Skip Navigation

ASA to undertake research into broadband speeds in advertising
Friday 27 May 2016 16:13:18 by Andrew Ferguson

The ASA is set to rock the UK broadband boat again, as it has announced it is to undertake research into whether consumers are being misled on broadband speeds. Previous guidance resulted in the 10% threshold i.e. any headline speed in an advert had to be attainable to ten per cent of customers and for advertisers to be able to demonstrate this, additionally speed claims should be preceded by 'up to' and ADSL2+ services to warn about distance being a factor.

"As an evidence-based regulator, we want to make sure our approach is underpinned by the experience of real people. While complaints to the ASA about broadband speed claims have reduced considerably over recent years, we’re taking action to respond to the concerns by testing our approach through consumer research."

ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker

The previous changes apparently reduced speed complaints by 60%, but after years of lobbying by some consumer bodies and recently Ed Vaizey MP calling for adverts to feature the speed that 75% of people can attain the ASA has decided to undertake research to try and learn how much of an issue speeds are and thus determine whether the existing guidelines need to change.

We have been tracking broadband speeds for many years now via our speed test and this allows us to provide a lot of insight into what people are actually experiencing. The following two tables are the April 2016 results and following on from the February 2016 data we published in March.

Large Provider Fibre Based Connection Download Speed Tests April 2016
Provider 10th Percentile Lower Quartile
(this is the 75% figure Ed Vaizey MP suggests is used)
Median Download Upper Quartile 90th Percentile
FTTC Overall (excludes Virgin Media) 12.3 Mbps 19.9 Mbps 29 Mbps 37.1 Mbps 49.1 Mbps
BT 13.4 Mbps 21.7 Mbps 31.5 Mbps 37.7 Mbps 54.2 Mbps
EE 11.6 Mbps 18.7 Mbps 27.7 Mbps 35.3 Mbps 37.6 Mbps
Plusnet 11.6 Mbps 20.1 Mbps 31.2 Mbps 38 Mbps 57.4 Mbps
Sky 10.5 Mbps 17.3 Mbps 25.4 Mbps 30.7 Mbps 37.3 Mbps
TalkTalk 13.2 Mbps 20.1 Mbps 27.4 Mbps 35.9 Mbps 40.8 Mbps
Virgin Media 8.3 Mbps 21.6 Mbps 40.6 Mbps 61.8 Mbps 100.5 Mbps
Vodafone 15.1 Mbps 20.9 Mbps 31.7 Mbps 41.1 Mbps 57.2 Mbps

The top 10% figures will not line up precisely with current ASA figures, because these range figures are combinations of the up to 76 Mbps and up to 38 Mbps products and similarly for the Virgin Media products. The launch of the BT Infinity up to 52 Mbps is also going to confuse things as people are migrated to the service over a period of time. Asking people which product tier they are on is something we have tried in the past, but the quality of the responses is often mixed and would need further interaction with people to determine what their actual product is e.g. some people will be on a legacy service no longer advertised.

ADSL/ADSL2+ Connection Speed Tests April 2016
Provider 10th Percentile Lower Quartile
(this is the 75% figure Ed Vaizey MP suggests is used)
Median Download Upper Quartile 90th Percentile
All Providers 1.1 Mbps 2.5 Mbps 5.3 Mbps 9.9 Mbps 14.8 Mbps
BT 0.9 Mbps 2 Mbps 4.8 Mbps 9.2 Mbps 15.1 Mbps
EE 1 Mbps 2.3 Mbps 5.1 Mbps 8.6 Mbps 14 Mbps
Plusnet 1 Mbps 2.3 Mbps 5.3 Mbps 9.5 Mbps 14.6 Mbps
Sky 1.2 Mbps 2.5 Mbps 5.3 Mbps 10 Mbps 14.7 Mbps
TalkTalk 1.3 Mbps 2.8 Mbps 5.4 Mbps 9.4 Mbps 14.4 Mbps
Rural ADSL 0.7 Mbps 1.7 Mbps 3.8 Mbps 6.7 Mbps 11.1 Mbps

Any changes to the advertising rules will be happening at a very important change in direction for the UK broadband scene, since the focus is shifting significantly to ultrafast connections and even where this is a pure fibre (FTTH/FTTP) connection there is usually no guarantee that the speeds presented to the consumer router will be hit all the time, simply because the Internet is a shared medium and it is this sharing of bandwidth at multiple points between a consumers connection and the website/service they are accessing that makes it impossible to stop broadband speed complaints totally.


