back to article Broadband advertising speed gap widens

The gap between the marketing and reality of broadband speeds has grown even wider, according to figures released today by Ofcom. The average package is now sold as 11.5Mbit/s but in fact delivers just 5.2Mbit/s downstream, a 54 per cent shortfall. A year ago the average actual performance of 4.1Mbit/s was 42 per cent less …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Just tell them If they keep on advertising Max speeds instead of average they will get a big fukoff fine !!!!

    so with every AD the main figure should be the average and then on a smaller note Up to ....

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      So what else do they do?

      The adverts seem clear enough to me. They are selling a technology that supports speeds up to 8Mb/s or 24Mb/s. They all state that actual speed will depend on your particular line and most invite you to enter your number or postcode in a checker to get an estimate. It only takes ten minutes with Google to confirm that. Anyone that signed up to an xDSL service without knowing about the distance issue is a fool.

      Anyway how else would you advertise such a service? Look at it another way - if you were selling your car and someone wanted to know how fast it would go, what would you tell them? It's the same principal. Too many variables and it depends too much on who is reading the advert.

      What would be more interesting and more relevant would be for Ofcom to compare connection speed with throughput over time. Just how often does throughput reach 85% of connection speed (allows for 15% overhead which is unavoidable)? On that scale VM don't look so hot - especially on their lower tier products.

      1. Jason Hall


        Sorry, but you are comparing non experts and (expert) professional sales there.

        If an expert/professional (what businesses are) is selling a car - then they do know the top speed of the models they sell.

        Now getting back to the actual thing being discussed - a professional company sells a product and mis-labels it as being much much faster than it actually is.

        That is what people are cross about. If they didn't *LIE* about the speeds attainable, then there wouldn't be much of a problem.

        Oh yeah... and then there is the whole 'unlimited' *LIE* too to still be sorted-out.

      2. Lionel Baden

        but thats not the point

        Hey how about i advertise to you

        *UNLIMITED IT SUPPORT for only £45 Per Month

        *limited to wether i can get the fuck out of bed and listen to your Bitching !!!

        Its taking the piss the same amount

        what percentage of their customers get the up to speed, most likley under 1%

        my freind who lives not 100M away from the exchange only gets 6.5 (alhtough he lives in the ass end of no where)

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          It's not about unlimited

          Actually I agree on 'unlimited' - that needs to be killed off.

          But on 'up to' I just don't think you lot understand. ISPs simply /don't know/ what a given telephone line is capable of. None of them own or maintain the cable. Most of them don't even own the equipment in the exchange that the cable is connected to.

          All they can do is consult the BT Openreach database and see what it says for a given number. If the number has been used recently to provide an IPStream service then the database ought to be fairly accurate. Unfortunately for lines that haven't been used for IPStream (either LLU or just no prior service) the database can only be a guess based on what BTor knows about the likely line length and quality in that part of town. Even assuming BT know the line length they can't be sure that a rat hasn't been nibbling at it or the ducting collapsed or that there's some local interference nearby.

          So what to do then?

          Some of you think the ISP should quote a minimum speed. What speed? It's the same problem as above. The ISP is relying on a third party's database that may or may not be accurate. The only honest thing they can do is tell you what the technology is capable of and point out that the actual speed will depend on factors outside of their control.

          Look at this another way - so you sign up and the speed is not what you thought you'd get. Well tough. There's bugger all the ISP can do about it (assuming we're talking about connection speed not throughput). It's not like you can stamp your foot and move to a faster ISP. Your line is what your line is.

          There's only two companies in the country that lay or upgrade cable. That's BT Openreach and Virgin Media. Everyone else (without exception) piggy-backs on their efforts. Sure in times past some LLUOs installed better equipment in the exchange but unfortunately the laws of physics mean it doesn't make much difference for most people.

          Now if you're connecting at xMb/s and only getting half that in throughput then I'm on your side. Totally. However if your complaint is connection speed I can only suggest you go to various sites and try a few tweaks (home wiring is a frequent culprit),. But whining about 'up to'? Pointless. Your ISP almost certainly has no control over that.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        Re : So what else do they do?

        So how many people do actually understand the complexities of download speeds over copper, distance from the exchange and contention for exchange bandwidth?

        It's the same with every difficult subject. Some people are experts, some proficient, and most, sadly, ignorant. So unless you are a total expert at everything (like wot I is) then how about giving the ignorant the benefit of the doubt. You never know if someone did take the time to teach then then they too might be as brilliant as you obviously are in your field.

