back to article Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?

UK telcos need to stop fibbing about the network speeds they offer to subscribers, consumer champion Which? demanded today. It said that British ISPs had a dirty habit of using "up to" jargon in their marketing – even though such a superfast broadband connection promise only applied to 12 per cent of punters. Which? noted …

  1. Lionel Baden

    well....

    Nice to see they have finally cottoned on to this practice, at least it didn't take to long!

    Now to see nothing happen about it.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What counts as the reference number for "customers"

    Our village of 200 houses has been enabled for "Superfast" internet. None of them actually get it, but those closer to the exchange (serving some 7100) do (others from that number won't get it either).

    So, normalise your customer figures so that London, Manchester, Glasgow (etc) are included and you'll probably find that 75% of users "can get those speeds", but it's still a complete waste of time for those living even a mile or two out of town.

    1. DanDanDan

      Re: What counts as the reference number for "customers"

      I live in the city centre of Manchester and even I only achieve half the quoted "up to" speed. And that's at off-peak times, without throttling.

      It's about time the broadband companies were forced to publish the median speed achieved, not the maximum. Ideally with a 95%ile bracket to show the most likely slowest speed.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: What counts as the reference number for "customers"

        I live in the city centre of Manchester and even I only achieve half the quoted "up to" speed. And that's at off-peak times, without throttling.

        If you're on DSL..

        What are your modem stats? Most speed problems on DSL are the result of telephone line length or internal wiring. No-one can do anything about your line length but internal wiring issues can be fixed.

        A lot of these problems come about because people misunderstand the phrase 'up to'. There are two uses:

        'I've seen you walking at up to 4mph' - implies that if you can no longer go faster than 3mph you should see your GP.

        'Human beings can walk at up to 4mph' - implies nothing whatsoever if you can only walk at 3mph.

        The latter is what was meant with DSL. The technology had an upper limit of ??Mb/s under ideal conditions. The fact you only get half that just means your particular conditions are not ideal.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What counts as the reference number for "customers"

          Except that's not the case here.

          11/1 before upgrading to "Superfast", 15/0.65 after. The official BT availability checker reported more like 24/6. Properties up the road get estimates of 13/0.8, which is hardly "Superfast" and definitely not worth the price-premium over ADSL/ADSL2+. Properties further along may well get worse speeds if they "upgrade".

          Oh - and the wiring is fine. A comms engineer has sorted everything on my side of the network (filter at ingress, no extensions, cat-5 cable, etc).

          I understand perfectly well what "up to" means - it's just that what's being "sold" as the "up to" is a complete miss-representation of the lines speeds that can be achieved for any of the properties in the area.

          1. Bunbury

            Re: What counts as the reference number for "customers"

            But 15Meg is not half the quoted "up to" speed. The 'up to' will be something like 75+Mbps - it's the speed that 10% of the people in the whole country can actually get. You seem to be comparing with the speed estimate at point of sale, which is line specific. Of course, for people in your street, the "up to" figure is not much of a guide, but then the median speed wouldn't be either I suppose.

            The properties up the road that get estimates of 13/0.8 will not be charged a premium over ADSL - BT will not sell it's Infinity product to them at that speed estimate; they'll be on the same price as ADSL/ADSL2+

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: What counts as the reference number for "customers"

              No, they won't. They ARE selling to people up the street.

              The engineers turning up to install are very surprised to find it is being made available as they know the infrastructure isn't up to it. However, the County Council proudly told all the residents "Did you know that fibre broadband is available in your area? Upgrade now and start taking advantage of all of the great benefits fibre broadband brings."

              I also don't count poor speeds to all 200 lines to a village as being "line specific". In fact, BT don't either, as they've now started sending out "level 2" engineering teams to work out what's up. These teams only get sent out when multiple lines are affected.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: What counts as the reference number for "customers"

                I think what most people expect from the info in the adverts is what I get living in another European country.

                My line is advertised as 30 Mb/s. I actually get around 40, all day everyday but would be happy with the 30 advertised. I don't live in the capital city but a large town, I suppose it would be like living in Guildford but slightly less stock brokerish.

                The rate advertised should be what at least 90% of customers receive and it should be what they receive at least 90% of the time.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. AndrueC Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: What counts as the reference number for "customers"

              I understand perfectly well what "up to" means - it's just that what's being "sold" as the "up to" is a complete miss-representation of the lines speeds that can be achieved for any of the properties in the area

              But that shows you don't understand it. Advertisements for ISPs don't give out any location specific information. When they say 'up to' they are referring to the technological limits. It's simply a statement of what the technology can do in ideal conditions. I have never heard of anyone modifying their adverts so that they are specific to every group of houses or streets. What normally happens is that you get the same standardised blurb that I get and a note in the small print saying that the actual speed will depend on the quality of our phone lines.

