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back to article Deception of 'up to' broadband speeds exposed

The average downstream broadband speed received by consumers is just 3.6Mbit/s, according to data released today from the most accurate UK internet access survey ever published. Ofcom's new hardware-based broadband monitoring system found that despite the fact more than 60 per cent are subscribed to "up to" 8Mbit/s packages, on …

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Tim

Contention Ratios

I have noticed that my BT line conenction rate has been dropping over the past few months and then miraculously went up over xmas which points to contention in my mind as people may spend less time on the internet at xmas. In any event, my download rate (via speedtest.net) remained constant sub 2MBps during the day and went up progressively until the wee hours when it rose sharply. that's the ISP throttling. I think BT are doing this because everyone is buying homehubs as a wireless survey of my street shows.

I'm leaving BT soon with a hope that my new unbundled provided can give me the estimated 4Mbps (twice that of BT down the same wire).

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Flame

Crooks

Voluntary codes of practice won't work with these bastards. Regulate them, force them to be transparent about their speeds and limits, and ensure that the customers are the ones who get money if the ISPs can't don't or won't deliver the service they promise.

All of a sudden we'll have a proper, competitive ISP market.

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Unhappy

Porcine Aviation

"forthcoming Carter review will recommend a requirement that the communications industry offers at least 2Mbit/s to all part of the country."

I'll not hold my breath for BT to up my half meg connection, via its wet piece of string, to my rural Derbyshire home.

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Paris Hilton

Speed

Yes and its always fun to ring teh call center in india to moan about your speed problems

Paris because she is as bright as a call center operative(Outsourced)

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jon
Flame

welcome...

...to 5 years ago ofcom. Pull your finger out and do what we pay you for!

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Corrected for distance

Are these figures corrected for the sync speed a customer gets? If they're a long way from the exchange and can only sync at 1M, it's not exactly the ISPs fault if they're not getting 1M, is it? A fairer test would be, what percentage of the sync speed is the customer getting [minus 13% for ATM overheads].

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Joke

Next up...

How about a comparison of quantity of access advertised vs quantity supplied. I bet quite a few fall well short of "Unlimited"....

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Silver badge

Whilst I do like to take any opportunity to take a shot at the ISPs

You have to wonder how many people on '8Mb' DSL are connecting their modems via telephone extensions made from el-cheapo unsheilded cable and not to their BT master socket. I recently replaced the ~15m of phone extension in my flat with CAT6 cable and this roughly doubled the speeds I got in various online speed tests.

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Thumb Up

Special Sundays?

'Across the UK connections were slowest between 5pm and 6pm on Sundays, when network load is highest.' - Any ideas why? People downloading sermons? - the Antiques Roadshow? - or is this a typo?

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Happy

This is nothing...

I know people who are still on 56k...good old karoo

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Anonymous Coward

Not just the link.

My router connects at 5mb my transfer speeds rarely score over 1 in any direction, it's the back end that really matters.

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Go

Can we get the same deal?

It must be great to be able to be assured of a certain speed, and have someone (or a company) pushing for your rights....especially such a fast one. The best we can get out where I reside is up to 1Mb/s download, which very rarely reaches a blazing 768kb/s.... and I live not even 5 miles outside of the city limits...and don't even get me started on the huge failures of the disparate cell phone systems which continue to keep us so far behind our European friends..

All the best,

Tony ...

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Tim

I think its moe emotive than speed @Alex

At the end of the day people are paying for a service they are not getting. "Upto 8 MBps" sets an expectation that it is possible to get an 8MBps speed even though technically it may not be.

Incidentally, the argument about distance from the exchange is also dodgy as most (certainly in my area) of the copper has now been replaced by fibre to what was the street cabinet (those green boxes). The ISPs continue to use this as an excuse to deliver lower speeds whilst still charging you for a premium rate service.

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Tom

Not too bad...

I don't think it's too bad really, I'm sure the BBC version of this article stated that on average people receive 85% of what their line is capable of which isn't really that terrible. Network congestion is the issue that needs to be sorted out.

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Cue the whinging...

from the ISPs who insist that speedtests aren't accurate and their networks are shining beacons of ultra-fast technology amidst a quagmire of mediocre kit.

My virgin "up to 20Mb" connection has gone from an average speed of 16Mb last January to about 3.5 now. Calling their Indian call center just results in a stirring script reading along the lines of "have you tried turning your modem off and on again? have you tried rebooting your PC? maybe you should try again in an hour, it might be better then."

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Ash

Pay for 2Mb

Get 2Mb until the 1GB transfer cap, then get 1Mb. Exactly as advertised.

Sincerely,

Urban Virgin Customer

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Like a Virgin

I pay just £10/month for 2Mb Virgin Media and really do almost always seem to get 2Mb downloads, but only something like 168Kb downloads!

