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'Up to' broadband claims out of control, says Ofcom

Speeds rise, but advertised speeds rise a lot faster

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Ofcom is still fretting over ISPs who punt services using the "up to" speeds rhetoric in their advertising campaigns.

The communications watchdog once again called on self-regulatory ad bodies to change their guidance to give customers "more informed decisions based on the adverts they see".

New research into fixed-line broadband by Ofcom, published this morning, showed that overall speeds in the UK were improving. Alongside that, it said the gap between actual and advertised "up to" speeds had widened.

"The average UK broadband speed increased by 10 per cent, from 6.2Mbit/s in November/December 2010, to 6.8Mbit/s in May 2011," said the regulator.

In May this year, it carried out 455 million separate performance tests in 1,767 homes in the UK and found 47 per cent of residential broadband users were on packages with advertised speeds above 10Mbit/s. That's a 5 per cent increase compared with the same research carried out in November 2010.

It wasn't all good news for ISPs, however.

"The average advertised speed in May 2011 was 15Mbit/s, 8.2Mbit/s higher than average actual speeds of 6.8Mbit/s," said Ofcom. "In November/December 2010 the gap was 7.6Mbit/s (average actual speed was 6.2Mbit/s and average advertised speed was 13.8Mbit/s)."

And while it said that there were much smaller differences between "up to" speed claims and actual speeds with "superfast" services offered by the country's seven biggest telcos, big discrepancies remained with broadband delivered over copper ADSL telephone lines, which is received by 75 per cent of the UK population.

BT came out on top for customers wanting to share "large files or use real-time video communications", according to the research.

Its Infinity service – which advertises "up to" 10Mbit/s upload speeds – had the highest average upload speeds at nearly 9Mbit/s.

Ofcom said that service was "more than twice as fast as any other service tested".

But rival Virgin Media batted aside the research.

"The gulf between what's advertised and what speeds customers get continues to grow. Whilst Virgin Media delivers more than 90 per cent of the speeds we advertise, ISPs promising speeds of 'up to' 20Mbit/s or 24Mbit/s are delivering an average of just 6.6Mbit/s," said the company's broadband exec Jon James.

"We remain concerned that people paying for fast broadband are still being misled and believe it is absolutely essential that consumers have all the information they need to make an informed choice. We once again urge the ASA to bring about a rapid change in the way broadband services are being advertised." ®

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