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UK broadband speeds up 22 per cent

Average broadband speeds in the UK are 22 per cent higher than 12 months ago, Ofcom says.

In November 2011, the average UK residential broadband speed was 7.6Mbit/s, compared with 6.2Mbit/s in November/December 2010, and 6.8Mbit/s in May 2011. Ofcom said the increase was mainly as a result of consumers moving onto higher speed packages.

Ofcom said that for the first time in November last year, 58 per cent of UK residential broadband connections had an advertised speed of 10Mbit/s. However, more than four in 10 broadband consumers remain on packages with speeds of 10Mbit/s or less, even though many of them would be able to get a higher speed at little or no extra cost if they switched packages or providers.

The report is Ofcom’s sixth report on UK broadband speeds. Previous reports have highlighted how there can be significant differences between advertised speeds and speeds actually received by consumers. The Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice have come up with new guidelines, that come into force in April, that require speed claims to be achievable by at least 10 per cent of the relevant internet service provider customer base.

In line with the new guidance, using data from Ofcom’s latest research, the industry average speed based on the 10 per cent availability criteria would be 6Mbit/s for services currently advertised ‘up to’ 8Mbit/s, and 14Mbit/s for services currently advertised at ‘up to’ 20/24Mbit/s.

Of the 13 ISP packages covered, Ofcom’s research found that the fibre-based and cable broadband technologies were fastest. Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 50Mbit/s continued to have the highest average download speeds of approximately 49Mbit/s. BT’s fibre-based service (BT Infinity) delivered average download speeds of around 36Mbit/s, up from approximately 34Mbit/s in May 2011. The service also achieved the highest average upload speeds of 8.8Mbit/s.  All other ISP packages did not change significantly from May 2011.

Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: “It is encouraging that speeds are increasing and that consumers have a real choice of broadband service.  There is a real opportunity for consumers to look at the packages and deals in their area in order to receive the best value, speeds and performance available to them.

“We can look forward to further increases in UK broadband speeds over the next few years.  Most households in the UK can now access superfast broadband services, and these services are set to get faster still as Virgin Media aims to double the speeds of most of its cable services and BT aims to double the speed of its fibre-to-the-cabinet service from 40Mbit/s to 80Mbit/s.”

Communications Consumer Panel chair Bob Warner said: “It’s good news that average broadband speeds are improving. However, we remain concerned that many people with ADSL-based broadband connections continue to experience much lower average download speeds than the headline ‘up to’ advertised speeds. The Panel has already said that internet service providers (ISPs) should stop using misleading ‘up to’ speeds in their adverts.”

The Panel said it believed the new guidance coming into force in April did not go far enough. The guidance requires that speed claims should be achievable by at least 10 per cent of an ISP’s customers, and only where a significant proportion of customers are unlikely to receive a speed sufficiently close to that advertised should further qualifying information be included.

 “This additional qualifying information must be equally prominent to consumers when they are thinking about which broadband package to buy. Consumers can only make an informed choice if they can easily compare different packages and providers. We will be watching carefully to see if the new guidelines are effective,” Warner said.

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