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Ofcom Reveals UK Average Broadband Speed of 3.6Mbps
By: MarkJ - 08 January, 2009 (1:43 PM)

Ofcom has published its first independent broadband ISP speed testing results, which reveal that UK consumers receive an average broadband speed of 3.6Mbps (megabits per second). The figure works out as less than the average maximum possible speed of 4.3Mbps across the UK and significantly below advertised headline speeds, which often promote performance of 'up to' and beyond 8Mbps.

Indeed 60% of the UK population are believed to be subscribed with an 'up to' 8Mbps package, yet one in five of these actually receive an average speed of less than 2Mbps. On average the actual speed consumers receive appears to be 45% of the advertised headline speed.

In addition consumers living in urban areas receive speeds 15% faster than those in rural areas, largely because of distance. Unsurprisingly this also meant that dissatisfaction with broadband is higher for rural users (14%) than urban users (8%):

Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Ed Richards said: ‘Ofcom’s research is one of the most comprehensive assessments of consumers’ broadband experiences to date.

We want to see all Internet Service Providers meet the needs of their customers by clearly explaining what speeds they should expect and by ensuring that their networks meet consumers’ increasing demand for higher speed broadband.

We have already seen the first steps towards next generation super-fast broadband in the UK and we expect further developments this year. Ofcom will publish the next steps for the regulatory framework early this year.

When it comes to customer satisfaction, most consumers surveyed were reasonably happy with their broadband service, although 9% expressed overall dissatisfaction. Meanwhile 93% are satisfied with their experience of web browsing, yet only 67% of those who use their connection to watch or download TV programmes were satisfied.

The research also revealed that 28% of consumers were unaware of the headline speed offered by their package, which is despite 91% agreeing that speed was an important consideration when subscribing.

Felix Geyr, Managing Director of Be Broadband, comments: “The Ofcom report is a step in the right direction for the broadband industry to cut through customer’s confusion and improve trust in their services. Ofcom’s broadband speeds code of practice, which Be Broadband signed up to when it was first announced, requires ISPs to better explain to new customers what speeds they are likely to obtain in practice, and also to tell them what steps they can take to improve their broadband performance. Be continues to strive to offer transparency and fair practises to our members, with a speed estimator on the website since August and members having the right to move between packages at no cost.

We are also been keen to help develop the policy framework to facilitate the development of next-generation access networks to deliver ‘super-fast’ broadband, as shown by the recent success of our line bonding trial. We look forward to the publication of the full findings of the report later this year and will continue to work with Ofcom to ensure consumers get a clear idea of Be’s performance and enable them to choose the best broadband deal.

The Ofcom Consumer Panel added: "We warmly welcome the publication of Ofcom’s research into consumer broadband speeds and look forward to the full results later in the year. For the first time we can see a true picture of the broadband speeds consumers receive – not what is painted by advertising. We expect industry to react to these findings positively, and change their information provision accordingly.

The research reveals a headline speed out-of-touch with the real world speed experienced by consumers with the average speed of 3.6m/bits less than half the average headline speed.

Better information provision by service providers, and the requirement in Ofcom’s new voluntary code to provide potential consumers with an accurate assessment of the speed they will actually get, should improve on the current level of consumer dissatisfaction – which stands at 32 per cent.

Since last month over 95% of people choosing a broadband ISP in the UK have been covered by Ofcom's new broadband speed Code of Practice (news). This requires ISPs to provide an accurate estimate of the maximum speed they can expect when joining a service. Though some providers, such as Entanet, remain absent from THE LIST.

Ofcom notes that roughly 7,000 tests were run through monitoring units connected within 1,500 homes over a 30 day period, which resulted in over 10 million separate tests of a range of suppliers’ services. The technology employed for the testing is provided by Samknows.

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