Regulator cracks down on 'up to' broadband speed claim

Brits should get a more accurate idea of the broadband speed they’ll actually get from broadband advertisements, regulator Ofcom says.

Real broadband speeds are much lower than advertised speeds, and it's the consumer who's suffering, according to new research from UK comms regulator Ofcom.

Ofcom's latest research found that few customers achieve anywhere near their package's advertised broadband speed.

In a statement Ofcom said: "Just 14% of customers on "up to" 20Mb or 24Mb services received average download speeds of over 12Mb. While 58% received average download speeds of 6Mb or less."

But, while the gap between advertised and actual speeds is wider than ever before for broadband based on the copper wire phone line system, Brits who have signed up for newer fibre optic broadband fare better.

The survey found that on average over a 24hr period:

  • BT "up to" 20Mb broadband delivered 4.1 to 4.8Mb
  • O2 "up to" 20/24Mb broadband delivered 9.9 to 11.6Mb
  • Sky "up to" 20Mb broadband delivered 7.4 to 8.8Mb
  • TalkTalk "up to" 24Mb broadband delivered 7.7 to 9.3Mb
  • Virgin Media (fibre optic) "up to" 20Mb broadband delivered 17.4 to 18.6Mb.

Ofcom has told the Advertising Standards Authority that it thinks "typical speed ranges" should have equal prominence with "up to" speed claims in broadband advertising.

Based on its research this would mean that copper wire based 20/24Mb broadband from companies such as BT, O2 and Sky would feature a typical speed range of 3 to 9Mb in their advertising.

But UK telecoms giant BT has hit back, suggesting Ofcom's approach will lead to an increase in digital exclusion.

John Petter, managing director, consumer, BT Retail, said: "Enforcing typical speed ranges is dangerous as it could encourage more broadband providers to cherry pick customers who will increase their average, leaving customers in rural and suburban areas under-served.

"The most important thing is that customers are told what speed their line is capable of supporting at the point of sale and BT does this. This ensures that customers receive what they are promised."

Virgin Media, the UK's second biggest broadband provider which runs its own fibre optic network, supported Ofcom's findings.

Jon James, executive director at Virgin Media, said; "Ofcom's latest report is yet another damning indictment that consumers continue to be treated like mugs and misled by broadband providers that simply cannot deliver on their advertised speed claims.

"Consumers shouldn't have to suffer from this speed lottery and have a right to get what they pay for."

Michael Phillips, product director atBroadbandchoices.co.uk, said: "The gap between headline and actual speeds is now wider than ever before and it's become unsustainable.

"Our research has shown that broadband speed dissatisfaction amongst Brits is growing for the third year running. We have been pushing for 'typical speeds' to be made the gold standard for speed measurement since 2007, in the same way that banks use 'typical APR' percentages."

"The continued roll out of BT Infinity should give consumers a viable alternative to Virgin Media when it comes to superfast broadband packages that can actually live up to the advertised messages. Virgin Media's fibre optic service continues to fare well in this respect."

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