back to article 'Up to' broadband claims out of control, says Ofcom

Ofcom is still fretting over ISPs who punt services using the "up to" speeds rhetoric in their advertising campaigns. The communications watchdog once again called on self-regulatory ad bodies to change their guidance to give customers "more informed decisions based on the adverts they see". New research into fixed-line …

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Survey It

Why not have an app that samples users' upload and download rates and then sends them to OFCOM? They could then publish min, max, mean and median access speeds by time of day for all the ISPs. Then consumers would be able to make their own choice.

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They do. That's where this research has come from...

http://www.samknows.com/broadband/signup/ofcom is the sign up page. The table comparing ISPs is on the page linked in the article, along with speed map of the UK.

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Anonymous Coward

Sam Knows

http://www.samknows.com/broadband/index.php

"SamKnows and Ofcom partner in order to carry out a national census on the performance of UK ISPs, focussing on the top six ISPs by subscriber numbers. "

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because....

How fast is your connection? 15mb/s

Download something big, watch iplayer and do a speed test at the same time, whats the speed test saying now?

Any results from an app like this would be skewed by whatever is happening on the users pc/network.

It would be an option but it would have to be built into the router so that only when there has been a period of inactivity is a speed test done. There is little point if one PC is watching iplayer, at the same time as some one else in the house plays xbox live.. or indeed when some one has left the PC on overnight downloading movies (Not that anyone does that.. its naughty).

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Gold dust

This info would be gold dust. Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISP) would then know which areas would be good for a 2Meg service and which would require a 4Meg service to beat ADSL.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Survey It

Yes, I think they should be advertised as a 'typical' speeds based on average rates rather than 'up to' speeds. And where a customer opts for a higher package than the entry level, the ISP should test the connection to ensure they can actually get the benefit of the additional money they are paying.

But the real con is the misundertanding on consumers as to what bandwidth actually means and in what circumstances it is actually useful. In my opionion, even when consumers can get the full speed they still can't or don't make use of it because of other limitations, such as throttling, websites restricting bandwidth and a host of other reasons.

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They do !

I've been part of this research and have a second router installed for this very purpose.

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Regulators - is there a point?

Surely we need some regulator who will actually do something, not just grumble a bit, and let things continue. It's the same with any regulated field. Maybe we need an OFREG to regulate the regulators and make them do something. Mind you, it would just end up more of the same.

I propose there should be an OFCOM imposition that says simply you pay the proportion of the "up to" that you achieve. So, for example, advert at "up to 10MB for £20 per month" and you only manage 5MB, you pay a tenner a month.

...and what's more, can they sort out throttling and quotas while they are at it.

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FAIL

Unworkable

Problem 1:

You by necessity equate sync speed and throughput, since sync is the only thing reliably and fairly measurable. Confusing sync and achievable throughput allows poor quality ISPs to hide. If you wanted to do it based on throughput are you proposing charging based upon peak throughput (per month), easy to game and essentially meaningless if it's only at 2am. Average throughput perhaps? except that essentially means your connection would be free when you're away on holiday etc., which clearly isn't viable as a pricing model. Why should a user who only uses capacity at peak times pay *less* than someone who's habits use spare capacity when everyone else is asleep?

Problem 2:

Long rural lines aren't necessarily cheaper to maintain than short, densely packed lines, so your proposed pricing model has no connection with reality.

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Bleary eyed customers presumably

"BT came out on top for customers wanting to share "large files or use real-time video communications", according to the research."

All stopping up until after midnight when their connection becomes usable again.

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Megaphone

Telenet

In Belgium, Telenet has a product called ' FiberNet' that offers 'lightning fast speeds'. This turns out to be a maximum of 100mbps, which is pretty fast for Belgium to be fair. Expensive too.

But I wouldn't call it FiberNet, because that makes me think of 10Gb. And their marketing department have no clue of technical language....

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Silver badge
FAIL

What rubbish from OFCOM.

The "Averages" stated give no useful information whatsoever - what happened to all the competent people who used to work at OFCOM?

Compared 'average advertised' and 'average actually provided' is utterly meaningless - they're going to advertise the faster connections much more than the slower ones. "We provide the slowest boardband in the world" isn't much of an advert, even if it's the product that most of the customers actually buy.

Where is the comparison of the shortfall between the product sold to individual consumers and the speed they actually receive?

That's before you get into the deviation - do *any* customers receive the 'up to' speed?

I'm pretty certain that the answer to that is no, which raises the question of by OFCOM, the ASA and Trading Standards are not stamping on these ISPs with great force for gross mis-selling.