        Of course then they'd take your job too, but that's a small price to pay for spreading knowledge and goodwill init?

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Down


          >Of course then they'd take your job too, but that's a small price to pay for spreading knowledge and goodwill init?

          Why would they have my job? I'm a software developer. I'm no expert. I just spent fifteen minutes researching the product before I signed up. Since then I've learnt a lot more but fifteen minutes is all it takes to understand that ADSL is distance limited.

      4. Kubla Cant Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Car speed is a bad analogy


        "if you were selling your car and someone wanted to know how fast it would go, what would you tell them?".

        I'd tell them how fast it would go. Most cars have a (usually illegal) maximum speed, and most drivers could attain that speed by finding a long, straight, level, and preferably empty road, pressing their right foot to the floor and waiting. The result will usually be within 10% of the advertised speed.

        More interestingly, all cars have by law to provide fuel consumption fugures. These figures relate to a set of carefully constrained tests, but they are a useful measure for comparing different models. Unlike ISPs, car manufacturers aren't allowed to say "this car will do 60 mpg" when in fact it won't manage 30 mpg.

        1. Charles Manning

          Perhaps car speed is a good analogy.

          If you get in your car on a busy road you're not going to achieve max speed. You need to pick a place/time where there is little traffic.

          Try your internet speed at 2 am in the morning when the traffic is light and you might achievefull speed so long as the rest of the neighbourhood are not downloading DVDs.

          I regularly get 50% more than advertised speed at off-peak times, but then I don't have a very typical ISP.

          Your 30 or 60 mpg car won't achieve that in all conditions (stuck in traffic, going up mountain passes,...) which is why a lot of the mpg tests are actually done with modelling rather than real road driving. Perhaps, as you suggest, ISPs should have to provide numbers based on an agreed set of models.

        2. MrT


          "Unlike ISPs, car manufacturers aren't allowed to say "this car will do 60 mpg" when in fact it won't manage 30 mpg."

          Except the biggest difference between claimed and actual mpg is currently held by the Toyota Prius - claimed is around 66mpg, actual 48 mpg. Compare to BMW 520d, with claimed of 56mpg and actual just over 50mpg on the same run - Times online.

          And yet the Prius gets the plaudits for being 'eco'.

          Clearly the way the driver drives is a big influence here, unlike the ISP user who pretty much points and clicks. Unless throttling/load balancing is employed by ISP then the only factors are line length and line quality between exchange and user - beyond the exchange the backhaul is pretty much what it is and there are very few major hubs in the UK system at which the bRAS profile is set.

      5. Anonymous Coward

        Laws don't apply to rich corporations?

        "Anyone that signed up to an xDSL service without knowing about the distance issue is a fool."

        "Everybody who's bying this kind of bread without knowing how it's done, is a fool" - same idea, different product.

        Now tell us why?

        Essentially this is large scale fraud: ISP is selling something they know they can't deliver and dont give a damn about it. And no-one makes them or punishes them for this. Crime pays, obviously so well that even laws won't apply. And the puppets called MPs don't do anything.

        If you or I do that, we'll end up in jail for a long time, obviously the state thinks that very rich are an exception.

  2. Annihilator Silver badge


    "Virgin Media's cable network, which covers about half the country, beat all ADSL providers, with its up to 10Mbit/s package delivering a real average of 9Mbit/s over 24 hours."

    Unless you use it of course...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE: Virgin

      Since I have got Virgin Broadband, my response to you is this sir: don't talk bollocks.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Hold on

        I'm happy.

        I was with Sky the biggest over-subscribers going. I was sold 16Mb ADSL, at first I got 5-6MBps, then after after 6 months I was down to around 100 kbps, all the time! Phoned Sky and asked them to check, they more less said tough luck nothing we can do.

        I jumped on Virgin's 10MB and I am getting 9.8MBps almost all the time, the evenings it drops to around 5-6MBps, I'm not there so I don't care. I thrash the life out of my link from around 2am to around 9am, I get just a fraction over 9.8Mbps consistently.

      2. CD001


        Technically he's right - try downloading a couple of gigs of hard-core donkey videos (on parachutes natch - what DID you think I was referring to?) during prime-time and you might notice your connection gets throttled.

