Ofcom says broadband speed 'reality gap' increasing

Regulator concerned with worsening 'up to' speed claims
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British communications regulator Ofcom has said that broadband speeds have increased by 10 per cent over the previous six months but the gap between advertised and actual speeds has widened.

"The average UK broadband speed increased by 10 per cent, from 6.2Mbit/s in November/December 2010, to 6.8Mbit/s in May 2011," Ofcom said in a release. The watchdog also revealed that nearly half, 47 per cent, of UK broadband users were signed to packages advertised with speeds above 10Mbit/s.

Ofcom said the average advertised speed in May was 15Mbit/s which the regulator pointed out was 8.2Mbit/s higher than the average actual speeds of 6.8Mbit/s which customers had obtained. The gap is up from November last year when the difference was 7.6Mbit/s.

Interestingly Ofcom said that so-called superfast broadband was available to 'most' UK homes but over 75 per cent of residential connections are based on copper ADSL. The regulator pointed out that the superfast connections generally delivered the promised speeds as opposed to the infamously variable 'up to' speeds of ADSL.

Given 'most' consumers have a choice between the technologies one could argue that consumers are choosing to go for the service which Ofcom paints as increasingly dishonest about the connection speeds. Whether this is through ignorance or simply not caring, the regulator didn't say.

Ofcom published a table of average speeds on a range of the UK's largest ISPs, highlighting the difference between 'up to' speeds packages are sold as compared to the average download throughput.

"Although fewer ISPs now advertise their services by headline speed, Ofcom continues to be concerned that theoretical ‘up to’ speeds have the potential to mislead consumers," Ofcom said.

Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: "By publishing this research, Ofcom has encouraged ISPs to invest in faster broadband networks; we are now seeing consumers increasingly move to higher rated services and enjoying genuinely faster speeds."

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