Broadband News

The problems with the latest Ofcom campaign

The new Ofcom boostyourbroadband campaign has actually had us take a longer look at the Ofcom speed checker than we have before, the presumption was (and suspect many others believe so) was because Ofcom has powers to request data the checker would be correct and up to date. While it is very often right we can fairly quickly find problems such as some Openreach fibre-only premises that were built around April 2018 Ofcom does not even know about the postcode.

Slightly more worrying is how the checker handles VDSL (fibre to the cabinet services) which can be superfast or not depending on the distance to the little green cabinet, the Ofcom checker is still showing 80 Mbps down and 20 Mbps when we estimate 45 Mbps and Openreach themselves suggest 55 to 80 Mbps for one property. This suggests that Ofcom is showing the top end figure, which is possible but given all the complaints about over stating speed Ofcom should be better at showing the speed range. Our 45 Mbps in this case is lower because we estimate for the postcode centre point and then use a relatively pessimistic model for the speeds, i.e. we expect the vast majority to get faster than we estimate.

Ofcom is not always right one property we looked at has Openreach estimates of 19.6 to 35.5 Mbps but Ofcom says a nice 40 Mbps, we are lower again at around 13 Mbps on VDSL2.

What does standard broadband mean to you? We believe that many of the public will see phrases standard, superfast and ultrafast broadband and actually equate standard broadband with ADSL and ADSL2+ services. Why does this matter? So a property is showing as 18 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up after an Ofcom check and the person checking knows they can get around 7 Mbps today, do they actually understand that this 18 Mbps is from a VDSL2 service they can upgrade or wrongly assume this is just a wrong estimate for ADSL2+? Ofcom has attempted to be wonderfully technology agnostic in its checker but the public need cues to understand what packages to look at in providers listing, i.e. in this instance they will actually need to order a superfast service but during the order process their personal estimate will reveal that superfast speeds are not actually possible.

Unsurprisingly Ofcom when it get around to talking about getting the best deal, links to its like of accredited comparison sites and adds an Ofcom specific link to the Which? website, though the Which? checker is just another instance of the broadbandchoices checkers.

The problems are many with the accredited and almost all the other comparison websites, e.g. if Ofcom says a superfast service at 185 Mbps is availabel the public will not find that service on the comparison sites and Openreach FTTP areas have no mention of the ultrafast options and retailers who do not sell the FTTP service are shown, which leads to the public chasing down the lowest price providers and then getting rejected when trying to order. Add to this the number of smaller FTTP providers that do not show up and in theory should be in the Ofcom system and it is a recipe for confusion.

Our checker at https://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/postcode-search has the widest range of providers mentioned in it and also has a short queue of smaller operators that we need to add. Our package search at only covers those services where we have added packages to the listings.

The ultimate question in the extremely competitive broadband comparison site market where they all try to grab prime advert slights or top ranking in google searches, is it fair for Ofcom to just promote accredited sites when our checking shows that in reality being accredited does nothing to improve the data quality and sites like our own are working hard to cover as broad a range of services as possible within the time budget.

Comments

"we can fairly quickly find problems such as some Openreach fibre-only premises that were built around April 2018 Ofcom does not even know about the postcode."

My early 2017 OR/BT FttP doesn't appear in their checker. The Speed estimates appear to be coming from a magic 8ball!

  • Croft12
  • 5 months ago

Yes doesn't really work for where I am - SE16 7PY - says I the fastest download spped I can get is 10 Mbps which isn't correct - should be more like 5Mbps and also can get Ultrafast 1000Mbps which I can't get at all - when you click on the link that goes through to the Which website it lists all than standard broadband packages no Ultrafast

  • Malcolmb1
  • 5 months ago

It comes up with approx. 3 times the actual speed we can get around here.
Interestingly, we are on the shortest line to pole, if I choose any other address on that pole up or down road to slightly lowers speed estimate.

  • burble
  • 5 months ago

@Malcolmb1

Its not perhaps detecting you could order fttpoD or something is it? That doesn't come up in checkers well.

  • Croft12
  • 5 months ago

HP13 area...claims superfast 80/20 is the best I can get. Have been on BT 330/50 since March...I think it may not be very accurate

  • NGDragon
  • 5 months ago

Ofcom should not be showing fttp on demand, if that was the case many many more VDSL2 people would see 1000 Mbps.

SE16 7PY is down as EO, with speeds in the 5 to 10 region, but to tick 10 Mbps box we want the low end of the range to be 10.1

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 5 months ago

When working one of my responsibilities was to provide data to OFCOM, they only ever wanted end of year figures(31/03/xxxx) and were not interested in more up to date ones. This often meant they were working on out of date info from industry. I suspect this hasn't changed so wouldn't expect anything after 31/03/2018 to show on their info. ( part of me is surprised it is that up to date!).

None of their systems was ever built to accept live data so updating wouldn't be their strong point. They are a regulator not a live data organisation.

  • jumpmum
  • 5 months ago

@jump As I said above my 2017 fttp doesn't show so they are clearly using very old data

  • Croft12
  • 5 months ago

I am totally baffled by all the availability checkers in my area. PL18 9SQ
I no of nobody able to get Superfast broadband in this postcode
I don't know nobody using wifi and is not available to me.
There is very limited mobile coverage in the area.
(If I stand on top of my roof and wave my phone around and the wind is in the right direction I can get 2 bars and a flashing 3G signal, maybe I need a aerial)

  • nobroadband
  • 5 months ago

It's right there in the FAQ:
"This checker uses broadband availability and predicted speeds data provided by the UK's major Internet Service Providers in June 2016."
https://www.ofcom.org.uk/checker-app/about-the-checker

  • richi
  • 5 months ago

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