        Weirdly, I've never actually noticed throttling on my connection - even when, after an old HDD died, I had to re-download every game on my Steam account (40 gigs or something) - though to be fair, I left that running over night.

        My 20Mbs connection generally ticks over at 16+ Mbs - as long as the server can cope. I've certainly noticed server bottle-necks since I upgraded to the 20Mbs service.

        As an added plus - since I moved to Virgin I don't have to deal with BT any more... which is nice ;)

    2. Rogerborg

      Attention leechtards

      >>"Virgin Media's cable network, which covers about half the country, beat all ADSL providers, with its up to 10Mbit/s package delivering a real average of 9Mbit/s over 24 hours."

      >Unless you use it of course...

      Correct. You *cannot* average 9Mbit/s on a normal residential connection. Virgin has, and applies, strict throttling. Don't take my word for it though:

      Do the simple arithmetic. You can *at best* average 5.4Mbit/s over 24 hours, assuming that you get 100% of your 10Mbit/s for the 550 minutes per day that you're allowed to try. This isn't some tricksy lawyering, it's the plain language of their SLA, which blatantly contradicts their headline claims.

      I've pointed this out to the ASA, but (as usual) simple English words written in consecutive order are way too complicated for them to understand.

      1. Annihilator Silver badge
        Thumb Up


        Thank you - I foolishly expected people to look it up themselves.. People on the 50 and (to an extent) 20 meg packages won't experience it (yet), but the article refers to the 10Mb package.

  3. Tom 15


    How can you offer a typical speed range on ADSL? "Connection is up to 24Mbps, typical speed range is 0-24Mbps"?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Typical speed range - easy

      Just quote the average speed +- the standard deviation, which is how a statistician would quote this (as opposed to some one in marketing who would happy quote the maximum theoretically speed).

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        What a pointless exercise.

        That would be like quoting the average speed of vehicles on Britain's roads. Helpful to planners but completely meaningless to individuals.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Unless those individuals were race-car drivers and had been sold a slow piece of crap car.

  4. Kevin Johnston Silver badge


    Alternatively, they have to use the 'whole of network' averaged figures that OfCom collects and if they want to show an improvement they pay for a re-test.

    That would cause a few sphincters to pucker

  5. Oliver Mayes

    Can someone explain to me

    How Virgin can claim that their services are subject to the same problems as ADSL (interference, line length, etc.) when they have a length of co-ax (not fibre, whatever their ads claim) running directly into my house?

    Surely since they are own every last bit of my line I should see the full 20Mb that I'm paying for? My speeds once hit 18Mb when they upgraded my exchange to support up to 50Mb, but it's now dropped down to around 9-11.

    1. Captain Jack

      Might only be me

      When I got my mum's house upgraded to 50Mb (through Virgin) most speed tests I did were actually getting that speed, I might be the exception that proves the rule though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Can someone explain to me

      It depends on how many people use the junction outside, how many use the exchange and a variety of other things.

      I've got 10Mb broadband from them and apart from 6pm to 12pm when it's slower, I get about 8-9Mb consistently.

      I can tell you this though - since the other virgin user in my block of flats moved out, my speed has been OVER 10Mb at times (not for very long though!). I'm not complaining!

    3. AndrueC Silver badge


      Unlikely to be honest but it's worth noting that with VM the coax to your house is actually going to your neighbours as well. I don't know how many houses each cable serves but I assume it's 'a street' in most cases. It probably isn't the bottleneck at the moment but it's a potential isse that BT's FTTC doesn't suffer from.

      I think a more likely explanation in your case is that VM haven't upgraded the backhaul adequately. I don't know enough about their network to know how easy it is for them to upgrade the cabinet to exchange link for instance.

  6. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Up

    Educate customers...

    It would help if customers knew how to test the speeds they're actually getting.

    My ISP have a speed test on their website. When they installed '20mbit/s' cable to my house, I tried it at various times of day and found I was getting 7mbit/s downstream at the most. So I downgraded my package to their '8mbit/s' option - and am now getting exactly the same bandwidth (7mbit/s max down) down and up, for a much cheaper price.

    I suspect this logic could apply to many locations. Just remember to measure the upstream speed as well as downstream.

    1. MrT

      Claimed speeds differ...

