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ViaSat Study – UK People Confused by Government’s Broadband Strategy

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016 (12:33 pm) - Score 830
criticism uk consumer broadband isp complaints

A new TNS survey of 2,012 British “adults” aged 16-64, which was commissioned by Satellite provider ViaSat, has revealed that 72% don’t believe the Government is doing enough to meet future broadband needs, while many others are confused about the reality of current service coverage and speeds.

At present fixed line superfast broadband (24Mbps+) capable networks are available to 91% of premises across the United Kingdom and this should reach around 98% by 2019, which is being achieved through a mix of both commercial (private) and public investment.

Over the past few years’ the amount of public funding that has been committed towards related improvements has reached £1.6bn and the Government has today announced another major investment programme (here), which could push an additional £1bn+ towards helping with the roll-out of future Gigabit capable FTTP/H based “ultrafast broadband” connectivity.

However the respondents to ViaSat’s survey revealed that many people remain dissatisfied with the Government’s effort and quite a few appeared to be confused about what has actually been achieved.

Study Highlights

* Fewer than half (48%) of respondents believe that they can access superfast broadband in their area, which is despite UK coverage reaching 91% of premises (as above).

* 77% believe broadband expansion is disproportionately focused on London and the South-East, while 66% say London has the fastest broadband in Great Britain. In reality London has plenty of patchy problems with slow broadband and is certainly not the fastest city or part of the UK by a long shot.

* 79% would accept disruption to their home in order to get faster broadband, which is good news for the many operators that will need to conduct disruptive civil works during their network roll-out.

Consumers also expect that their data needs (consumption) will increase by 2.4 times over the next two years, which is quite close to the reality. On top of they expect that modern broadband speeds should be, on average, at least 60Mbps and this is about “2.5 times faster” than the Government’s current 24Mbps+ commitment (note: some contracts use 30Mbps+). Mind you the 24Mbps+ target is not an average, but rather a minimum.

Neil Fraser, ViaSat UK’s Head of Space and Comms, said:

“Despite the Government’s best efforts to roll-out superfast broadband across the UK, it still has an uphill perception battle to fight. The work of the Government and other organisations is not being recognised by the consumer.

According to the survey, British consumers see themselves as a nation that is disconnected, which is in stark contrast to the Government’s own statistics showing the vast majority have access to superfast services today.

This failure to deliver in the eyes of the British public comes at a time when British broadband has been under scrutiny; Ofcom just completed its review of Openreach, and 100,000 UK citizens voiced their opinions on the nation’s broadband initiatives via the ‘Fix Britain’s Internet’ campaign.

This is all the reason for the UK Government to show not only if and how they are reaching 90% of the population today, but even more importantly how they plan to reach 100% of the nation in the future.”

Naturally ViaSat doesn’t miss the opportunity to play up their vested interest by suggesting that Satellite broadband solutions are now “increasingly capable of offering the speed and coverage that the UK needs, both now and in the future. This means that the UK Government can meet the demands of the population head-on, and demonstrate that it is dedicated to bringing a truly democratic internet.”

However Satellite is far from an ideal solution, with speeds often suffering from heavy throttling at peak times and data allowances tending to be both meagre and very expensive to top-up. Likewise the high latency times afforded by such services can break fast-paced online gaming, as well as cause other sync problems for latency sensitive apps.

Lest we forget that the average speed of 60Mbps touted by respondents above is not yet viable via domestic Satellite broadband (20-30Mbps tends to be the current level).

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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27 Responses
  1. Avatar Chris

    Appears to be an odd study to be funded by a satellite broadband provider? They can’t meet the expectations of the public so surely this shows the weakness of satellite….home goal?

  2. Avatar David

    Are you not also contributing to the general confusion by repeating the canard that “………..at present fixed line superfast broadband (24Mbps+) capable networks are available to 91% of premises across the United Kingdom”?
    24Mbps networks are NOT “available” to 91% of premises across the UK. 91% of premises might well be within the catchment areas of fibre-enabled street cabs. But that doesn’t mean they can all enjoy 24Mbps, which is what your wording implies and what the spin doctors would have us believe. I know – I’m a small part of that 91% figure. But I get 4Mbps on a (really) good day.

