Broadband speeds still lagging behind advertised rates

Simon Ward
by Lovemoney Staff Simon Ward on 02 February 2012  |  Comments 12 comments

Ofcom's latest research finds the average UK broadband speed is rising but many packages are still delivering slower performance than promised.

Broadband speeds still lagging behind advertised rates

Home broadband speeds are now 22% faster than they were 12 months before, according to watchdog Ofcom. However, that’s mainly due to the fact that more of us are moving onto higher speed packages and many are still lagging behind advertised rates.

The average UK home broadband speed recorded in November was 7.6Mbps (megabits per second), compared to 6.2Mbps in November 2010.

However, more than half of us (58%) are now on packages with a headline speed - that’s the one that’s advertised - of over 10Mbps. But with an average speed of 7.6Mbps, that’s a big discrepancy between the speeds broadband suppliers are advertising and the speed we’re actually receiving.

New guidelines on speed claims in broadband advertising from the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice will come into effect from April. These will require advertised speeds to be achievable by at least 10% of the broadband supplier’s customers and any claim on speeds to be backed up by “robust and reasonably representative data”.

Looking at the Ofcom research, it seems that the faster the package you have, the more likely you are to receive a speed close to the advertised one. Cable and fibre-optic services are fastest, although they are not available in many rural areas. There are other factors as well, such as how far you live from your local telephone exchange.

Here are the results of Ofcom’s speed tests on major broadband suppliers:

Provider and advertised speed

Average download speed over a 24-hour period

BT up to 8Mbps

4-5Mbps

Plusnet up to 8MBps

3.7-4.9Mbps

Virgin Media up to 10Mbps

9.3-9.9Mbps

BT up to 20Mbps

7.8-9.7Mbps

Karoo up to 24Mbps

7.4-9.5Mbps

O2/Be up to 20/24Mbps

8.8-10.7Mbps

Orange up to 20Mbps

6.3-8.1Mbps

Plusnet up to 20Mbps

7.2-9.3Mbps

Sky up to 20Mbps

6.8-8.3Mbps

TalkTalk up to 24Mbps

7.2-8.8Mbps

Virgin Media up to 30Mbps

30.6-31.4Mbps

BT up to 40Mbps

35.4-36.7Mbps

Virgin Media up to 50Mbps

47.7-48.8Mbps

Of course, the important phrase here is 'up to', but as you can see, some packages deliver less than half the advertised 'up to' speed.

Ofcom is urging us to shop around and see if we can get a better deal, particularly the 40% of us on packages with speeds of 10Mbps or less.

It’s also currently carrying out on a mystery shopping exercise to see if broadband suppliers are adhering to a voluntary code on speeds.

Last month, Virgin Media announced it was doubling speeds for four million of its customers free of charge and increasing its fastest speed from 100Mbps to 120Mbps.

If you wan to look for a better broadband deal, you can compare broadband providers at our partner broadbandchoices' site here.

More: Five broadband rip-offs | The UK’s worst broadband provider

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Comments (12)

  • Talent
    Love rating 79
    Talent said

    It would appear to me that anyone signing up to any other than Virgin is a fool.... and I'm no fan of Beardy Branson!

    Report on 02 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • GaryDean
    Love rating 76
    GaryDean said

    ????? We have Virgin & sometimes it's so bad the signal has gone altogether & all our pc's disconnect from the internet. Sometimes it's just slow & we have to wait for eons before a page will open. At other times it's ok & things move along nicely. The phone line is awful. noone can hear us clearly nor us them. We live in a sizeable town so it shouldn't be a problem. We'll probably change soon.

    Report on 02 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • John Fitzsimons
    Love rating 43
    John Fitzsimons said

    I'm with O2 and live about as far from the Exchange as it's possible to be, so I don't get anything like the speeds advertised. That said, it's fast enough for me.

    There are some websites that let you check the speeds you can expect, or the speeds your neighbours get. http://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk tells me no-one in my immediate area gets any more than 5.5mbps.

    John

    Editor

    Report on 02 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • GaryDean
    Love rating 76
    GaryDean said

    I'll check that site out John & see if I can come up with something better.

    Report on 02 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • mdjohnst
    Love rating 4
    mdjohnst said

    I have no problem with broadband advertised as up to 8mb etc. However I would like to have the option to pay up to e.g. £20 a month.

