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Grant Shapps and BIG turn big guns on broadband advertising speeds
Saturday 16 April 2016 12:11:53 by Andrew Ferguson

Grant Shapps and his BIG group of MPs have started a new campaign this time aimed at resolving the 'British Broadband rip-off', or put simply the lobby group wants the rules around broadband advertising torn up and the speed that the slowest 10% on a product to be used in its advertising and also an automatic right to compensation for providers don't meet promises and making contract cancellation easier.

"It’s a scandal that official watchdog rules allow Internet Service Providers to claim download speeds which only 1 in 10 of their customers actually receive.

Consumers expect refunds when their trains are late or a flight is delayed, yet there is no similar compensation for lousy internet services which fail to deliver the speeds advertised.

Given that a decent broadband connection is viewed as the fourth utility by many British families, this overcharging and under-delivery is a scandal every bit as big as PPI miss-selling and the VW Exhaust emission scandal.

Grant Shapps MP talking to The Telegraph

The current advertising rules require providers to be able to show that 10% of those buying a service get above the advertised speed, and well over 90% of UK broadband connections are with a provider who is signed up to the broadband speeds voluntary code of practice, which means that before people part with financial details they will have received a personal speed estimate and they are free to cancel the contract if speed promises are not fulfilled.

A change to drop advertised speed to the bottom 10% is a massive change in direction, and comes just days after Ed Vaizey MP called for broadband speeds advertising to be reconsidered, though a more measured approach based around a median (average) result in advertising was what we thought was meant.

With our extensive speed test results we are able to provide some much needed data on UK providers into a debate that has been waged across the globe, i.e. broadband speed issues are not a uniquely British problem. Based on the speed test results for March 2016, we have published the speed of the slowest 10%, median speeds and fastest 10% for 25 providers (we have dropped upload speeds to avoid a table too full of figures, but the full table is still available.

25 Fastest Median Speed UK Broadband Providers in March 2016
(ordered by median speed)
Smaller providers without enough geographic data samples are not included
Provider Download Speed of slowest 10% Median Download Download Speed of top 10%
Venus 24.6 Mbps 97.7 Mbps 462.4 Mbps
B4RN 9.4 Mbps 47.6 Mbps 290.8 Mbps
Virgin Media 7.4 Mbps 41.3 Mbps 102.8 Mbps
Hyperoptic 9.2 Mbps 40.5 Mbps 232.1 Mbps
Wessex Internet 16.8 Mbps 29.1 Mbps 54.6 Mbps
Gigaclear 14.8 Mbps 28 Mbps 214.2 Mbps
Vodafone Broadband 4.8 Mbps 28 Mbps 59 Mbps
Metronet UK 3.2 Mbps 27.9 Mbps 84 Mbps
Keycom 1.2 Mbps 22.4 Mbps 98.8 Mbps
AAISP 2.5 Mbps 16 Mbps 72.5 Mbps
Zen Internet 2.1 Mbps 14.8 Mbps 61.5 Mbps
BT 1.5 Mbps 14.5 Mbps 40.5 Mbps
EE Mobile (3G/4G) 1.8 Mbps 14.3 Mbps 43.8 Mbps
IDNet 2.1 Mbps 12.5 Mbps 55.9 Mbps
Vodafone Mobile 2 Mbps 12.3 Mbps 36.5 Mbps
Claranet SOHO 1.1 Mbps 11.4 Mbps 56.4 Mbps
Relish 0.9 Mbps 10.9 Mbps 30.3 Mbps
Plusnet 1.3 Mbps 9.8 Mbps 37.9 Mbps
O2 Mobile 1.7 Mbps 8.9 Mbps 32.2 Mbps
TalkTalk 1.6 Mbps 8 Mbps 33.9 Mbps
Sky 1.4 Mbps 7.9 Mbps 29.3 Mbps
Three 1.3 Mbps 7.6 Mbps 31.5 Mbps
KCom 1.8 Mbps 7.3 Mbps 54.7 Mbps
Daisy Wholesale 1.1 Mbps 7 Mbps 37.5 Mbps
EE (ADSL2+/FTTC) 1.2 Mbps 6.9 Mbps 33.2 Mbps
Eclipse KCom outside Hull 0.7 Mbps 6.3 Mbps 35.7 Mbps

As you can see the bottom 10% varies a lot and may surprise some, with even providers often seen as being fast or using fixed speed connection technology (e.g. FTTH/DOCSIS) showing that hitting the speed on the tin is not always that easy, and factors such as computer specification, Wi-Fi versus Ethernet, time of day, local congestion, congestion in providers backhaul or peering congestion can all be a factor. These factors mean that even if the slowest 10% figure was to be adopted it would still have to be an 'up to' figure in advertising, or any 'guarantee' would have to come with half a page of legal speak.

