Average Broadband Speed 'Less Than Half That Advertised'

Ofcom finds inconsistencies with some Internet Service Providers' claims

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Average download speeds remain less than half of ‘up to’ speeds advertised by some Internet Service Providers (ISPs), particularly for broadband delivered via a phone line.

New Ofcom research shows that the average broadband speed in November / December 2010 was 6.2Mbit/s – less than half (45 per cent) of the average advertised broadband speed of 13.8Mbit/s.

The findings come as Ofcom submits its response to the current Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) and Broadcast Committee for Advertising Practice (BCAP) consultation on broadband speeds advertising.

Ofcom is recommending that if speeds are used in broadband advertising they should be based on a Typical Speeds Range (TSR), so consumers have a clearer idea of what speeds to expect.

Ofcom also recommends that the TSR must have at least equal prominence to any maximum ‘up to’ speed, and that a maximum speed must be used only if it is actually achievable in practice by a material number of consumers.

The research

Next-generation superfast broadband services – available to a growing number of households – are significantly faster than current generation services.

Broadband services delivered by fibre-to-the-cabinet were measured for the first time and, along with cable services, delivered faster average speeds much closer to advertised speeds than was the case for current-generation broadband technologies.

The research looked at 11 packages provided by the seven largest ISPs in the market, representing over 90 per cent of residential broadband subscribers in the UK.

Over 18 million separate service performance tests were carried out in over 1,700 homes during November and December 2010.

Voluntary Broadband Speeds Code of Practice

The new, strengthened Code of Practice comes into force in July 2011.

ISPs who have signed up to the Code have committed to explain to new customers the access line speed they are likely to achieve at home, and to try to resolve problems for those customers whose access line speed is significantly below the estimate provided.

If the problem cannot be resolved, then customers will be able to leave their provider within the first three months of their contract without penalty.

’Clear and accurate information’

Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: "It is encouraging that new technologies are being rolled out across the UK and faster speeds are being achieved. 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.

"It is important that the rules around broadband advertising change so that consumers are able to make more informed decisions based on the adverts they see, and that advertisers are able to communicate more clearly how their products compare to others in the market."

March 2, 2011