              The only location specific information that's given out is what availability checkers give you (the ones where you enter your phone number). That isn't advertising and isn't an 'up to' figure. It's an estimate of your connection speed. Now if the figure you were initially given based on your phone number was far higher than what you got it indicates a possible problem. But that's not what this article is talking about.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Ashton Black

    Call me...

    ... and old cynic but I also doubt that much will come of this. The ISPs will find another statistical loop-hole to exploit, if this one is closed.

  4. `TSeng
    Mushroom

    Whilst I agree this "Up To" nonsense does need to end - and I despise advertising, but the question remains, since every house hold has a theoretical max speed and an actual max speed depending on a huge number of varying factors - how exactly are they supposed to advertise speeds now?

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      "how exactly are they supposed to advertise speeds now?"

      I can't say I have much sympathy for them. But whilst BT have that last mile monopoly there will be no competitive pressure on BT to improve, nor really much pressure from ISPs because for any given house they all face the same limits.

      The important thing should be the break up of the Openreach monopoly, and the separation into regional companies that have to report separately to a regulator (and a stronger regulator). This "comparative competition" works pretty well in other regional monopoly situations, such as the ten UK water companies, or the regional electricity distribution companies. But this is clearly beyond the very weak capabilities of OFCOM.

  5. Jon Smit

    Not this bloody chestnut again

    Which is desperate for readers, they advertise 24/7 for their 'Jargon Buster' freebee. So, every few months they drag this crap out to remind us they exist.

    As they say on QI - "Nobody Knows". It's all but impossible to know the connection speed for any house in the UK, until it has been installed. If you live a couple of miles from the exchange, your speed will be rubbish, if you live next door it should be good. If you need a good connection and you've not got one - call Pickfords.

    It's time The Reg put a stop to repeating these complaints, they only give dicks the opportunity to whine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not this bloody chestnut again

      No, no, no. The real issue (in out-of-town locations) is the amount of tax-payers money that has been spent under BDUK and the apparent total lack of oversight and/or due diligence of the contracts which have been signed with BT.

      The general "upgrade" strategy under BDUK seems to be "put in a fiber cabinet next to the PCP"* without any form of engineering assessment being taken to see if the number of properties able to get a reasonable level of service from the PCP represents value for money.

      *There are some exceptions - mainly outlying regions which were only able to use dialup.

      1. Steven Jones

        Re: Not this bloody chestnut again

        Go look at the thinkbroadband.com site, and there's very clear evidence of increase in speeds. The upper quartile measure (which aligns quite well with an estimated 26% take-up of so-called superfast packages) has moved up a long way in the past year or so.

        Of course, there will be something approaching 10% that will not get such speeds from the first phase of BDUK, but there's very good reason to believe (like Cornwall), that the original objectives will be overachieved by some margin. But that will still leave some disappointed of course, albeit there are later funding phases.

        Of course if somebody could magic up the estimated £30bn required for a full fibre network, then all could change. However, nobody has managed to come up with a viable way for paying for it which is politically acceptable (equivalent to about £4 per line over a 30 year period).

        1. Dr Dre

          Re: Not this bloody chestnut again

          Replying to Stephen Jones - easy way to pay for universal fibre to the home is to cancel HS2 and use the estimated 50 billion to actually do something useful - by the time HS2 is finished will we really need to commute from Manchester to London in 90 minutes when we can appear virtually anywhere in the world, in under a second?

          1. Bunbury

            Re: Not this bloody chestnut again

            HS2 does seem an awful lot of money and you just know it'll have cost overruns. But I would think you won't get the cost of universal FTTP through the treasury given that there are other alternatives for many.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's wrong..?

    I have relatively little beef with the ISPs over this. I live close to the exchange and sync at 23999kbps at the moment on my "up to 20MB" broadband. I don't think I'm being penalised for the extra, but "up to" really is about the most honest way of advertising it (though fibre broadband is ruled out if you're too close to the exchange).

    Given that many homes are beyond the reach of cable and 4G, they're probably all on the same local loop anyway, so jumping between providers is unlikely to make any difference unless they're changing delivery technology.

    The answer can't be giving ISPs a headache on labelling products or forcing throttling back for those close to the exchange to give a universal 256kbps service - it must be educating people that it'll make little difference and that total transfer allowance and price are probably better things to be using for comparison.

  7. Refugee from Windows

    Substantial majority

    How about only being able to advertise the speed which say 90% of customers will experience for 90% of the time in order to be representative of the service they would receive?

    Superfast 5MB broadband doesn't sound quite so appealing.

    1. FlossyThePig

      Re: Substantial majority

      To be called Superfast it must provide download speeds in excess of 24 Mbps.

