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Broadband advertising speed gap widens

Reality now less than half as good

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The gap between the marketing and reality of broadband speeds has grown even wider, according to figures released today by Ofcom.

The average package is now sold as 11.5Mbit/s but in fact delivers just 5.2Mbit/s downstream, a 54 per cent shortfall. A year ago the average actual performance of 4.1Mbit/s was 42 per cent less than advertising claimed.

The increased discrepancy has been caused by BT's switch to ADSL2+. It is sold as offering a top speed of 20Mbit/s, more than twice the previous technology, which was sold as up to 8Mbit/s. The impact of the upgrade on real speeds has been much smaller, widening the gap between adverts and reality.

The figures were collected by Ofcom's network of speed testing hardware, deployed in volunteer homes across the country.

Of the ADSL providers, O2 and Sky, who have both invested heavily in local loop unbundling, came top in the rankings with real 24-hour averages of up to 5.0Mbit/s and 4.9Mbit/s respectively for packages sold as up to 8Mbit/s.

Virgin Media's cable network, which covers about half the country, beat all ADSL providers, with its up to 10Mbit/s package delivering a real average of 9Mbit/s over 24 hours.

BT reacted to the research by pointing to its ongoing £2.5bn investment in fibre optic upgrades for two thirds of its network. For three quarters of those upgrades the line into premises will remain a copper pair, however, limiting speeds to up to 40Mbit/s. As now, real speeds will be significantly slower.

Ofcom said it had recommended to a current Advertising Standards Authority review of ISP marketing that speeds should only be advertised if at least some consumers are actually able to reach them. Advertisers should also be made to include a "typical speed range", the regulator said.

There are more details of Ofcom's research here. ®

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