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Broadband Providers Inflate Speeds – But They Are Improving

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Users get half what ISPs promise them, according to an Ofcom report

UK consumers get about half the speed their providers promise, according to an Ofcom report. But speeds are gradually improving.

The average broadband speed users get is 4Mbps, while most popular services promise speeds “up to” 8Mbps, according to a report published by the UK telecom regulator Ofcom today. Cable came out ahead – for those who can get it – and the report noted that speeds were increasing – the average was only 3.6Mbps in January.

‘Ofcom’s research should stop companies exaggerating their claims about broadband speeds,” said Audrey Gallacher, head of customer experience at statutory “consumer champion” Consumer Focus. “It is really welcome that consumers will, for the first time, have a way of comparing internet providers.”

“Consumers have long suspected that they don’t get the speeds they’re led to expect, and are paying over the odds for their broadband services,” said Gallacher. “With this clear information and Ofcom’s advice, people will be able to make better choices.”

Virgin Media came top, averaging 8.1 to 8.7 Mbps for its “up to” 10Mbps service. Worst was Tiscali, whose 8Mbps service only delivered 3.2 to 3.7 Mbps. On average, only nine percent of “up to 8Mbps” customers got over 6Mbps.

One fifth of those signing up for 8Mps services actually only get 2Mbps, the threshold below which a service doesn’t even count as broadband, according to the Government’s Digital Britain initiative.

It’s well known that urban areas get better broadband, but the survey puts a figure on that: the averages are 4.6Mbps in town, and 3.3Mbps in the country. Ofcom had 60 million performance tests performed in 1600 homes, by market research company GfK, making this the largest ever survey of British broadband provision.

“We hope this will be a spur to competition and further investment,” said Ofcom’s chief executive Ed Richards.

In a statement, BT Retail protested that its own low rating was due to a poor sample, and the fact that BT often provides service to rural customers at the limit of Bt’s ability to serve them.

The government has promised that everyone in the UK will have access to 2Mbps broadband, using left over cash for the digital TV switchover to pay for rural areas. Faster broadband is promised with a £6 levy on all phone lines to

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create a fund for next generation connections.