Sky has wrists slapped over fastest peak time claim
The ASA has told Sky to never show an advert again in its previous form and if it uses Ofcom speed test results to ensure it is made clear the testing refers to fixed line performance only.
This latest ruling was made after BT challenged a "Fastest peak time speeds measured by Ofcom" in a Sky advert and raised the issue with the ASA. Given the advert claim was based on the testing by SamKnows for Ofcom the presumption by many will be that BT got it wrong and people may find it odd that the ASA upheld the ruling. The devil though is in the detail and below is what Ofcom had to say about Sky and peak time speeds in its last speed report (November 2014 data).
"Broadband can slow down at peak times (between 8pm and 10pm on weekdays) due to a large number of people going online at the same time. This is known as network ‘contention’.
Sky’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s broadband showed the effects of network contention the least, with 96% of panellists taking part in Ofcom’s research receiving 90% or more of their connection’s maximum speed at peak times.
EE’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s broadband performed the least well, with 7% of panellists receiving 90% or more of their maximum speeds at peak times.
Cable services also suffered from slowdown at peak times. As Virgin Media delivers maximum speeds faster than its headline ‘up to’ speeds, peak time slowdown for its services is also measured against headline ‘up to’ speeds. The proportion of Virgin Media panellists getting at least 90% of their headline speed at peak times were: for Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 50Mbit/s broadband it was 100%; for 100Mbit/s it was 59%; and for 152Mbit/s it was 33% in November 2014."Extract from Ofcom February 2015 report
The key is that Ofcom is saying Sky showed the least effects of network congestion, which is different to the claim of the advert which was "Fastest peak time speeds measured by Ofcom". In the Ofcom report Sky did have the highest speeds on the up to 38 Mbps FTTC based products, but crucially this table does not feature normalised results - i.e. no correction has been applied to compensate for variation in line length/quality, something which has been done for the ADSL2+ speeds for some time. Why Ofcom does not correct for cabinet distance is unknown and with a panel size of 1,711 connections spread over 14 services in the peak time panel it should be possible to do so. Though if going to normalise FTTC speeds, you also need to know something about the testers in home wiring, e.g. a bad star config, slow speeds due to modem on an extension or the ideal set-up of a master socket faceplate filter. Another issue even if the data is normalised is whether maybe 100 connections for a service is a wide enough sample to detect the variation in congestion that often varies by region or even town/exchange/cabinet area.
Looking at our speed test results for February 2016, for all connections on the big five providers (we could talk about others but sample size means we are not confident enough to give peak versus off-peak figures) the peak time speeds (6pm to midnight) as a percentage of daytime speeds (7am to 3pm) were BT 99.3%, Plusnet 100%, Sky 90.9%, TalkTalk 95.5% and Virgin Media 81.3%. Of course we don't have all those who do run our speed test running it at both peak and off peak periods, but the volume involved means we observe a much wider geographic sample than Ofcom. The Plusnet results have been a little odd as at peak times some months they exceed their off-peak speeds and this is thought to be down to the way traffic management is utilised across the Plusnet network. In an ideal world there would be a way to combine the Ofcom testing and our data so that observation of what the public see and the formal Ofcom testing produce could be discussed and used to better inform the nation as a whole.