Large Provider Fibre Based Connection Speed Tests March 2016
Provider Download Speed of slowest 10% Median Download Download Speed of fastest 10%
FTTC Overall (excludes Virgin Media) 12.1 Mbps 28.3 Mbps 47.9 Mbps
FTTC Up to 38 Mbps Product 10 Mbps 24 Mbps 34 Mbps
FTTC Up to 76 Mbps Product 37 Mbps 47 Mbps 70 Mbps
BT 13.1 Mbps 30.4 Mbps 54.4 Mbps
EE 10 Mbps 27.2 Mbps 37.2 Mbps
Plusnet 10.9 Mbps 30.6 Mbps 57.4 Mbps
Sky 10.5 Mbps 24.9 Mbps 37.2 Mbps
TalkTalk 13.4 Mbps 27.5 Mbps 39.1 Mbps
Virgin Media 7.4 Mbps 41.3 Mbps 102.8 Mbps
Virgin Media Up To 200 Mbps 72 Mbps 90 Mbps 150 Mbps
Virgin Media Up To 100 Mbps (*) 37 Mbps 45 Mbps 54 Mbps
Virgin Media Up To 50 Mbps (*) 2 Mbps 18 Mbps 34 Mbps
Vodafone 15.2 Mbps 31.8 Mbps 60.3 Mbps
(*) Product splitting due to legacy products is notoriously difficult with Virgin Media so treat these figures with some caution. Experience has shown that asking users to identify their product is also very prone to error.

For the overall FTTC and Virgin Media range we have split our data up a little more than usual and the results could make for some interesting purchasing decisions by the public and given a new rule around only advertising speeds of the slowest 10% providers those on longer VDSL2 (or ADSL2+) lines may find it hard to have a provider who will accept their custom.

ADSL/ADSL2+ Connection Speed Tests March 2016
Provider/Area Download Speed of slowest 10% Median Download Download Speed of fastest 10%
All Providers 1 Mbps 5.2 Mbps 14.7 Mbps
BT 0.8 Mbps 4.6 Mbps 14.5 Mbps
EE 0.9 Mbps 4.7 Mbps 14.1 Mbps
Plusnet 0.9 Mbps 5.3 Mbps 14.5 Mbps
Sky 1.1 Mbps 5.3 Mbps 14.8 Mbps
TalkTalk 1.2 Mbps 5.4 Mbps 14.4 Mbps
Rural ADSL 0.7 Mbps 3.8 Mbps 10.2 Mbps

Perhaps the largest problem we can easily foresee with a bottom 10% advertising rule is providers refusing service to people to ensure certain products maintain their decile range. Another issue that may arise is confusion from the public particularly amongst those with 5 to 10 Mbps speeds from ADSL2+ now, since the advertising for the dominant VDSL2 technology will be around the 10 Mbps point and for the extra money people may not actually click through or call to find out their personal speed estimate which 90% of the time is actually going to be higher, i.e. the rule change may ruin attempts to improve take-up on existing superfast services. Critics of the VDSL2 heavy roll-out will quickly highlight that this would not be the case if pure fibre (FTTH) had been used, but while the connection speed is fixed, the variation in speeds will still be experienced.

If a new honest speed advertising regime with automatic compensation does become the norm for the UK we sincerely hope it does not mean 'ambulance chaser' spam to claim compensation for slow broadband and also safeguards will be in place to stop people abusing the compensation system by serially switching providers using the speed guarantees and thus end up not paying for their broadband or maybe even making a profit depending on the level of compensation.

