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UK Consumers Confused and Frustrated by Broadband ISP Speeds

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019 (8:39 am) - Score 1,228
speed meter broadband download upload uk isp

A new 4media survey of 2,002 residents in rural England, which was commission by UK full fibre and wireless ISP County Broadband, has found that 57% were “frustrated” by the poor performance of their internet connection and 43% were “unsure” of the difference between “superfast” (FTTC) and “ultrafast” (FTTP) lines.

Apparently 16% of respondents said they struggled with “unreliable speeds” on a daily basis and 22% weren’t even sure what speed they were contracted to receive from their provider. Admittedly we should add the caveat that speed and connectivity issues aren’t always the fault of the broadband connection itself (e.g. poor WiFi, local network congestion and LAN device/network errors are also possible causes).

The ISP also noted how 17% mistakenly believe “superfast” connections are faster than “ultrafast”. Confusion over broadband terminology is nothing new and we’re not surprised that some are so puzzled by such terms, particularly as not even the industry always agrees on what they mean. For example, until recently the UK Government only defined superfast as being 24Mbps+, meanwhile Ofcom and the EU have long opted to adopt the 30Mbps+ definition.

Similarly some full fibre ISPs believe that ultrafast should be equated to speeds of 1Gbps+ (realistically this is better referenced as “Gigabit” class), while Ofcom seems to like the odd figure of 300Mbps+ and most others tend to go with the more traditional definition of 100Mbps+.

One additional catch here is that these definitions tend to only reflect download performance and often completely ignore upload speeds. As such it’s entirely possible to have an asymmetric service that may deliver, for example, 30Mbps+ download but only 2Mbps upload. Put another way, only one side of the connection is actually superfast and the other may just be.. crap.

This of course comes before we get into that ugly argument over how terms like “fibre“, “fibre optic” and “fibre broadband” are used in adverts for both slower hybrid fibre and significantly faster full fibre services (here). So it’s little wonder that consumers get confused.

Lloyd Felton, CEO of County Broadband Ltd, said:

“Our survey reveals there is a lot of confusion with many homes and businesses signing up for ‘fibre’ thinking they are getting the fastest speeds when in fact their superfast connection relies on existing copper which significantly reduces speed and reliability.

Our new ultrafast network, which uses full fibre directly into people’s home, will provide a real boost for residents, businesses and whole communities and put them in the top 6% in the UK for digital connectivity. We have already started construction and we will be rolling out across Essex over the coming months.”

Naturally the survey reflects a bit of a vest interest for County Broadband but it’s still an interesting topic to discuss. The survey also revealed the growing reliance on the internet with the average household now having 9 devices connected to their home network including one or more computer (94%), phone or tablet (91%), television (77%), Set-Top Box (66%), gaming console (42%) or digital assistant (34%).

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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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10 Responses
  1. Avatar chris conder

    The superfarce rocks on. Until someone gets a grip and sees through all the snake oil hype and gets a basic grasp of physics we’re stuck using phone line broadband. Bring on the real fibre. Moral and Optic.

  2. Avatar Phil

    Maybe the answer is to just use a numbering scheme to generalise the speed bands as they have done with Wi-Fi versioning.

    0 = less than 10
    1 = speeds less than 30 but higher than 10
    2 = speeds greater than 30 but less than 100 (so superfast)
    3 = speeds greater than 100 (so ultrafast)
    4 = speeds greater than 1000 (so gigafast)

    Combine that to show upload and download speeds, so down/up is clear, and show the technology.

    Copper 1/0 would indicate a copper service, probably ADSL2+ running at less than 30M down and less than 10 up.

    Copper 2/1 would indicate a copper service such as VDSL running between 30 and 100 with upload speed somewhere between 10 and 30.

    Fibre 2/2 would indicate a real fibre optic cable up to 100M likely running symmetrically, or at least with an upload speed >= 30M

    Fibre 4/4 would indicate fibre that upload/downloads at gigabit speeds.

    Mobile 1/1 would indicate a mobile service that provides speeds upto 30M in both directions.

    Even if a person doesn’t understand what the numbers mean in terms of raw speed, it still is reasonably clear what is better than another when making comparisons.

    Any device or service could then use the same numbers to say what speeds are required for it to work correctly, for example:

    Prime 4K could say: requires an internet speed rating of 2/0 or better.
    A virtual reality game could recommend the technology as it requires lower latencies and reliable connections, so might say: recommended Fibre with a speed rating of 2/2 or better.

    The number scheme of course can keep going up to reflect ever faster connections or differing technologies.

    • Avatar pxpik

      hi all
      i have Vodafone

      Ad 63 Mbps superfast 2 no ad about UPLOAD speed

      right now the active link is Down 48.9 Up 8 – and for me 8 is critical and most people too, specially if they want to upload some video on youtube or facebook
      They must ad not only download speed but upload as well

      Data is growing each year and upload speed is not

  3. Avatar Nic Bedford

    It’s absolutely ridiculous that I can buy a ‘Fibre’ service that only has 800Kbps upload. The use of the word ‘Fibre’ really needs to be stopped for anything other than FTTP/H.

    • Avatar Gary

      They had the chance to sort this naming/advertising out and wouldn’t.

      Buzzword marketing and consumer confusion is a joke in the Broadband market, what happened to the rulings on clear and simple to understand contracts,billing and advertising or are ISPs not bound by those rules just other utility providers.

      Advertise the product you’re selling accurately, and state the speeds not some hyper, mega, fantasy ‘fast’ tagline.

      I think I’ve said it before here ultimately Its the functionality that matters I don’t care what the technology is, fibre, coax, copper hey even wet string If it delivers the required and advertised speeds.

    • Avatar Gary

      Nic I Agree strongly with Fibre should be FTTP only, others on here don’t. For me it’s the same as advertising a Hybrid car as an electric. Sure part of its electric but you’d be pretty angry if you were sold one.

      People will say that its the consumers fault and ok ultimately they’re the ones that ordered it but figures recently published on this site show that people are confused.

  4. Avatar Brian

    I can only dream of 2Mbps upload. The problem seems to be spin by virtually everyone, the ISPs, BDUK, Superfast Scotland etc.; and then politicians through their ignorance then repeat the spin, if they think it make them look good.

  5. Avatar Graham Long

    When the Advertising Standards Authority says that copper broadband can be advertised as fibre and the High Court upholds this idiotic view no wonder consumers are completely confused by adverts for so called “fiber broadband”. The ASA is not fit for purpose and High Court judges don’t know the first thing about telecoms. France banned broadband delivered over copper from being advertised as “fibre” in 2015 but whilst ISP’s, BT and the government get away with convincing consumers they are getting something they are not and make big profits from that deception nothing will change. Come the revolution! It is true now just as it was in 2016: https://www.cable.co.uk/news/two-thirds-misled-by-fibre-broadband-advertising-experts-compare-situation-to-horsemeat-scandal-700001439/

  6. Avatar Roger_Gooner

    Of course those “speeds” which ISPs like Virgin Media love to shout about are really bandwidth, so it’s not surprisng that people think that subscribing to – and paying more for – a higher “speed” will be better. Then they discover that latency and other problems have not been solved and that their money has been poorly spent.

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