Broadband News

CAP to attempt to cap the madness that is broadband speed advertising

CAP who set the rules for what can and cannot be said in an advert has been edging closer to a consultation on broadband speed advertising and now we have an open consultation that is exploring for main options. The consultation is open for responses until 13th July 2017 and is the biggest change in broadband speed advertising since 2012.

  • Peak-time median download speed;
  • 24-hour national median download speed;
  • Range of peak-time download speeds available to the 20th to 80th percentile of users; and
  • Range of 24-hour national download speeds available to the 20th to 80th percentile of users

Our immediate response is what about upload speeds as it is proving increasingly hard to figure out what speeds various services actually offer for upload speeds, and we would hope CAP will in its final judgement make some requirement, even if this is just an increased emphasis for upload speeds on product pages it would make it a lot easier for the public to see why some services are a pound or two cheaper per month than another.

So what sort of speeds could the four plans mean we see, well we have picked a sample of the various providers products and populated them with the data that already have from our April 2017 speed test analysis.

Download Speeds
Provider/ProductPeak median(*)24 hour medianPeak Range 20th to 80th percentile (**)24 hour 20th to 80th percentile (**)
BT Infinity 1 FTTC/VDSL2 up to 52 Mbps 27.5 Mbps 29.3 Mbps 18.6 to 37.9 Mbps 19.8 to 40.3 Mbps
Zen Internet FTTC/VDSL2 up to 76 Mbps 54.6 Mbps 55.7 Mbps 40.2 to 66.8 Mbps 41 to 68.2 Mbps
Virgin Media 100 Mbps cable broadband 47.9 56.3 28.9 to 64.4 Mbps 34 to 75.8 Mbps
Sky Fibre FTTC/VDSL2 up to 38 Mbps 22.2 Mbps 24.1 Mbps 15.5 to 28 Mbps 16.8 to 30.4 Mbps
TalkTalk Fibre FTTC/VDSL2 up to 38 Mbps 25.2 Mbps 25.2 Mbps 19.1 Mbps to 33 Mbps 19.1 Mbps to 33 Mbps
BT Retail ADSL2+ up to 17 Mbps 4.9 Mbps 5.2 Mbps 2.1 to 9.2 Mbps 2.2 Mbps to 9.8 Mbps

NOTE: The peak time figures are based on estimates from each providers full range of products, deeper analysis over a longer period than a month would be needed to resolve the peak estimates to a higher confidence level.
(*) We are using our peak time definition of 6pm to midnight 7 days a week
(**) Our standard analysis output delivers 25th to 75th (quartile) figures which is what we using in these tables. If a 20th to 80th range gains traction we will switch the figures we present in our analysis but for illustration purposes the quartile range is adequate.

Remember that our speed test analysis is based on observation, and while we can fairly easily exclude a large number of the Wi-Fi tests by excluding tablets and mobiles this would limit the number of providers and packages we can talk about, we can though tell you that if you want to compensate for Wi-Fi on the cable products an adjustment of 6 to 8 Mbps would be reasonable, for FTTC services around 2 to 4 Mbps and only 1 Mbps on ADSL2+.

Upload Speeds
Provider/ProductPeak median(*)24 hour medianPeak Range 20th to 80th percentile (**)24 hour 20th to 80th percentile (**)
BT Infinity 1 FTTC/VDSL2 up to 9 Mbps 6.4 Mbps 6.6 Mbps 4.2 to 8.2 Mbps 4.3 to 8.5 Mbps
Zen Internet FTTC/VDSL2 up to 19 Mbps 16.8 Mbps 17 Mbps 12.9 to 18 Mbps 13 to 18.2 Mbps
Virgin Media up to 6 Mbps cable broadband 5.3 Mbps 5.7 Mbps 4.4 to 5.7 Mbps 4.7 Mbps to 6.2 Mbps
Sky Fibre FTTC/VDSL2 up to 9 Mbps 6.2 Mbps 6.5 Mbps 3.8 to 8.2 Mbps 4 to 8.5 Mbps
TalkTalk Fibre FTTC/VDSL2 up to 1.9 Mbps 1.7 1.7 Mbps 1.6 to 1.8 1.6 to 1.8 Mbps
BT Retail ADSL2+ up to 1 Mbps 0.4 0.5 Mbps 0.3 to 0.8 Mbps 0.3 to 0.8 Mbps

Telling people a range speeds would seem the most informative but when you consider you might be passing by a billboard on a bus that has a broadband advert on it would you have time to absorb a set of range figures and more importantly under stand what you are seeing. Now in addition consider that in most VDSL2 adverts all the providers advertise the same up to 38 Mbps figure (very few up to 76 Mbps adverts and only BT Consumer advertise an up to 52 Mbps service), with providers displaying varying figures it may be harder for the public to determine which actual product is being sold, so while the four measures give a better representation for each providers performance nationally it will tell people nothing about the performance locally.

