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The Big Broadband Survey 2012 - results published
Thursday 21 March 2013 14:05:45 by Sebastien Lahtinen

In the second half of 2012, we ran a broadband survey and over 10,000 users took part helping us to better understand the broadband landscape. Today, we are publishing the survey results.

The survey looks at broadband usage as well as choice of service provider/package. Initially, we intended to also look at why some people didn't have broadband, either through choice or inability to receive a decent broadband service; however due to the profile of respondents, we didn't have sufficient responses to explore notspots and why some people didn't feel they didn't need broadband.

Some of our key findings are highlighted below. The full survey results are also available:

(click above image to read full report)

Broadband Providers

  • The vast majority of users buy broadband as a bundle, the most common being 'broadband + home phone'.
  • Sky & Virgin Media lead the triple/quad play market.
  • Quality and reliability of a broadband connection was cited by respondents as the most important factor when selecting a broadband service.
  • Additional services such as e-mail and web hosting were viewed as unimportant by users.
  • Virgin Media users were far more likely to be very satisfied with broadband speeds than most other larger providers.
  • There are regional variations with broadband speed satisfaction. 35% of users in Wales were dissatisfied with broadband speed; compared to 21% in London.
  • Users of Zen Internet, Eclipse, AAISP and IDNet rated the reliability highly (5 of 5) whilst Orange and AOL users were more likely to rate them low.

Switching Providers

  • Those who review their choices less frequently are not paying significantly more than those who review it more often.
  • Around a third of O2/BE users are considering switching provider; this is likely to be their lack of a fibre broadband solution.
  • Of those who have migrated broadband providers, BT was the biggest winner taking roughly a third of migrations from each of O2, BE, Orange, Sky and TalkTalk.
  • Download speed is the most important factor for those considering switching (33% rate it as primary reason; 64% consider it a factor)
  • A quarter of PlusNet users planning to switch were doing so due to download allowances/fair usage policies.
  • 6 in 10 users switched using the MAC process and overall 89% of users found the switching process easy.
  • Half of the users who couldn't use a MAC to switch found the process difficult.

Broadband Use

  • Over a third of users have a games console and a quarter have an Internet-enabled TV/device.
  • 21% of users may have a potentially insecure wireless network.
  • Over half of 18-24 year olds (56%) spend in excess of 6 hours online each day.
  • The most popular time to go online is between 6pm and midnight.
  • 46% of respondents use their broadband for work use; 51% use it for personal use only.

Parental Controls

  • The vast majority of parents believed talking to their children was a key aspect of keeping their children safe online.
  • Younger children are more likely to be supervised by locating the computer in a shared area and all use being supervised by an adult or older sibling.

Other Findings

  • 86% of respondents believe the Internet is an important part of their social life, of which more than half believed it to be very important.
  • If being asked to give up one service, 49% would give up satellite/cable/digital TV, 30% mobile phone and only 2% would give up their broadband connection.
  • 14% of users struggle to pay for their broadband connection from household budgets.

We will be repeating the survey in 2013 and would welcome suggestions on issues we should be asking about.

A few words on the iPad competition linked to filling in the survey in case you were wondering if you still stood a chance of winning it, the winner lived in North Wales and should be enjoying their new iPad.


Posted by jrawle over 4 years ago
A third of O2/BE users thinking of switching, and this was before they were bought by Sky? I wonder what the figure stands at now.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
jrawle: Before it was due to lack of fibre services, so O2/BE network would have needed significant investment. Sky can offer fibre, so I suspect O2 users are more likely to stay but BE users may go... but I am speculating :)
Posted by LT38 over 4 years ago
obviously the thousands of users in plymouth suffering with piss poor broadband supplied by VM didnt do the survey otherwise it would prob read a little different
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@LT38: We do have 13 responses from postcodes in the PL area and as far as Virgin Media is concerned, they score very highly by comparison to the other big providers on speed ratings; or did you mean something else? I appreciate 13 is too few to make a judgement.
Posted by bobdelamare over 4 years ago
I was reasonably happy that the best I could get on ADSL with O2 (or anyone else) was 9Mbps. But it was so inconsistent. Not just that 20 was advertised but unachievable. It would drop to 1 or 2Mbps. I was on the move to PlusNet ADSL when they offered FTTC. No brainer! I'm only getting 20 with fibre but it is consistent now that the bugs seemed to have been ironed out.
Posted by Northwind over 4 years ago
Good job on compiling all that.