    • Of course figures like 91% are an estimated and there will be imperfections / a margin for error, not least due to issues like poor home wiring or confusion with a slow home WiFi networks etc. Of course you also have to order one of the NGA connections to benefit, it doesn’t happen automatically.

      But the figures come from the Government and are supported by independent sources like Thinkbroadband, they’re ultimately the best gauge we have to go off.

      As usual if you find something that doesn’t match up then you should identify it to one of those sources (e.g. Thinkbroadband) and ultimately we’ll end up with an even more reliable result.

    • Avatar DTMark

      I believe the methodology used to produce the Think Broadband estimates has yet to be published, so its accuracy is open to question.

    • Avatar Diggory

      I don’t think that the number of properties in the ‘catchment area’ as you put it are included in the 91% figure. e.g. BDUK doesn’t reveal how many properties have been connected to an FTTC cabinet in their stats – they only include the number of properties which can actually get 24+mb of that superset.

      e.g. Where I live is being connected to a BDUK cab as part of the Oxfordshire BDUK phase 2. Hopefully the cab will go live in the next few months. Alas with the distance I am from the cabinet (about 2km) I won’t get >24mbps. I expect to get about 20. That’s 10x better than what I had before – but it’s not Superfast, and I won’t be included in the stats. I expect to be in the last 5% or even less.

      What I don’t understand is how they plan to get significantly higher than 95%. There are too many edge cases like me, who aren’t on a craggy mountain in Wales or Scotland, but are just a long way from the nearest FTTC cab. I don’t foresee Oxfordshire funding a cab even closer, that would be madness (it would hardly serve any premises and cannibalise the customers from the cab that’s about to go live now.) I also don’t see them funding FTTP to people like me – but then I’d like to be wrong about that.

    • Avatar DTMark

      20Mbps seems a little optimistic @ 2km..

      http://www.thinkbroadband.com/guide/fibre-broadband.html

      The table stops at 1500m as after that it becomes a bit of a lottery as to whether it will work at all. I seem to remember someone @2km getting about 8Mbps once. If the copper is in good condition and higher than average gauge, it might be pleasantly surprising.

      There is currently no “plan” to do more than this. The government seems to be hoping that alternate providers will build a large group of tiny little networks where VDSL does not reach, or providing vouchers for satellite installations.

      How accurately the statistics, whether the governments, or Think Broadband’s, reflect these nationwide “little pockets of nothing” is somewhat open to question, as is how many there actually are.

    • Avatar Diggory

      @DTMark – Sorry, I had a brain malfunction. The distance is 1.4km not 2.0 (Not sure why I put that.)

      I got my speed estimate from here:
      http://www.increasebroadbandspeed.co.uk/2013/chart-bt-fttc-vdsl2-speed-against-distance

    • Actually 95% of UK premises are within catchment area for something NGA based, i.e. VDSL2 at speed from zero upwards or cable or FTTH.

      The drop to 92.02% is due to the speed drop off over distance from VDSL2.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @DTMark

      I read the various forums on TBB quite a lot. There are some cases which come up where people get much less speed than the distance to the cabinet would indicate is possible, and a some where the actual throughput is less than the estimate. However, once issues like fixing domestic wiring and tests are performed properly (that is avoiding using WiFi, homeplugs and so on) then the number of cases where sync speed is considerably lower than what might be expected is relatively few. There are some were there is clearly something wrong – to much noise, dodgy line-card and so on, but there is very little evidence of a massive difference between the statistical projects, OR estimates and what can actually be achieved.

      I’m absolutely sure there are lots of non-optimal domestic set-ups which probably go unnoticed because most people have more important things to do than go running throughput tests. As long as their service works, then that’s what they’ll care about.

