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A Look at How Other Countries Advertise Broadband ISP Speeds vs UK

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018 (12:08 am) - Score 3,663
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Over the past couple of years there’s been a ferocious debate in the United Kingdom over the question of how fixed line broadband providers should advertise their service speeds and this got us to thinking, how do other countries advertise line speeds? Let’s take a look.

Until recently the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) required that any headline speed being promoted by an ISP must be achievable by at least 10% of their customers (i.e. the fastest 10th percentile) and these figures should be preceded by an “up to” qualifier, as well as an explanation of any limitations that may hamper the connection.

However the ASA has now proposed a significant change (here), which would require broadband ISPs to display an “average” (median) download speed measured at busy peak times (i.e. 8pm to 10pm). The proposal would effectively reflect the average (median) speed of a particular package. All of this made us wonder whether other countries advertised fixed broadband speeds in the same way.

Firstly, we should point out that service speeds can be influenced by all sorts of different factors (network congestion, poor home wiring, WiFi signal strength etc.) and technology choice is one of the biggest differentiators. The most common fixed line broadband technologies in the United Kingdom are as follows.

Primary UK Home Broadband Technologies

Theoretical Peak Speed: 24Mbps download / 1.4Mbps upload

Coverage: Nearly universal coverage and used by just under half of fixed broadband connections

Performance Caveats: Too many to mention, although the main issue tends to be signal degradation over copper line distance (i.e. the longer the line from a telephone exchange, the slower its speed). ADSL2+ performance is notoriously variable, with some people getting under 1-2Mbps and others achieving close to 20Mbps (you’re unlikely to get much above c.20Mbps on ADSL2+ in the UK).

Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2)
Theoretical Peak Speed: 80Mbps download / 20Mbps upload*

Coverage: Available to around 90% of premises and used by roughly a quarter of fixed broadband connections

Performance Caveats: Similar variety of problems to ADSL2+, except the VDSL2 service is more reliable as the local street cabinet is fuelled by a fibre optic line closer to your home. Nevertheless the same issue with signal degradation over copper line distance (between cabinet and homes) does still occur. Performance can thus be highly variable but it’s usually a big improvement on ADSL2+.

* VDSL2 could in theory push to 100Mbps+ (download) but for various technical reasons it’s capped at 80Mbps in the UK, except via some altnets. A newer VDSL2-Vplus standard can even do 300Mbps but in the UK this has been skipped in favour of G.fast.

Theoretical Peak Speed: 350Mbps download / 20Mbps upload*

Coverage: Available to over 50% of premises and used by less than a quarter of fixed broadband connections

Performance Caveats: Most performance issues are usually the result of Virgin Media oversubscribing their capacity in specific locations, network faults or incorrect power levels for individual properties. Otherwise cable speeds should deliver close to their advertised rate.

* This is the current peak speed set by Virgin Media’s residential service, although DOCSIS itself can theoretically do Gigabit speeds and future upgrades (DOCSIS 3.1) will support this.

Fibre-to-the-Premises / Home (FTTP/H)
Theoretical Peak Speed: 1Gbps download / 1Gbps upload (1000Mbps)*

Coverage: Available to around 3% of premises and take-up isn’t yet high enough to make an impact.

Performance Caveats: Nothing worth mentioning. Limited network capacity and external hardware restrictions are more likely to reduce the top speeds than anything on the technology itself.

* 1Gbps symmetric tends to be the fastest residential FTTP/H service offered by ISPs in the UK, although this is more of an economic restriction and Scientists are still trying to figure out the limits of optical fibre (multi-Terabit speeds are already possible).

Naturally other countries will adopt a different mix of broadband technologies. For example, Sweden is dominated by FTTP/H with less than 20% on Cable and 30% taking VDSL (FTTC) or ADSL. By comparison Italy is almost entirely ADSL / VDSL based, although they do have a growing FTTP/H market.

The following chart is an extract from the recent EU Broadband Process Report 2017, which offers a simplified overview of fixed broadband technology by country and market share in the European Union. We will be looking outside of the EU too but this still gives a good indication of how the market shares differ by technology.


Obviously it would take us a very long time to examine all of the countries in the EU or even the world and so instead we’ve decided to focus on a smaller cross-section, which we’ve chosen because they all reflect different markets and deployment scenarios. A few of these countries are closer to the UK model than others and to save time we’re only going to look at some of the largest ISPs in each market.

Most of those we picked also use the Latin alphabet, which makes our translation work easier and less prone to error. However we did have to leave out a fair few ISPs because we couldn’t find any clear details of their packages, usually due to difficulties with the language translation.

Sample Packages from Domestic ISPs

Take note that all of the data for this article was gathered during July – August 2017 and we generally only picked a couple of packages from each provider (the cheapest and fastest options). Now let’s kick things off by looking at our closest neighbour.


Generally speaking, France is dominated by ADSL and hybrid fibre VDSL technologies, although they have a rapidly growing base of FTTP/H/B services in major cities. We found that FTTP/H/B services advertised peak package speeds (no ‘up to’ or ‘averages’) and the same was true for their ADSL options, which promoted 20Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads.

The exception was Orange, which promoted their ADSL and VDSL services without even mentioning a headline speed.