Perhaps in the 2013 survey you could ask people for the number of outages they recall in the past year. I know a lot of folk who moved to FTTC for "better relaibility" but the copper to the premises is still a problem.

As for a prize, you could offer a lot of TBB-branded teddy bears for the price of an iPad! Or perhaps Rev Kennard could laser-engrave something unique.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@Northwind: I think the average user is less likely to take part if we offered a TBB branded teddy bear - but in any case as RevK will tell you, to get custom made toys, you have to order 1,000 or something like that.. my office isn't big enough :-p
Posted by snadge over 4 years ago
Iam surprised at "Virgin Media users were more likely to be far more satisfied with their speed" when just last week (or week before) there was an ofcom report that said only 33% of VM users got speeds anywhere near what they were supposed to get?
Posted by farrina over 4 years ago
"Sky can offer fibre, so I suspect O2 users are more likely to stay but BE users may go... but I am speculating :) "
I have already switched two connections from BE there to Plusnet for this very reason, As I understand it Sky do not offer fixed IP's, do not have a UK based support team (admittedly BE was Eastern Europe but they IMHO were good)
I think the profile of the typical BE customer is likely to be more technical as they originally used them because of their early ADSL2+ Annexe M offering (seems a long time ago).

Posted by gerarda over 4 years ago
I find it remarkable that given the amount of coverage in your forums about not spots and slow spots that your annual survey ignores this issue completely.

Given the whitewashing of this topic by Ofcom and their puppet masters at BT it would have been good to have seen some independent facts presented.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@farrina: I think BE users are more likely to have technical requirements like static IPs whereas O2 are more likely to be less technical.

@gerarda: We asked about notspots but we only had around 50 people without broadband respond, so there weren't sufficient numbers to provide meaningful commentary. This was probably as people reading our site are more likely to have broadband. We asked quite a lot of questions about coverage problems but unfortunately without sufficient responses, there's nothing much we could do.

@snadge: it might be related to perceptions rather than actual performance.
Posted by gerarda over 4 years ago
Unfortunately by not even mentioning them in your report you give more credence to the Government's belief that everyone as access to broadband. Even 50 out of 11000, which as you say probably understates the problem, extrapolates to over 250,000 people in the UK.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@gerarda: Mentioned in third paragraph in introduction:

"The initial survey was designed to include responses from UK individuals who did not have a broadband connection (either because they did not feel they required one or because they couldn’t receive one) however as only a very small number of respondents who filled in the survey were from this category, we have not analysed this section of the survey as it would not provide sufficient data to be meaningful."
Posted by mervl over 4 years ago
The survey doesn't match your experience/expectations: well that's because it's a survey summarising across the responses. The bigger problem, I think, is the amount of self-selection involved. More people are satisfied with more expensive services: well why would you pay for an expensive service if your line is useless? To most people food is food, and brand is nearly irrlevant, but shopping is a habit. So with broadband as it moves closer to a utility: so price perception matters, why BT's ads work.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@mervl: We highlighted the self-selection bias and agree it's a factor in the results, especially on some questions. It's more likely that users visiting our site would make more informed decisions about services, and therefore it's quite understandable that there may be higher numbers on higher priced packages; although it does depend very much on the user.. some people could have subscribed early on and never changed package, although our evidence shows on average that's not the case.
Posted by zhango over 4 years ago
There was no mention of the importance of having the call centre in UK? There are many negative comments on the forums about the BT India call centre - Plusnet moved its own back to UK and advertise the fact. It is a factor that I would consider.
Posted by tommy45 over 4 years ago
Around a third of O2/BE users are considering switching provider Should perhaps read "Around a third of O2/BE users have switched provider"

