Broadband News

Ofcom consults on improvements to point of sale broadband speeds

Changes are on the way for the Broadband Speeds Code of Practice and today we have found out the latest proposals from Ofcom, but importantly this is still a consultation and if the proposals are adopted the code of practice will not change until 2018. Of course as we are already seeing some providers are changing how they talk about speed and guarantees ahead of any actual changes coming into force.

  • At the point of sale and in contracts extra speed information should be given to highlight peak time speeds. Ofcom is defining peak time as 8pm to 10pm
  • The minimum guaranteed speed must be made visible before a sale. This seems to mean that in addition to the range of speeds people get when checking their telephone number or address that the minimum speed guaranteed needs to be shown.
  • Only allow providers a 1 month window to improve speeds before a customer can leave a service penalty-free and this is to extend to bundle contracts that include phone and pay-TV services.
  • The Broadband Speeds Code of Practice is to extend to all broadband technologies where operators have signed up to the Code of Practice.

The Ofcom release does not always make a clear distinction between connection speed and throughput speeds, and while the difference should only be 4 to 10% with a perfect setup as the speeds sold increase the differences become more visible and the distinction is important.

  • Connection Speed for those on VDSL2/ADSL2+ services this is the sync speed reported in the modem/router and the largest issue for the DSL based services is the physics of distance and attenuation. Full fibre and DOCSIS cable services have it easier since the connection is fixed.
  • Throughput Speed essentially the speed you see when downloading or uploading data and as reported by speed tests. This is of course subject to the limit of the connection speed, but other factors such as protocol overheads, TCP/IP stack optimisation, Wi-Fi connectivity and PC performance all have an impact. 

Generally to date any minimum guaranteed speed has referred to the connection speed, and the changes to the code of practice of adding information about peak time speeds will go a long way to addressing the gap that people see between throughput and connection speed. A key point is that two providers selling a GEA-FTTC 40/10 service should have very similar connection speeds (there is a small variation down to DLM profile picked), it is possible their peak speeds reported may vary though, but how useful that will be depends on how granular the results are e.g. UK wide, region, county, town or cabinet level.

With the guaranteed speed extending now to the fixed speed services such as Virgin Media the proposal is that the guaranteed download speed for those services be at least 50% of the advertised speed.

Reducing the window of time from unlimited to just 1 month before you can exit the contract penalty free over speed issues will avoid providers who keep using the trick of 'we have made a change and you need to wait 10 days to see if things improve' repeatedly, and while it has the possibility of forcing providers to get better at resolving speed issues it may have a negative effect of increasing their costs which will then be passed on as a price rise, or put more simpler if providers start sending out more replacement hardware, sending out engineers then the cost of this has to be recovered from somewhere.

For those with multiple broadband options at their address flip flopping between providers until you find one that performs as you want can be time consuming and if these rule changes do increase churn rates we would bet that providers will lower the guarantees given to try and improve their confidence they will hit and exceed the mark. If providers do their jobs correctly having to keep taking days off so a 'boost' engineer can visit and check your in home wiring to ensure its not the cause of the guarantee not been met will become annoying. Moving forward safeguards may need to be added to avoid major providers refusing to deliver a service to some people e.g. those with longer lines where predicting the guaranteed speed is harder, reducing the retail provider choice to a choice of one is not in the consumers interest usually and we already know of some where the advertised product is not offered to avoid impacting on speed test results if people fall below a certain speed.

So its time to see what the industry responses are to the consultation and once changes are implemented what is the variation between the operators.

With the ASA/CAP expected to rule on speeds talked about in broadband advertising very soon, we are running a real danger of so much changing in a short time frame for the public that people get confused between the advertised speeds, guaranteed speed and peak time speeds.

Comments

Hypothetical WRT peak time speeds, what do openreach and BTW product specs say about those now?
I am thinking of the past here, like the old adsl max handbook, it read like getting line rate would be some special 4am treat from BTW.
Of course it wasn't actually like that for most, but I wonder whether similar "rear covering" low peak time rate estimates still exist at wholesale contract level. If they do, then retail suppliers are going to be somewhat restricted as to what they can honestly promise.
If peak time speed is actually measured, I guess that will be some get out.

  • legume
  • 17 days ago

Not called peak time rates, but 15 Mbps, 20 Mbps and 30 Mbps rates do exist on FTTC and FTTP from Openreach, but that is only over the few miles of fibre between cabinet/ONT and the handover exchange.

The dips we see (and Ofcom see similar) for FTTC are in the 8 to 14% range each month, the September report is due in the next few days.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 17 days ago

Hi Andrew Staff.
I may be misunsderstandi your. above comments but the 30,20,15 will be under the 1 Mile measurement. The 15 may hover at the mile metric 1610 mtrs so this will be where the new banding kicks in on the Post Codes.