Previous changes such as the Ofcom Broadband Speeds Code of Practice while voluntary was a big change and has been widely adopted. It is the personal estimate you get when checking what services are available that should be the critical decision maker for the public. One option would be to remove broadband speed from the advertising totally and concentrate on getting people to check their estimate on a providers site, couched under a phrase something like 'we don't want to promise too much but will do promise to give you a personal estimate of the speeds you will receive when you check on our website'.

ADSL2+ under any of the four new systems is not going to look very attractive at all and at first though you think great, it will encourage people to upgrade to a VDSL2 or cable broadband service, but given that advertising is already showing those services at double the speed this effect would we expect be minimal. There may be a bigger negative effect in that those on ADSL2+ enjoying speeds of say 7 to 11 Mbps might view 'fibre' adverts touting speeds of 25 to 30 Mbps at a price point taking existing costs from £23 per month to £35 per month as not being so attractive. This is very important as the USO now carries a clause where the 10 Mbps minimum will only be reviewed once three quarters of people are on a superfast service, so the sooner that can be encouraged the better for those cursed with slow broadband.

Where we expect the biggest upset is in the switching market and given the mantra of competition is king which has existed for over 30 years in the regulation of UK telecoms anything that means people are less likely to switch may be hard to swallow. This is based on the premise that people will have a reasonable idea of their day to day speeds and if they are above the figures in the adverts they may falsely worry that their speeds will drop if they switch provider and in addition to dulling the switching market people may well then end up paying more, since out of minimum contract pricing is often higher the first 12/18/24 months of a contract.

What we do know is that marketing and product managers at all the providers will look to exploit what every changes are made and this might include ensuring that any sampling of users they do to obtain median and speed ranges is using better customers and avoids people in over utilised areas. Those likely to be below the desired median speed may be steered to a different product that is not 'advertised' or worse refused service - and those are both reality now. Consider this refusal to sell risk in light of the figures we have that show ECI VDSL2 cabinets have a median download speed of 27.9 Mbps versus Huawei cabinets at 31.9 Mbps (for those using small samples to 100 to 200 users per provider in speed modelling this difference is now becoming significant). Another option for fixed speed services such as cable and FTTP would be to increase the level of over provisioning such that the median will not change compared to the existing up to figures, or the top 20% figure will match the old figures.


I've said this so many times.
I'm on FTTC and get 4mb, so all those figures are completely meaningless.
I'm happy with the present 'up to' figures given in advertising.

  • burble
  • 4 months ago

as I have said many times, many names mean almost *nothing* !!!
either they are too long, and are not the proper name to quote (or andrew is just being 'picky' :) )

or rather idiotic eg FTTH/P ONLY means Fibre To The Home/ Premises, and is like this question..

"what kind of car do you have?"
"it has 4 wheels.."

Broadband has to be defined by the type of cable used, how it is distributed once it gets to the town, what type of modulation & coding standards, and also how well it will cope with aggressive landscape it encounters! (etc. etc..)

the last bit is why many are disappointed...

  • comnut
  • 4 months ago

Nice new web, any chance of and 'EDIT' option yet?? :):)

  • comnut
  • 4 months ago

No plans for new comment edit, like real life there is no edit function, but you can post a subsequent comment to correct yourself.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 4 months ago

... and *unlike* reall life, where many mistaces you make are soon forgotten, your awfal camments is preseved for yrears...

  • comnut
  • 4 months ago

i am not sure what is the best way to do it as the general public don't really understand changing ISP won't accurately change the speed they get as they are on the same openreach provider

unless its moving from ADSL to VDSL or moving to FTTP (rare) or virgin media (but they have issues with congestion in some streets witch Virgin fail to add more cards or cab at the FTTN node) then you see a speed change

what i am finding wute hard lately is they refuse to state the upload speed they are selling on the 40mb product it mite be 40/2 or 40/10 (80mb is 80/20 so no problems there)

  • leexgx
  • 4 months ago

The majority of non-technical people I come across, are disappointed when they move from ADSL services (copper) to so called fibre, and don't see much of an improvement in speed, if any. That's because all of the push in the past 20 years has been about bandwidth which is a measure of capacity & not pure speed. In fact I'd say except for multi-user homes where there's a lot of local activity, most single & 2 person homes won't perceive much better access times unless they're downloading files a lot. Latency is a better measure & one that gamers aspire to & vsad if latency is high.

  • brush-head
  • 3 months ago

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