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Study Claims 20 Million UK Homes Hit by Broadband Speed Issues

Thursday, February 20th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 2,489
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A new study from Uswitch.com, which is based on an Opinium survey of 2,000 adults (conducted in October 2019), has claimed that 71% of UK households (19.6 million) have experienced speed-related issues with their broadband ISP service, which is despite “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) lines being available to c.96% of premises.

The survey found that 31% had suffered from “buffering” when “downloading videos or music” (we think they meant to say streaming, instead of downloading), while 37% experienced “slow loading pages” and 27% complained about “slow download speeds” (it’s unclear how they defined “slow” but it can also be a matter of personal perception – somebody on a 1Gbps line might consider 100Mbps to be slow etc.).

Meanwhile 16% agreed that their broadband service “crashes regularly,” although confusingly 36% of respondents then also said they have “experienced their internet disconnecting” (Uswitch blames the latter on faulty equipment or a slow/poor broadband connection). For the sake of context, we’d be interested in how the definition of “crashes” vs “disconnecting” was expressed since some may regard those as being the same thing.

Summary of Other Findings
* 38% of respondents aren’t aware of how fast their connection is.
* 39% don’t know if it is possible to get superfast broadband in their postcode.
* 57% don’t know the download speed that their internet provider says they should be able to achieve.
* 44% don’t know the difference between regular, superfast and ultrafast broadband.

However we should point out that some of the internet connectivity issues referenced above could also be caused by local network congestion, wrong router / DNS configuration, computer viruses, faults or slow WiFi. As such it’s not always fair to blame everything on the broadband connection itself, which might well be working just fine.

Nevertheless it’s clear that the problem of consumer awareness, both in terms of understanding what broadband people have today and what is available to them, continues to be an issue for many respondents. Naturally there’s an element of vested interest here as Uswitch has their own web-based network checker service to promote.

UPDATE 8:16am

One of our readers has pointed out that another issue with this survey is the apparent lack of any time-frame for the questions, which means that the study was effectively asking about issues that could have occurred across the entire history of broadband connectivity in the UK. A fairly wide net, not least since standards and technologies have changed a lot over the years.

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38 Responses
  1. Gary says:

    Looking at your summary of other findings I think those numbers help explain the lack of clarity/understanding in the answers given by those surveyed.

    I wonder if there was a timeframe given in the survey, In the last year have you ….. ? If not then yes my connection was pretty awfull in 1999 but improved greatly whn we switched to ISDN.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Good point on the time-frame. Looking at the source questions, none of them included a window of time to judge by. For example, it looks like they just asked things like this: “Have you experienced broadband-related issues at home?” So covering the entire history of broadband in the UK 🙂 .

  2. New_Londoner says:

    71% claim to have suffered speed issues yet 57% don’t even know what speed they should be getting! Yet another example of click bait masquerading as “market research” from uSwitch, was this conducted by an MRS member?

  3. TheFacts says:

    Another pointless survey.

  4. AnotherTim says:

    This sort of survey result doesn’t help those who genuinely have poor broadband as it just masks the issue. When almost everybody is perceived to have “slow” broadband then it is easy to dismiss real slow broadband as the norm, and to do nothing to address the problem.

  5. Steve says:

    Probably 19.9 million homes with thick walls and shit wifi, and 100,000 with actual broadband issues.

  6. OR DLM says:

    Most FTTC are banded by nasty openreach dlm.

    1. AJT says:

      DLM is a right pain in the bottom, and I’m sure it didn’t work right on fibre.

  7. chris conder says:

    A lot of eople you talk to on FTTC say they get great service in the daytime, but very poor at peak times and school holidays/weekends. This points to contention. A lot complain the service doesn’t work upstairs, they don’t understand the concept of wifi not being able to reach some places. Also surveys like this are pretty stupid, and statistics can be made to say anything one wants them to. Uswitch have to justify their existence, but basically any ISP you choose is using the same phone line so switching won’t improve the connection. And often the cheaper deal you get the less customer service comes with it… Wifi is a dark art, and the root cause of most people’s issues.

    1. TheFacts says:

      Contention where, exactly?

  8. Bill says:

    Based upon 2000 opinions they are extrapolating to 30 million. Hmm.

    1. New_Londoner says:

      The sample size isn’t really a problem if the selection process has been done correctly, however the questions are definitely an issue and lead to dodgy conclusions. If an MRS member is behind this they should hang their heads in shame.

  9. Mark says:

    A large amount of users also think internet is wifi I’ve lost count how many people I’ve seem complain about internet speeds while trying to use wifi on their router stuck into a cupboard at the other side of the house.