    Report on 02 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • oldgold
    Love rating 5
    oldgold said

    You can forget about the speed, I just wish Ofcom would tell me how to get cheaper broadband than that offered by Kingston Communications. I live in Hull!

    Report on 02 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • JOHN MAXWELL
    Love rating 56
    JOHN MAXWELL said

    i don't mind the "up to" jargon but have you tried to get a supplier to commit to a guaranteed speed for you specifically without adding many ''ifs and buts''

    Report on 02 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Mike10613
    Love rating 626
    Mike10613 said

    I just pinged a server in London from the West Midlands. I'm a mile from the exchange and on TalkTalk. I got over 12 Mb/s which is what I usually get:

    http://www.speedtest.net/result/1747232042.png

    I think the main feed now is fibre optic and then copper cable; just like on cable with Virgin. I took my telecommunications examination a long time ago but got quite a good pass and so I'm no fool at this stuff.

    A bad connection will slow your speed, so will a busy internet at peak time, a slow hard drive (you have to save the web pages that you download) and if you optimize the TCP it speeds things up. Get a free program to do that here:

    http://www.speedguide.net/downloads.php

    Report on 02 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • nekomata
    Love rating 0
    nekomata said

    The following is not to say that there aren't ISPs that do try to stretch the truth to the moon and back, but I do think that the ISPs in general do get a lot of undeserved flak.

    To be fair, the reason you usually don't get to peak speed an ISP will supply is BT. An ISP may be willing to supply any peak speed up to 8Mb/s for £15, but if BT's hardware to your home only supports 4Mb/s, there's not a lot the ISP can do.

    Car analogy: A car may be advertised as being capable of speeds up to 150MPH, but you'll only be getting 70MPH out of it due to the speed limit. That's less that half the advertised speed!

    To my understanding, the good ISPs already do the best they can in that once they know where you live, they can advise what speeds the BT hardware is likely to support. Then having otherwise identical packages (Up to 1Mb/s, Up to 2Mb/s, Up to 3Mb/s, etc) all at the same price would just then needlessly complicate the issue.

    Likewise, expecting average speed to be close to the peak speed is just a little bit unrealistic unless you pay rediculous amounts for a 1:1 contention ratio connection (namely, a dedicated line) with dedicated infrastructure at the ISP.

    Seeing as most people don't understand the idea of contention ratios though, I'd agree that it might be a good idea to supply "average connection speeds over the course of a week" or some such. How possible this is though will depend how much of the peak slowdown is caused by capacity at the ISP, and how much is caused by the capacity of your local BT hardware being shared. Additionally, such a scheme would most likely require some form of regulation, as the first ISPs to advertise such stats would be shooting themselves in the foot compared to those that don't.

    Report on 02 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • fenemore
    Love rating 251
    fenemore said

    I am with Virgin and pay for a 10Mb service, but I have yet to actually GET that speed. Now Mr Branson's Caribbean brother is going to double my speed at no extra cost. So my £18 per month will buy a 20Mb service, which probably means the 4Mb I actually get, might go up to nearer 8Mb.

    Since those ads appeared, my speed has got worse - the cynic in me thinks this is a deliberate ploy so that when D-Day arrives it will actually seem faster!

    Report on 02 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Skintsod
    Love rating 32
    Skintsod said

    What a load of absolute rubbish. I live 40 minutes walk from the telephone exchange of the second largest town in my county, but my ISP, who shouts about 20mps in their advertising, supplies me with a speed which is so slow that I am lucky to see 400Kps - that's right I pay for 20 megabytes and get 400 kilobytes. Their excuse - I'm just outside of 2 miles by road from the exchange. Ofcom should get their heads out of the clouds and get into the real world. I can only dream of seeing a megabyte speed and I'll bet that will still be the case when Ofcom are saying that the entire country is on 10mps. What a joke. Sometimes I think that they must really be working for the industry rather than the consumer. Reports like this really screw with their credibility.

    Report on 03 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • flannel
    Love rating 0
    flannel said

    Just switched from Virgin 10 to BT 40 for a lot less money. Speed doesn't feel much different but speed checker tells me it's about 30.

    Report on 03 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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