They should have to advertise either an average of the two i.e. 1.1Mb or advertise it as 2000/186Kb Broadband or something like this.

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sundays

Bob Greenwood they are getting teh eastenders onibus edition on Iplayer hehehe

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Anonymous Coward

Wait For The Griping From ISPs

Damn, Oliver beat me to it! :-)

It won't be long before Virgin Media comes out and says "It's not us guv, it's not our fault" and other crap excuses behind spin and exclusion term ridden claims. Bottom line is that simple clarity is not forthcoming and the ISPs generally don't like being forced to be open.

Of course, OFCOM lacks cojones of any sort so won't actually DO anything about the situation.

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Stop

Virgin on the ridiculous

As someone who has the "mother of all broadband" I was surprised to discover it maxes out at around just over 2Mb/s and is often down to ISDN speeds.

After 4 months of them telling me there was no problem they finally admitted that their network is massively oversubscribed, hardly anyone gets the speeds advertised, very sorry but can't offer any timescales for fixing. Ofcourse, billing doesn't know anything about it.

Now with Ofcoms "Code of Practice" you can't even complain until you've waited 3 months and written a million letters/gone bald in frustration.

Being an ISP these days is just a byword for chancers who like ripping off their customers.

Ofcom and the ASA have completely failed in their remit (IMV), they are unfit for purpose.

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Linux

Andrews & Arnold

I was with Pipex - 1MB/S unbundled.

Switched to AAISP - now getting a blinding 6.5 MB/S back on BT's wholesale. Go figure.

(oh yeah - and support is in the UK and they are extremely Penguin Friendly)

http://sod.ms/fast

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@Tim

You are not alone. Many BT Customers are experiencing slowdowns after 5pm weekedays and at various times at weekends. It's almost like flicking a switch - 5pm BOOM! Non BT-Vision customers get throttled so that BT Vision customers can watch neighbours.

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Stop

Cashback!

"The monitoring network showed that on average, consumers get 45 per cent of the advertised headline speed"

Excellent, I'm looking forward to my 55% price cut then.

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Silver badge

How about

paying per Mbps? So an 'up-to 8Mb' connection is priced at, say £8. If you get 2Mbps, you pay £2.

OK, it would mean that customers getting the top speeds would pay more, but it would be fair.

As for me, I get about 17Mbit/s ds sync on my Be line. It should be more, but the copper's cr@p!

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RE: Corrected for distance & Not too bad...

I couldn't give a shit what problems the ISP faces in providing internet access -- it's not my problem it's theirs and it's what they are paid for. If they can't deliver a speed they shouldn't advertise it and they shouldn't give a customer the expectation of that speed.

On a related note -- it's about time BT got their fingers out of their arses and replaced the 50 year old bell-wire connected by crocodile clips that they laughably call telephone lines in some areas.

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Unhappy

It's criminal

@Ed Blackshaw I was on my parents' 8 meg BT broadband over Christmas, which managed a whopping ~350k BITS / sec. After putting in a missing filter, swapping cables, and even trying that test socket in the master that they tell you to use, it was *gasp* 350kbits still.

Being used to the near 10 megs I consistently get off ntl I was somewhat shocked.

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Unhappy

OFCOMs protocol overhead description

In a 49 page report this is all OFCOM used to describe protocol overhead, which accounts about 20% of the line speed on virtually all DSL connections. For the non-technical this is a shockingly bad description from the industry regulator....

"even those customers living very close to an exchange may not experience the headline speed when downloading files or using on-line speed test sites. This is because some of the available capacity is used by critical communications protocols (e.g. ATM and TCP) which are required for the connection to operate. ISPs will typically limit the bandwidth available for end users data in order that there is sufficient capacity for this other 'overhead' data. For example, if a line synchronises (connects to the DSLAM at the exchange) at 8128kbit/s (~8Mbit/s), such systems may limit user traffic to 7.15Mbit/s. None of the 1,087 panellists on an ‘up to’ 8Mbit/s package received a maximum speed of more than 7Mbit/s."

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Thumb Up

finally I'm above average

at last I'm above average in something!

My regular speed is around 6800kbps, dropping to about 4600 on a bad day and up to 7200 occasionally..

Still for the privelage of my 50Gb monthly cap I do pay £40 a month!

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hmmmm

Changing the cables in my house made a big difference to my sync speed, from 12 to 15 (yes I have BE). The sync speed variations are a pain but the traffic shaping that most ISPs use is the real rip off. Transparency is all that we want, so we know what our contention ratio is, what shaping is being done and what line speed to expect.

