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Average broadband speeds: ISPs must 'fess up or consumers can walk

Broadband companies come clean on how headline speeds compare to the real-world
Written by William Shenton, Contributor

Broadband companies come clean on how headline speeds compare to the real-world

Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, has revised its code of practice on what broadband speeds ISPs can tell their users to expect, after research found a growing gap between the advertised headline speeds and their real-world equivalents.

The guidelines outline steps the ISPs should take to give customers a better indication of what broadband speeds they're likely to achieve.

For DSL broadband ISPs will be required to make customers aware of the range of broadband speeds, both at the point of sale and afterwards, that they are likely to encounter. They will also need to ensure the broadband speed remains above a minimum threshold - 10 per cent higher than the floor of the range of average speed - otherwise customers will be able to terminate their contract immediately.

For cable broadband, ISPs will need to ensure that peak time speeds remain above 90 per cent of the headline speed of the service, or provide information on likely throughput speed during peak times.

All the main ISPs have signed up to the revised guidelines, which are due to come into force over the next 12 months.

The guidelines will apply to new customers within the first three months of their contract but not to existing customers, however.

The revised code of practice follows research commissioned by Ofcom which found "a growing gap between the actual speeds delivered and the speeds that some ISPs use to advertise their services".

DSL broadband offering headline speeds of up to 8-10Mbps translated to a real-world average speed of 3.3Mbps, while packages advertised as up to 20-24Mbps typically delivered 6.5Mbps.

Cable broadband fared better, with packages advertising headline speeds of up to 10Mbps delivering 8.7Mbps, while services with 20Mbps headline speeds provided actual speeds of 15.7Mbps.

However, the UK's average real-world broadband speed has increased by more than 25 per cent over the last year, from 4.1Mbps to 5.2Mbps as ISPs increasingly offer higher speed packages.

Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said in a statement: "Ofcom's research shows that average speeds have increased which is good news, but there is scope for a further step change in the quality of the UK communications infrastructure."

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