UK Consumers Highlight Unreliable Broadband ISP Speed Estimates

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By Mark Jackson, ISPreview UK | August 4th, 2014

The latest survey of 1,377 visitors has reported that 67.5% of respondents do not receive the broadband speed that their ISP first estimated, with most experiencing significantly slower performance than originally anticipated and the rest (27.3%) getting either exactly what they were promised or a faster service.

At present the majority of broadband ISPs in the UK are required by the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, to ensure that consumers are provided with “information on their estimated access line speed, regardless of whether this is conducted over the phone, in a retail shop or through the ISP’s website” (the 2010 speed code). ISPs usually reflect this as a range (e.g. between 10 – 15Mbps), which must be equivalent to the access line speeds achieved by the 20th to 80th percentiles of the ISP’s similar customers (i.e. customers with similar line characteristics).

Internet providers are also expected to explain that the range of access line speeds provided is only an estimate and that if the consumer receives an access line speed which is significantly below this range then they should contact their ISP (a failure to resolve the issue means you can exit the contract penalty free, albeit only within the first 3 months).

Roughly, do you receive the home broadband speed that your ISP first estimated for your line?
No – 67.5%
Yes – 32.4%

After doing a few Speedtests, how close is your actual speed to the ISPs estimate (pick closest)?
7-10Mbps Slower – 25%
4-6Mbps Slower – 21%
1-3Mbps Slower – 20%
Almost spot on – 15.9%
I get more than estimated! – 11.4%
10Mbps+ Slower – 6.5%

Do you know how to check if superfast broadband is available to your home?
Yes – 94.7%
No – 5.2%

In fairness it’s important to stress that broadband speeds can fluctuate by several Megabits and the degree to which this occurs depends on a variety of factors, such as what technology is being used and how congested the network is (e.g. low daytime or peak afternoon). For example, older and slower copper based ADSL / ADSL2+ lines are known to be much more variable but they might only vary by a few Mbps.

By comparison even 1000Mbps capable fibre optic (FTTH) lines can vary, albeit usually not due to the line quality itself, and being significantly faster means those variances might prove to be more mathematically obvious but less of a practical problems. In other words, if you can get 980Mbps to your home then a blip to 920Mbps isn’t really something to worry about (yet) and is perhaps more likely to be the fault of the speedtest than your line.

Never the less the vast majority consumers can’t get FTTH/P and remain stuck on much slower and more variable services, which means that a big drop in speed can often be more likely and very noticeable. Ideally we’d like to see consumers being given more protection against extreme losses of broadband performance, especially those that occur outside of the initial three months of a new contract, in order to better protect people stuck on longer contract terms.

Meanwhile this month’s new survey asks whether you subscribe to a paid TV service and how much of a difference it might make if your ISP offered or does already deliver such a product? Vote Here.