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Reality of average broadband speeds in advertising surface
Saturday 31 December 2016 11:28:16 by Andrew Ferguson

Mark over at ISPreview has apparently being talking with a source at Sky and has confirmed that a change in how the provider sells broadband that was seen as positive by campaigners also has a dark side to it.

The change earlier in December where Sky would start to include average broadband speeds in its advertising made them the first major provider to do so, and well ahead of any ASA/CAP guidance. Alas while we and ISPreview warned at the time a real danger is that providers would start to refuse service to people with slow speeds there was no evidence this was happening, but now it appears this is the case with Sky now not offering ADSL/ADSL2+ to customers who would get 2 Mbps or less from the service.

Of course many of those with sub 2 Mbps ADSL will have VDSL2 as an option at faster speeds, though of course we know that not all VDSL2 lines will go faster than 2 Mbps and due to the frequency ranges used VDSL2 at the lower speeds can be more unstable than ADSL or ADSL2+. In theory if ADSL/ADSL2+ was retired the frequencies could be used for VDSL2 and improve the reach of the service.

The number of premises this will affect is a big unknown and it should be noted that this only seems to affect new customers to Sky, but may confuse those who have ADSL/ADSL2+ that is exceeding the checker estimates expectations when Sky refuse their order. Looking at the spread of speeds from Sky ADSL2+ customers there is probably 10% of their customer base with 2 Mbps or slower connections (profile shows more, but have reduced estimate to account for those testing over slow Wi-Fi). This may seem high, but given the years of free ADSL2+ deals it is possible that they've attracted slow users in the past, i.e. lack of annoying BT Wholesale IP Profile system and if you are going to be slow, being free makes it more bearable (free broadband but they'll be paying voice line rental still).

Ofcom estimated that 1% of UK premises only had a sub 2 Mbps option, but this was in May 2016, since then this has dropped to 0.78% based on our analysis, to give some idea of the pace of change in the last seven days we've seen the number of postcodes we mark as in the USC range drop from 60,521 to 60,231.

Broadband in the UK at the start was just 0.5 Mbps (with a lucky few on 2 Mbps) and that seemed fast and could stream video, but as video resolutions have increased from postage stamp size and web pages feature masses more scripts and images slow connections such as this 0.4 Mbps download, 0.2 Mbps Sky connection will feel a lot less functional than fifteen years ago. Looking at that test specifically they are a household which has a range of 4 Mbps to 15 Mbps from VDSL2 at a distance of around 2 km from the cabinet and only up to 1 Mbps from ADSL2+. Our pessimism on the long range performance of VDSL2 means we flag the postcode as a USC one, but there are alternatives probably available via fixed wireless providers. While many people with sub 2 Mbps ADSL2+ will be rural based, there are those in cities still affected.


Posted by Kr1s69 4 months ago
I guess this was an expected result of the marketing switch.

Hopefully the opposite is true, in that those on 40 or 55 lines that can go faster are offered better deals for 80 meg.

My last 2 BT contracts have been £10 for 40 or 55 but if I'd wanted 80Mbps they'd have been 17.50 or £20 which makes the slower speed a much better prospect.
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
Re: Analysis that only 0.78% have sub-2Mbps as their only option.

True. But what percentage have the choice between sub-2Mbps ADSL variants and above-2Mbps NGA?

Some of those people might find the ADSL variant perfectly suitable (and within their budget constraints), but will not get a service offer from Sky now. That, presumably, limits their access to some of the "free broadband" offers.
Posted by Blackmamba 4 months ago
Hi Andrews Staff.
Just an inquiry how often is the under 2 meg % updated as West Surrey % has not changed for 8 weeks I do understand it may be low but you are working to two decimal points I do check it daily.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
Some rough figures 10% of premises under 2 Mbps via just ADSL

The drop to 0.78% is because of the overlap of VDSL2/cable/FTTP

Surprisingly in line with very old figures at
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
@Blackmamba The figures are updated at least once a week, but an area will only drop if we find out about more coverage. So question is where is this roll-out happening that means you expect sub 2 Mbps to be dropping in Surrey currently
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago

Looking back at the 2011 infrastructure report, they reckoned on 14% of premises having under 2 Mbps ... which will have been measured pretty early in the FTTC rollout.

There's definitely a chunk being ignored here.
Posted by CarlThomas 4 months ago
Confirmed. My own address, known slow spot for ADSL, Sky offer fibre only, not ADSL.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
My figures for the 10% were very rough, hence the word rough. Would need to tweak the coverage calculator to match with 2011, and also turn off a chunk of ADSL2+ too

So no argument if Ofcom was saying 14% back then
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
Looking at the story from a week ago, with the graph of ADSL downstream tests...

If "tests = connections", then Sky dropping all the sub-2Mbps tests, means they'd lose 20% of the connections.

Very roughly, their average/mean ADSL(2+) speed would increase from 6.2Mbps to 7.5Mbps. The median would increase from about 5Mbps to 6Mbps.

Not insignificant improvements. And not a penny of investment required.
Posted by New_Londoner 4 months ago
Is this what Sky had in mind when campaigning to "Fix Britain's Internet"?
Posted by rtho782 4 months ago
I wonder if the opposite will also be true. An ISP is better off if they don't push the 80m fttc option (e.g. sky) and all those customers that can get 40+ syncs stay on the 40 product, dragging the average up. A provider that sells 80 for not much more, will lose AVG speed on the 40 option.

