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Ofcom: Broadband is getting faster in the UK

Broadband is getting faster, but the regulator has pointed out an increasing gap between advertised speeds and those actually received by customers
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

While average broadband speed in the UK has risen by 10 percent in the past six months, there is an increasing gap between what customers get and what providers promise, Ofcom has said.

On Wednesday, the telecoms regulator said the average broadband speed is now 6.8Mbps, up from 6.2Mbps at the end of 2010. By comparison, the average advertised speed is 15Mbps. There is a discrepancy of 8.2Mbps between the two, which compares with a gap of 7.6Mbps recorded six months ago.

"The UK broadband market has transformed since Ofcom first published its [UK fixed-line broadband performance report] two-and-a-half years ago," Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards said in a statement. "We are now seeing consumers increasingly move to higher-rated services and enjoying genuinely faster speeds."

In its report Ofcom noted that super-fast broadband, based on fibre or cable, is now available to most UK homes. However, more than 75 percent of homes are supplied via copper-based ADSL broadband.

Super-fast services tend to exhibit "much smaller differences, or no difference, between headline speed claims and actual speeds", Ofcom said.

The regulator looked into the performance of broadband delivered by individual ISPs. Virgin Media's cable service advertised speeds up to 30Mbps and provided an average of 31Mbps, while its 50Mbps service delivered 48Mbps. BT's Infinity fibre service promised 40Mbps and produced an average of 34Mbps in the real world.

We are now seeing consumers increasingly move to higher-rated services and enjoying genuinely faster speeds.
– Ed Richards, Ofcom

For ADSL providers, services that advertised 20Mbps and 24Mbps broadband resulted in downloads of only 6.6Mbps on average, according to Ofcom. In addition, 37 percent of customers with ADSL connections were getting 4Mbps or less.

Those figures are for download speed, the metric used by ISPs in their broadband service advertising. As for uploads, Ofcom noted BT's Infinity delivered the best speeds, "which at nearly 9Mbps were more than twice as fast as any other service tested".

Richards urged the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice to "make changes to their advertising guidance so that consumers are able to make more informed decisions based on the adverts they see".

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