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UK broadband speeds up 250%, but do we always get what's advertised?

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has claimed British homes are enjoying faster broadband speeds than ever before, with a 250 per cent speed increase from four years ago.

The organisation examined Internet usage in the UK in May 2012, and found the average household broadband speed had increased to 9Mbps, comparing to the 3.6Mbps charted back in November 2008 when Ofcom first began its speeds research.

The rise has been attributed to new ‘superfast’ packages offered by major service providers like BT and Virgin Media. BT’s Infinity 2 package claims to bring speeds “up to” 76Mbps, while VM touts “up to” 60Mbps for its family-focussed broadband service.

As the UK’s online ecosystem matures, Ofcom was also keen to emphasise the impact of Internet service providers' own network upgrades, which usually come “at little or no additional cost to consumers,” according to the watchdog.

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said, “Our research shows that the move to faster broadband services is gathering momentum. Consumers are benefitting from network upgrades and the launch of new superfast packages, giving them faster speeds and greater choice.”

But despite the overall speed increase, UK customers are not always getting the speeds that are advertised by their providers, hence the convenient use of “up to” when BT, VM and co describe their speeds on offer. Ofcom found Virgin’s “ultimate experience” broadband package clocked in an average of 88.3Mbps despite selling itself as an up to 100Mpbs service. That's technically not a lie, but perhaps a slightly cheeky misrepresentation.

Indeed, reports back in May said UK customers were being sold broadband speeds typically 42 per cent slower than advertised. Addressing the issue, Richards added, “We are continuing to work with the advertising code-writing bodies and ISPs to ensure that speeds advertised reflect actual speeds experienced, to allow consumers the ability to make informed decisions when shopping around to find the most suitable package.”