Ofcom - broadband speeds shockingly slow, unsurprisingly

28 July 2009

Nobody will be surprised to hear it - Ofcom has been testing the average speed of household broadband lines, and the reality is a million miles away from the promise sold by service providers. In the case of AOL and Tiscali, the line speeds advertised and those achieved are as different as chalk and Chichester.

And to be fair to Ofcom, they didn't just check a handful of times - in the six months to April this year, the regulators performed over 60 million separate tests in over 1600 homes. What was the result? Fewer than 9 per cent of customers who bought "up to 8Mbps" services received actual average speeds of over 6Mbps - and around one in five received, on average, less than 2Mbps.

Here's how the results stack up:

Apologists and the ISP providers themselves will no doubt claim the speeds are attainable for customers who live close to the exchanges - but then if that's such a key factor, why isn't addressed when a customer buys the service? "You live X miles from your local exchange, therefore you can expect an average speed of XMbps" - if the distance to an exchange can readily be used to defend the "up to" claims, then surely it can also be used to inform the customer? Otherwise it's a clear-cut case of mis-selling, surely?

Ofcom also cites two factors as responsible for these terrible performances - "the technology used to deliver broadband and the capacity of the provider's network". In other words, ISP providers are knowingly selling a service their technology and the network may not be able to provide.