No other industry can get away with 'up to' claims where no item/customer gets the maximum! A shop on the high street can't say "Up to 50% off" unless a significant percentage of their wares actually are being sold at that discount.

So where are the raw figures? Do we really have to do a FoI request to OFCOM to get anything usable out of them?

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Boffin

Yah. Typical Ofcom

Some other thoughts:

1.Gap between advertised and user experience.

This is increasing because BT are rolling out ADSL2+. It's an inevitable consequence of the performance curve. So BT could improve these figures by..rolling back their upgrade programme.

2.Punishing ISPs.

Consumer choice is all well and good but there's only two broadband suppliers in the UK that can control end-user connection speed and that's VM and Kingston Communications. All other ISPs are dependant on Openreach copper and customer choice is irrelevant there. Even the LLUOs are constrained by the copper and can't do anything about it.

3.It's all about throughput

Forget bloody connection speed. Not only is that not under the control of most ISPs but it isn't even what matters. What matters is how fast the data actually travels not how fast it might under ideal conditions. Even better this /is/ under ISP control and is a great differentiator so would be useful target for customer control.

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IT Angle

WISP

Wireless Internet Service Providers don't have to use BT copper. It is true we used ADSL in the beginning, well actually we used Bonded ISDN because it was faster than dialup. The point is that faster Internet can be beamed in from another location to the village with the slow Internet. People suffering speeds below 1meg should look for the WISP operator in their area. These are always tiny companies who hardly advertise. Look for odd white boxes on peoples TV antennas, ask them where they get their broadband. It might take a bit of investigation but you will find a WISP near you. If you don't then maybe you should start one.

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Unhappy

And that's just the sync speed.

Once you take into account contention ratios and the number of people using streaming apps (iPlayer, etc) in the early evening, you can, quite often, see speeds in the kilobit range.

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Anonymous Coward

Ofthing = useless

My guess is that next step for Ofcom, who whine a lot but don't really do anything, could be to fine them "up to" £1000.

A bit like Ofgem which also consists of a lot of people paid in the 6 digits figures but who seem completely complacent about rising energy prices while energy providers profits increase.

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OFCOM is a decoy

We direct our anger at Ofcom which keeps our anger away from the real culprits. Instead of getting angry why not roll out some fibre optic cable yourself?

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FAIL

Worse than its bite

The communications watchdog once again called on self-regulatory ad bodies to change their guidance to give customers "more informed decisions based on the adverts they see".

Good plan because it obviously worked last time. And when they don't change you can ask them again.

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FAIL

No teef

Ofcom has no teeth and is not fit for purpose. I mean, appealing to ISP better nature (self regulation!) ? Come on.

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isnt this bloomin obvious

Due to the way adsl works and the drop off?

Unless they actually can change the laws of physics?

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WTF?

BT came out on top?

How did BT come out on top? They throttle anything that isn't port 80, even SSL!

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Anonymous Coward

Easy solution.

Ban it.

Require that companies be allowed, (and required,) to publish one figure - "Average speed at peak times."

Hey presto.

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Thumb Down

Oh very useful

The average speed of a motor vehicle on British roads is 27.3mph. That means it will take 12,1 hours to drive from London to Edinburgh.

Uh huh. Thanks for that.

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WRONG

If you encourage people to shop with the company who has the fastest average speed then you will find that rural Internet services will cease. The best way to increase your average speed is not to connected anyone who's speed will be below average. The ISP I work for has one of the lowest average speeds because we specialize in connecting the people farthest from the exchange.

When you look at a web page it does not travel down the wire at more than 2meg. When you do a download at 8meg compared to 2meg it does not become instant if you had to wait for it on 2meg. Downloads do take a few moments. VoIP and gaming should still be near instant on 2meg or 8meg, the bandwidth is not the speed, the ping is the speed. Throttled upload speed is a sneeky way of limiting your Internet usage since you cannot use your full download bandwidth in real world situations if your upload is throttled. But it still comes out nice on a speedtest.

The speedtest sites are not that good at showing you the real reason your Internet seems slow. Everyone assumes they need more megabits. A really good speedtest site would shine a light on the ISPs bandwitch shaping and reveal it's silhouette.

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FAIL

6Mb? luxury

more like 0.5Mb, and that's what the BT line rates it at also ...

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Gold badge
Flame

So delivery improving slightly but lies *about* the service being delivered grow massively

Ofcom should grow some and start putting ISP's on a leash.

Get them to specify what *percentage* of their customers get this super duper service and what *fraction* of the time they get it in those adds.

Otherwise it looks like El Reg readers will have to start hitting the ASA with a clue stick.