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Flame

Well done Sam, not so well done "Lord" Carter of NThell

I've had one of Sam's monitoring boxes (the user-customisable Linksys, WRT54?), it's a splendid idea seemingly done well, and before that I was a reader of Sam's well-informed website.

Now, as for that Carter bloke, the communications minister... before he joined Tony's Cronies, he was in charge of Ofcom, and before that he was in charge at NThell. A record like that is the kind of thing an informed article might have wanted to mention.

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N
Bronze badge

Ive seen & heard it all...

Usually complete bollocks from the likes of BT who declared that they could see the router connected when it was actually switched off - amazing.

Then there was the "Perhaps you need to re-install Windows" on a Mac - duh.

Theres a number of issues:

On one end you have Joe Public (oft refferred to as 'the great unwashed' in El Reg forum) who knows that broadband should equate to faster than dialup & will opt in for any crap so long as its advertised on TV or someone rings them once a week until they say OK.

Then you have the providers who will generally screw as much as they can from Joe Public because they exploit their ignorance & would contend at 100:1 if they could.

Then theres Offcom the toothless quango whos definition of broadband is something faster than 150Kb/s and takes about 5 years to wake up to the painfully obvious

Then theres the old copper string thats been around for years

No wonder 'broadband' in the UK is so crap!

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Anonymous Coward

@ Anonymous Coward Posted Thursday 8th January 2009 16:05 GMT

Pipex 1mb LLU is SET at 1mb, its not rate adaptive. hence the speed increase

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Bell wire...

Ahhh the bell wire. I recently snipped those in a friends 'new build' flat, and doubled her download speeds immediately. This is despite it being one of those 'clever' master sockets with a transformer and capacitors in for 'smoothing'.

Still, my house is connected via a five hundred year old piece of copper, (well, the bits that BT use are connected - the bell wire isnt!) and I'm about two miles from the exchange, but I'm still getting a happy 5 gigabits a second when I torrent in my, uh, linux iso's.

up to 8gigabit - getting five, that'll do! I only pay 7.50 a month for that, bonus!

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Anonymous Coward

@ Dr. Mouse

Alternatively, pay by the number of gigabytes downloaded.

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Bronze badge

Up to means less than, what is the problem?

However, I do take issue with the term unlimited being used to describe limited services.

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Currently not too bad ... waiting for 21CN

Judging by the average I'm doing quite well getting between 2.5 and 3.5 Mb/s most of the time (plusnet estimate it at 2 Mb/s) ... I'm a fair few miles from the exchange but things did improve when I replaced the front of the BT master socket with one with a built-in filter ... got an extra few db which helped stabilize my line.

I'm now waiting for the ADSL2+ WBC upgrade for the 21st Century network to hit my exchange and according to BT that will be on 31st March 2011 .. yeah only 27 months away by which time what will the average French or German BB speed be?

Ah well I'll have to be patient again ... there is a cable box (diamond cable as was) 300 or so feet from my house and was laid 7 years ago and has never been lit up .. but you never know .. oh wait there is a recession 8-(

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I really do not give a stuff....

....that the rest of the UK cannot get their promised 8 meg. I get 512k and had to argue with BT for 2 years to get it, apparently my exchange only holds 50 broadband connections. So, whilst they are busy updating some lines with all sorts of fancy trial gear, they seem to have completely overlooked my area of rural Scotland.

The even worse thing is, for those poor suckers in my area who are not one of the 50 lucky ones, there is no proper que system. Works like this:

You phone up for broadband and they say yes it's available in your area.

They book you in and give you a go live date some 2 weeks later.

In 2 weeks time you get a letter saying there are no available slots.

You phone back and they say. "We will phone you when there is an available slot"

3 months go by, no word. You phone them back and they say "sorry, we should have phoned you by now. I will deal with this personally and I assure you that we will phone you this time"

3 months go by, no word. You phone back and are given the same bollocks.

In the meantime 10 new people have moved into the area and 5 of them got lucky and got broadband.

You phone up and complain and they apologise and say there is nothing they can do to ensure you are next on the list.

You then have to phone up and order broadband every 2 weeks, wait for the letter saying it is not available and phone and order again. Eventually you get lucky.

Small bonus: I have 20 or so home hubs they sent me for each any every time i ordered broadband. 1 every 2 weeks. Ebay?

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Paris Hilton

Virgin

Just ran a few tests against my 20Mb line.

Within European test servers I got 14-16 Mb avg. while US returned 6-8Mb. As mentioned earlier, it matters little if your destination site has a pants output.

No, I didn't expect any of you to care but I'm relatively happy with VM. Just as well as BT have no intention, let alone plans, to upgrade their copper in my neighbourhood...

Paris because she's true ADSL: Fast to download into but slow to upload from!

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Jon
Happy

BE There(now O2 but hasnt changed the service yet!)

