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UK ISP Sky Broadband Returns to Displaying Typical Download Speeds

Friday, August 2nd, 2013 (12:34 pm) - Score 1,799

Sky Broadband (BSkyB) have officially returned to promoting “up to” broadband download speeds on their website after having previously removed them following the 1st April 2012 introduction of controversial new guidance from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The guidance was designed to make it more difficult for ISPs to advertise unachievable broadband speeds (here), especially on the slower and more variable 8Mbps ADSL or 20-24Mbps ADSL2+ connections that often delivered significantly lower performance than advertised; usually due to poor home wiring, network congestion, traffic management and many other factors.

In particular one of the rules required that providers should be able to demonstrate that their advertised speeds are achievable by at least 10% of users, which is better known as a “typical speed“. As a result some ISPs (e.g. Sky and O2) simply opted to play it safe and stopped promoting any public speeds (except for a required estimate as part of the order process).

But some consumers found this confusing and the lack of an advertised speed can actually make it harder to differentiate between packages, especially when rival ISPs had chosen to publish typical speeds. In addition many smaller providers continue to flout the rules by displaying the peak theoretical headline rate.

On 25th July 2013 Sky notified us that they intended to begin displaying up to speeds again (albeit “typical” and not “headline” speeds) and Recombu notes that this change has now gone live. As a result the standard Sky Broadband Unlimited package will now be advertised as “up to16Mbps, while Sky Fibre Unlimited is “up to38Mbps and Sky Fibre Unlimited Pro stands at “up to76Mbps.

It’s interesting to note that ISPs initially began by promoting their own unique “typical speeds” but over the past year many have adopted the same figure of up to 16Mbps for their ADSL2+ based packages (e.g. BT). The rule is not properly tested or checked and so we suspect that many providers are simply going off Ofcom’s general recommendations.

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14 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark says:

    This is still a mess. All that matters to the customer is the speed they actually see in use. The “linespeed” or “sync rate” is irrelavant. All cable customers on 120Mbps have a linespeed of 120Mbps but that doesn’t mean they’ll see that speed.

    Under the current system people living near one of Three’s “Ultrafast” cells could be sold “superfast fibre broadband” – why not? It’s fibre to the cell, and it’s capable of superfast speeds of 25Meg or better if you live right next to it, some of the time. Our 3G modem has a “sync rate” of 42Mbps, allegedly. Yet it tops out at 19.6Mbps.

    Time to get a grip on this. Oddly enough Three and EE do seem to have the most honest advertising in that they only advertise the speeds you “might see in the real world” with caveats.

    Advertising should state the technology (VDSL, cable, 4G etc) and the word “fibre” reserved for FTTP *only*. It should state the maximum possible speed with the technology (e.g. for ADSL1 it’s 6.7Meg if I remember rightly – nobody ever did see 8Meg of their “up to 8Meg”) with a caveat of equal prominence that you are unlikely to see this maximum speed.

    Then the customer is given a speed estimate (real world, not headline speed) at the point of sale. If the product does not hit that speed 90% of the time the customer may leave without penalty at any time and if they cancel within 3 months they get a 100% refund of all money paid.

  2. Avatar JNeuhoff says:

    Agreed, real world speeds only should be prominently highlighted. VDSL often does not accomplish the so-called ‘superfast’ speed of e.g. 24mbps or 30mbps because of possible long or poor-quality copper wires. And only genuine FTTP should be called a fibre-line. Sky, as well as many other ISPs, only use BTs local loop copper wires anyway, in most areas there is no alternative access networks.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      How often?

      10% can’t achieve 24Mbps? 20%? If you are going to make a claim lets have some actual figures to back it up otherwise its just “mate from the pub told me” 🙂

    2. Avatar JNeuhoff says:

      Around 25% of VDSL lines are longer than 700m, with their speed less than 32mbps. Only about 12% of VDSL lines get speed of 80mbps. Hence the need to advertiser realworld speeds.

    3. Avatar FibreFred says:

      And where are those figures from?

      Surely they’ll advertise average speeds like other ISP’s?

    4. Avatar DanielM says:

      I had a similiar debate with Bob from plusnet a few days ago. His reply was simply

      “Semantically true Daniel, however for the purpose of marketing pretty much every provider refers to FTTC/VDSL as ‘fibre’. Personally I don’t think it matters too much as long as providers are clear about the speeds you’ll be able to receive prior to you committing to anything.”

      I then proceeded to question (in private) about calling standard adsl fibre (since the backhaul is mostly fibre)

    5. Avatar JNeuhoff says:

      @DanielM: We all got fibre in the UK: FTTE (Fibre-to-the-exchange) 🙂

      Don’t tell FibreFred 🙂

  3. Avatar dragoneast says:

    Just so a few people can claim a bit of money off the rest of us, hey? The UK’s victim and compensation culture really has taken off as our biggest, perhaps only, growth business.

    I just wonder how the rest of the world manages with the same technology. And please don’t give me the fairy tale that they don’t. What they lack is the complaining gene that is unique to those living in these islands.

  4. Avatar telecom engineer says:

    Those vdsl claims look way off. Ofcom stated the vast majority were achieving over 30meg back when it was 40meg 8mhz setup. Also to say only 12%are in range of 80meg is daft. cabs tend to be next to houses they serve and didnt bt say most dside are only 400M….
    Also bt provide conservative estimations on order and so i suspect sky do similar. Its no great con by BT, Sky or anyone else. They have to state a number and even moreso with self install non network wiring and eu equipent can play a very negative role in performance, its hardly the isps fault if i have four alarm cable extensions teed into the line or my 10year old laptop maxes out at 10meg on wifi….

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Which is why I asked for a source for the figures

    2. Avatar Mark says:

      BT’s infinity advert is a lie then if the average rate is around 30Mb. They claim it is 8x faster. So unless the average for ADSL is around 4Mb which it has not been for years (also confirmed from the same Ofcom report) their advertising is complete hogwash.

    3. Avatar DTMark says:

      About 75% of people live within 700m of their cabinet.

      That is not however the length of the D-side. They may not be connected to the nearest cabinet or a cabinet at all.

      Making a fairly arbitary but I think fair adjustment for dismal line quality in some cases – aluminium in particular – and VDSL could probably supply “superfast broadband” to somewhere around 65% of homes if every single cabinet in the country were “enabled”.

      Like ADSL it’s a bit of a lottery because line length is but one factor.

  5. Avatar Bob says:

    How can 10% of users being able to get the speed be typical? It cannot be typical. To be typical it would have to be nearer 50%

  6. Avatar ant says:

    BT speed is very poor, virgin is much better if you can get it

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