      In general, I don’t think there’s much reason to doubt the overall projects than TBB comes up with which are on the conservative end of what OR project.

    • Avatar DTMark

      “The drop to 92.02% is due to the speed drop off over distance from VDSL2.”

      My question pertains to how this is that calculated; what’s the methodology? Does TBB have a database of line lengths and qualities for the whole of the UK that even BT does not have?

    • Methodology, confidential as when we’ve shared stuff in the past we’ve found it copied with no attribution and passed off as solely their own work. Have reviewed model recently against speed tests, and we are at the lower end as expected and planned for, i.e. much better to predict a worst case speed as per the recent ASA push rather than the top end speed.

      We have a model that has taken 4+ years to get to where it is and its constantly changing as Openreach re-engineers for EO work etc and new operators appear in new areas.

    • Avatar DTMark

      Is TBB really saying that “92% can get right now” is the worst-case scenario and understates potential availability?

      Publishing a methodology is not the same as publishing data.

      Perhaps the above statistic might be more believable if people understood how the number is arrived at, and it would prevent cynical people from concluding that TBB is somewhat favourable to BT.

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      “Is TBB really saying that “92% can get right now” is the worst-case scenario and understates potential availability?”

      Its a bit of a worry if NGA is anything less than 100% based on his earlier post and…
      “Actually 95% of UK premises are within catchment area for something NGA based, i.e. VDSL2 at speed from zero upwards…”

      I think or hope we can all get 0Mbps, cant we?

    • To be frank nothing I say or do will change some peoples presumption that we are favourable to BT in the presentation of the figures. People are allowed their opinion and I am free to say to there is no favouritism and many hours are involved in making sure the data is as good as I can make it.

      Postcode level search is available, so you can see what we say, and there is a VDSL2 map on the https://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local site too

      On the other poster everyone can get 0 Mbps, yes true, but not everyone is connected to a cabinet offering VDSL2, so the 95% figure counts that.

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      95% connected to a cabinet does not equal 95% getting 24+Mb does it. I think you had it right the first time at least the “VDSL2 at speed from zero upwards” part.

    • Avatar DTMark

      “To be frank nothing I say or do will change some peoples presumption that we are favourable to BT in the presentation of the figures.”

      Publishing the methodology would do exactly that. The reluctance to do so reinforces the suspicion that you allude to.

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      91% capable of VDSL and 24+Mb from it is obviously a load of bunkum. For that to be possible everyone would have to be within a line to cabinet length of approx 1.2KM. Even if that were possible or true then….

      Thats without crosstalk as more and more join, and without impacted (IE naff knackered, re-joined or worse alu wires) connections from other factors, not to mention just a different modem (ECI Vs Huawei) can affect a connection by a few Mbs for better or worse.

      Figures and fantasies on paper often do not meet reality.

  3. Avatar dragoneast

    On (the few occasions when I bother with) a survey, I just make it up. Don’t we all?

    As we used to say ask a silly question . . .

  4. Avatar DTMark

    I wonder how many people could get superfast speeds from cable, but, given that when changing provider with DSL you’re not going to see any difference in the headline speed – incorrectly assume that Virgin Media will be the same; also delivered via phone lines, with all the same inherent compromises, and that there is no point in changing.

    • All cable products offer a superfast connection these days, they are easy to deal with in coverage analysis.

      The public perception side is a totally different thing.

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      That is another thing i have always wondered about. If congestion on VM is as bad as your site many times suggested along with the regular diarrhoea commentators on news items say, then how exactly do you calculate how many are on what VM package If it is all congested and slow? Do you just rely on people selecting the right package and ISP, if so that makes your testing flawed straight away.

    • Where are we talking about people on different Virgin Media packages on thinkbroadband?

      If you look at twitter and even the Ofcom data you can see our results are not out of line with other sources.

