According to UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, speed is “a big issue for consumers” when it comes to broadband internet access. The industry watchdog took more than 60 million readings to show up the differences among suppliers and technologies, with surprising results.
Its research into fixed-line broadband speeds in the UK found that the average broadband speed in the UK in April 2009 was 4.1Mbps. This compares to an average ‘up to’ headline speed of 7.1Mbps.
However, the actual speeds received varied widely.
Fewer than one in 10 (nine per cent) of Ofcom’s sample on 8Mbps headline packages received actual average speeds above 6Mbps. Meanwhile, around one in five (19 per cent) received, on average, less than 2Mbps.
“Speed has become more significant as people increasingly use the internet for bandwidth-hungry applications such as downloading video and audio, but there has been a lack of reliable information on the actual speeds delivered by ISPs,” an Ofcom statement said.
“The majority of consumers were happy with the speeds they received although a quarter of consumers – 26 per cent – said that the speed they received was not what they expected when they signed up to the service.
Those living in urban areas received significantly faster speeds than those living in rural areas. The average speed delivered to urban consumers was 4.6Mbps, compared to an average of 3.3Mbps delivered to rural consumers.
All ISPs experienced a slowdown in actual speeds during peak evening hours (8-10pm), with speeds in this period around 20 per cent slower than over a 24-hour period.
The table below shows the average speeds received by the sample for each ISP:
AOL (‘up to’ 8Mbps) – average speed: 3.3 to 3.9Mbps
BT (‘up to’ 8Mbps) – average speed: 3.8 to 4.2Mbps
O2 (‘up to’ 8Mbps) – average speed: 4.1 to 5.1Mbps
Orange (‘up to’ 8Mbps) – average speed: 3.8 to 4.5Mbps
Plusnet (‘up to’ 8Mbps) – average speed: 3.8 to 4.9Mbps
Sky (‘up to’ 8Mbps) – average speed: 4.0 to 4.7Mbps
Talk Talk (‘up to’ 8Mbps) – average speed: 3.8 to 4.6Mbps
Tiscali (‘up to’ 8Mbps) – average speed: 3.2 to 3.7Mbps
Virgin Media (‘up to’ 10Mbps) – average speed: 8.1 to 8.7Mbps
The research – carried out in conjunction with Ofcom’s technical partner SamKnows and market research agency GfK – used more than 60 million separate service performance tests, carried out in over 1,600 homes between November 2008 and April 2009.