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UPDATE EU Study of Real Broadband ISP Speeds Shows Mixed UK Results

Monday, Jun 24th, 2013 (10:00 am) - Score 1,916

Europe has published its first study into the actual broadband internet speeds experienced by 9,104 homes across the continent (30 countries and over 250 ISPs), which reveals that the average peak time download rate for DSL (ADSL) services is just 7.19Mbps (Megabits), rising to 33.08Mbps for Cable and 41.02Mbps for fibre optic (FTTC/H).

The data, which covers the period of March 2012, was gathered using specially modified routers (Whitebox) that had been installed by SamKnows to monitor home broadband connections for a three year period. If this sounds familiar then that’s because it’s the same method that Ofcom uses in the United Kingdom (HERE).

This study is designed to help the EU to monitor its progress towards the key Digital Agenda goals of making superfast broadband (30Mbps+) speeds available to 100% of EU households by 2020 (with 50% able to get 100Mbps+). Unless otherwise stated, figures in this report refer to performance at peak times (defined as 7pm to 11pm – the busiest local time).

Neelie Kroes, EC Vice President, said:

This is the first time the difference between advertised and actual broadband speeds is confirmed by comparable and reliable data from all EU Member States.

Consumers need more of this sort of data to help make informed choices, so we will repeat the exercise. And we take these first results as further proof of the need for a real connected single market.”

Sadly the report does not present a full breakdown by country but there’s still plenty of interesting information, including some country-specific snippets. It reveals that the average download speed across all countries was 19.47Mbps during peak hours (rising to 20.12Mbps when all hours were considered), which is said to represent 74% of the advertised (headline) speed. The average upload speed was 6.20Mbps (88% of advertised upload speeds).

But where it gets interesting is when we see how the real vs advertised speeds differ between technology choice and country. For example, Cable and FTTx (fibre optic) services delivered 91% and 84% of their advertised download speeds respectively but DSL only achieved 63%. Thankfully this rises to over 80% for upload speeds (all technologies), which are usually slower than the downstream rate but a lot more stable (cable services scored 100%).

europe vs usa broadband speeds

The DSL (ADSL/ADSL2+) performance is of course no surprise as that technology relies on older copper cables from the telephone exchange, which get slower over distance and are often more prone to environmental problems or poor home wiring. Similarly the trend across Europe shows that nearly all country’s deliver fairly stable advertised vs real speeds for Cable and FTTx services (averages as stated above) but the UK and France show big differences for DSL specifically.

eu_average_vs_real_broadband_speeds_march_2012

Sadly the report doesn’t give us a clear summary of real DSL speeds and thus it’s important not to read the above chart as the UK being slower for related services. In fact the study makes clear that most of the differences for the UK and France are down to how ISPs advertise much higher headline speeds (e.g. “up to 20Mbps“) than their competitors.

Crucially the data in this report is only relevant for March 2012, yet the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) introduced new rules on 1st April 2012 (here) that effectively forced ISPs to either not advertise a headline speed (very confusing) or to only show their “typical” speeds (i.e. the best speed achieved by 10% of the providers customers). In other words the next study could show something very different, assuming they can find any advertised speeds for the comparison.

The study also looked at other areas like Packet Loss and Latency, which are also important considerations for online gamers and real-time voice or video conferencing. Average latency proved to be highest for xDSL users at 38.46ms (milliseconds), which fell to 23.32ms on Cable and 21.58ms for FTTx. By comparison the UK scored 31.68ms for xDSL, 21.67ms for Cable and 17.60ms for FTTx (overall pretty good – lower is always better).

Overall the UK appears to hold its own and often comes about middle of the table, although it’s very hard to judge without a clear breakdown of average speeds by country (we hope the next update will include this). The next report itself is said to be “due in the autumn of 2013” and we will of course be covering that.

UPDATE 26th June 2013

The official media release for this data is now out and we’ve added a comment from the EC’s Vice President above. But otherwise it’s exactly as we first reported above.

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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