9 Advertised Connection Speeds
133. It is common practice for internet service
providers (ISPs) to highlight "up to" speeds when advertising
broadband products. These speeds represent the maximum which the
ISPs are able to deliver. In practice, however, users rarely experience
134. Internet Service Providers have claimed
that the only reliable way in which they can measure broadband
speeds is at the point when it leaves the telephone exchange.
As we mentioned earlier in this Report, the speed that the consumer
receives is dependent on a number of factors, including how close
they are to that telephone exchange.
135. In response to consumer concerns and complaints
about the difference between advertised speeds and those experienced,
the ASA made a series of rulings. These required ISPs to make
clear in their advertisements those factors which affected the
advertised speed in order to "set more realistic consumer
expectations of the speeds they were likely to achieve".
Those rulings, which were voluntary, included:
- The broadband speed must be
preceded by the words 'up to', in order to make it clear that
a consumer can receive anything up to the advertised speed;
- the advert must contain a clear notice in the
main body copy (i.e. not in a footnote) that states that speeds
vary significantly subject to a number of factors, such as distance
from the exchange; and.
- the advert must also make clear where the service
is available i.e. geographical limitations that might mean a headline
speed is only available to those in, for instance, urban areas.
136. In December 2008, Ofcom introduced the Voluntary
Code of Practice for Broadband Speeds which required all signatory
ISPs to "commit to notifying the user of the maximum speed
their line is capable of supporting at the point of purchase."
In July 2009, Ofcom published its "UK Broadband Speeds"
Report which contained research conducted with 1600 consumers.
The statistical data compiled by Ofcom confirmed that there remained
a difference between advertised speeds and those experienced by
consumers. It highlighted the fact while the average advertised
"up to" speed was 7.1Mbps, the average connection speed
in was 4.1Mbps.
Furthermore, of the study sample used in the report, only 9% of
consumers on packages offering "up to" 8Mbps received
137. The Report provides a national insight into
the UK broadband network. However, it should be noted that a national
average does not accurately reflect the varieties of speeds in
different communities. In addition, Ofcom examined the performance
of individual ISPs, and this itself may not be accurate. BT is
often the sole provider to rural areas who will, by virtue of
technology, receive a slower speed. It is not clear that BT is
being fairly judged when one considers they are operating in an
area in which no other ISP will go.
138. During oral evidence Mr Holoway stated that:
The thing is that the home consumers do not know
it eitherif next door, over the fence, someone has got
it faster, how do they know? They do not know. [If a method of
measuring speed representative speeds could be found] then discussion
would rage amongst different people in different communities,
saying "I am getting this speed with this company."
139. A recent development in this area is the
emergence of websites which not only allow comparison of broadband
prices, but also allow consumers to rate their provider, test
their connection speed and mark it on a national map. The result
is that the consumer can view the connection speeds their neighbours
are receiving and which provider they are receiving it from. This
has several advantages as it provides the consumer with a sense
of the experience they will receive. However, the speeds listed
are not averages and will depend on what time of day their neighbours
tested their connection speed.
140. We welcome Ofcom's Report
on broadband speed. It provides an interesting insight into the
market as a whole. We recommend that Ofcom repeat this study on
an annual basis. We also welcome the increased level of information
of broadband speeds provided by comparison websites. This has
the potential to make a positive impact on the market in the same
way price comparison websites have for fuel bills. We recommend
the Government allow Ofcom the freedom to monitor the accuracy
of these websites to ensure the customer is well informed; and
for it to consider the value of a voluntary accreditation scheme.
163 Ev 49 Back
Ev 49 Back
UK Broadband speeds Report 2009, Ofcom, June 2009 Back
UK broadband speeds Report 2009, Ofcom, 28 July 2009 Back
UK broadband speeds 2009, Ofcom, 28 July 2009 Back
Q 102 [Mr Holloway] Back