      Has anybody looked at the BT website recently? Select the Broadband option and there is a very large prompt to see what speed BT Infinity you can get. Enter Postcode and land line number and it returns the predicted speed range. For me it is 9Mb - 14Mb so not called BT Infinity (or Superfast) but I'm getting about 8.5Mb last time I checked, which is better than 3Mb ADSL I had before.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Substantial majority

        It tells me I can get 24-33 Mbps download. I actually get 15 after "upgrading". Trading standards anyone?

    2. Terry Barnes

      Re: Substantial majority

      "How about only being able to advertise the speed which say 90% of customers will experience for 90% of the time "

      Your line speed is your line speed. It doesn't vary.

      Your 90% of the time issue is about throughput and that's down to how much contention you're paying for. Less contention = higher cost. How do you define 90% of the time? Actual usage time will vary from user to user and the throughput will be a function of how many other people are sharing your bandwidth and what they're doing.

  8. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Oh gawd, not again! There was nothing much wrong with the original method. All it needed was a bit more emphasis on 'you will need a personal estimate'. All DSL ISPs forced the user to go through an estimator before you could sign up. There is no point trying to accurately predict connection speed for DSL at the national level. Your connection speed is a characteristic of your line and your line only. And even knowing the connection speed - so what? It's not like it will be any different if you change ISP. Most problems are close to home and will affect all DSL based ISPs equally.

    What might be useful would be some kind of measure of consistency. Something that can indicate contention levels at peak times. That can be a genuine differentiator.

    Anyway I also think it's sad if people are basing buying decisions solely off adverts. I agree that they shouldn't mislead but anyone that takes what an advertisement says at face value needs taking to one side for a quiet chat. Never trust anything any advert says. Even better - never even read the damn' things.

  9. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    ADSL

    As far as I am concerned these days whatever provider you use ADSL speed will never improve, the only difference is the Fibre to Cabinet offerings.

    I always tell people not to believe adverts and go for a reputable company (Almost no-one ever listens).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Re: ADSL

      a reputable company?

  10. ukgnome Silver badge

    In this age of the selfie I would appreciate a better upload speed.

    I am not too impressed with download speed if it takes me ten mins to upload on my "up to" 8Mb line.

  11. William Donelson

    Same as it ever was.

    You are a cow to be milked, nothing more.

  12. theOtherJT

    Perhaps we should all just stop pretending that it's still ok to push data down single core copper that was originally intended to carry analogue voice? ADSL has always been a halfassed solution to the problem, and it's not going to magically get better if we finally decide to all agree that we should call it the bodge that it is.

    Wringing every last bps out of crappy copper doesn't cut it, and it's never going to. I had to download 16 gig of data just to install a video game yesterday, and that's not a number that's going to get smaller as time goes on. Frankly it doesn't matter that an ADSL line might only be providing 8mbit when it could be providing 24 because even 24 simply isn't good enough. Even if it could be considered "good enough" today it's pretty borderline, and it's certainly not going to be good enough in the near future.

    That's before we get onto the matter of contention, and packing more and more customers onto the same uplink. Half the speed problems people see are because there's no spare capacity in the system to handle load spikes, or equipment failure or any "unforseen circumstance" (usually of the kind that would be totally easy to forsee if one were to have more imagination than a carton of orange juice.)

    The way to not have shitty speeds is to have more capacity than you need so there's always something in reserve - but there's just no incentive for that to happen when something that should be considered a vital part of national infrastructure is run for profit, and investing in fibre and switching/routing hardware is expensive.

  13. David_H
    Flame

    And the other way round

    In a couple of months our local villages will be getting 1Gbps optical broadband (sub limited to provide differentiated packages). The shaping works at 55Mbps shaped for the 50Mbps service, 110Mbps shaped for the 100Mbps service, etc.

    As it's all optical and the shaping is at quoted service + 10% levels we should always get more than what we are paying for. The small company (Gigaclear) supplying it was recently made to change all it's advertising material to say "up to" as OFCOM can't understand the technology at all and argued that the company might not be able to supply what it claims.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the other way round

      "The small company (Gigaclear) supplying it was recently made to change all it's advertising material to say "up to" as OFCOM can't understand the technology at all "

      Isn't it more likely that it's because the line speed you're talking about doesn't equal throughput?

      You'll be sharing bandwidth at some point - a guaranteed, uncontended 100Mbps to an Internet peering point is going to set you back at least £800 a month outside of London - so while you may have a 100Mbps local tail, you definitely don't have it all the way to the edge of the Internet. Your backhaul is shared, 100Mbps isn't guaranteed and so it can't be advertised as such.

