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Average broadband speeds rising, says Ofcom

The regulator's report into fixed-line broadband speeds across the UK shows the average speed on the increase, but users are still getting less than advertised
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

On Tuesday, Ofcom published the final version of its report into fixed broadband speeds, finding that the average download speed for a UK subscriber has increased since the preliminary results were released in January.

January's preliminary results showed an average speed of 3.6Mbps. That average is now 4.1Mbps, but the average 'up to' advertised speed is 7.1Mbps. According to the telecoms regulator, the majority of consumers are happy with the speeds they receive, but 26 percent of those surveyed complained they were not getting the speeds they had expected when they signed up to their ISP.

Ofcom's research was carried out between November 2008 and April of this year, and encompassed over 60 million performance tests in over 1,600 homes. The researchers found that those living in urban areas got faster speeds than those in the countryside — on average 4.6Mbps as opposed to 3.3Mbps. Overall, only nine percent of customers on a standard 'up to 8Mbps' package got speeds over 6Mbps, with 19 percent getting less than 2Mbps.

The ISP Association (ISPA) responded to Ofcom's report on Tuesday, saying it "supports the intention of Ofcom to give consumers detailed, robust information about broadband speed performance". However, ISPA pointed out that the survey did not cover small UK ISPs, and said the research "does not reflect the breadth of the industry".

"Whilst the research does serve to provide information for people wishing to choose a provider, ISPA urges any future research to ensure that a greater share of the market is covered to provide a more complete assessment for consumers," ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman said in a statement.

ISPA praised Ofcom for highlighting the factors that can affect a user's broadband speeds: typically, distance from the exchange, the condition of the phone line and the quality of wiring in the house.

Price-comparison site moneysupermarket.com said there were concerns consumers were being misled over speed when buying broadband packages. "Often they're lured into buying high-speed connections when the reality for millions is the infrastructure simply cannot achieve the speeds being promised," broadband manager James Parker said in a statement.

Parker also noted that "downloading and streaming through sites like iPlayer and Spotify mean that people are hungry for more bandwidth".

The Communications Consumer Panel, meanwhile, argued for ISPs to advertise their average speeds, rather than theoretical maximum speeds. "Effective implementation of the government's universal service commitment is vital; consumers will expect minimum speeds of 2Mbps," panel chair Anna Bradley said in a statement. "No amount of up-to speeds will do the trick."

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