Ofcom research into broadband services across the UK has revealed that average speeds in the country sit at 6.2 Mbits per second – up by 1 Mbit per second from the same time last year but below the national advertised speed of 13.8 Mbits per second.
The research which was carried out as part of Ofcom’s response to the current Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) and Broadcast Committee for Advertising Practice (BCAP) call for consultation on broadband speeds advertising.
Ofcom looked at 11 packages offered by the seven largest internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK, undertaking over 18 million service performance tests in over 1,700 homes during November and December 2010.
The watchdog said fibre optic and cable broadband services were much closer to advertised speeds than current generation broadband technologies.
Virgin Media’s cable service which is available to 48 per cent of the UK was singled out for providing between 90 and 96 per cent of its advertised speeds. The research found the average speed for Virgin’s advertised 50 Mbits per second service sat at 46 Mbits per second.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said the findings were encouraging in the fact they revealed increasing broadband speeds but highlighted the need for providers to provide more accurate descriptions when advertising.
Richards said: “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. It is important that the rules around broadband advertising change so that consumers are able to make more informed decisions based on the adverts they see, and that advertisers are able to communicate more clearly how their products compare to others in the market.”
Virgin Media executive director of broadband Jon James said the research showed the majority of consumers are being treated like “mugs” by ISPs.
James said: “The ASA has already highlighted the critical need for change and today’s report provides another clear mandate to stop advertising ‘up to’ speeds that nobody can actually receive. In a nascent market for next generation broadband, the sub-standard fibre optic services being sold are undermining people’s faith in fast broadband.
O2 also said it welcomed the findings and pointed out that it had been highlighted by Ofcom for providing the best average download speeds in the UK.
O2 Home and Broadband managing director Felix Geyr said: “We will continue to invest to maintain a great, and crucially nationwide, broadband experience for our O2 and BE customers (both consumer and wholesale). However, our approach is based on needs, not speeds. We share Ofcom’s concerns about misleading customers over broadband speeds, which is why in September last year we launched new broadband packages.
“These give customers ‘speeds as fast as their line can handle’ and we called on other broadband providers to remove ambiguity around ‘unlimited’ and ‘up to’ in advertising materials. As a result of this focus, Ofcom’s research shows that the quality of our service is comparable to fibre providers – specifically in the time it takes for a webpage to load and in the quality of service for applications such as gaming (latency).”
Despite the findings and Ofcom’s recommendation for advertising to become more truthful there are still calls for the operator to do more to make consumers more aware about other aspects that could affect their broadband service.