Ofcom: UK Broadband getting faster, but not as fast as advertised

Ofcom has found UK Broadband speeds are getting faster, but unsurprisingly for anyone who has broadband, not as fast as ISPs are advertising.

In the latest research from the watchdog, it found that fixed-line residential broadband speed has increased by over 25 per cent over the past year from 4.1Mbps to 5.2Mbps as internet service providers (ISPs) increasingly move to offer higher speed broadband packages.

That all sounds great doesn't it, however on closer inspection the move to faster headline speeds has led to a growing gap between the actual speeds delivered and the speeds that some ISPs use to advertise their services, Ofcom criticises.

That's forced Ofcom to call for a ban of the words "up to" being used by ISPs to advertise their broadband services.

There are of course many reasons the speed varies; with bad cables, distance from the exchange and even electrical interference all working against home owners when it comes to getting a fast connection.

In April 2009, Ofcom said, the average actual (or download) speeds were 4.1Mbps, 58 per cent of average advertised "up to" speeds (7.1Mbps). 

In May 2010, average download speeds were 5.2Mbps, 45 per cent of average advertised "up to" speeds (11.5Mbps).

Ofcom says that when it comes to detailing what you get, cable services from Virgin Media were the most fair with Virgin Media’s "up to" 10Mbps and "up to" 20Mbps cable services delivering average download speeds around twice as fast as DSL packages with the same or similar headline speed. Virgin Media’s "up to" 50Mbps cable service was the fastest service tested, delivering average download speeds of around 36Mbps. 

Worst affected were those on the fastest lines. Of panellists on "up to" 20/24Mbps DSL services, almost two-thirds (65 per cent) had an average download speed of 8Mbps or lower, while only 2 per cent received average download speeds of more than 14Mbps.  No DSL panellists on "up to" 20/24Mbs received average download speeds of more than 18Mbps. 

Actual speeds also slowed down in busy periods as heavier internet traffic leads to congestion on ISPs’ networks.

Over 18 million separate service performance tests were carried out in over 1500 homes during May 2010. 

The research sample allowed Ofcom to robustly compare the performance of those ISP packages with more than 250,000 residential connections.

Ofcom, working with the Advertising Standards Authority recommends that speeds should only be advertised if at least some consumers are actually able to achieve the advertised speeds and that those who advertise according to “up to” speeds, should also include a “typical speed range”.

What do you think? Is your broadband speed fast enough? Do you feel cheated that you aren't getting as fast a connection as you should? Let us know in the comments below.