Posted by 21again 5 months ago
> "Previous guidance resulted in the 10% threshold i.e. any headline speed in an advert had to be attainable to ten per cent of customers and for advertisers to be able to demonstrate this, additionally speed claims"

That sums up the ASA and their attitude to the end user any normal thinking bod would want at least 33.3% of customers getting headline speeds, and why not?
Don't make excuses for ISP's :P
Posted by CarlThomas 5 months ago
It does seem to be pull numbers out of your hindmost time.
Posted by WWWombat 5 months ago
I don't care what 10% can get, or 25%, or 33%, or 50%. What others get, averaged nationwide, means nothing to me.

I want to know what *I* will get.

I need to know what generation of technology is being used, but I know most won't.

I need to know what speed I'll get taking account of distance limitations. I need to know what speeds change to with sharing limitations at peak time (listening VM?). I want traffic management and QoS policies clear.

The biggest impacts are strictly local. Why does anything else matter?
Posted by TheEulerID 5 months ago

That ASA only deal with advertising, and that is always going to be broad-brush.

What you are talking about it is more in the realm of Ofcom rules over estimates. Given that the multifarious variable involved (Wifi, home cabling, multi-thread vs single thread, traffic shaping, contention at many points in and outside the ISPs control (just for starters) it is pretty near impossible to define, let alon measure and enforce.

All that will happen is ISPs will retreat to meaningless product names.
Posted by uniquename 5 months ago
AIUI the ASA rules are about sync speed, not throughput.

Am I wrong?

Assuming I'm right, I wonder if they realise throughput is mainly affected by poor home wiring and/or wifi?

Whether they do or not, the only thing they can regulate about has to be sync.
Posted by CarlThomas 5 months ago
You're wrong. They deal purely with throughput.
Posted by chilting 5 months ago
To state the obvious and something that is more valid in the real world - anyone on ADSL is only getting about 25% of the proposed 10Mbps USC according to Ed Vaizey.
Rather than nit picking about the advertising it would be far more relevant if Mr Vaizey got a handle on sorting out slow broadband speeds.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 5 months ago
@chilting The magic wand is the USO but to be a legal right means it takes time, or should laws be allowed without the usual processes as its to do with the Internet?
Posted by WWWombat 5 months ago
You got the hint from my post, then?

I agree, it is only the "estimate" part of the process that works (does VM tell you how congested your cable segment gets?), not the advertising part.

I'm really pointing out the futility over arguing about whether an advertiser should be allowed to mention a 10%, 25%, 33%, 50%, 75% value. If one of them is unsuitable, it turns out all of them are.

It seems more sensible to be able to describe which generation of technology is being used. If you can't use the top speed to do that, come up with a consistent name.
Posted by WWWombat 5 months ago
I work in technology, so it is easy for me to translate between the "pefect" speed and the technology used - and understand I won't get perfection. Personally, I prefer this - it gives /me/ the exact information I need to purchase.

I recognise it doesn't work well for others ... but choosing to give speeds for a randomly-chosen percentile seems to only cloud things further.

As the tenth percentile is getting it in the neck, I'd rather people understand that there is no ideal percentile to choose. There is no value that stands out head and shoulders above the others.
Posted by chilting 5 months ago
Maybe it would be better not even to mention speed in the advertising.
Simply post a link for customers to check their speed on the BT Wholesale checker.
That would also help them choose between various options available.
Posted by Blackmamba 5 months ago
Hi Andrews Staff
With your results showing on the Isle of Whight of 99% fibre access this area should start to show the post codes that are under 10 meg ( proposed USO) if they (customer) overwrite their upgrades giving a better understanding of the situation.
As this area is controlled by one MP the information would be of great value to the country. Today the map looks rather rather random
Posted by chilting 5 months ago
As ADSL isn't capable of giving most customers the 10Mbps USO it isn't much point keeping it in the longer term.
Maybe it should be phased out over the next 5-10 years to allow FTTC and G.Fast to be optimised.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 5 months ago
@chilting Maybe, but two large LLU provides have a big investment in ADSL2+ and have not indicated any desire to end life the service.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 5 months ago
@blackmamba Again I am showing my stupidity as I don't understand what you are saying but suspect you are conflating users speed tests and our coverage data again.