      ... by only a small amount for my location - BT claimed 3.1Mbps max on ADSL, but only 3.6Mbps on ADSL2 - my actual is around 3.4Mbps on the 'up to 8Mbps' ADSL service, so either they under-estimated the ADSL speed or it's all academic at the distances concerned. BTW I'm only 2 miles from the exchange, which means I should be getting higher so either the cable twists around madly between here and there or the cable quality is crud.

      1. Quirkafleeg

        That they do

        My line is claimed to be capable of 512Kb/s, but I fairly consistently get 1152Kb/s. This is plain ADSL.

    2. MrT

      IP Profile...

      Actually, some people assume they will get 8Mbps from an 8Mbps service when in fact the backhaul limits this to a lower guaranteed speed of around 7.1Mbps - the IP profile. No-one gets the download speed at which their router synchronises to their computer. So my '3.4Mbps service' actually provides 3000bps from the Internet at it's slowest point - and this is the real speed of the service.

      Then there's the ISP advertising in Bits per second when everyone thinks this is somehow linked to the file size reported by their OS when stored on their computers - but that's in Bytes, so basically divide whatever the ISP claims by 10 to find out how quickly that 2MB photo will transfer (8 bits in a byte plus checksum overheads). Since all ISPs over-egg things like this, it's ok to compare one with the other this way, but there's no way that 2MB photo will get downloaded in one second on a 2Mbps service.

      Head on over to for some really good in-depth explanations of all this stuff.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Close :)

        Well actually the maximum throughput is 85% of the IP profile. It's around 6.1Mb/s for IPStream.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    How much of this is due to censorship filters?

    The only credible tests carried out in Australia into the effects of net censorship systems showed speed reductions of over 70% in the worst cases. How much of the UK's speed problems are due to the actions of the IWF and colluding ISPs?

  8. Fading
    Thumb Down

    How do they get away with it?

    Why is OFCOM and the ASA so toothless regarding this issue? It is a blatant misrepresentation of the actual DL speeds experienced by the end user and as such should not be used in any of the advertising literature (and compensation should be paid out due to false advertising and breach of contract) . The speeds advertised should be the expected speed during peak times (Virgin 20Mb becomes upto 2 Mb if this was the measure - in my experience) . At least then you would know what to expect and be able chose your provider accordingly.

  9. collateral damage
    Thumb Down


    "Virgin Media's cable network, which covers about half the country, beat all ADSL providers, with its up to 10Mbit/s package delivering a real average of 9Mbit/s over 24 hours."

    Errm, based on my experience with Vermin Media at now four different addresses in London, I can't believe this. Can anyone explain under what extraordinary contitions VM does deliver the speeds? Surely not if you actually use the connection (and no, I'm not a heavy downloader and filesharer).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      re. Huh?

      "Can anyone explain under what extraordinary contitions VM does deliver the speeds?"

      Richard Branson's house.

    2. CD001

      The extraordinary...

      The extraordinary conditions are perhaps NOT LIVING IN LONDON! :P

      Telewest were consistently very good across the Midlands as far as I can tell (from where I live and people I've known, from Wolverhampton to Solihull to Leicester) - and in these places where it's now VM it's still perfectly acceptable (I generally clock 16 - 18Mbs on a 20Mbs connection and often virtually max-out when connecting to Steam since their servers can actually cope)... the connection's still great, it's the customer service that's bombed somewhat under VM.

    3. Tim Parker

      Local differences...

      "Errm, based on my experience with Vermin Media .... I can't believe this"

      Based on my experience, most people I have spoken using Virgin in this part of the world (SW) and a number of comments from people here - I can.

      "Can anyone explain under what extraordinary contitions VM does deliver the speeds?"

      IME, no extraordinary conditions apart not being at any of the 4 places you've lived at.. perhaps you have been very unlucky in regard to last mile or exchange contention.. who knows ? Did you speak to them about the problem, perhaps even give details (upload/download, time of day etc) .. and did they say anything if so ?

      "Surely not if you actually use the connection"

      Yes - even when using the connection - don't be childish.

    4. Matt 130

      Better than that

      I'm on the 20mbit/s service and about 90% of the time I consistently get 15-20mbit/s.

      I've had similar experience with (what's now) their cable service since it was NTL / Telewest. In the last decade I've been on .5, 1, 2, 4, 10 and now 20 mbit/s and the speed has always been close to the advertised rate. The only downside is the low upload rate. It's not below the advertised rate, but I get the same UL from my BT 2mbit/s at work as I do from my 20mbit/s at home.

