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Broadband speed testers fail the test

Virgin Media dishes out solitary gold star

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Web-based broadband speed testers are mostly rubbish, Virgin Media research has confirmed.

It revealed plans to test the testers last month. Virgin Media didn't believe many were capable of accurately measuring speeds on its top package, which is currently sold at 20Mbit/s downstream and will soon to be upgraded to 50Mbit/s.

The results are in, and it's gold star time for the chaps at Thinkbroadband.com. Virgin Media says they run the only one of the 10 speed testers it investigated capable of clocking 50Mbit/s with any accuracy.

Only two out of 10 (Thinkbroadband and Speedtest.net) are any use for measuring speeds on the current top of the range 20Mbit/s package, according to Virgin Media's testing. Under controlled conditions Virgin Media engineers judged that any speed tester that varied by more than 10 per cent from the headline speed was unacceptably inaccurate.

The cable company said the exercise was intended to highlight that comparison sites may not be giving consumers good information.

Richard Shaw of ISP industry analysts Samknows said: "Accurate information is essential for consumers looking to get a service that suits their needs - be it a casual surfer, a heavy user, or many people sharing a single home connection. SamKnows agrees with Virgin Media, that whilst web based speed-testers are a useful tool, there is still some way to go."

Samknows has recently been appointed by Ofcom to deploy a network of hardware based speed testers to volunteers nationwide. It's part of the regulator's plan to make broadband more transparent to subscribers. A parallel new code of practice to clamp down on "unlimited" marketing chicanery comes into force next year. ®

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