Ofcom publishes its comparison of the major broadband providers
Ofcom has published its second major report into customer service quality and satisfaction based on market research with around 2,500 members of the public with the results weighted to bring them in line with the Ofcom technology tracker.
The Ofcom report focuses on the six largest providers, where our most recent set of data covers 18 providers from a larger sample size of 8,000 votes.
In terms of customer satisfaction Virgin Media comes out top in the Ofcom research, versus middle of the table if you reduce our dataset to just the six major providers. So Virgin Media may be able to use trophy for being top but there is some caution to be exercised, satisfaction with broadband speeds was lower overall in 2018 compared to 2016 in the Ofcom data (77% vs 83%) and the Virgin Media saw its score there fall from 91% in 2016 to 82% today and Sky was the other big loser dropping from 84% to 76%. Without the structured questioning and weighting that market research interviews utilise it seems likely that this drop in satisfaction for speed may be reflected overall in the scores people give on the thinkbroadband system, plus of course there is a tendency for people to seek out broadband sites if unhappy.
The big takeaway though is that with TalkTalk scoring poorly in the Ofcom and our tracking that they may well be truly at the bottom of the major provider pack. As always the rule about taking one figure or opinion in isolation being a dangerous thing applies, but if you have multiple sources with different methodologies saying broadly the same thing you can probably place more trust in what is being said.
Looking at the technology for those who have superfast broadband (30 Mbps and faster) satisfaction with broadband speeds is running at 82% versus a 77% overall figure and those with ultrafast broadband it is 86% (100 Mbps and faster - note Ofcom use the 100 Mbps definition in this report rather than the 300 Mbps definition from their coverage statistics). For those with standard broadband i.e. ADSL/ADSL2+ they score the lowest at 71%.
One snippet to take-away is that of the largest providers only BT and Post Office purchase the 1 day repair service from Openreach, with Sky, TalkTalk, EE and Plusnet buying the 2 day option with the money we all pay each month. This means that if everything else is equal faults are much more likely to be fixed quicker with BT and Post Office, there is also the variations in the time it takes to get a fault reported to Openreach i.e. if a provider insists of 3 days of fault finding before reporting a fault versus another than reports faults with a couple of hours then what the public experience will differ much more than the difference you would expect from the 1 day difference.
The price focus on broadband and landline should be no surprise for anyone, since the days of Pipex in 2002 and 2003 when they pushed broadband to just under £30 a month (line rental had to be added on) which started the rush to making broadband popular price has been the biggest factor, followed by the launch of TalkTalk in 2006 which also spawned the massive comparison site market that exists today. The move to average speeds which should see a change in the package speeds displayed may shift things towards speed rather than just price, but as the advertising is just around download speed the pressure to game that figure will be immense i.e. to be just 1 Mbps faster than a competitor might be the difference between losing customers versus gaining them and in reality for an individual there may not be any difference, or alternatively you may have a slower service provider who actually provides a better gaming and web browsing experience (i.e. stable speeds, low jitter, low latency, fast DNS) against one selling a service several times faster.
We have added the landline scores, since for ADSL/ADSL2/VDSL2 you still currently need to take a landline service, even after years of testing for the SOGEA service and even when this broadband only option launches it seems that voice service is likely to be a major part and with the need for the physical line to be present the dream many have of ditching the £18.99 line rental and paying just £5 to £10 for broadband will not appear.
For those at Ofcom reading this, while its great for us that Ofcom does not cover the smaller providers with our what is best for the public hat on, these reports would be much more useful if the sample size was substantially higher or enough customers of the medium sized providers found. Also since Virgin Media offers broadband only options versus dual play (phone + broadband), triple play (TV + phone + broadband) and quad play quad play (TV + phone + broadband + mobile) knowing whether there is any variation in how people score in the research based on the components of their bundle would be useful.