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Deception of 'up to' broadband speeds exposed

Ofcom reveals true download speeds

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The average downstream broadband speed received by consumers is just 3.6Mbit/s, according to data released today from the most accurate UK internet access survey ever published.

Ofcom's new hardware-based broadband monitoring system found that despite the fact more than 60 per cent are subscribed to "up to" 8Mbit/s packages, on average the top speed ever achieved was only 4.3Mbit/s.

One in five receives less than 2Mbit/s. It's thought that the government's forthcoming Carter review will recommend a requirement that the communications industry offers at least 2Mbit/s to all part of the country. Ofcom said today that on average, urban internet users' connections are 15 per cent faster than those of their rural counterparts.

Across the UK connections were slowest between 5pm and 6pm on Sundays, when network load is highest.

The data was produced in partnership with the ISP industry analyst house Samknows, which deployed special speed reporting kit to about 1,500 homes. Until now, virtually all measures of broadband performance available to consumers have come from flawed web-based test software.

The survey is part of a bid by Ofcom to improve consumer confidence in internet providers by encouraging transparency. A voluntary code of practice, which came into force in December, requires signatory ISPs to provide an estimate of the real top speed potential subscribers can expect to receive (based on factors such as the distance of their home from the local exchange) as well as the "up to" headline maximum.

The monitoring network showed that on average, consumers get 45 per cent of the advertised headline speed.

Speed gripes were the most common cause of dissatisfaction in market research carried out for Ofcom alongside the technical survey. Only two thirds were satisfied by how their internet connection performed while watching web video, for example.

The full survey report is here (pdf). ®

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