  • Blackmamba
  • 16 days ago

How does this work with SFI2 charges? Can the provider say "we'll send you an engineer to fix the minimum speed but it may cost you"?

  • awoodland
  • 16 days ago

Hi Andrews Staff.
After looking at my stantment above that will be covering the customers that are on the B Range the others that are on the A section will hit 15 meg very close to 1.2 miles which will also drag 30,20 further along the cable run.

  • Blackmamba
  • 16 days ago

@Blackmamba You have misunderstood

We are talking about bandwidth guarantees within the fibre segment, so distance is not a factor at all.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 16 days ago

This sort of thing is all very well, but there are vast numbers of variables which, as the article alludes to, will often be uncontrolled. Sync speed (on xDSL) is easy to define.

Defining a rigorous and practicable QoS definition and testing regime in production is nightmarishly difficult. Not only all the variables in the customers household (wiring, WiFi, PC/tablet/phone issues, in-property contention etc.) but what's to be measured? Multi-thread, single-thread? To what server locations and what protocols?

It's also not unusual for speed tests to be at odds with user experiences.

  • TheEulerID
  • 16 days ago

@awoodland
Yes it can, bearing in mind that your slow speed may be caused by something inside your property rather than by the network.

  • New_Londoner
  • 15 days ago

I have been with the same supplier since dial-up days 20 years ago (AOL now Talk Talk) and my download speed is less than 1Mb/s due to my location. I have never, therefore, had any promised connection speeds, so does this document have any relevance for the likes of me or only if I was to change supplier?

  • sbeck201
  • 15 days ago

Document would only have relevance if you were to change provider.

If the only technology in your area means 1 Mbps ADSL is the best available then no-one will be able to do better. Presume you've looked at fixed wireless, 4G and other options.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 15 days ago

"With the guaranteed speed extending now to the fixed speed services such as Virgin Media the proposal is that the guaranteed download speed for those services be at least 50% of the advertised speed."

When was VM speed ever "fixed" ? I am lucky if I get 85% of the nominal speed from VM.

Is it unreasonable to expect plus or minus 10% of the advertised speed for 95% of the time ?

The 50% minimum is tacitly suggesting that you should pay for double the speed you really want to be sure of getting it. VM and other providers will love that.

  • Mikejc
  • 14 days ago

@new_londoner that then effectively makes any guarantees useless to all but those who can afford to place a £140(?) wager on the issue not being their fault *AND* being something that an engineer is competent enough and motivated enough to not just write off as just "right when tested at NTE" in their notes. (Yes I really did have an SFI engineer show up a few years back who claimed they'd tested everything at the demarcation point on my property when they'd not actually left the exchange even)

  • awoodland
  • 14 days ago

Some providers have their own 'cheaper' engineers so can visit and remove the uncertainty by testing at test socket etc

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 14 days ago

Virgin Media connections are fixed speed connections, i.e. connect at the speed you buy, in fact they over connection e.g. 220 Mbps for the 200 Mbps service.

"Is it unreasonable to expect plus or minus 10% of the advertised speed for 95% of the time ?"

Given adverts allow adverts with a speed that only 10% can get then that is not possible.

Remember the Ofcom move is NOT ABOUT ADVERTS but what a provider tells you at the point of sale e.g. on phone or when signing up

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 14 days ago

Hi Broadband Watchers.
With the new results showing on the BT Checker I would think all ISP,s would sell using the lower Banding (B) as A would be chancing loosing a customer if they missed the line status Bottom left as there would be less pressure on their infrastructure.
I would think BT would quote A as their CN 21 infrastructure is more adaptable and can change quickly.

  • Blackmamba
  • 14 days ago

@blackmamba if nearly all isp used b range then those using a range would appear to be providing a faster connection. Using the b range could be a major risk to suppliers as they could lose business to the brave ones that use the a range.

  • ian72
  • 14 days ago

And the reality for the public is that in terms of connection speed there would in reality be generally little in it, unless one provider is daft enough to supply CPE that does not support things like G.INP, Vectoring etc on VDSL2

The MGAL is not new, its already there just not always so up front as new code would require, the big change is the peak versus off-peak which is a throughput measure.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 14 days ago

Hi Ian72.
The ordering on the BT Checker results have always been there it was up to the ISP to guide the best package for their client and then take action when required clearing faults and problems and not blaming BTOpenreach most of the time. I have many customers staying with there ISP all over loyalty but keep complaining.

  • Blackmamba
  • 14 days ago

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