This should be nice and controversial.
Ofcom has followed up its UK 3G coverage assessment with its own real world test of the country's broadband speeds. Determined to see just how much we are being short changed by supposedly faster 8-10Mbit packages the industry body trialled the nine largest ISPs.
To make its figures beyond reproach over 60 million separate performance tests were carried out in more than 1600 UK homes between November 2008 and April 2009. The results were staggering with Ofcom making the following conclusions:
- The average broadband speed in the UK in April 2009 was 4.1 megabits per second (Mbit/s). This compares to an average 'up to' headline speed of 7.1 Mbit/s.
- The actual speeds received varied widely. Fewer than one in ten (9 per cent) of our sample on 8Mbit/s headline packages received actual average speeds of over 6Mbit/s and around one in five (19 per cent) received, on average, less than 2Mbit/s.
- Those living in urban areas received significantly faster speeds than those living in rural areas. The average speed delivered to urban consumers was 4.6Mbit/s, compared to an average of 3.3Mbit/s delivered to rural consumers.
- Consumers with 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.
ISP and package - average speed
AOL ('up to' 8Mbit/s) - 3.3 to 3.9Mbit/s
BT ('up to' 8Mbit/s) - 3.8 to 4.2Mbit/s
O2 ('up to' 8Mbit/s) 4.1 to 5.1Mbit/s
Orange ('up to' 8Mbit/s) 3.8 to 4.5Mbit/s
Plusnet ('up to' 8Mbit/s) 3.8 to 4.9Mbit/s
Sky ('up to' 8Mbit/s) 4.0 to 4.7Mbit/s
TalkTalk ('up to' 8Mbit/s) 3.8 to 4.6Mbit/s
Tiscali ('up to' 8Mbit/s) 3.2 to 3.7Mbit/s
Virgin Media ('up to' 10Mbit/s) 8.1 to 8.7Mbit/s
Ultimately it's a pretty sorry sight with the notable exception far and away being Virgin Media with its minimum speed roughly double that of any of its rivals. If this doesn't show the benefits of cable over DSL at this moment in time then nothing will.
Funnily enough, despite these huge discrepancies, Ofcom found "the majority of consumers were happy with the speeds they received" with just 26 per cent admitting "the speed they received was not what they expected when they signed up to the service." all in all however, it's not really good enough, is it?