So by the time that Sky take over and start
their mass assimilation of o2/BE customers onto their SBVN(Full LLU) network their will only be around 1 third of what used to be the customer base left ,lol not many o2/be customers will want to end up Fully unbundled,

Posted by tommy45 over 4 years ago
As for download speed being the main reason for switching,for some people it maybe, but for a lot of people the upload speed is as equally important (if they use their connection for more than browsing-emails)
Posted by davepatkelly over 4 years ago
Sky do not have their own fibre broadband.They use the BT box and have to get the BT engineer out before sky can connect you.
I am with O2 for years and have been very happy with all their services so I was really annoyed to find I am being sold to Sky who I detest as a company.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@zhango: I don't think call centre location *in itself* is an issue that matters but more the service you receive. BE I think have their callcentre abroad I believe but generally service is quite good. So focussing on the actual metric that matters would be what I would try to do.. That said, there may be a perception issue as well.. i.e. would that affect people's decision to choose an ISP.. that might be interesting..
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@tommy45: We asked people about their past switching experience if they have done so or their INTENTION to switch, so hence worded as it is. We do think BE will drop significantly on Sky acquisition (not quite sure if by two thirds).. I think O2 is likely to fare better. Re download speeds--you're right for 'a lot of people' upload speed is equally important but not for most.
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
Seems to me that you have not separated out the responses about xDSL and Fibre/cable services. I suspect that could give a very different picture and I suggest a survey aimed at find out the difference in experience between these types of service. It would also be interesting to see what the difference in experience is between rural and urban areas.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@michaels_perry: What particular areas you think we should analyse by DSL vs fibre/cable? Virgin Media results will provide an indication of cable splits in some cases. Rural v urban we thought about and will probably do next time around. We might re-analyse that but we didn't have a dataset to divide respondents up into rural/urban originally so hence we'd have to re-factor the data.
Posted by peteADSL over 4 years ago
It mentions Plusnet users moving due to fair usage. Is this a significant figure. Plusnet seem to have some of the best stats according to your ratings.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@peteADSL The PDF states a minimum of 60 intending to switch for the ISP to appear in that metric - page 42.

With the changes in usage policies around December 2012 that may well have changed significantly.
Posted by tommy45 over 4 years ago
@seb: The o2 retail customers, will be switching if they see a price hike, don't forget there's probably a significant portion of what's left of the customer base that are still in contract,or are paying a heavily discounted price,or even have a free service (12mths) then there is the discounts for having a 02 mobile, all will be withdrawn once they become sky customers ,infact a lot of o2 customers seem to be only interested in the price point,not what they get in return
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@peteADSL: We analysed (a) where people are switching and (b) why they are switching separate from likelihood to switch.

@tommy45: Are you sure they won't keep some discount with O2 mobile? Changing brand doesn't need to stop this. Also intro deals would expire anyway. I guess getting another bill might be a switching point.
Posted by tommy45 over 4 years ago
@seb:Why would sky want to give discounts on 02 mobile calling plans/credits,? Its certainly of no benefit to them, And when you consider why they wanted to buy o2/be in the first place, if anything prices will see an increase,All those unsustainable discounts will vanish, Sky's mission is to make a profit not give away their profits
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@tommy45: It may have been part of the deal to keep customers loyal; partnerships across companies are not uncommon either. It is entirely possible prices will increase, but no doubt Sky will be doing their calculations carefully on that. It was O2's intention to make a profit too.
Posted by tommy45 over 4 years ago
@seb: they certainly had a very odd way of going about making a profit, Sky will not even provide a wholesale product to any isp with the exception of easynet, Sky will not help the competition profit, If most of the customers leave because sky change the goal posts, they probably won't even blink an eyelid, they will have achieved their primary objectives by buying o2/BE and therefore taking them out of the running,
Posted by shinerweb over 4 years ago
Great work on the survey peoples. Some handy dandy info in there. Looking forward to next year's survey already.
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