Broadband speed advertising is about to change - but how?

Broadband speed

Question

I heard that broadband speeds are changing soon - is that true? Will this affect me and my internet at home?

Jude, via email

Our expert Kim says...

Well, broadband speeds themselves are staying the same - but a big change in the way they're advertised is coming on 23 May 2018. The upshot of it is this: broadband providers will now tell you the average download speeds for their packages rather than the maximum speed.

The idea is to make things more transparent for customers, and to give you a better idea of exactly what your internet will be like when you sign up with a provider. The broadband itself won't change at all, we're pleased to report. It'll just be clearer to see what you're getting before you commit to a package.

Let's take a look at how it will work in a bit more detail.

The current rules

Under the current rules, providers can give an 'up to' speed - as in, 'this package has download speeds up to 38Mb.' The speed they give must be achievable by at least 10% of subscribers to that package.

So, on 'up to 38Mb' broadband, 10% of people who can get that package will see speeds of 38Mb. A few reach than that; most ought to get at least around 20Mb and above; but some users will get speeds far, far below it too.

It's just about impossible to know exactly which percentile you'll be in, especially if you're moving to a new home or switching to a different network. For all we know, 10% of people can get 38Mb speeds while the other 90% are languishing at a measly 5Mb. (That's an extreme example… but you get the idea.)

The new rules

Here's how things are changing. Under the ASA's new rules, broadband providers must give an 'average' speed instead - and it must be based on the download speed available to at least 50% of customers at peak time (8pm-10pm for residential lines).

So instead of saying 'download speeds up to 38Mb,' a package might say it has 'average download speeds of 30Mb.' If you sign up, there's a 50% chance you'll get the speed it says, rather than just a 10% chance. It's more accurate, in other words, and gives you a better idea of what life will be like with that particular internet.

This will come into force on 23 May 2018, though of course some providers are already making a head start.

The rules are detailed in all their glory on the ASA's website if you want to read more.

Ofcom has a new code of practice too

The ASA's rules are an excellent step, but Ofcom has also created a new code of practice (COP) for advertising broadband speeds to really make sure you aren't sold short. Agreeing to follow it is purely voluntary for now, though a number of big names say they're planning to adopt it - including BTSky, and Virgin Media.

Providers that sign up to the COP will have to give:

  • a realistic speed estimate for peak times,
  • a guaranteed minimum download speed, and
  • the upload speeds you can expect.

All that info will need to be available for you to see before you buy the package, so you can see exactly what to expect before you sign up.

And here's the kicker: if your line speed falls below the guaranteed minimum that you're promised, you'll be entitled to leave your broadband contract without penalty. Once you've informed the provider that your speeds aren't up to scratch, and after it's done its own tests to confirm there's a problem, the provider will have 30 days to fix the issue - or you're allowed to leave.

It's worth mentioning that this refers to your line speed where it enters your home - not to the speed you get on, say, your laptop over Wi-Fi.

Along with the advertising rules, the code also adds a little extra protection. It'll apply to all kinds of broadband, whether it's standard ADSL, fibre optic, cable, G.fast, or something else; and If your speeds aren't good enough, you can exit the full contract even if it's bundled with home phone and TV.

You can read all the exciting details on Ofcom's website here.

This COP won't come into play for a while - not until 1 March 2019. Of course, some providers are starting early with a thing or two…

Who's on board?

Not many providers right now, but you can expect the number to climb rapidly. Here are a couple who have already made some major changes to how they talk about their broadband packages.

 

Sky

Sky is the biggest provider to make a start here: before you sign up to its broadband, it gives you the average download speeds for that package, the top download speeds ('up to' speeds), and a more accurate speed estimate for your postcode. You can see all of this when you click through on a package.

Featured Sky broadband deals

Sky
Sky
Sky
Broadband Unlimited Sky Fibre Fibre Unlimited
£259.95 Total first year cost £359.95 Total first year cost £467.83 Total first year cost
£20.00 p/m for 12 months £19.95 setup costs 12 month contract £25.00 p/m for 18 months £59.95 setup costs 18 month contract £33.99 p/m for 18 months £59.95 setup costs 18 month contract
Up To 17 Mb Up To 38 Mb Up To 38 Mb
Pay as you go Pay as you go Pay as you go
£50 Prepaid Card Offer ends 07/06/18 £50 Prepaid Card Offer ends 07/06/18 £50 Prepaid Card Offer ends 07/06/18
Go
Call Sky on 0800 759 1469
Mon to Sun 8am-10pm
Go
Call Sky on 0800 759 1469
Mon to Sun 8am-10pm
Go
Call Sky on 0800 759 1469
Mon to Sun 8am-10pm

 

Vodafone

Vodafone has been doing something similar for a while too. Its packages show 'up to' speeds, along with a minimum guaranteed speed - and Vodafone promises money off your bill if your line dips below that. Again, you can see a more accurate speed estimate by clicking through.

Vodafone broadband deals

Vodafone Broadband
Vodafone Broadband
Superfast 1 (up to 38Mbps) Superfast 2 (up to 76Mbps)
£252.00 Total first year cost £312.00 Total first year cost
£21.00 p/m for 18 months 18 month contract £26.00 p/m for 18 months 18 month contract
Up To 38 Mb Up To 76 Mb
Pay as you go Pay as you go
Also available to existing customers Offer ends 30/04/18 Also available to existing customers Offer ends 30/04/18
Go Go

Keep your eyes peeled for similar schemes in the future from the likes of BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Plusnet, and more.

Compare broadband deals

Topics: Broadband

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