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Ofcom shows average broadband speeds half advertised rate

ISP claims tested, many found wanting

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UK communications watchdog Ofcom has slammed ISPs for failing to provide punters with broadband speeds that come close to their 'up to' claims.

According to Ofcom, the average broadband speed over the last two months of 2010 was 6.2Mb/s. That's less than half - 45 per cent, in fact - of the average advertised broadband speed of 13.8M/s, Ofcom said its research shows.

Ofcom's numbers come from "over 18m separate service performance tests... carried out in over 1700 homes during November and December 2010". The effort focuses on 11 packages provided by the seven largest ISPs in the market, "representing over 90 per cent of residential broadband subscribers in the UK".

In the 'up to 8Mb/s' category, only Virgin Media - it actually offers an 'up to 10Mb/s' service - came close to its promised speed with 24-hour average throughputs of 9.5-9.7Mb/s, and 8.9-9.4Mb/s measured between 8pm and 10pm on weekdays.

BT peaked at 4.8Mb/s, Orange at 4.3Mb/s and Plusnet at 4.4Mb/s. All three put in lower numbers for weekday evenings: 4.4Mb/s, 3.5Mb/s and 4.2Mb/s, respectively.

You'd expect speeds to fall during weekday evenings because of increased usage of the overall available bandwidth shared among a given ISP's customers.

Here are Ofcom's full results:

Ofcom Broadband Speed Test

And here are the caveats:

*Caution: Small sample size (<50)

**Results should be treated with some caution as normalisation may not be as effective for O2/Be due to the lower incidence of panellists with longer than average line lengths. These ranges reflect the speeds that would be achieved 95 times out of 100 if the exercise was repeated with different panellists. If the range of two operators overlap, then these operators offer comparable performance. They are not a description of the range of speeds actually measured.

BT Infinity experienced a fault during three days of the testing period when all panellists had their speeds capped at a maximum of 2Mb/s during the weekday evening periods of 6pm-12am. The results collected during this period are: 24 hours – 29.4 to 27.7Mb/s, 8-10pm weekdays – 24.3 to 27.8Mb/s.

You can read the full Ofcom UK broadband speeds report here.

Ofcom laid its research before the Advertising Standards Authority's Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP), which is currently reviewing the ASA's policy on broadband speed claims.

Earlier this week, the Ofcom-founded but independent Communications Consumer Panel (CCP) slammed 'up to' claims as "no longer credible or sustainable" in its submission to the CAP. It said the ISPs' speed claims are "causing widespread scepticism amongst consumers".

Ofcom said it wants the CAP to tell the ASA to mandate the use of Typical Speeds Range values in broadband advertising. TSR is defined as "the range of speeds actually achieved by at least half of customers", and Ofcom wants the data displayed as prominently as 'up to' maximum values.

The CAP is also investigating the use of the world 'unlimited' in broadband packages. Ofcom says, not unsurprisingly, it wants 'unlimited' to mean exactly that, and so "only be used when a service has no usage caps implemented through a fair usage policy". ®

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