I am sync at 21meg and download at 20meg and have found this to be consistent day and night. That includes downloads from ftp/http/newsgroups. I wondered if they were really unlimited so downloaded 140gig in 12 days and was still running at full speed :)

I laugh at the new virgin adverts for 50meg as they cant even provide 20 meg properly. Some lucky customers get 20meg but the majority get around 3-10 and if you download anything the virgin 'fair useage' kicks in.

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Anonymous Coward

Price of Download Speed

.

I'm happy to pay say £10 pcm for "up to 8MB" speed

So long as they accept pro-rata £1.25 /MB delivered speed

The ISPs & the Regulator are too cosy with each other.

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Thumb Down

Oddly

Ofcom seem to be touting this as some sort of triumph on their website, while from my point of view it seems to highlight their complete failure to regulate or provide any sort of "standard" in the sector.

Clearly market forces haven't worked, we now have a universally crap standard of service from most providers. Those that want to provide a decent service (Be) are hamstrung by BT and their crap lines. There is no competition whatsoever for cable, a complete monopoly.

Having read the ofcom report I find their figures are absolutely staggering, the shear numbers of people who are unhappy or paying massively over the odds for their service is telling.

A damning report that highlights perfectly just how bad a job ofcom has been doing.

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Coat

Not the problem

Sorting out the speed of connections isn't the issue that needs tackling. It's this bullshit 'unlimited' claim that's the problem. So many ISPs, if not at least all major ones, will come knocking if you eat up bandwidth and everyone knows it. It's likely torrent traffic, but it could be other things, and if you pay for unlimited access you should get that, regardless of how much you use or what you use it for. I'd much rather ISPs were shafted for that tactic than speed restrictions. Besides, they like users having slow speeds, because it reduces how much data you transfer and puts you off torrenting because your speeds are arse. Once they give everyone fast, stable connections, more people will trigger data limits and then everyone will complain about that instead. You know it's going to happen. if they ever give customers a fast, stable connection that is, and seeing how this is Britain, it ain't gonna happen. Whatever happened to us, eh? We have the world just about every invention worth a crap as a nation and we can't even get decent broadband going.

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Pirate

Huggles VM

20mb Virgin

2.0 to 2.6Mb download via newshosting (newsgroups)

4.5gb in rougly 20 mins everything queued for past midnight so the rest of the family can knock themselves out on iplayer / msn / facebook & even if the cap kicks in Im so fast asleep I dont notice. All my TV progs/ demo's / patches / pr0n / whatever are waiting for me to peruse at my lesuire

cant see what all the fuss is about - My connection does exactly what is says on the tin.

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@ Ash and Kev

I too get exactly as advertised - 2mb for the first GB (during peak times, then 1mb for the next 5 hours), otherwise full speed. Customer service is crap but at least the line is pretty damn stable. It's gone down I think once in the past 6 months, and that was at their end (evidenced by flashing "sync" and "ready" lights on the modem).

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Linux

@ Andrews & Arnold/Anon coward

Glad to hear they are extremely penguin friendly. I was thinking about O2, but it looks like AAISP are going to be a strong contender. I like what I see on their website. No minimum term , just 30 days notice. They obviously have faith in their products. And if they do, then so do I.

Virgin - yeah crap download speed. Seems to go up and down on a random basis. this last week it has been really crap. Even the missus has complained.

As for the "up to..." claims, we need someone with balls to kick the ISPs up the a**e. The dodgy ones anyway. My speed? 2Mbit/s. And Virgins new 50Mbit/s ads? Ho! Ho! Ho! Trades Description Act?

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more is less?

Perhaps we could have official labels like the ones that tell you the official MPG of cars?

Oh. Yes. Tsk They're bullshit too......

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Anonymous Coward

Meh....

I live in Milton Keynes where they laid cables made out of dental floss, so I never stand a chance of getting much above 2Mb unless I move to a house next door to the exchange. Actually I even lived in a house 100 metres from an exchange once but my phone line went all the way around my estate and part of another and was 4km long to the exchange I could almost throw stone at.

The result of this was that I could not get DSL when it was first made available from my local exchange, because the loss on my line was too great.

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Pirate

Is 10 meg too slow?

The speed difference between an 8MB contended ADSL and a 10MB Dedicated fibre delivered Internet link is absolutely amazing. It has to be seen to be believed. However I guess most people don't want pay the £10,000 installation and £500 a month fee for such a service.

Ofcom should introduce a proper metric that can be contractually used to measure the performance of any domestic ADSL/Broadband service.

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re: Is 10 meg too slow?

So a contended 50:1 10Meg service would cost £10 pcm whereas an 8MB contended service (50:1) costs what? £30? £50? pcm.

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