The Broadband Speeds You Don’t ReceivePosted on: 30 July 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves
Top broadband speeds claimed by internet service providers are not achieved by any of them - meaning that no consumers in Britain benefit.
Media regulators have shown that the fastest connections to the web on offer from companies such as BT and AOL are 'theoretical'.
Ofcom said none achieved their boasts and 'hardly any' got close. The disclosure prompted calls for an inquiry into the way internet packages are sold.
Broadband services are generally marketed on the basis of top connection speeds.
More than half of users are on packages offering speeds of up to 8 megabits per second. Ofcom checks showed that about 45% of users in this category - or more than 4m homes - had an average speed of only 3.9 megabits per second.
Some 20% of those with these packages could not even get above 2 megabits, the standard laid down in Labour plans to give everyone broadband.
The highest a customer on one of these packages can hope for is about 7.2 megabits - and then only if they live very close to a telephone exchange.
Faster access to the net allows web pages to load quicker and dramatically shortens the time it takes to download files.
To download a high-quality film at 8 megabits would take 1 hour and 11 minutes and a music track would take 5 seconds. At 2 megabits, the same film would take 4 hours and 48 minutes and the song 21 seconds.
As part of its investigations Ofcom revealed that AOL, Tiscali and BT were among the worst performers among the top nine companies.
Virgin Media, which offers more powerful services through its cable network, was the best. Ofcom said speeds were affected by the firms' technology and the capacity of their networks. Providers also reserve some capacity for technical reasons, affecting their ability to offer the top speeds.
Conservative MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, yesterday called for the rules to be tightened. 'If companies are advertising a particular speed, then they should be able to supply that speed,' he said. 'If that is not the position they should not be advertising it. It is highly misleading. "Up to" implies at least one person is getting it.'
Ofcom yesterday insisted it was down to the Advertising Standards Agency to act over how products are promoted. The ASA said there was no 'widespread evidence' that consumers were losing out. But market research for the report revealed more than 21% of consumers were unhappy with connection speeds.
Ofcom also showed that people in urban areas received significantly faster speeds than those in rural areas, 4.6 megabits compared to 3.3 megabits. In the peak hours from 8pm to 10pm, there is also a slowdown of almost 20% because of the high volume of web users.
The regulator has previously introduced a code of practice, calling on service providers to be clearer about actual speeds. The speed of internet service has become more significant as people increasingly use the web to download radio and TV programmes as well as music and videos.
How The Rivals Compare
Average speed’s (Megabits per second)
- Virgin Media (up to 10Mbit/s) – 8.1 to 8.7
- O2 (up to 8Mbit/s) – 4.1 to 5.1
- Sky (up to 8Mbit/s) – 4.0 to 4.7
- Plusnet (up to 8Mbit/s) – 3.8 to 4.9
- Talk Talk (up to 8Mbit’s) – 3.8 to 4.6
- Orange (up to 8Mbit/s) – 3.8 to 4.5
- BT (up to 8Mbit/s) – 3.8 to 4.2
- AOL (up to 8Mbit/s) – 3.3 to 3.9
- Tiscali (up to 8Mbit/s) 3.2 to 3.7
Is Your Broadband Up To Speed?
Broadband users are not getting the speeds they are paying for, according to a survey by the regulator Ofcom. What's your broadband speed?
Nearly one fifth of UK broadband customers on an eight Megabit per second (Mbps) connection receive less than 2Mbps.
However, the report shows that average connection speeds across the UK are up from 3.6Mbps in January to 4.1Mbps.
What is broadband connection like in your area? Are you getting the speed that you are paying for?
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