Ofcom to get heavy on broadband speeds

The Ofcom report on broadband speed makes for interesting reading. It's been long suspected that broadband speeds are not those that are advertised but the new survey sets out the full details.

It's not a way that other industries would operate. I'm a member of beer pressure group CAMRA and the amount of correspondence on the subject of pint glasses not being filled to the brim is astonishing. There are many members who seem to take it as a personal affront that their beer glasses are only 99.9 percent full, it's impossible to imagine the rumpus that there'd be if thirsty punters were offered half-filled glasses.

Yet, that's the situation that broadband users are presented with and it's a situation that is increasingly dissatisfying Ofcom. It's absolutely true that broadband is not a standard item and one can't order 10meg of broadband in the same way that one can order a pint of bitter but some of the speeds that are being delivered are a long way short of what could be expected.

Like many people, I regularly take speed tests to find out what's going on. I took one this morning and found myself operating at about 56 percent of advertised speed - pretty close to the national average. I had a look at what other users in my neighborhood were recording from the same provider and found some big discrepancies. There are only three broadband providers tested in my area (BT doesn't serve much of the estate where I live) and while my experience of Virgin is not too far from other peoples - although I bet the person who gets just 40 percent of advertised speed early morning is not happy - the performance of Talk Talk, which seems to offer about 3 to 6 percent of average speed is a shocker.

There are famously, lies, damned lies and statistics and without knowing all the facts about those tests one can't comment about how bad or how good a performance is (although a service that offers 3 percent of advertised speed is poor, whatever the mitigating circumstances) but there is a clear problem with speeds advertised, which is why Ofcom is looking for more advertising on average speeds rather than maximum speeds. It certainly would help users to know that they could expect to get something between 4Mpbs and 7Mbps instead of the advertised 10Mbps. It would certainly help matters too if companies like Virgin would stop crowing about 100Mbps and 200Mbps when we all know that means something like 50Mbps and 100Mbps, if we're lucky.

At a time when businesses are moving to an always-connected world and at a time when there are more people working from home than ever before, it is important to know what speeds users' PCs are running on. If the way of working is going to change, we should know what we're dealing with.

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This story, "Ofcom to get heavy on broadband speeds" was originally published by Techworld.com.


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