Broadband speeds far short of headline rates

UK broadband consumers are getting less than they pay for 

The research also shows that average broadband speeds are 3.6Mbit/s, compared with an average maximum possible speed of 4.3Mbit/s across the UK.

"We want to see all Internet Service Providers meet the needs of their customers by clearly explaining what speeds they should expect and by ensuring that their networks meet consumers' increasing demand for higher speed broadband," said Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom. "We have already seen the first steps towards next generation super-fast broadband in the UK and we expect further developments this year. Ofcom will publish the next steps for the regulatory framework early this year.""

The research also showed that because DSL broadband speeds depend in part on distance from the local BT exchange, consumers living in urban areas received speeds that are on average 15 per cent faster than those in rural areas. Consumers in London received the fastest average speeds, with those in the north east of England, Wales and Scotland receiving on average the slowest speeds.

DSL and cable broadband speeds also vary by time of day due to differing traffic levels on the ISPs' networks. Across the UK, speeds were slowest between 5pm and 6pm on Sundays, when use of the internet is at its highest.

The research found that most consumers surveyed are reasonably happy with their broadband service, with 9 per cent expressing dissatisfaction overall. However, speed was the most commonly cited cause of dissatisfaction.

Although 93 per cent of consumers were satisfied with their experience of web browsing, satisfaction rates were lower among users of applications which typically benefit from faster speeds or more consistent performance. Only two thirds of those who use their broadband connection to watch or download TV programmes were satisfied with the experience.

The research also revealed that, while 91 per cent of consumers said that speed was an important consideration when signing up with their current broadband provider, 28 per cent of them were unaware of the headline speed package they purchased.

Overall, dissatisfaction with broadband is higher for rural users (14 per cent) than urban users (8 per cent). Consumers in the north east, east and south west of England are significantly more satisfied than users in the East Midlands, Wales and Scotland.

Ofcom has tried to ensure that consumers get better information about broadband speeds by introducing a Code of Practice that requires ISPs to provide an accurate estimate of the maximum speed they can expect when signing up to a service. ISPs also have to explain the factors which determine the actual broadband speeds customers can receive and give guidance on how to improve speeds. 

Ofcom ran more than 7000 tests over 30 days through monitoring units connected to broadband routers in 1500 homes. This created more than 10 million separate tests of a number of suppliers' services. The research was conducted with broadband performance specialists SamKnows (www.samknows.com) and market research company GfK.

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