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Europe's broadband 25 percent slower than ISPs promise

Broadband speeds on the continent are only about three-quarters of the headline advertised speeds, the EC has found.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

It's been long known that advertised broadband speeds rarely match up to the reality, but it turns out the disparity across Europe is in the region of 25 percent.

Consumers across the continent get on average three-quarters of the "up to" headline broadband speed advertised by their ISP, according to figures released on Wednesday by the European Commission. The EC survey involved more than 9,000 users in the 27 EU member states, as well as Croatia, Iceland and Norway, in March last year.

It found that cable broadband offers the real-world download speeds that are closest to the advertised speeds, at 91.4 percent, while fibre users are likely to get speeds that are 84.4 percent of ISPs' headline speeds. xDSL subscribers however fare the worst, getting speeds around 63.3 percent of their provider's maximum.

"In the case of xDSL we see a much wider spread [of average speeds between countries], with the UK and France only achieving just over 40 percent of advertised — far below the average of 60 percent. Other large, developed countries such as Germany do not suffer in the same way. This suggests significant differences in the markets; most likely from the advertising practices used," the EC said (PDF).

"In the UK and France, for example, xDSL products are predominantly advertised with a single headline speed (eg 20Mbps). Customers whose copper phone lines mean that they can only receive a fraction of that speed will still be sold that product. Other countries will offer a wider spectrum of products and may adopt policies that they will not sell customers products that they cannot possibly achieve full speed on."

While cable may be the most reliable type of broadband, fibre is unsurprisingly the fastest: the survey found the average fibre speed was 41Mbps compared to 33.1Mbps for cable and 7.2Mbps for xDSL.

The EU average speed for all types of fixed broadband was 19.5Mbps, the EC said.

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