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Which? Criticise Broadband Speeds in Scotland – Ignores Availability

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019 (10:53 am) - Score 1,189
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Consumer magazine Which? has used data from its consumer speedtests to warn that just 13 constituencies in Scotland (unclear if they mean burgh or county constituencies) are achieving a broadband speed of over 20Mbps and half of tests across the UK failed to hit 10Mbps. But this interpretation has some big flaws.

The report, which separately claims that only 39% of people in Scotland trust their broadband service (compared with 45% across the UK), is based on data gathered from just 20,780 consumer speedtests conducted in Scotland during 2018. This is a very small sample size for an entire country over the course of a full year and it’s unclear whether they did any work to exclude business or mobile connections.

Overall Which? said they found that in 18 constituencies across the UK, including 6 in Scotland, at least half of tests failed to achieve a minimum download speed of 10Mbps. This is below the broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), which will provide a legal right to request a connection of at least 10Mbps (1Mbps upload) and should be in place by 2020.

Caroline Normand, Which? Director of Advocacy, said:

“Scottish consumers are struggling with dwindling day-to-day banking services and poor broadband connections and our research suggests this could be having an impact on trust in these vital industries, and demonstrates the need for a dedicated consumer body backed by the Scottish Government.

If Consumer Scotland is to be a real force for improving the lives of ordinary people, it must take on board the concerns highlighted in this report – and make tackling them a top priority.”

As usual there are some big caveats to this sort of data and interpretation, not least because which? appear to have made the classic mistake of confusing consumer speedtests of existing broadband connections with actual network availability. At present it’s estimated that fixed “superfast broadband” ISP networks are available to order by nearly 94% of premises in Scotland (varies slightly by definition: 24Mbps+ or 30Mbps+) and rising.

The latest data from Thinkbroadband’s independent modelling similarly finds that only 3.57% of people live in areas where download speeds of 10Mbps are not yet achievable. The key issue with speedtests is that many people will not yet have upgraded their connection to something faster, even when that choice exists (often due to reasons of awareness, cost or a simple lack of desire / interest).

Speed tests can also be impacted by other factors, such as poor home wiring, user choice of package (e.g. 1Gbps could be available but most people may still pick a slower and cheaper tier), local network congestion and weak WiFi signals etc. In short, always take such results with a pinch of salt.

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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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13 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe

    We need a warning on ‘Which’ posts – don’t read if you worry about your blood pressure!

  2. Avatar Mike

    Seems Which? have joined the MSM, just posting clickbait garbage to make $

  3. Avatar dragoneast

    Here we go again! I wonder if the big problem with all of you (including TBB and ISP Review, as well as Which?) is that people who use speedtests have a point to prove. Those that haven’t (the vast majority) won’t; so none of us really have a clue what the “real” situation is. It leaves us with plenty to speculate and talk about though, which perhaps is all that matters?

    In my area, which I suspect is a fairly typical piece of suburbia – places that never make the headlines because they’re just not interesting or newsworthy, and don’t contain the “elite”, or any journos/commentators (though they are where many people actually live; and rather more that in remote, intriguingly-named country hamlets that make for much better playground games)- the network is deteriorating dramatically with age as usage is increasing expotentially (same as every other bit of local infrastructure, actually), and “headline speeds” are crashing; so there is no point in testing and no-one bothers; we just workaround and make the best of it. So we’ll never feature in any statistics … but on the other hand, so what; why does it matter?

    So cynically perhaps once we get up to the magic 10% fibre everyone can go to sleep, and we can perhaps find something more interesting … I don’t think I’ve ever seen an OpenReach van in my area, apart from the few occasions when some over-enthusiastic DiYer chops through the cable, or they need to add a few new connections for some development. I doubt if the OR bods locally even know what FTTP is! Though perhaps there is the occasional bit of resentment that we are just the cash cow for the affluent moaners. Nothing different or new there!

    • Avatar 125us

      How can you know that the network is ‘deteriorating dramatically’ or that usage is increasing exponentially? Wihtout an objective basis for the comment, it’s hyperbole.

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      If you look at https://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/scotland there are two sets of figures,

      Pie chart which is the availability and the line charts of what we see from people, we also give the technology split and generally the tech split follows the expected patterns and areas are pretty consistent with the changes being driven by wider availability of faster speeds.

      The Which? comment as with various other broadband ones is flawed in terms of the conclusions they are drawing from their limited dataset.

      Saw the Which? story this morning, but decided to ignore rather than give them more exposure.

    • Avatar Joe

      I’d get that chip off your shoulder or the chiropractor fees as going to get eye watering.

    • I take a different view to Andrew on this, while respecting his choice as a valid approach. But I often think it’s better to cover and properly analyse a dodgy piece of research than to merely allow the mass media to re-publish it without ever questioning the conclusions, as they so often do. Education doesn’t happen by magic.

    • Avatar Joe

      Just to be clear my comment was directed @ Dragon.

      Hard to call on the mentioning ‘which’ or not I can see both Mark and Andrews argument.

  4. Avatar Brian

    You need to remember many areas of Scotland are only at 80% Superfast availability. So many particularly outside village centres have only access to ADSL.

  5. Avatar dragoneast

    I suspect that in a couple of years when we “realise” the (public and private) money has run out; and us suburbanites have been milked to subsidise everyone else, as usual; the the mass of us will be left to pay for our own 4/5G equipment on top to better our speeds. We’ll have no option once the infrastructure decays sufficiently. But as long as the elites have got what they want, it’s OK. As usual.

  6. Avatar Gary HILTON

    “only 3.57% of people live in areas where download speeds of 10Mbps are not yet achievable.”
    And yet from the same source you pulled that information from 4.79% don’t meet the USO 10/1 criteria, Your third paragraph talked about failing the USO, then you throw in “only 3.57%” which is not really useful.

    Sadly quoting UK or Scotland percentages is a nice way of making it look like we have just the difficult ones left, If you break it down into smaller areas like Highlands and Islands in Scotland that number looks much less appealing at 14.72% below USO and only 79.4% Superfast coverage.

    If I recall somewhere in the R100 info you’re talking of in excess of 140,000 properties not just a few remote hill farmers.

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      R100 is a superfast target, so will also include those between USO and current superfast speeds too

      Highlands is smaller in terms of total premises, but a much larger area in terms of distances involved.

      The difference between download speeds of 10 Mbps and USO 10/1 figures is because ADSL2+ even with 15 Mbps down is excluded from USO figures, until the USO arrives will we get confirmation whether close to exchange ADSL2+ will count as USO capable, i.e. all hinges on the upload sync speed.

  7. Avatar Colin John Robertson

    Ive recently moved in to a newly built house in a new development in East Ayrshire and my best and only available speed is 3mb download.
    No option at the moment for fibre which is extremely frustrating.

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