    • Avatar Dumb argument

      I read the type of stuff he mentions from yourself all the time…
      http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/7560-asa-publishes-research-highlighting-low-understanding-of-broadband-speed.html
      and the bit where you say

      “… there are plenty of people who suffer due to local congestion”

      You say something like this on every other VM story, i canlist them all if you want.

      Out of near 5 million customers how much is plenty, are we going by the dictionary definition or your own definition of plenty which is not many of those 5 million at all?

      You also suggest here as just 1 example you know what package people are on from virgin…
      http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/7488-virgin-media-growing-as-project-lightning-expands.html

      Specifically this part…
      “Interestingly when we look at the profile of speed test users, for Q2/2016…”
      As if to claim VM are lying and your speed test data that relies on the customer selecting the right package is correct or that many do not reach that speed.

      Combine all that with stories including this rather hilarious guesstimation praise one…
      http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/7499-what-will-lr-vdsl-do-for-the-universal-service-obligation.html

      With no evidence at all apart from a tiny trial and its quite apparent where you stand.

    • Avatar DTMark

      TBB can’t “measure” Virgin Media’s contention levels with any degree of accuracy. Unless Andrew went to everyone’s house and ran tests. Repeatedly. Would keep him busy.. 😉

      It is entirely true that some segments are over-contended. If that were not the case, we would not see reports of this from people. The desire to drive sales taking precedence over network quality.

      On the other hand they always come out top of surveys for satisfaction and performance. So it’s not a “nationwide” issue. But it would be a nightmare were it your only option and it was non-performant.

      Back to my point, though – people complaining that they “can’t get superfast”. That, say, PlusNet can’t do that does not mean that they “can’t get” if it’s in a cabled street and TBB’s maps do indeed reflect which streets are cabled.

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      “TBB can’t “measure” Virgin Media’s contention levels with any degree of accuracy. Unless Andrew went to everyone’s house and ran tests. Repeatedly. Would keep him busy.. ”

      Exactly so he has no idea if those getting say only 25Mb are from contention on a 50Mb product or if they are on an older package 30Mb product. Even more so if the upload varies also. Yet he regularly insists like Dumb Argument points to and says things like “plenty” suffer congestion. Hows he know the difference between a congested figure and an older tier. OH and no its not due to the upload before that yarn is spun as using my example the upload im pretty sure now on a 30Mb product and the 50Mb product is the same.

      “It is entirely true that some segments are over-contended. If that were not the case, we would not see reports of this from people. The desire to drive sales taking precedence over network quality.”

      Oh no i know it exists and agree “SOME” (NOT “Plenty”) may indeed suffer. Its a pity he does not mention that problem also happens with FTTC in any news item at all.

      “On the other hand they always come out top of surveys for satisfaction and performance. So it’s not a “nationwide” issue. But it would be a nightmare were it your only option and it was non-performant.”

      Again then it cant be “PLENTY” having these issues, especially as VM are one of the least complained about to Ofcom…. Funny how this site always has those reports from Ofcom throughout the year but they do not appear on TBB isnt it.

      “Back to my point, though – people complaining that they “can’t get superfast”. That, say, PlusNet can’t do that does not mean that they “can’t get” if it’s in a cabled street and TBB’s maps do indeed reflect which streets are cabled.”

      Yes but if its as congested as he makes out how does VM help his “superfast” 24+Mb figures if its so bad?

      Makes me wonder if its all based on upto speeds.

      I guess if the ASA for once have any bite with the soon to come changes to what speeds can be advertised we will then see the reality of FTTC. Then again it will likely be a half measure change as usual.

  5. Avatar John

    Our cabinet was updated recently so we leapt from 3Mb to 16Mb. Better than a kick in the teeth but still not good enough.

    We need 1920/1930s thinking – that being the decade in which the National Grid was constructed.

    Broadband is much too important to be dealt with in the current haphazard fashion.

    Scrap the white elephant vanity project that is HS2 and which will deliver questionable benefits to the few and divert that funding into a truly ultrafast broadband Britain which will benefit everybody.

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