Orange – Jet Fibre

500Mbps down – 200Mbps up – €33.99

Orange – Zen ADSL / VDSL

No speed stated – €19.99


20Mbps down – 1Mbps up – €24.99

SFR (Fibre)

1Gbps down – 100Mbps up – €24.99

Flick over the page for more countries and some analysis..

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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14 Responses
  1. AndyC

    for me its not the fact they give speeds that not everyone can get its more they sell it as a product its not. if i was in charge id put as much emphasis on the type of tec used so instead of calling just about everything “fibre” (i believe someone once made a argument that even asdl2+ and asdlmax where fibre products by ofcoms own rules as they also use fibre backhauls) they would have to say what type of tec was used to supply the stated speeds as well.

    Still a very interesting article, especially after you convert some of the prices and compare to what we would pay in the uk.

  2. TomTom

    I agree as edit button need to bring in.

  3. ChrisP

    10Gbps fir $190 per month in Singapore is astonishing, I wonder what the countries uplink to the rest of the world is like. Prob will get 10Gbps for local in country content but not for stuff pulled in from abroad due to contention at the exchanges.

    OFCOM’s new proposal to measure speeds as an average looks to be too early, it would deal with ISP’s like VM who have over subscribed but won’t deal with slower access technology running at its peak per line and skews the meaning of the average.

    • CarlT

      You can check at least some of the ISPs and see the performance they advertise outside of Singapore.

      It’s astonishing, yes, however we too could have that if we all moved into apartment buildings, the government paid up and Ofcom and the government abandoned infrastructure competition.

      As it is not happening. Wouldn’t want to rob Sky and TalkTalk of the MPF copper 🙂

    • Peter

      Just to add to CarlT’s excellent list
      1. Singapore has no EU to meddle in a sovereign government decisions.
      2. Singapore does not have an NHS to spend government money on. In short unless you are destitute if you get ill then you and your extended family are expected to pay either direct or via your private/company medical insurance.

  4. Jason

    The gypos could if we let them 🙂

  5. GNewton

    The article says: “The exception being Verizon where they just promoted a top headline speed, although the technology being used wasn’t very clear.”

    The Verizon 50/50Mbps and 500/500Mbps packages are based on full fibre!

  6. Graham Long

    Mark, you should also make the point that since the ASA recently announced they are happy for broadband delivered over copper wires to be called “fibre broadband”, the UK does not have alevel playinng field on which the pure fibre providers like B4RN, Gigaclear, City Fibre and Hyperoptic to compete with copper broadband providers like BT, Sky and Virgin because the majority of those receivinig copper delivered broadband from these companies actually think their copper wires have magically changed to fibre (See Cable.co.uk). The government like these lies to be told to consumers because they can then boast of the success (sic) of the BDUK programme. You should also make the point that in 2015, France’s equivalent of the ASA made it illegal not to tell the customer on what medium broadband enters the property. The UK ASA however continues to be happy for the public to be lied to.

    • The article was looking at how speeds are advertised, not so much the technology that underpins them. The only thing I could say, based on the examples I found, was that generally most ISPs distinguished their packages purely by speed, with only a few mentioning the speed and specific technology (e.g. VDSL or FTTH) in their marketing.

      We’ve covered the fibre debate before, most recently below, so I didn’t feel a need to retread that ground for this one.



    • Graham Long

      Mark, The reason it’s important to reference the ASA decision to permit misleading advertising is because speed is not the anly factor people consider when buying broadband – and rightly so. In the same way that speed is not the only factor people look at when buying a car. Equally people know that some manufacturers eg Mercedes and BMW have a reputation for quality and they also know that “fibre” is the best kind of broadband available. Allowing copper delivered broadband to be described as fibre distorts the market by convincing people they already have fibre when they only have copper (even though fibre may go as far as the exchange). This is like building the M4 to London to Bristol but only taking the 6 lane motorway as far as Swindon and then calling the two lane A roads that take traffic to Bristol, the M4, when there is no way those roads can take the traffic volumes that the M4 handles. The ASA is incompetent in continueing this public deception which should be highlighted at every opportunity. The UK alerady has the fewest FTTH connections in the whole of Europe and lying to customers as the ASA now approves will prevent consumers from buying something they think they already have and may also mean the demise of the few pure fibre broadband companies trying to correct this nonsensical situation.

    • Somerset

      @GL – it’s clear that your dislike of BT is because they would not provide superfast in your area and that affects your writing.

      What actually matters to most normal people is the connection speed at the router, not what it comes over.

      You seem to want to drop the word ‘fibre’ with FTTC in the hope that fewer people will buy it which is very strange.

      Where are the pure fibre companies overbuilding FTTC? So you predict the demise of Gigaclear, Truespeed, Cityfibre, Hyperoptic, INFL etc.

      Is GPON pure fibre?

  7. Tony Woodhouse

    Is G-PON pure fibre – Yes it is.

    Is GPON contended is the question you may be asking….yes it is.

    Is GPON contended like FTTC; NO

    Is GPON more reliable than FTTC – yes and can it be upgraded to well beyond what FTTC is capable of? yes again.

    Is present GPON being developed – yes it is WDM PON which is a true PtP connection and uncontended apart from what you pay for data wise.

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