    1. Gary says:

      According to the ASA a large amount of users think FTTC is FTTP, or that they ‘understand it to be fast internet’ and thus don’t care, so its fine to call VDSL copper – fibre. With attitudes like this there’s not much hope for people.

      Give it a few more decades of this dumbing down of everything and we’ll just be calling anything we don’t understand whichcraft again.

      If I put my house on the market I’m going to advertise it as as having 1Gbps WiFi because fast internet is a good selling point.

  10. Rahul says:

    There are quite a few factors that affect speed. Distance to cabinet is probably the number 1 factor and second is the crosstalk as well as whether there is an MK4 VDSL Faceplate. Using Cat 5/6/7 cables instead of WiFi.

    Fortunately for me, I am getting Full Sync speeds with TalkTalk! 😀
    https://i.imgur.com/6XC1WI7.jpg https://i.imgur.com/k8Lmgoh.jpg
    80.4Mbps Download and 20Mbps Upload with Internet Frog and with Which Broadband Speed test I get 78.9Mbps and 20Mbps.

    I made some calculated measurements using Google Maps and I am around 290 meters to the cabinet. 250 meters to the entrance of my building from the green cabinet and approximately another 40 meters to add of copper traveling up to my 14th floor where I live. That’s going to be around 290 meters.

    In many of these cases, unfortunately you don’t get told about the distances to your cabinet. Even the BT Openreach engineer who came to my flat to install a new VDSL Faceplate as part of the upgrade was not able to tell me the distance to the cabinet. The only thing he showed on his device is that for my flat I will get minimum 70Mbps, maximum 83Mbps.

    Of-course I won’t get above 80Mbps as the ISP will lock the connection speed to 80000/20000Kbps in your router.

    I’m probably the biggest internet enthusiast of my building as most of the other residents are tenants who most probably either use ADSL or mobile data. I identified my cabinet going live on 1st October 2019, bet I was the only one!
    As a Hyperoptic Champion, from discussion with the residents, most of them didn’t even know what Fibre was when I asked them to register their interest.

    As I couldn’t get wayleave passed for FTTH/P I finally settled with FTTC for my Exchange Only line that only recently got upgraded. Of-course in this particular case I will not inform the residents that the FTTC cabinet went live because if they sign up then it might contribute to crosstalk and I will lose my connection speeds.

    I also rent out one of my other flats and one of my tenant who is a young educated English lady working in an insurance company didn’t know about Fibre, she asked “So there is Wi-Fi there”? My answer; “Yes, there is Fibre to the Cabinet there and cabinet is only 30 meters to home”.

    With so many clueless individuals, it is no wonder we mostly have FTTC instead of Fibre to the Premises. There are simply not enough people aware in order to pressurize to their management authority to grant wayleave for FTTP simply because they are clueless about it & so this country settles with FTTC instead. Openreach have long taken advantage of that lack of knowledge and because traditionally this country does not have FTTP, private landlords and management teams think Fibre is some kind of rocket science nuisance and that’s why they deny permission.

  11. Philip Cheeseman says:

    As someone who gets 19mbps on a speed test, 22mbps sync, 28mbps max sync (whatever that means) I’m regularly told I have up to 37mbps so I’m ‘superfast’. Doesn’t feel super fast to me… At least I know what I’m supposed to get!

  12. ian Cole says:

    I have ‘fttc’ broadband but speeds are below 10mbps and with a house hold of teenage kids it doesn’t go very far, especially if you add in Google and sky TV, openreach has placed fttp fibre optic cable on my property boundary, on the same pole with the copper cable, but they will not splice into the fttp cable so that I can have ultrafast and have a improved service with faster speeds, which I’m quite prepared to pay for, it doesn’t make any sense

    1. Adam Goodfellow says:

      There is fibre for you if you’re prepared to pay for it, I suggest you get a quote for FTTPoD from a supporting ISP that resell over the OpenReach network.

    2. Meadmodj says:


      If you are below 10Mbps on FTTC then register for the USO next month. If OR have run fibre to your pole it could simply be in abeyance awaiting funding. That may be BDUK or it could be USO, either may be the catalyst. Register yourself and get neighbours to do it too you never know it may inject some action, even if it is just OR investigating why FTTC is performing so slow.

    3. ian Cole says:

      @adam, I have had a quote for fftpod and the cost was 20k to install and £170 a month that is a ridiculous amount of money to pay

  13. ian Cole says:

    @adam, I have had a quote for fftpod and the cost was 20k to install and £170 a month that is a ridiculous amount of money to pay.

    1. Rahul says:

      @Ian Cole: You can buy a house in Altnaharra, Scotland for just £60K that has FTTP from Openreach which is going to be much worthier of an investment than paying 20K for Fibre to the Premises on Demand in an existing home.