Stop promising BS you don't (and *cannot*) deliver.

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WTF?

lolwot?

BT provides good internet?! Who did they ask, and what were those people smoking?

I'd rather go sledging with barbed wire strapped to my arse than use BT broadband again. Crappy speeds, crappy contention, epic packet loss and poorly priced.

The second O2's LLU service was in my area i was all over it, and i've never looked back.

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Lies and/or statistics?

I thought deceptive advertising was supposed to be illegal anyway. This comes very close to it in my opinion. Somebody I know lives right next door to a rural telephone exchange and even SHE doesn't get the "up-to" speeds that her ISP plugs!

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Thumb Down

It isn't deceptive.

That's what 'up to' means. In the same vein as 'Motor vehicle technology supports speeds of up to 350mph'. That doesn't mean your Honda Civic is not a valid motor vehicle. Just because you bought a civic and thought you could brake the sound barrier is your fault. The dealer was quite happy to tell you what the limit specific to your vehicle.

The most you can accuse advertisers of being is 'a bit cheeky' - but that's their business. Personally I hate it but advertising was never supposed to be accurate. It's always going to include half truths and avoid stating the negative things. Anyone that doesn't understand that is - amongst other things - destined to spend the rest of their life alone :)

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Boffin

Except your simile breaks down...

It's more like the car dealer sellign you a rocket car and telling you it's speed is 'up to 350 mph', but neglecting to mention that the speed limit is 70 mph (akin to the real top speed you'll get) and that the roads are oversubscribed at busy times, so you'll more likley be doing 15mph (akin to contention).

In my opinion, they should be limited to putting the 'up to' speed in the small print of their adverts, and using the average speed obtainable, and be forced to also mention the slowest speed you'll get (this figure should be the mean of the bottom quartile of obtainable speeds, sampled evenly at all times of day, or similar, or it would be zero and meaningless). In other words, I'd like to be told that my 'up to 10Mb' service actually averages 6.3 Mb download speed, and a quarter of the time, averages 1.5Mb. They should also be made to advertise both download and upload rates, e.g. that the mean upload speed is only 256Kb.

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20meg on an ADSL MAX line

It's very deceptive since the people they are talking to need it explained properly.

If an ISP has a service some where on it's network that goes to 20meg then that should be sold separately from the service which goes to 8meg in that persons area.

By lumping it all together as one service that goes up to 20meg for £15 per month they lie to the person on an 8meg exchange. What's more, if that person is on a line that supports 1meg they are getting 20 times less speed.

Because 20meg seems so slow they will probably switch providers to the one that offers up to 40meg and pay £30 per month for the same 1meg service. The more they lie the better it gets.

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Silver badge
FAIL

The difference between advertised and received speeds

is immaterial as long as one cannot use the bandwidth one has allegedly purchased. If a couple of gigabytes downloaded suddenly puts one in the drives down the speed, or worse, results in one of those 'heavy user' snotty letters, what's the point?

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Mushroom

My 'Upto' is what I get

I just moved to FTTC. The ISP quoted 31Mbits before I signed up. The raw connection to the exchange (as measured by the BT test kit showed 39.9Mbits.

I regularly get a sustained download speed of 4.2Mbytes/sec.

It would be good for Ofcom to put a stop to this 'malarkey'. Virgin are still pestering me to sign up to their 50Mbits service despite the fact that their crappy NTL infrastructure in my area can't support 20Mbits reliably let alone 50 and that I know at least three neighbours who have left Virgin in the past three months because as one put it, 'I was better off back in the days of dial-up between 5pm & midnight'.

For all the ISP's who don't tell the truth... (and no I don't work for one)

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FAIL

Up to' broadband claims out of control, says Ofcom

before deciding they'll have a discussion about it next year, after their nap.

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Anonymous Coward

So...

Virgin-on-the-ridiculous still miffed that BT's last complaints against them were held up.

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WTF?

Thats some performance testing

They managed to do one performance test every 10 seconds in May?

I mean using the likes of speedtest.net which uses download and upload of files to give an approximate performace reading, takes well over 10 seconds.

I call shenanigans. But I'd like to be enlightened.

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yeah yeah

Tell us something we dont know!

Tootless tigers that OFCOM is.

Waste fo time doing the research!

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Terminator

It isn't all about download speeds.

They also need to be more transparent about usage caps, contention ratios, port & protocol throttling. I've been getting spammed by BT who are pushing their infinity FTTC on our estate and promising the awesome download speeds... But read the smallprint and unless you subscribe to their high-end package you get a usage cap that wouldn't even touch the sides based on the amount I download on my truly unlimited provider BE internet each month. And it makes little mention of whether they will throttle specific protocols.