We can already identify postcodes likely to be under 10 Mbps, hence the USO figures on the coverage data.
Posted by comnut 5 months ago
AFAIK ... ADSL itself is 'capable' of good speeds, BUT the awful state of the BT LINES does not help it at alll!!!
Posted by sewrobb 5 months ago
I had Virgin cable for many years till I moved and couldn't get it so I had to use their National Service and what a load of total crap that was! Average 4 down and 1 up! They then suddenly announced the whole lot was going over to Talk Talk. Absolutely no way! So I looked at the BT fibre. They did a test on my phone line and told me to expect 39 down and 10 up which is exactly what I get 85% of the time. The loss is usually when the systems are extremely busy which is only to be expected. Very satisfied to be honest!
Posted by comnut 5 months ago
good to hear sewrobb! :) ( um, I HOPE you mean Mbps...) roughly where are you in UK??
I was wondering how good / bad the BT support is... or are you with SKY??
Posted by PhilipVirgo 5 months ago
I interpret this as meaning that the speeds experienced by "most users" are less than 60% of the headline speeds used in current advertising while at least a quarter of users experience speeds of less than 40%. Do I need to understand more.
Posted by comnut 5 months ago
PhilipVirgo: DO please engage your brain...
what would you do if you got a FREE 200MPH supercar??? think!
Now you take it on the motorway, to do a REAL burn-up... :) :)

can you guess WHY you will almost NEVER get to that speed???
Posted by comnut 5 months ago
anyone else know??
Posted by WWWombat 5 months ago
Why phase out ADSL simply because it is below the USO?

If ADSL meets someone's requirements, and is cheaper than a USO-qualifying solution, shouldn't they still be able to choose it.

The USO, surely, only comes into play when requested.
Posted by Blackmamba 5 months ago
Hi Broadband Watchers..
The 10 meg USO figure will be to the post code which is advertised off the BT checker which states up to on the contract date which is variable so (buyer beware ) and select the ISP and service you require.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 5 months ago
@blackmamba What 10 Meg USO figure? Again you are not making a lot of sense to me.
Posted by chilting 5 months ago
I can see that point of view, but are not the benefits to be gained greater, especially for those of us a longer distance from a cabinet.
Also a free connection to FTTC to those left on ADSL say in 5 years time maybe the best option.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 5 months ago
And in areas where FTTP is the option and someones provider does not deal with that operator? e.g. sky/talktalk don't sell GEA-FTTP and none of the large providers resell Gigaclear.
Posted by chilting 5 months ago
I am not saying that ADSL could simply be discontinued everywhere at once. It would need to be withdrawn slowly an exchange area at a time, over a period of say 5 to 10 years, but it should be a goal set now to the whole industry including the LLU providers.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 5 months ago
If looking at 5 to 10 year periods then by 2026 am expecting it to be end of life and as unpopular as dial-up is today.
Posted by WWWombat 5 months ago
Agree that there are other reasons why ADSL could be forced out, but I think it will be a long time coming, unless Ofcom can be persuaded of the merits of the long-range VDSL concept; even then it would be limited to certain cabinets.

I suspect that ADSL will only be phased out in the same timescale as the phasing out of copper voice services.

I don't know where I've heard this, but I think BT will have to make such announcements 5 years in advance, and Sky/TT won't like it, and might fight it anyway.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 5 months ago
Rules mean BT has to give 3 years notice for the withdrawal of a product, and that is usually preceded by the round robin consultation that happens at their ISP forum meetings.
Posted by chilting 5 months ago
BT Research seemed very upbeat about the prospects for long range VDSL last year.
If adopted it could go a long way to boost broadband speeds.
It would be interesting to know if they are still working on this project and how they plan to implement the results.
Posted by Gadget 5 months ago
I suspect its not the technology, but the commercials for the end-user that hold the sway in the argument - currently AFAIK you'd be asking them to pay extra to cease their ADSL service in most cases to take the replacement
Posted by WWWombat 5 months ago
Long Range VDSL is down to be trialled. 200-odd lines (don't know if that is an "available to" or "connected" figure) in Isfield, East Sussex.

Chosen because there is no exchange-based ADSL to get in the way. I guess it allows them to remove the PSD masks, and increase power further if they wish to.
Posted by godsell4 5 months ago
pros and cons for anything the ASA ask for, today the ISP can invest in 10% of their connection to meet the ASA needs and damn the rest of them. this idea to show 75% of connections could meet that speed at least makes them have to invest in the whole network to get those numbers up. Does it mean for a while we will see BT and VM all marketing their products with numbers of 20Mb and 21Mb, thereby proving one of them is 5% faster than the competiton? Whoop I hear consumer saying!
Posted by godsell4 5 months ago
you can see why BTO is putting G.Fast from the Cabinet, G.FFTC, to get the 75% available number up.
Posted by chilting 5 months ago
Long Range VDSL would be a major advantage to us in rural West Sussex. My cabinet for example only gives 75% of the lines passed superfast speeds.
I hope the trials go well.
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.