      Actually as a matter of fact, you can save £20,000 cash deposit to buy a new property that already has FTTP included instead! This is the logical fallacy behind the FTTPod price quotes. Openreach are making themselves look ridiculous!

  14. Adrian Ellis says:

    Broadband of any form is clearly a licence to print money. It is the only major service that charges you based on what you might occasionally get and not what you do get. They are facts. The government is unwilling to regulate this industry properly like the other major service providers. It is simple fit a meter to every property and you pay for what you receive period. Trouble is revenues would drop a 100 fold overnight because of the rubbish service/infrastructure and lies made by the greedy few. All we can do is keep complaining untill they get pissed of and fix it properly once and for all.

    1. TheFacts says:

      Pay as you use would not work as there would be a high standing charge.

    2. Roger_Gooner says:

      This would be a horrendous step back in time to the days that we paid for phone and internet based on usage, but the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT) did a stirling job in getting the reluctant BT, OFTEL and government to move to unmetered internet access. I guess that there’s probably only a few old timers like me who remember what it was like to be always mindful of the money draining away every second I was accessing the internet. There is no question that unmetered access has enabled the economy to grow in the way it has.

    3. Gary HILTON says:

      BTs narrow minded determination to hold onto per min charging for phone calls as the Internet really started to become mainstream opened the door for competition and that pretty much lost them their nice monopoly.

      We already have an flawed mentality in this country where operators impose arbitrary price ranges for connection bandwidth that have little to do with bandwidth usage but theoretically the cost of provision of that bandwidth, Our whole ‘Up To xxx’ structure for FTTC means either they’re paying for bandwidth they don’t actually need, you’re paying for someone elses or they’re just making extra profit of the worse performing connections.

      That said, lets not head back into the darkness of Data metering and a standing charge.

    4. Rahul says:

      And this is the problem I have with FTTC! I am lucky I am getting 80Mbps download and 20Mbps upload based on a 300 meter cabinet location which I am just fortunate to have, it was always my worry when I was on EO Line whether the new cabinet will serve me close enough which is why I wanted FTTH/P instead.

      I am paying £21.95 and get 80 Mbps in router stats and speed tests. Meanwhile someone else is paying £30+ but is getting only 60 Mbps based on a cabinet located at 500 meters from home. Where is the logic, fairness and justice here?

      FTTC is responsible for the digital divide in this country and everyone knows that! At least when we speak of FTTP there is no question at all of distances presenting a potential bottleneck because with Fibre length does not contribute to the same bottleneck as copper to cabinet distance.

      FTTC is actually harmful for the businesses and prosperity of the UK because you’ll find big office buildings that are being hampered with poor broadband speeds while less important ones getting higher speeds than they need.

    5. New_Londoner says:

      “you’ll find big office buildings that are being hampered with poor broadband speeds”

      That is not correct. Big office buildings with a single occupant will have a leased line, with resilience etc if needed. Multiple occupancy offices may have connectivity via leased line included in the rent, this is certainly the case with companies like WeWork.

    6. New_Londoner says:

      @Adrian Ellis
      “Broadband of any form is clearly a licence to print money”

      I suspect you’re ignoring the need to lock in significant capital for15-20 years to generate a low single digital annual return.

      If you really believe that it is in fact a licence to print money then I suggest that you establish your own network and report back after a few years. Unless you’re bought out by a competitor, I suspect you will be rather disappointed with the results – remember that a number have gone bust over the years, ranging from small fixed wireless operators to the infamous Digital Region white elephant.

    7. The Facts says:

      @Gary – now back to per minute – Talktalk – The cost for an 01, 02 and 03 call is a connection fee of 20p plus 15p a minute making the 35p for a 1 minute call.

    8. Gary says:


      I’m really not sure how premium rate phonecalls on Talk Talk are relevent to the discussion about metered Data Broadband. Unless someones on Dialup using Talk Talk to call these 01, 02 ans 03 codes ?

  15. New_Londoner says:

    Also @Rahul
    “FTTC is responsible for the digital divide in this country and everyone knows that!”

    That is also incorrect unless you have a very odd definition of the digital divide based on the distance of premises from a cabinet! The digital divide is generally defined based on lack of access to services rather than price.

    The reality is that less than 4% of premises are unable to receive at least 24Mbps from at least one fixed network provider, mainly but not exclusively because they are located in rural areas and have proven too expensive to connect, even with public subsidy. Therefore they remain limited to ADSL although some may also have the option of 4G.

    In due course the definition may focus on lack of access to ultrafast or even gigabit services, although someone’s inability to connect multiple 8k screens does not seem likely to be a sign of social inequality!