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They do throttle some P2P

I had someone on BT Infinity try my VoIP connection which goes through my ADSL MAX line. He dialed in to my Draytek router and was able to get better P2P performance through the piggy backing my ADSL than he got through BT. It was crap P2P performance but much better than BT Infinity.

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Bronze badge

An old problem

Which average are they talking about?

I'm not sure than the usual layman's average, the mean, tells us anothing useful.

For one thing, when it's distance from the exchange which affects speed, there's four times as many people at twice the distance,

The median might be different: that's the half-way point, the minimum speed half the customers can get.

I get grumpy sometimes when i see how the available bandwidth to the rest of the internet can plummet in the evenings, Everyone wants to watch streaming video at the same time. The way we use bandwidth has changed a lot since broadband was rolled out, and some of the assumptions made then are badly broken now.

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Force ISPs to charge for what they can deliver

How about Ofcom forcing ISPs to charge for what they can actually deliver to an address instead of an 'up to' price. So people like me who get <2Mb (I can only get 1Mb) can be charged a maximum of say £5 per month. then a rising scale of maximum charges for <8Mb, <20Mb, etc. Perhaps this might encourage BT and the rest to invest in the rural exchanges instead of ignoring them. And it would stop Sky being able to advertise TV, Broadband, phone line and calls all for £20 a month, but when you enquire its 'sorry our equipment isn't in you exchange but you can have broadband for £17 plus £x for TV and £x for the phone etc'

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Thumb Down

Probably not wise

Connection speed doesn't have a direct impact on cost to the ISP. It isn't what you /can/ do that matters, but rather what you /do/ do and /when/ you do it. It's quite possible for some spotty oik to run their 2Mb/s connection flat out 24/7 downloading porn and TV shows and be far more of a thorn in the side of the ISP than someone with a 20Mb/s connection who only uses it to surf and pick up email.

Your proposal would probably just make those on longer lines and/or in more remote areas the least profitable. I suppose telcos might decide to try and claw back the profitability through investment but aside from BT (and sort-of VM) there's not much interest in investment at the moment. Probably because Ofcom's meddling has pretty much removed the profitability by fooling customers into thinking they can get everything they need for a pittance.

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Flame

After ASA

Well OFCOM could submit a so called "Supper Complaint" to The Office of Fair Trading. Just give OFCOM 5 more years before they do get round to doing this.

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Coat

Dear OFCOM,

My dinner is cold.

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Facepalm

@ LC

Thanks for that! Saved me posting a reply myself..... oh, bugger.

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Silver badge

Regulation and Standards

Perhaps since the Government wants to "get everyone online" all the ISPs should be required to list a price for an identical basic broadband service. Give it a Cat standard, or other marking to show it meets the UK Government minimum.

e.g. 2Mb/s connection, 10GB per month limit, etc

That should be sufficient for a large proportion of the non-technical market to make a like for like price comparison, then all those who need more (and are probably better placed to understand why they need more) can fight their way through the ISP offerings.

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grr

useless statistics. I very much doubt people would care much if they were quoted "up to 8mb" and got 7. It is the cases of "up to 8mb" and get 1 or up to 24 and get 5.

Cable isnt the saviour of all either. Node contention is far more pronounced with cable - im lucky, I live on a road flanked by fields and an old folks estate, I get quoted 20Mb and get 20Mb. My mate further down the road flanked by students is lucky to get 10 (for the same product at the same time) when the students start gaming/downloading.

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Go

Up to ....or..... At Least...?

Why can't they offer a MINIMUM speed ???

or an 'At Least 20Mb'.

That would be a lot more honest and would give us a stick to beat them with !

An SLA not a 'wish list'.

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Stop

I refuse to enoble a simple forum post!

I'm not disagreeing with you but why would they hand us a stick to beat them with?

We don't pay anywhere near enough for the ISPs to be offering SLA's and that is the crux of the matter for all the whinging.

You pay bottom dollar... you get bottom dollar service. Want a dedicated speed? pay for a dedicated feed with an attached SLA. Good luck on getting that for for £20 a month.

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Holmes

Grrrr

10% Increase in speed!!!! I have not ANY speed increase for 6 (count them) years and still lucky to get 1mb connection.

The internet to me is just for news sites and downloading Itunes updates (slowly). If anything Ofcom should have a minimum standard and demand that anyone on a <2mb connection get it for free. I sure as hell bet that would very quickly get the broadband infrastructure in most regions up to a decent level.

Mine is the one with the 3g sim in the pocket.

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