Advertised broadband speeds are utter cobblers

UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom has said that British broadband consumers typically get less than half the broadband speed advertised by Internet service providers.

According to research conducted by the regulator, the average UK broadband user with what is billed as a 'super-fast' Internet connection of 13.8 Mbps, is likely to be enjoying speeds of less than half that - typically around 6.2 Mbps.

Ofcom suggests that speeds quoted in broadband advertising should be based on a 'Typical Speeds Range' (TSR), so consumers have a clearer idea of what speeds to expect.

The regulator also recommends "that the TSR must have at least equal prominence to any maximum ‘up to’ speed, and that a maximum speed must be used only if it is actually achievable in practice by a material number of consumers."

Ed Richards, Ofcom's chief executive, said in a statement: “The research shows that ISPs need to do more to ensure they are giving customers clear and accurate information about the services they provide and the factors that may affect the actual speeds customers will receive.”

Ofcom's report is based on performance tests carried out on 1,700 homes with access to super-fast broadband across the UK. The regulator considered 11 broadband packages offered by seven of the largest ISPs in the UK, including TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

On the up-side, the research showed that fibre-to-the-cabinet services delivered faster average speeds, much closer to advertised speeds than was the case for current-generation broadband technologies.

Sebastien Lahtinen, co-founder of thinkbroadband.com said the research "shows the need for consumers not to rely solely on advertised speeds in making decisions about which broadband provider to use."

He adds: "Whilst we welcome Ofcom's proposal that broadband providers should give users more information on typical speeds, they do not as yet address how consumers should be made aware of traffic management practices, and Ofcom's current position appears to suggest broadband providers can, for example, restrict certain types of applications whilst labelling their product as 'unlimited' and quoting fast typical speeds, even though this may not apply to applications users are seeking to use."

The Advertising Standards Authority is currently in consultation with the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice to establish advertising rules for ISPs.