    1. Rahul says:

      Yes New_Londoner: That is my definition of the digital divide. I understand less than 4% are unable to receive 24Mbps. With FTTC of-course you’ll be able to achieve above 24Mbps.

      The point is, not everyone will receive speeds near 80Mbps. I am lucky I get 80Mbps Download 20Mbps Upload based on a 300 meter cabinet location. Someone else on the thinkbroadband forums was complaining to me that they are receiving only around 68Mbps using similar line length.

      Why does one person paying the same or more have to receive only 50-60 Mbps and another person receiving 75-80 Mbps pays the exact same money for Superfast Fibre 2 packages?

      In rural areas there are people who have 1000 meter distances to their Fibre cabinet and aren’t able to achieve decent speeds.
      You only have to look at this https://www.dslchecker.bt.com/adsl/ADSLChecker.AddressOutput and input a few random postcodes even in the same nearby areas and you will see there are drastic variations between the speeds obtained for High and Low.

      Some postcodes show 55Mbps as the highest maximum FTTC speeds, others 80Mbps. That is almost 30Mbps difference in speeds. That is a digital division that can only be rectified by either having cabinets moved closer (which Openreach will not do) or alternatively have FTTP for the entire country.

      For me Superfast equality is not about 95% receiving 24+ Mbps, it is about being able to achieve similar speeds paying the same money. For me it is not equality for one to have 30Mbps and another one achieving 80Mbps paying the same money! If you are saying this is not digital division, you are in denial.

    2. The Facts says:

      @Rahul – propose a pricing structure based on speed, based on the current single charge for a product. Ensuring the same total income.

    3. Rahul says:

      @The Facts: Like Paul M mentions in his post below and I totally agree with him. Prices should be based on algorithmic calculations during broadband speed check estimation in the ISP sign-up process.

      So if for example the estimated broadband speeds show 40-59 Mbps that customer pays a little bit less than another customer that shows 68-80 Mbps. The system should then be able to calculate based on speeds how much that customer should pay per month. And if the circumstances change such as improvement in the line in which the customers speeds increases then the price should then increase to readjust.

      Of-course this would be a much fairer system. But as we are living in a capitalistic economy, Openreach and ISPs will never agree to such a system because it would be against their pecuniary interest forcing them to work harder to achieve those desired speeds!

      While I know that BT do advertise “Stay Fast Guarantee speed” “If your speeds aren’t back to normal within 30 days, we’ll give you £20 back.”
      So for example for my postcode for BT Superfast Fibre 2 “Your Stay Fast Guarantee 40Mb” But I get 80Mbps currently with TalkTalk.

      So what BT are doing in essence is reduce the Stay guarantee to a such a low state because they know fully well that I am guaranteed to receive those speeds. This makes it totally ridiculous because the baseline is set to a very low level so even if there are faults in your line the set point is set to a state in which you will definitely receive those speeds regardless of how badly affected your line is so that way once again you will not get your £20 compensation and chances are your issue will be resolved within 30 days. This is another example why I don’t agree with BT’s Stay Fast Guarantee. Because let’s just say I get 40Mbps in the worst case scenario, that is not the price I would be paying for Superfast Fibre 2.

    4. Gary says:

      If you cant see the digital divide resulting from FTTC, take a look at ThinkBroadbands maps around the areas between Aberdeen and Inverness, Little green islands of connectivity surrounded by a sea of red and Amber.

      While FTTC has a place and to be fair to the technology the implementation did pretty well at raising the connection speeds overall in the UK, It’s very much devisive, as is 4G and even more so 5G.

  16. Paul M says:

    What annoys me is that whilst I used to get a near perfect ADSL2/2+ speed, when we switched to FTTC-VDSL2/2+ it didn’t shorted the line all that much, so I find I am spending quite a bit more to go from 23Mb/s to 40Mb/s download and upload from 1 to 5.5Mb/s. Our backup circuit which is still ADSL, can barely achieve 15M now, probably due to so much crosstalk and interference on the line!

    I would like to propose a solution. BT Openreach should only be able to charge line rental pro-rata against the actual speed achievable on the line compared to an 80M/20Mbps max speed FTTC circuit. In my case therefore, I get 50% of the download speed and 23% of the upload speed, so I should only have to pay 23% of the normal line rental!

    This would give BT Openreach a big incentive to deploy more cabinets to give better speed to more customers, and fibre to those where additional cabinets would be an economic solution.

    1. gary says:

      No, lets not be installing more cabinets, Not for FTTC at any rate.

      If Cabinets of any kind are going into areas not already served, they need to be there to house the Subtended headends to push the fibre network deeper into Rural and Urban areas wherever needed, based on the best location for fibre, not the best location to tap into copper for FTTC.

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