Forget superfast, the fashionable word of the month is ultra-fast, particularly as the 22 superconnected city projects plans start to appear. We ran a quick poll for seven days to see if the speeds that our visitors consider to be ultra-fast broadband match what the various plans of central government and the cities match up.
The poll drew over 2,100 responses and produced some very interesting results. Two speeds stand out in the question about download speeds, with 100 Mbps being picked as the minimum by 30.7% and 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps) picked by 25% of respondents. By stacking the answers as in our chart below, we can see that a figure that would please two thirds of those taking part in the poll is 300 Mbps as the minimum download speed for a service to call itself ultra-fast.
While many broadband projects focus on the headline grabbing download speeds, we made sure to ask a question about upload speeds too. For years upload speeds have been the poor for broadband users, and with the rise of cloud backup services, and the ease with which the average consumer can record 1080p HD video people are starting to call for better upload speeds. The most popular option, from the six speeds we gave our visitors was for the upload speed to be the same as the download, i.e. symmetric with 19.8%, a very close second at 18.9% was that 100 Mbps is the minimum upload they would want to see ultra-fast services deliver. Which using the two thirds measure from downstream means that ultra-fast services to keep the public happy should ideally offer an upstream of 100 Mbps or faster.
So there we have it, all the talk of ultra-fast services and speeds of 80 Mbps to 100 Mbps is not what people expect, they are expecting something that can provide 300 Mbps downstream and 100 Mbps upstream or better. Speeds like this are available in a few parts of the UK, but of the major providers Virgin Media are a few years from being able to offer this sort of service, and Openreach FTTC will never get to those speeds, their FTTP products currently top out at 330 Mbps down and 30 Mbps upstream and more variants could be released.
So why are the plans for super-connected cities so far behind peoples desires? Probably because the projects are politically driven so that when the next General Election takes place the coalition can talk of the UK having the best broadband of the major European countries. In the game of statistics you only need to be a small amount better than the others to be the best.
In the commercial world, that is very different to the desire of the public getting investment to build pure FTTP networks is difficult, and the take-up figures for the faster products where a range of speeds is available often shows people will often choose lower price over higher speed. Perhaps an idea to be considered by FTTP providers, is to provide a nice stable superfast speed service, and allow customers to upgrade to higher speed packages for perhaps a week or a month.