Broadband speeds - consumer Q&A
1. Why are broadband speeds sometimes slower than advertised speeds?
There are a number of reasons why you may not receive the broadband connection speed advertised by ISPs. One main reason is that for most broadband customers the maximum speed available declines the further you are from the telephone exchange. Other factors which can affect broadband speeds include the quality of the customer’s line, the capacity of the ISP’s network, the number of subscribers sharing the network, and the number of people accessing a particular website.
2. How widespread is the problem of consumers not receiving headline advertised broadband speeds?
Many broadband customers live sufficiently far from their exchange to mean that they will not be able to achieve the headline speed of their broadband package. Ofcom’s own research suggests that fewer than one in ten (9 per cent) of the UK population on 8Mbit/s headline packages received actual average speeds of over 6Mbit/s and around one in five (19 per cent) received less than 2Mbit/s.
Even those who are able to receive the maximum headline speed will find that their actual speed is often below the maximum because of other factors such as the number of people using their internet service provider’s network at the same time and congestion on the wider internet. Research suggests that most consumers experience 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.
3. How can I check what broadband speed I am getting?
You can find out the maximum speed available on your line by contacting your ISP, who will be able to run a quick test to find this out. If you have a BT line you should also be able to check using their broadband availability checker.
If you want to find the actual download speed you are getting at a particular time then you can use one of the speed checkers that are available on the internet. You may be able to find one through your ISP’s website. Alternatively, a number of independent websites offer similar services.
4. Is there anything I can do to improve my broadband speed and where can I get more advice?
Your ISP may have information on its website about how to optimise your broadband speed. Alternatively you could contact your ISP directly. ISPs may be able to run standard checks to determine what is causing the problem and can suggest options open to the consumer for improving the situation. Ofcom has produced the following consumer guide on what to expect from your provider when you take a new home broadband service, and gives troubleshooting tips if you are not getting the speeds you expected. http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/files/2009/07/bbspeeds.pdf
5. What is Ofcom doing about the problem?
Ofcom has asked fixed-line ISPs to sign up to a voluntary Code of Practice which requires them to provide consumers with more information and advice on the maximum broadband speed they can individually expect to achieve. Ofcom will consider formal regulation if this doesn’t solve the problem.
In particular, the Code requires ISPs to:
- provide customers with an accurate estimate of maximum line speed at the point of sale, whether it is in the shop, over the internet or on the phone;
- resolve technical issues to improve speed and offer customers the choice to move onto a lower speed package when estimates given are inaccurate;
- ensure all sales and promotion staff have a proper understanding of the products they are selling so they can explain to their customers the meaning of the estimates provided at the point of sale; and
- provide consumers with information on usage limits and alert customers when they have breached them.
The full Code can be found at: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/telecoms/codes-of-practice/broadband-speeds-cop/voluntary-codes-of-practice/
A plain English version of the Code can be found here: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/telecoms/codes-of-practice/broadband-speeds-cop/consumer-guide/
An up-to-date list of ISPs who informed us, at the time the Code of Practice was introduced, that they would like to sign up to it can be found here: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/telecoms/codes-of-practice/broadband-speeds-cop/list-of-isps/
Ofcom has also conducted a comprehensive broadband speed survey to identify actual broadband performance across the country and its variation from advertised headline speeds and maximum line speeds. The research report can be found on the link below: