Broadband News

Why are so many moaning about speeds?

The last couple of years has seen the average speed on our speedtester rise substantially, and if providers continue to upgrade people to a rate adaptive ADSL or ADSL2+ connection, this is likely to continue. Unfortunately the last 18 months has seen a dip in customer satisfaction evident in several surveys - why is this?

One possible reason is that with a whole new raft of broadband products due with the roll-out of the BT 21st century Network (21CN), many providers may be trying to avoid expensive capital expenditure in commissioning more BT Centrals to link into the BT Wholesale network, instead waiting for the replacement, Wholesale Broadband Connect (wBBC). When one considers that the larger BT Centrals carry a minimum 24 month contract, a service provider will need to weigh up the costs of activating this capacity that can support up to 32,000 broadband sessions, and the monthly fee, against the costs of being able to move a percentage of customers to wBBC once the trials start. Another option is for a provider to enter into wholesale agreements with LLU providers, and move a chunk of customers to a cheaper to rent LLU based service.

The new wBBC products are intended to be cheaper to run, with the cost savings of a fully IP network being passed onto broadband providers. To some extent you can see the potential savings if you look at the cost of IPStream services in 2008. For the new wave of video over broadband products, the price of backhaul from the exchange to a location where a provider can serve video data will need to drop substantially. Currently, most providers would fail to deliver streamed video if around 1.5% of customers tried to view content like this at the same time (this assumes a 1.5Mbps video stream).

This means as new services like YouTube, 4oD and BBC iPlayer grow in 2007, providers networks may creak a bit more, and other applications, if traffic management techniques are employed, could suffer. There is a fine line to be walked with traffic management as it needs to be invisible to the majority of customers. Where traffic management can go wrong is if usage patterns change quickly and a broadband provider has tried to avoid purchasing more capacity. It can take up to sixty working days for a new BT Central to be commissioned. Some providers do keep some spare capacity available that can be switched on relatively quickly (for example you can install a large 622Mbps BT Central but only activate 25% of its capacity).

Of course, us the public will always want the best possible service for the minimum price, and this is one reason why services like BT Vision are pay per view based or involve an additional monthly fee as this allows a provider to buy in extra capacity. The Tiscali TV service has a limit of 100 hours of content, with those who want no limitations paying higher fees.

Most people now pay a lot less for their broadband than they did a few years ago. The difference is that a lot of the freedoms to use it how we liked have been curtailed instead. For those wanting a return to those glory days, it is very much a case of having to pay for it. A great many of the products advertised as unlimited now rely on the average usage levels for broadband still being relatively low. If vast numbers of people utilised these products up to either the documented or undocumented fair usage levels, the provider would struggle to provide what most would feel are acceptable speeds.

If wholesale prices for backhaul do decrease significantly in the next couple of years, we hope that these do not fuel further price wars, but are used to plan sensibly for what are well sign posted changes in how people are using their broadband connections. The days of bursty web browsing with some low bit rate radio streaming are very last century. More and more people are using broadband in ways that requires hundreds of kilo bits per second for periods of an hour or two.

If enough of us do start watching a couple of hours of video per week over our broadband connections, then increases in the price of our connections may be inevitable to cater for this, even if the wholesale prices decrease significantly.


If there WAS a way to pay for the usage - and not at £2-3 per gig, that'd be great. As it is, the only real alternative seems to be 1-2MBit business-designed services.

There is a distinct lack of a consumer-orientated premium service on the marker. This may well be due to the pricing models of BT, of course.

  • Dawn_Falcon
  • over 13 years ago

The pay per GB starts at 30p per GB via BT Retail, with some other providers selling at 75p per GB. Admittedly some providers are charging over £2 per GB.

People paid £40 minimum for 0.5Mbps in 2000, if you add inflation that equates to £50 per month in 2007 prices.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • over 13 years ago

Just changed from a very good ISP, up to 8Kbps with 2Gb bandwidth, to SKY connect at £5/month, up to 8 with 40Gb, synch at 6.2 with actual 80% to 98%. Hope it continues, for me impressive. I must be lucky!!

  • guesswot
  • over 13 years ago

re andrew's comment "starts at 30p per GB" ...

Isn't that a 'penalty level' for those who exceed the regular monthly limits, and someone regularly exceeding it by dozens of GB every month would likely be given a MAC and told to switch ISP ?

Out of interest, seeing some EntaNet reseller(s) offer a 19.99 /month account with "up to 300 GB" off-peak, how many customers could they allow to reach 200 GB let alone 300 GB, each month, considering the low monthly fee being charged ?

  • NetGuy
  • over 13 years ago

re guesswot and Sky option...

Yes, you're certainly lucky. I'm in an area where they don't plan to provide their own connection, so service starts at 17/month (I pay Eclipse 14.99 and it seems fine to me)...

The three responses you get are


for (a) can use Sky connection now (b) later on
or (c) Sky won't be extending the network to serve your area :(

  • NetGuy
  • over 13 years ago

People are bitching about speeds with a good reason.
It has taken me 5 days ot get Plusnet to admit that there is something wrong with my digtal line, it normally run at between 4.5 to 6 Mbps since the end of last month the best it has achieved is 497Kbps.
I believe that is a good reason to bitch about speed issues espcially as in the Far East they are providing a stable connection in excess of 50Mbps.

  • urqcol
  • over 13 years ago

It's amazing how quickly forget the days of dial-up, which started at a blistering speed of 14kbps.

If speed is such a big issue, go and live in the Far East!

  • wlchubb
  • over 13 years ago

to wlchubb if we should be satisfied with 14kbit then we can pay for 14kbit, people have the right to complain I feel if they are sold one product and recieve another.

I agree with most of what mrsaffron wrote in the article in that usage patterns are changing and will continue to change and that isps should start using cost savings to improve capacity rather then price wars.

  • chrysalis
  • over 13 years ago

Of course Sky are on a big push to get new customers for their new service. For both marketing and practical reasons, the service is starting out rather good. But as subscriber numbers ramp up, and the initial "investment" is over, it will only get worse. Watch out for the long lock-in, and the linked lock-in to other services such as Sky satellite. Sky are desperate to lock customers in now, before their TV service is challenged even more heavily by other ways to buy programming. Locking customers in is what triple play (e.g. phone/broadband/satellite) is all about.

  • pbath
  • over 13 years ago

Everybody has the right to complain if they that what they are paying for does not meet what was offered when they entered the contract. I joined Orange Broadband Unlimited in January on the distinct impression from each of their repesentatives that I spoke to, that I should certainly get a speed of 5Mbps. The very best achieved todate has been 2.7Mbps and frequently below 1. There have been persistent difficulties with this installation and they continue and I think that I have the right to cmplain even though these speed are significantly better then my old dial up connection.

  • photogolfer
  • over 13 years ago

I upgraded to virgin media 8Mb service. the maximum download speed to date is 3.6 Mb despite the alleged connection shown at the bottom of the screen of 6.2 Mb. During the evening between 7pm & 10pm I'm lucky to get 0.5Mb speed.

  • davyboy
  • over 13 years ago

By the time I get home from work it's already 7pm so I always suffer poor speeds from my "up to 8Mbps". A lot of the time my download speed is slower than my upload speed!

  • Tizzie
  • over 13 years ago

14 kbps - luxury ;-)
I remember when dial-up was 110 or maybe 300 bps!
But then history is hardly relevant - those were the days when 16kB was plenty of memory!

  • PeterBrunning
  • over 13 years ago

I have been with Talktalk for seven months in a rural area on I think a
2 Mb line. Until last week I have been getting about 900Kbps download
and 240Kbps upload. I am now getting upload still 240 but download
between 60 and 150Kbps at any time of the day or night... E-mailed TT
support and waaaaiiiting for an explanation !


  • tdhollis
  • over 13 years ago

Since early March of this year I seem to have fallen victim of 'traffic management' with BT. I used to get 4 to 5 Megs down during peak hours, and 6 to 7 Megs off-peak. I now get less than 1 Meg at peak times. The 'line-test' run by their 'help-desk' (which, the girl tells me, tests all the way down to my master socket in the flat) always seems to insist that my throughput is 7 megs, but this just isn't the case. I understand the inevitabilities of increased pipe usage and traffic, but at least the buggers could be UP FRONT ABOUT IT. This crap costs me £26/month.

  • doughnut77
  • over 13 years ago

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