This is all meaningless for the consumer.
Posted by nervous 4 months ago
As far as FTTC is concerned will BT now gain the crown as its service is 52Mb so average should be higher if it doesn't supply really slow lines.
Posted by Blackmamba 4 months ago
Hi Andrew Staff.
Just checked back on my photos and on the 22 October the reading was . 78 % at 2 meg on the main UK formate the same as it is today. Thanks for telling me that it is checked weekly and should be dropping by approx 40 customers per day. (290/7).
Posted by gerarda 4 months ago
@wwwombat - Sky are claiming 9Mbps average with adsl
Posted by faff 4 months ago
Much as the decision to quote average speeds appears to incentivise Sky to turn away potential customers with low speeds, I think it ought to incentivise them to push customers like me on a 38/10 deal towards a 76/10 deal - my line is capable of over 60 down. Incidentally, the median (as opposed to the average) is probably a better representation of Sky's offering if, as is likely here, the distribution of download speeds is skewed. I think I am right in saying that high value 'outliers' will flatter Sky's average.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
Sky is using the Ofcom data, i.e. SamKnows kit which extrapolates a UK average for providers from a small sample.

Are figures are observed ones from a much larger geographic sample, and will include users Wi-Fi experience, but wireless should be a lot less of an issue at ADSL speeds.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
@Blackmamba Note we showed a drop of 290 postcodes over 7 days, that might be 290 premises or could be 2,000 premises and this is not consistent some weeks we see a bigger drop and others a smaller one.

To see a 0.01% drop needs 3,000 premises to change, and we are constantly integrating new build and other changes.
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
Just helps show that quoting average speeds doesn't help make advertising clearer - it just muddies the applicability to an individual line even further.
Posted by gerarda 4 months ago
It is a nonsense - they should just give you the estimated speed for your line and allow you to cancel if it turns out to be more than say 25% below that. Though that's probably a pretty academic choice unless you have the option of Virgin
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
Sky as part of the Ofcom code of practice do give a speed estimate when signing up, displaying that in an advert though is rather difficult
Posted by Blackmamba 4 months ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
It is most important for the average speed is displayed because on ADSL the estermated distance to the (DP in meters) has always been displayed. when FTTC was provided there was no reference of distance from the new FTTC to the DP so it was open to chance for the ISP to take on the customer. They either use A or B. Range.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
@Blackmamba Where on ADSL has 'the estimated distance to the DP been displayed', somehow missed that in the last 16 years.

On FTTC you are contradicting yourself, first saying no reference, but then saying there is with the A/B range.
Posted by Blackmamba 4 months ago
Hi Andrews Staff.
Are these customers that you have scanned under 2 meg completely (using the copper pair )unable to get above 2 meg but have not changed to a higher speed on a different service ( ISP or ADSL+2). I would think that it is possible that there are many customers that have historic faults on their installations as you cut into this 60K total.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
@Blackmamba The USC postcodes is best speed available to a postcode, so nothing to do with people not choosing to upgrade.
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
Any idea what rates NowTV streams at? 2.5Mbps for SD?

Do we know that Sky's new sales threshold is actually 2Mbps? Could it really be 2.5Mbps?

We know Sky really focuses on TV, and that IP delivery is their future. Perhaps they're just prepping the way...
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
NowTV streaming is rate adaptive so depends on how blocky you are willing to go.

No reason for a SD stream to be above 2 Mbps given the wide choice of codec available today.
Posted by Blackmamba 4 months ago
Hi Andrews Staff.
If I am understanding your reply the USC on a post code is determined by the line length from the Exchange in yards / meters and resistance (copper/ Aluminium) and is not involved with the services the ISP,s offer to that location.
These post codes locations would be classed as Black Spots and are highted lighted on your maps in RED.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
@Blackmamba To be frank not sure I understand what you've said.

To be marked as USC the fastest fixed line broadband service that we believe is available in a postcode is under 2 Mbps.

The map has NO RED on it.

The map has red on it denoting VDSL speeds of 0 to 3.9 Mbps which is NOT USC.
Posted by gerarda 4 months ago
If a postcode is marked only as USC is one property in it can get 2Mbps that can leave out an awful lot of properties unable to get the USC. Some post codes can stretch upwards of half a mile in length with the consequent deterioration in speed as you move further from the exchange or cabinet.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
@Gerarda We are not using the FCC methodology, but are taking a majority decision and always happy to look at specific postcodes in more detail if we are over estimating (though most enquires are about under estimating).

Posted by Blackmamba 4 months ago
Hi Andrews Staff and Gerarda..
I am happy that TBB system is using majority decesions on post codes under 2 Meg USC which will be covered by Adsl+2 on CN21 Exchanges which should upgrade above 2 meg. I feel this % which is very low also effect the 2,10,15 results. Happy new year to both of you.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
I am not happy that @Blackmamba thinks an exchange getting ADSL2+ via 21CN will suddenly shift all postcodes above 2 Mbps, and nothing in our system does that just to ensure no one thinks it does.

Years of test data indicates that once you get into the 1 to 2 Mbps region, a shift from ADSL to ADSL2+ only gives marginal improvements.
Posted by denniswells 4 months ago
Are you saying Sky could ditch their existing sub 2Mbps customers?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 4 months ago
Nothing to suggest existing 2 Mbps customers will be ditched, but predicting the future is difficult, can see a scenario where say Sky Connect users are sold to another provider - TalkTalk did this with their off net customer base
Posted by chrisleuty 4 months ago
"free broadband but they'll be paying voice line rental still"

Is it voice line rental or just line rental?
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