Broadband 'up to' speeds are miles off

People across Europe are paying for broadband that doesn't live up to expectation as actual speeds lag well behind the 'up to' amounts advertised by providers.

New research shows broadband in Europe is typically much slower than the 'up to' speeds used in advertising, meaning customers often pay over the odds for a disappointing service.

A study by the European Commission found the average household with broadband receives only 74% of the headline speed they signed up for. For example, a customer on "up to 16Mb" broadband would typically receive less than 12Mb.

Providers use 'up to' amounts to give customers an indication of how fast their broadband should be.

However, due to a various factors - most notably a home's distance from the local telephone exchange - actual broadband speeds can vary enormously.

New rules were introduced in the UK last year to stop providers from making exaggerated speed claims in their adverts for broadband services. Providers must now use 'up to' amounts that 10% of customers are actually going to receive.

Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, noted "significant differences" between individual EU countries, most likely due to variation in advertising practices.

She added: "This is the first time the difference between advertised and actual broadband speeds is confirmed by comparable and reliable data from all European Union (EU) member states.

"Consumers need more of this sort of data to help them make informed choices, so we will repeat this exercise. And we take these first results as further proof of the need for a real connected single market."

According to the European Commission's research, homes with ADSL broadband - the most common technology in the UK, delivered by copper telephone wires - achieve 63% of their advertised speed, compared to around 90% for fibre optic broadband.

In March, communications regulator Ofcom found average broadband speeds in Britain had more than trebled in the space of four years to reach an all-time high of 12Mb.

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