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Ofcom warns Brits ‘misled’ about broadband speed

by Sarah Griffiths on 27 July 2010, 12:00

Tags: Ofcom

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Slow woes

Many Britons' internet speeds are much slower than those advertised that they pay for, according to an Ofcom report.

The survey explored actual broadband performance for around 1,500 residential users in May 2010, when over 18m tests were run.

The report, called UK Broadband Speeds May 2010, found the average download speed for residential broadband connections remain ‘well below' the speeds that some internet service providers (ISP) continue to advertise. 

It also discovered almost a quarter of UK fixed-line residential broadband connections had a headline or advertised speed of above ‘up to' 10Mbit/s in May 2010, compared to just 8 per cent in April 2009.  Yet, the move to faster headline speeds has led to a growing gap between the actual speeds delivered and the speeds some ISPs use to advertise their services.

According to Ofcom, the average download speed of 5.2 Mbit/s compared to an average headline speed of 11.5Mbit/s which worked out at 46 percent of the headline speed. It attributed the speed loss to quality of lines, home wiring and congestion of the ISP's networks.

Headline (Advertised) speed

Average actual speed

‘Up to' 8/10Mbit/s DSL packages*

3.3Mbit/s

‘Up to' 20/24Mbit/s DSL packages

6.5Mbit/s

‘Up to' 10Mbit/s cable services

8.7Mbit/s

‘Up to' 20Mbit/s cable services

15.7Mbit/s

The research also found that cable broadband services delivered ‘significantly' faster download speeds than comparable DSL services. 

Interestingly, Virgin Media's ‘up to' 10Mbit/s and 20 Mbit/s cable services were found to deliver average download speeds about twice as fast as DSL packages with similar headline speeds.  The company also came top for its ‘up to' 50 Mbit/s cable service, which was found to be the fastest offered, delivering average download speeds of 36Mbit/s. 

Ofcom said the impact of the length and quality of a consumer's telephone line on DSL services led to wide variability in speeds received with two thirds of those surveyed on 20-24Mbit/s services using a download speed of 8Mbit/s or lower.  Shockingly, no DSL household using ‘up to' 20/24 Mbit/s received average download speeds of more than 18Mbit/s.