated like mugs and misled by ISPs that simply cannot deliver on their advertised speed claims". Virgin would just be in the same boat if they didn't have their own independent setup away from BT Wholesale - and it just so happens the network they have is the most consistent system of delivering expected speeds, perfect for bashing other ISPs that have no control over long copper phone lines.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
The key difference is that Virgin provide a fixed speed link. You can have a high % of a fixed speed on ADSL too if you want to make the stats look better.

It shouldn't be worth spending money to find out that the average of something that varies from 0-8 is about 4, should it ? Whereas the average performance of something fixed at 10 is close to 10.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

Would make more sense if they attacked the government for VOA tax and inhibiting growth.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
why is it a danger to move people with poor sync speeds to lower packages? this is what should have been done from day 1 on adsl max.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
something has to change and I hope it will, am I the only one concerned that the bbc reported just 3% get near advertised speeds on adsl2+ and not even a 3rd get more than adsl1 speeds.
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
There is a poster on ISP Review who seems to hold very similar opinions, expressed in a forthright manner that may seem strangely familiar!
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
If rate adaptive ADSL packages cost the same to provide and sell at the same price it doesn't matter what package you're on, you should be on the technology that gives the best speed your line can provide.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
@NL, the guy must be employed to move goalposts for a living as he's at it again. Its funny how his measure is now comparing it to Virgin's fibre based products in speed, errr no you said FTTC would average at 25Mb that was the measure, I estimated it would be more like 35Mb, so he changes last minute to make himself happy, once a muppet....
Posted by Oscar_neuman over 6 years ago
Well, If they continue to play around with FTTC, then by 2015 they will face strong competition from LTE Mobile Broadband Operators which will be able to offer speeds max 100 Mbps... They have to realise that Mobile Broadband speeds are approaching the ones on Cable...
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
3G products that manage 7.2Mbps have hardly made a dent in speed terms.

Will LTE give better coverage, where in the last 5 or 6 years they've not provided 3G coverage already?
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
The problem with mobile is that performance drops off rapidly, and that the bandwidth is often heavily contended.

Note current UK average 3G speeds of only just over 1Mbps, contrast that with claims of likely 3G performance before it was launched. Actual throughput due to contention further reduces "real world" speeds.

SO I doubt you will find anyone getting close to 100Mb on LTE by 2015, whereas I suspect you will see FTTP, cable and quite probably FTTC at that level by then.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
FTTC can go much further than the 40Mb currently out there, we should be seeing 60-70 next and even 100Mb in the future for some.
Posted by Oscar_neuman over 6 years ago
Yes, coverage is the problem.

With full signal 3.5G, HSDPA currently delivers:

Three - 2Mbits (Average Just over 1Mbit)
Vodafone - 5-6 Mbits (Average 2 Mbits)

Not sure about others..

From LTE I would expect maybe 20-40 Mbits out of 100 possible, when it gets launched in the UK..

But LTE Advanced is coming out soon which theoretically goes as far as 1Gbit..
Posted by Oscar_neuman over 6 years ago
So, it would be interesting to see anyways..

LTE Advanced might deliver equal speeds to cable or even above...

Obviously if they keep limits like 3Gb or 5 Gb, even 20 Gb per month, then there will be no use of such speeds...

Can't wait to find out.. 4 years to go.. :-)
Posted by Oscar_neuman over 6 years ago

Yes, I agree with you, I don't think it will improve in terms of coverage in any way...

I think LTE coverage would be the same as with 3G... and 3.5 G...

Regarding actual topic..

Virgin Media delivers the best speeds, if you lucky one living in not saturated area without any utilization problems and e.t.c..

Otherwise you will be stucked on the slow line and your phone trying to reach customer support...

FTTC is good solution as long as they can provide enough capacity to the area.

I would still prefer FTTH or FTTP.. These have more advantages than FTTC... but costly...
Posted by krazykizza over 6 years ago

Dial-up is not ADSL.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
lol, yes..... Dial-up is not broadband which is what this article is about, come on cyberdoyle!

@Oscar, I reckon FTTC will do many for a long time, especially if the speeds can and do go up to 60-70Mbps and beyond
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