Ofcom finds providers are being more open about actual speeds upfront

Providers increasingly give an estimated broadband speed to potential customers before they've signed up, meaning fewer nasty surprises for those who do - but there's still room for improvement.

Broadband providers are being increasingly open and honest with new customers about the actual speeds they can expect to receive, according to research.

A study by Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, found that in 96% of telephone enquiries, callers were provided with some kind of estimate as to the actual speeds they'd be able to get at their property.

In accordance with Ofcom's guidelines, a speed estimate - in the form of a range, i.e. between XXMb and XXMb - should be given to all potential customers before they sign up, giving them information to help them compare providers and make a good choice.

Ofcom found that a speed range was given in 80% of cases, up from 68% in a 2012 study.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's consumer group director, said: "The results of our mystery shopping are encouraging, with the quality of information being provided to consumers at the point of sale improving overall.

"However, the research has identified areas where providers need to do more to improve - particularly in terms of providing speeds information spontaneously."

The research shows that, although providers in general are being more upfront and open with potential customers, only six out of 10 mystery shoppers were offered a speed estimate without specifically asking for one.

Provider

% of calls where any kind of speed estimate is given

% of calls where a speed range estimate is given

% of calls where unprompted estimate is given

2012

2013

2012

2013

2012

2013

BT Infinity

90

95

n/a

n/a

57

78

BT Total Broadband

96

96

68

89

48

81

EE

91

100

n/a

84

52

69

Karoo

98

100

89

90

76

60

O2

96

94

60

58

55

55

Plusnet

99

100

68

75

67

72

Sky

93

97

86

90

72

77

TalkTalk

95

97

58

79

47

47

Virgin Media

91

94

64

86

57

75

All

93

96

68

80

59

68

BT, Sky and Virgin Media performed well on providing spontaneous speed estimates, with at least 75% of their callers given an estimated range unprompted.

It's perhaps no coincidence that these are also providers with some of the UK's fastest broadband speeds.

TalkTalk, which completes the UK's 'big four' major providers, was found to give unprompted speed estimates to just 47% of people who enquired about its broadband.

Last month, research by the European Commission found broadband in Europe is typically around 25% slower than the 'up to' speeds used in advertising by providers.

New rules introduced last year mean UK providers must now only use 'up to' speeds at least 10% of their customers actually receive. The aim of the change was to put a stop to misleading, exaggerated speed claims in broadband ads.

A recent Ofcom report found the average UK broadband speed has more than trebled in the space of four years to reach an all-time high of 12Mb.

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