Perhaps someone should found a thinkbroadband world tour so we can spend time in various countries to see how broadband is advertised and whether the physics of broadband and internet connections are different in other countries.

Comments

Posted by Somerset 8 months ago
The speed a user gets depends on the package so advertising can't be based on actuals.
Posted by CarlThomas 8 months ago
Not on xDSL-based solutions it doesn't.
Posted by chilting 8 months ago
Why make things so complicated.

All Shapps has to do is to get the other 10% of providers to sign up to the voluntary code and the speed available will be made clear to every customer before they commit to an order.
Posted by jumpmum 8 months ago
Ridiculous thing is BaRN and Hyperoptic would be advertising under 10Mb speeds if we used the slowest 10% rule. On that basis even they would want to drop those customers under that!

My opinion is the only sensible change is to use the median figures So "50% of customers on this package get over xMbps"
With "Customers under this are welcome to switch to a lower speed package without penalty"
Posted by WWWombat 8 months ago
IMHO, the bottom 10% is just as likely to be populated with faulty lines, faulty modems, badly managed WiFi, unknowledgable users and congestion.

Far better to show, for example, the inter-quartile range. Even better to show 2 ranges, like Ofcom, with a standard and peak range.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 8 months ago
Oh we can do you inter-quartile ranges too, but at some point things become a see of figures where people turn off and say 'just tell me how fast I'll go'
Posted by _Mike_B_ 8 months ago
If you actually read some of the quotes from Schapps it's clear he has no idea how DSL technology works. The very basic idea that the further away you are from the DSLAM the lower speed you will get seems totally lost on him.
Posted by burble 8 months ago
What a lot of c***, I have no problem with 'up to xxMb' advertising, the new figures from that chart for me are stupid, for ADSL I used to hit the 10% figure for TalkTalk, but for FTTC I get only 1/4 of the speed, 13.4Mb is just a dream for me. What we need is real penalties if the provider can't hit the bottom of speed estimate for the line.
Posted by john_russell 8 months ago
TalkTalk reduced my max download speed from 7.35Mbps to 6.35Mbps at the start of the year.
Posted by Saurus 8 months ago
How about, prices based on the max available and reduced by the amount on a pro-rata basis?
So you have say a theoretical max of 38Mbps FTTC connection deduct the overheads and the price is say x£'s per month. Measured at your point of connection to your property you only get 10Mbps then you pay the relevant reduced price not the one for 38Mbps?
If there is a problem within the property which reduces it further eg wiring, PC equipment etc then the property owner pays to sort it out!
Posted by godsell4 8 months ago
Imagine the number of complaints that will require an engineer visit to determine how fast the line can really go without the home wiring connected! I do not think the BTO staff are paid enough to deal with the kind of grief they will get from the customers to do that.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 8 months ago
@godsell4 If the answer is more engineer visits then might drive roll-out of FTTH which has magic ability to give a constant connection speed, but will still get moans about speeds varying since Internet is a shared medium.

Or prices go up to provide 1000's of speed check visit staff.
Posted by Kebabselector 8 months ago
Are the broadband companies getting wise to this now, Plusnet don't seem to bother with speed anymore, just price.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 8 months ago
Not mentioning the speed but some other aspect of a service has often happened for many years, but any new rules will be exploited for loop holes.

Posted by leexgx 8 months ago
not sure why this is such a problem you're told what speeds you get when you sign up

but i agree the advertising is silly as the upto 76mb (80mb) for most part can norm not be achieved, until FTTH comes advertising a upto speed that most cant get can be deceptive to some people as they dont understand DSL and distance