TOPICS:   Broadband   Technology

20 comments

  • RottenOrange
    Orange have told me themselves I'm supposed to be getting 3MB, but I usually get anywhere between 40kbps and 500kbps, and that's after 18 months of complaining. They're the most incompetent company I've ever come across and I'm actually going to buy champagne to celebrate leaving them.
  • Nader
    Have to say i have been with Virgin for a while now ont eh 20meg service adn i regularly get 20 meg speed (2200kbps+) They cap if you go mad during 4pm and 10pmbut generally speaking they are great.
  • dvdj
    Virgin are great as they use their own cabling whereas most of the others are ADSL and use accient BT cup and string technology. Sadly I can't get Virgin.
  • Dave S.
    Supposed to get 10MBits/s with Virgin Media, only get 9.4! Fucking robbing bastards, where's the rest of my 0.6MBits/s eh?! Damn it, I want to DL a song in 0.8 seconds not bloody 0.81 FOR FUCKS SAKE!
  • SimbaK2K
    I'm with BT 8Mb and quite often max out my speed. It really depends on the source of the download. e.g. download from Microsoft and I easily get 800Kb/s which is pretty much maxing it out. However pick a rubbish source from some unknown server and I may be lucky if I'll get 40Kb/s. Its all relative!
  • Paul
    why isn’t addressed when a customer buys the service? “You live X miles from your local exchange, therefore you can expect an average speed of XMbps” When I got broadband from BT and then when I changed to O2, I was informed both times that the maximum speed I could expect was XMbps. With O2 I get the speed they quoted with a few exceptions, namely when theres a service issue.
  • Nobby
    I'm on the O2 "up to" 8Mbit/s. Before I signed up they told me I was likely to get 4Mbit/s due to my distance, and I usually get 4.2-4.5 Mbit/s when I max it out. I'm perfectly happy with the service. They told me what I was going to get, and I get it.
  • Steve
    I'm with AOL and upgraded with them to "up to" 8Mbits recently. They told me that my speed would be up and down for a few days until it reached the optimum level for my connection. It started off at a scorching 7Mbits in the first few days then levelled out to 2Mbits after a week. The exchange was obviously capable of giving me 7Mbits but somehow it was being limited :(
  • Stuart F.
    I'm with virgin on there 50MB package and i frequently get 5800kps when i'm downloading from newsgroups, there are a few other factors that are not mentioned in the report that will affect the speed at which a file can be downloaded. The actual physical location of server that you are downloading from, the closer the better, and load on the server, the less the better. People should remember that you can only download as fast as the server is actually sending file. New technology like cloud server networks are helping to increase the end users speed also.
  • bykergrove
    Steve - same thing happened to me with talk talk... was 7mb then 4mb now 2 :( @ people talking about the source of what you are downloading.... the article is about connection speeds... ie how fast it is possible to download at. if the server only uploads at 1mb then you still have 7mb bandwidth to play with.
  • Chris
    I recently signed up to O2's "up to 20mb" ADSL2 service. I was told upon sign up that I would expect an average speed of around 10mb, and I got exactly 10mb. I am very pleased with the service so far and I get exactly the speed they told me I would get.
  • Will
    I have to say that O2 have been brilliant for me. When I signed up they gave me an estimate of 14Mbps and I actually get 16Mbps (sync at 18500/1300). Virgin media were also excellent when I had them on a 20Mbit package (unfortunately not available where I am else I'd still be with them) - I could easily max out the connection.
  • scouse
    Im with Virgin and theyre excellent 20 meg= 20meg so im happy . The father inlaw is on BT and hes lucky if he gets 2meg (think he pays for 8 ) So he asked them to cut it down to 4meg and lo and behold his download speed dropped as well , they are a bloody joke and should have their arses kicked.
  • Paul S.
    Good to hear about those companies that are providing an estimated speed before sign-up. Does everyone find that to be the case?
  • Dave O.
    I've had Be as my ISP for a couple of years now and get an actual very stable 15 meg download and 1.5meg upload. Be don't do every exchange in the country and have a crazy looking website, but they give me really fast Internet at a decent price, none of that traffic throttling at peak times either :D
  • CompactDistance
    Virgin are hardly rosy and guilt-free, with their restrictive traffic management policies.
  • Sky S.
    I pay for 20meg broadband,on sky I'm lucky to get 40KB/s this is a fucking joke!
  • Nofew
    I'm with Sky unlimited 20Meg connection, Average speed received 2-3Meg occasionally hitting 5Meg during non peak times. Phone exchange is less then a mile down the road.. I don't see what the hold up is, Page's are generally slower to load, Streaming vids via utube are painstakingly slow and sharing my connection via wireless is out of the question. Originally switched from cable [Virgin Media] 10Meg and received 800Kb - 1.1MB/Sec downloads held back by traffic shaping 12hrs a day. It seems no matter which service provider I'm with I always come off short & end up with a crappy 2.5 Meg :rolleyes: Id rather just ditched the whole thing.. Tv / Phone / Internet & live outside
  • Meat
    Sky. Right now they are using an IP profile on my area based on a pencil and paper estimation made by the cab engineer 10 years ago. When Sky go on to "test my line's bandwidth" they will only do it up to the limits that have been set by this pencil and paper figure. Most of the stuff going on at a BT exchange is based on these estimated and old figures. There must be enough people in the street to have reported a problem before BT will check out the CAB. I looked at an online speedtest which has a "SEE RESULTS IN YOUR AREA" option. I did this and the trend suggests that distance from the exchange actually does not correlate at all with the speeds people were achieving. The fact is you can match a line to achieve optimum throughput for different types of data encoding, but it is too expensive for BT to do for everyone individually. I started with 2.5Mb, in ten days I was lowered to 2Mb. I complained to sky and they raised me to 2.8Mb. Not 20Mb like im paying for. Fact is they never even tried the higher bandwidths. They estimated I could receive 512Kb, as did BT, but this is an excuse to never give you the full whack "Well sir, we tried to tell you". Basically after performing well at this speed for a few days with no errors I will call them and tell them to raise it again, untill I hit the true limit based on error rate. Remove unused phone extensions, isolate the bellwire. Move noise sources away from router and phone cable.
  • steve
    Some of you commenters lack the basic understanding of how the internet works. Everything you download comes from somebodies computer or server, my own upload speed on my server is only 1 Meg and if 2 people are dl at the same time then they will only be able to get 50kbps each.

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