Ofcom says UK broadband now 22% faster

New rules are also due in April to revamp broadband speed advertisements
Darren Allan

February 2, 2012
Ofcom Logo

Ofcom has released its latest piece of research into the average speed of the UK’s broadband connections.

And the organisation reckons that in November 2011, speeds are up 22% on the previous year.

The average connection was 6.2Mbps in November 2010, which rose to 7.6Mbps in the November just passed.

In May 2011 the figure was 6.8Mbps, indicating that average speeds have increased slightly more in the second half of 2011.

That’s not surprising as with both BT and Virgin Media’s super-fast fibre roll-outs underway, we’d expect averages to be tipped upwards considerably with the likes of 40Mbps to 100Mbps (and soon 120Mbps in Virgin’s case) services becoming more widely available.

Last November, for the first time more than half – in fact 58% – of UK households had a headline (advertised) broadband speed in excess of 10Mbps. That figure was up 10% on May 2011.

But it’s not all good news. Those in rural areas continue to suffer, with the development of super-fast networks still concentrating on commercially viable urban areas.

Cable services deliver close to headline speeds, but ADSL, particularly to areas more remote from the exchange, rarely deliver anything like the headline rate due to distances and line quality causing degradation.

Ofcom noted that Virgin Media’s 50Mbps cable service delivered an approximate average of 49Mbps to customers.

Yet a BT ‘up to’ 8Mbps standard ADSL package over the phone line managed to crank out 4 to 5Mbps on average.

Ofcom is now introducing changes to advertising headline rates which come into play this April.

ISPs will have to use a headline speed in advertisements which at least 10% of the user base can be shown to achieve on average.

In other words, current ‘up to’ 8Mbps ADSL packages would be advertised as 6Mbps, as the top 10% of customers get in excess of 6Mbps – but precious few indeed get over 7Mbps. Not unless they live next door to the exchange.

However, 6Mbps is still obviously more than the average customer can expect, which is why Ofcom states: “ Advertisements for these packages would also have to supplement headline speed claims with information such as the median speed or the typical speed range achieved by half of customers around the median.”

As we already mentioned with the example of BT above, that would mean a 4.5Mbps or so median mentioned along with the headline speed of 6Mbps. It’s certainly a much fairer representation of the situation than saying you’ll get ‘up to’ 8Mbps.

Ofcom notes that with ‘up to’ 20-24Mbps ADSL2 packages, the true headline speed will be 14Mbps (which 10% of customers achieve).


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