FTTH would be nice but it probbery take them 10 years to do it (probbeyr half that if they use G.fast to each street as they not have to enter the pressmise to do the work only the pole or manhole )
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 8 months ago
FTTH does not fix the problems Virgin Media customers are seeing though i.e. you can have a fixed speed medium but this does not guarantee the user experience is not an up to one.
Posted by Bob_s2 8 months ago
Median speed is perhaps more meaningful. It does give a far better indication of what actual speeds are like and it does not make particularly good reading as I indicates most people actually get a very poor speed and nowhere near the Up to Speed headline figure
Posted by Teefenn1 8 months ago
As the saying goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and Grant Shapps has very very little knowledge of how broadband works. Don't politicians just love to poke their incompetent noses into anything they perceive may bring them some kind of kudos?
Posted by michael_s_perry 8 months ago
They should be required to state the minimum guaranteed download speed and the maximum expected download sped, the latter being required to not be greater than 50% faster than the minimum guaranteed. That will mean everyone gets the minimum at least and some get better speeds, but not hugely better.
Posted by SandyW 8 months ago
I am about 2Km from the cabinet. Plusnet and BT have just offered me 1-4Mb/s. However, I have had 9Mb/s from Plusnet for a year or more - just occasional glitches and few now. They saw no reason why I should receive slower than I am getting. BT could only say they expected 1-4Mb/s so I stuck with Plusnet ie the estimated speed was nonsense. I was once told the two were using the same cables but there are doubtless other factors. Perhaps BT would actually have turned out to be the same as Plusnet.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 8 months ago
@Michael_s_perry Guaranteed between what two points? It would quickly become a battle of wills as a provider says guarantee met and consumer says not, and might be embarrassing when an engineer comes out to verify this, and finds things like (a) poor wiring (b) fast on a known well configured PC (c) Fast to sites hosted on the providers own network (d) Unplugging the PC doing constant torrent seeding speeds it up.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 8 months ago
@SandyW is you are referring to VDSL2, then it is difficult to predict speeds at the 2km range. Of course if you send someone out and connect VDSL2 kit to the line and test it then your estimate would be pretty spot on, but with 29 million lines or so that becomes expensive.
Posted by binary 8 months ago
I wonder what Grant Shapp's friends, Michael Green and Sebastian Fox, have to say about such subterfuge...
Posted by chilting 8 months ago
@SandyW
like you I am 2km from my cabinet. I have bonded lines one runs at around 8Mbps but can fall below 1Mbps and the other is constant at just below 5Mbps. My neighbours cannot get FTTC and rely on ADSL at below 2Mbps.
The point is that it is virtually impossible for an ISP to predict speed and service at this distance and for Shapps to base his advertising rules on us shows lack of knowledge and is simply ludicrous.
Posted by burble 8 months ago
Oh come on Andrew that's bull, I've had four engineers visits excluding the install, on each occasion I've been told "if the engineer finds a fault with your internal set up you'll be charged" on each occasion the engineer agrees my set up is the ideal, only got one socket which is the master and router is plugged directly into this, no engineer has been able to get my download speed up to half that of the estimate.
I did get charged for one visit but this was rescinded, this was for the visit by engineer who converted my slow speed into a zero speed.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 8 months ago
Which bit is bull?

Your example highlights that any guarantee already has the makings of an argument, since where faults lie or don't lie already carries a visit charge, and even when you are not charged, it adds to the running costs.
Posted by gah789 8 months ago
Has it sunk in to anyone making these comments that if it isn't possible to define a sensible metric for advertising, then it is going to be even worse for defining & implementing a USO?

One interpretation is that there can be no USO without FTTP (where the link speed is certain), in which case we may as well forget it for the next 15 years. Otherwise someone has to be more constructive and accept the variability inherent in the technologies available.
Posted by chilting 8 months ago
@gah789
I agree but I think that we have to aspire to improve things and that means some very direct action to improve the service offered to the final 10%.
Also as customers demand faster speeds it is important that a formula for the final 10% is versatile enough to be extended to always increase the speed of the slowest in the future.
Posted by TheEulerID 8 months ago
Ultimately all that will happen is that ISPs will just sell products by product name and not speed. Customers will still get individual speed estimates (about which there are already rules).

In any event, measuring anything other than connection speed (and sync speed on xDSL is highly dependent on internal wiring) is incredibly fraught and full of variables given all the potentially contested parts of the network.
Posted by strzelecki 8 months ago
Another part of the problem is that it's nearly impossible for an ISP to get compensation out of BTW when a customer complains that they don't get the speed promised, which is based on figures supplied by BT.
If a train is late because of a fault on the line then the train operator deals with the customer refund and then gets compensated by Network Rail. I don't see this happening with ISPs that sell BTW products. Maybe if the 12 month FTTC contract was removed that would help a bit.
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