Broadband speeds advertised are inaccurate, says Ofcom

27 July 2011 | Kavit Majithia


UK broadband speeds now average at 6.8Mbps but this is still considerably lower than the speeds advertised by ISPs, according to a UK broadband report by Ofcom.

The telecoms watchdog found almost half of users are subscribed to packages with speeds advertised above 10Mbps, and operators have failed to deliver on this. Overall, broadband speeds have increased by up to 10% in the past six months in the market, as investment is made in the UK’s wireless infrastructure. However, the gap between the average speed and advertised speeds stands at over 8.2Mbps.

“It is encouraging that new technologies are being rolled out across the UK and faster speeds are being achieved,” said Ed Richard, chief executive at Ofcom. “However, the research shows that ISPs need to do more to ensure they are giving customers clear and accurate information about the services they provide and the factors that may affect the actual speeds customers will receive.”

One of the biggest inaccuracies Ofcom found was the fact that a third of customers in the UK were being sold broadband packages that advertised delivering speeds of up to 24Mbps, but were in fact only accessing speeds of 4Mbps or less.

The regulator is now urging changes in advertising so consumers are able to make better informed decisions, while Virgin Media, a company that delivered between 16.4Mbps and 18.1Mbps of its ‘up to’ 20Mbps, the highest in the tests, accused its rivals of misleading the public. Ofcom found BT’s ‘up to 20Mbps’ delivered an average between 7.3Mbps and 9.1Mbps; TalkTalk’s ‘up to 24Mbps’ delivered speeds between 7.2Mbps and 8.1Mbps and Orange’s offering of ‘up to 20Mbps’, actually only delivered an average speed of 7.2Mbps. Other companies that did not fare favourably in speeds measured in a test between 8am and 10am on weekdays include Plusnet, Sky and O2.

One positive to come out of the report was that superfast broadband in the UK is now available in 57% of homes, but almost 75% of broadband is still delivered via copper-based ADSL – perhaps explaining the limitations in speed.

Ofcom has now introduced of code of practice, to inform consumers about the likely speed they will have access to before subscribing. Many operators will draw on the fact that speeds are dependant on the wiring in a household, or the time of day a person uses the service. Therefore, Ofcom has urged ISPs to give its customers a speed range before they subscribe, rather than a maximum speed they could access.

So far, Virgin Media, BT, O2 and Sky have agreed to such concessions.