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Poll Results: What does the public consider to be ultra-fast broadband
Thursday 13 December 2012 17:09:17 by Andrew Ferguson

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.

Poll Results: The minimum speed people consider to be an ultra-fast download speed
Click image for larger version

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.

Poll Results: The minimum speed people consider to be an ultra-fast upload speed
Click image for larger version

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.


Posted by otester over 4 years ago
For me I don't care about brand names, when looking for a potential provider, first reviews, second usage, third speed.

I'm with Sky, not overly great reviews but my only decent LLU option (other is TT).
Posted by MHMertens over 4 years ago
What's next after Ultra? Hyper? Hysteric? Hyperbolic? Ballistic? --- I wish there would be more stability rather than all this headline grabbing.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
The name doesn't mean much to me.

While I'm content that this round of investment has gone for FTTC technology, I think the next "label" jump should go to full fibre (possibly FTTB+LAN for MDU).

At that point, the "up to" labels can go - at least as far as the access network is concerned.
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
Up to will never go I don't think, it will always be there to cover congestion, it is and will always be a contended service unless you are willing to pay business grade mega bucks
Posted by otester over 4 years ago
^ Actually rather annoying that some ISP's have stopped labelling speeds as it makes choosing packages more difficult.
Posted by dieselglider over 4 years ago
Either it's too early in the morning for me, or those graphs don't make sense.
Posted by Fellwalker over 4 years ago
The raw speed does not matter if the site you are using cannot deliver. I find that too many sites are slow, so the experience I get on my 37 MB fttc is no better than my previous 7 MB copper wire connection. Based on that, super fast would be utterly pointless.
What I have found is that the recently upgraded UPLOAD speed of 9 MB is a revelation for photo sharing and sending content rich emails.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago
What I have found is that so called gigabit network connections may not be able to handle that much data.

My gigabit lan connection on my old Asus p5n-d topped out at 150 megabit and my new Asus Sabretooth Z77 is hitting at 300 megabit across my home network with no other changes.

So for these speeds to be achieved people will need a serious upgrade of their kit.
Posted by fibrebunny over 4 years ago
Do hard drive write speeds not become a factor with gigabit?

I would agree with some sites being slow, the upload is really where you notice the fttc improvement. No longer need to shrink pictures or over-compress video. Huge improvement for sharing videos of my Grans feet and on a good day clouds too. Why can old pepl not point cameras in the right direction? xD
Posted by Aaron_01 over 4 years ago
I'm also thinking the same, the graphs don't make much sense? If 98% of site pollers voted for 1000mpbs doesn't that leave 2% remaining for the other choices?
Posted by roph over 4 years ago
Who on earth made those graphs, and how do they keep their job?
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago
It's an additive graph, basic statistics, the function is to show a what proportion of the population considers something acceptable. So in this case ultrafast BB, e.g. someone who considers 100 mbps as ultrafast will also considers 200, 300, 500, 1000Mbps etc... Hence, in this graph when you get to 1000Mbps 98% of the population considers it Ultrafast...
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago
The real question is the 2% of the population who still don't think that this is fast enough!
Posted by uniquename over 4 years ago
@themanstan - fair enough as an explanation. But I think in that case the graph is silly as to make sense of it we have to do manual subtraction to see the important figure, what proportion think what.
@fibrebunny - the industry doesn't want us to have hard discs any more. Cloud, cloud, cloud. Though you may be allowed SSDs.

As for me, I filled in the survey but completely failed to register the "ultra" as opposed to "superfast". I wonder how many others made the same mistake, so ruining the results?
Posted by otester over 4 years ago

Whoe's your ISP?

I've used a friends 30Mbps VM connection and it was lightening fast so it's either your ISP, line or your PC setup.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@themanstan precisely
Posted by mervl over 4 years ago
The problem here is its a self-selected sample of enthusiasts, being unduly kind; and as a representation of "the public view" it's like suggesting the highway code should be drawn up to meet the needs of boy-racers. But although it's a laugh defining advertising puff, I don't think it'll take off as a Christmas game though.
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago
I dislike the use of adverbs that have been used. You go straight from broadband to super fast, without very fast. Which I would say would suit the 24+ admirably, leaving super for 100Mbps and ultra for 1Gbps.
Posted by kamelion over 4 years ago
doesnt make sense at all. The question was what is the MINIMUM speed you would consider to be ultra fast broadband. Clearly 98% of the respondents didn't pick 1Gbps
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
So if someone offered you 1gig on same conditions as 100Meg you would complain?

It is showing the percentage that would be happy with that sort of speed.

A different way to show things than usual, but why always do the same thing :-)
Posted by otester over 4 years ago

That's the issue with a system that has a sort of communist/socialist 'ring' to it, progress is average, that being that of the general public.
Posted by dragon1945 over 4 years ago
I pay for "up to 8MB". What I get averages 1.7 MB, which means I can't use BBC i-Player, nor lot of YouTube clips. On a very good day I get 2.1 MB. Stop rabbiting on about Superfast / ultrafast and help those of us with very low speeds to achieve a reasonable 5 MB. I saw an article by an IT Expert, who reckoned 24MB was the maximum anyone could need. If I can only get up to a quarter of the "up to" speed, why shouldn't I have lower bills than those on 8 MB ?
Posted by lunanbay over 4 years ago
No, that is what you get with unbridled capitalism. In case you haven't noticed, we are living in a capitalist system, and that is what has produced the communications networks that we have. Or are you saying the commies have taken over the coms?
@Andrew Ferguson: the graphs do not make any sense as they stand. It looks like the axes have the wrong values.
It would also be easier to read the article if you had edited it for grammar.
Posted by chrimbow over 4 years ago
We have the latest "retro-speed" of 4meg on our line
Posted by brass4thing over 4 years ago
It is pure hype to call speeds of 80 to 100 Mbps "ultra fast", and it is just as much hype when it's done by the Government as by a commercial operator. But the real problem is that effective download and upload speeds are only a fraction of those advertised, due to inadequate infrastructure. The only way to test real as against advertised speeds is to download (or upload) real files. This can be done by using think broadband's own dummy files on another page on this site. Just try it and you'll fine you get speeds of between 10 and 35 percent of what you are paying for. That's a real scandal.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@dragon1945 Your bill is no lower as the main cost has been usage since 2004. With inability to use iPlayer you should be able to pick a lower usage product and save money that way.

On improving speeds, which county are you in, and have you looked to see how far their project is progressing.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@brass4thing Even in South Korea the thing called contention is still an issue, and even if it was not not many websites can give you a dedicated 1 Gbps link to their data.

If ultrafast was defined as Symmetric 300 Mbps, then it would pre-clude the VDSL2 services, meaning full fibre only and non of the distance issues.
Posted by brass4thing over 4 years ago

@ andrew. I don’t altogether get your point. It is a fact that real download and upload speeds are a fraction of advertised line speeds, even as confirmed by conventional speed checks. You blame it on contention, but the level of contention reflects the adequacy of the infrastructure, including server capacity.
There may be little that can be done about all this at present. But at least the network companies could stop kidding us about the speeds we can realistically expect from their packages. And if they won’t, then surely Ofcom could and should.
Posted by brass4thing over 4 years ago
@andrew. Perhaps I should add that overall throughput speed is also affected by computer and software performance. It is critically dependent on the TCP window and buffer size of the sending and receiving devices, which is commonly too small to accommodate the nominal capacity of the line or NIC, even on “powerful” computers where the default maximum may be only 256KB. The worst bottleneck may well be on or under our own desk. On Unix based OSs, this may be user adjustable, but I don’t suggest Ofcom can do anything about it.
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