      1. Bunbury

        Re: And the other way round

        ""The small company (Gigaclear) supplying it was recently made to change all it's advertising material to say "up to" as OFCOM can't understand the technology at all "

        Isn't it more likely that it's because the line speed you're talking about doesn't equal throughput"

        No, the regulations relate to line speed not throughput. It's not Ofcom though it's the advertising regulator. The regulations aren't a great fit with FTTP technology...

      2. Shannyla

        Re: And the other way round

        Every time I speedtest my Gigaclear connection I get exactly what I'm paying for, 200Mbps down and up to 1Gbps up. Backhaul is 10Gbps to the node they are using, after that then well, who knows?

        We can discuss how accurate speedtest is, but in the absence of any other metrics it'll have to do. It was certainly accurate at telling me that my adsl connection ran at the giddy speed of 0.75Mbps. Calling BT to tell them where to stick their mouldy old copper was certainly one of the more pleasing interactions I have had with a business this year.

    2. theOtherJT

      Re: And the other way round

      That's been making it's way around the Oxfordshire villages for some time now. I took the opportunity to test it a bit last time I was out that way, and for sure, I can netcat at a genuine 100mbit between 2 houses on the same street, but I sure as hell can't do it between there and my office - which does have a 1 gig link to the outside world, so should be able to handle it.

      The problem is all the paths between A and B murky up the situation somewhat.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cynic

    me, cause I think there's nothing better like good old free advertising. Ryanair know it, and I think "Which" know it too :(

  15. Cliff

    50% or more

    Much as advertised loan APR's have to be available to 50% or more of applicants, it sounds like this should also apply to broadband speeds.

  16. kensal

    who care's nothing gets done anyway..regulators are as useful as a bag of air...and slow as eternity...!!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is up to 80Mb down in my area via BT and FTTC....

    ... and I live virtually next door to the exchange, did I bother to upgrade of course not

    I imagine I would actually get at least 70Mb down for several months before crosstalk kills it but I would still be tied into a contract for over a year, ISPs have always gone out of their way to lie and this attacking their lies at the "up to" figure is the wrong way to go.

    Personally I negotated a real 7.5Mb down with all the BT premium calls and services for a fixed price per month which is less than that offered to new customers, my service whilst not "superfast" is consistant or I can leave with impunity. Basically if you buy any off the shelf broadband deal then you are going to be disappointed unless you only go online to pick up you email daily.

    More bandwidth would be nice but until the ISP are made to provide a guaranteed amount of bandwidth then they will continue with their state sponsered spin. FTTP would be nice but again no bandwidth guarranty, the UK tax payer has been paying for BT's infrastructure upgrades since before it was sold but since it went private their onus was never on providing us with a quality service. If they are going to gorge from the public teat then they should be made to put our requirements before their shareholders but hey whats the chance of that being sorted out whilst we attempt to get the "up to" rubbish removed

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is up to 80Mb down in my area via BT and FTTC....

      Basically if the ISP's get public funding then they can only charge for the service they actually provide and services that require a timely and consistant flow (like streaming) be a seperate charge to the general web and email services again with it's own guaranteed bandwidth across their network independant of source.

      I would make it so that any provider who wants a share of the cherrys must provide an acceptable services outside of the cities on both data types, this would change the game. Yes many providers would go to the wall but the big ones would be tied into increasing their infrastructure and service, if they leave the market then the infrastructure becomes public property. After all we paid for it and so far they haven't given value for money.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is up to 80Mb down in my area via BT and FTTC....

      " the UK tax payer has been paying for BT's infrastructure upgrades since before it was sold "

      That's not quite true. Post Office Telecoms was cash positive, it was a net contributor to the exchequer - in fact the growth of the network was constrained by too much of the revenue going into government coffers instead of being reinvested.

      The GPO subsidised the taxpayer - not the other way round. State ownership of the industry (and Cable and Wireless too) was used to keep tax bills down.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Trollface

        Re: There is up to 80Mb down in my area via BT and FTTC....

        So what went wrong, do tell

  18. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    While they're at it

    could they make the ISPs use the correct price for their BB deals such as

    "10meg BB for £3.95/mth for 6 months*"

    Then adding

    " * line rental £17.99, installation cost £30, price after 6months £9.99, min contract length 36 months"

    in very small print afterwards.

    Where in fact its £20.94 for the first 6 months, then £27.98/mth for the next 30 months and should be advertised as such

  19. smartermind

    Advertisers jargon such as "from" and "up to" should be outlawed.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a caring person

    It is quite simple, and Regulators can make this work "if they want to". They should only be allowed to publish "typical speeds" and "maximum speeds". Where "Typical Speed" would be what 90% of people get 90% of the time based on average customer distributions.

    All in favour vote YES and kindly sign this PETITION ONLINE.

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/124/747/753/demand-to-standardise-confusing-broadband-speed-advertisements-in-uk/

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