UK broadband speeds up 10% in six months

UK consumers are enjoying a boost in their average broadband speeds, but the gap between actual and advertised speeds has also increased, according to new findings from communications regulator Ofcom.

The average UK broadband speed increased by 10 per cent in the first half of this year from 6.2 Mbps in November/December 2010 to 6.8 Mbps in May 2011. Nearly half (47 per cent) of UK residential broadband users were on packages with advertised speeds above 10 Mbps in May 2011, compared to 42 per cent in November 2010 and just 8 per cent in April 2009.

However, the average advertised speed in May of this year was 15 Mbps – 8.2 Mbps higher than the average actual speed of 6.8 Mbps. In November/December 2010 the average actual speed was 6.2 Mbps and the average advertised speed was 13.8 Mbps, giving a gap of 7.6 Mbps.

Superfast broadband services are now available to most UK homes, according to Ofcom, with 57 per cent of homes now being within Virgin Media’s cabled areas or served by a superfast-enabled telephone exchange.

These superfast services were found to have much smaller differences between the headline speed claims and the actual speeds: the average download speed on Virgin Media’s 30 Mbps service offered average speeds of 31 Mbps, and its 50 Mbps service offered average speeds of 48 Mbps, according to Ofcom.

BT’s Infinity service, which has a headline speed of 40 Mbps, was found to provide average speeds of 34 Mbps.

In spite of this advance of superfast broadband services, ADSL technology still dominates in the UK, with over 75 per cent of residential broadband connections currently being delivered by copper ADSL telephone lines. The average download speed received for ADSL ‘up to’ 20 Mbps and 24 Mbps ADSL services was 6.6 Mbps, and more than a third of customers (37 per cent) on these packages received average speeds of 4 Mbps or less, according to Ofcom.

Although fewer UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) now advertise their services by headline speed, Ofcom reports that it continues to be concerned that theoretical ‘up to’ speeds have the potential to mislead customers. The regulatory body recommended earlier this year that a Typical Speeds Range (TSR) should be included in adverts by ISPs which advertise based on the speed of their service, and this recommendation is currently being considered by CAP and BCAP, the committees that write the advertising codes administered by the Advertising Standards Authority, with a decision expected in the early autumn.

A number of changes to Ofcom’s Code of Practice came into effect today (July 27th, 2011), with the key changes being firstly that instead of receiving a single point estimate of the maximum speed on their line, consumers will be given a speed range based on customers with similar line lengths, and secondly that there is a new option for customers to leave their provider without penalty if they receive a maximum line speed which is “significantly” lower than the bottom of the estimated range.

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