      Perhaps it's a local issue. I only have experience in the Tyneside and Wearside areas.

    5. Chris J 1
      Thumb Up

      Re: Huh?

      Maybe it's just London - which has a fairly high population density. Certainly here in sunny South Yorkshire, I've always got the speed (or near-enough it makes no odds) Virgin have advertised. The extra megabit, I'd imagine, is being eaten away in packet overhead (headers, and the like).

      1. collateral damage

        Re: Local differences...

        "...Did you speak to them about the problem, perhaps even give details (upload/download, time of day etc) .. and did they say anything if so ?"

        Yup, I sufferered through quite a few support calls. They usually couldn't understand the issue, saying slow connections and time outs are normal. Only once I got the poor guy on the support line to admit that too many of my neighbours were also using their service.... of course not straight away. This was near Finsbury Park. So it probably is selling more capacity than they actually have. Just funny that this is never reflected in tests.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      They've also got a bloody funny way of measuring "half the country".

  10. Joey
    Thumb Up

    Virgin Cable

    In the past few weeks they 'upgraded' my connection to 50mps. I tested before and after with various speed tests and I'm pretty confident that I am getting 'near' 50mps. It's no extra charge for six months and then an extra £3 per month after that. At my end, all they did was change the modem.

    I have always believed that people stuck with ASDL should pay 'up to' £15 for an 8mps line, (pro rata 'the promise') then things would improve dramatically.

  11. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Not only should you get the full 20Mb/s

    (which I usually do, as it happens, but then, the fibre box is ten metres from my house!) but you should get it 24/7.

    I fear the 'unfair use' is a far larger reducer of average bitrates than any circuit issues. About time Ofcom came down on that, not just the average rates. Because with more and more people watching video on line, it's only going to get more and more restrictive.

  12. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    @ Oliver Mayes

    Perhaps you are experiencing network contention via the local exchange.

    I have VM 10Mb BB, and it delivers 9.2 regularly.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kind of on the ISP's side here

    I don't expect to get 60mpg just because the car brochure says so.

    1. Crivens


      But I'd be annoyed if I only got 35mpg from it...

      And please stop comparing computer technology to cars. The only thing in common is they both crash, but you have a higher chance of living if your computer crashes.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Actually no.

        Cars can be a very useful analogy if you compare them with data packets. They both travel across complex networks with a variety of changing conditions. In fact a 'car crash' is one of the few attributes that don't have an equivalent. Pretty much everything else does.

    2. Dr. Mouse

      Too true

      The ISP's quote the specifications of the service they will provide. In the case of ASL2+, the specs (at least as they are used in this country) allow up to 24MBits down, but this will vary dependant on line conditions. They advertise what their service does, hence are doing nothing wrong.

      What OFCOM & ASA **SHOULD** be looking at is the "Unlimited" claims, which are blatantly false. If I have an unlimitted service, and am synced at 24MBit Downstream, I expect to be able to download 7.7TB of data each month, if I so choose. Putting a cap, hidden in an (un)Fair Usage Policy means the service is NOT unlimited, and should not be sold as such.

    3. The Starglider
      Thumb Down

      Re: Kind of on the ISP's side here

      ...but you 'could' get 60mpg from the car if you drive it correctly. Internet providers are rarely able to give the speeds they advertise, instead adding those immortal words "up to".

    4. monosodium

      Re: Kind of on the ISP's side here

      But if you only got 20mpg and less if you drove your car every day, you'd take it to the garage and tell them it was broken...

    5. JohnG

      Sale of Goods

      "I don't expect to get 60mpg just because the car brochure says so."

      I do and so does UK law. If the car gave me 55mpg, I would probably put it down to driving style but if it gave me 30mpg instead of an advertised 60mpg, I would be complaining to the dealer and manufacturer and then trading standards.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Kinda like the 5-minute job

      "It only takes 5-minutes to paint a wall". Sure... but what about the preparation? Filling in the cracks, going down to the store to get your paint, do the undercoat, wait for the paint to dry, clean the brushes, etc. Entire job = 2 days.

      You can do anything and say anything out of context. The less marketing shit we get the better it is for society. Exterminating marketing execs will only take a few seconds...

    7. PaulWizard

      @AC 11:28

      You'll notice that car brochures give you the *average* MPG, usually for Urban, Extra Urban and combined. Unless your driving is awful you should expect to see results close to that. I certainly do.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Try it - see how far you get.

        >"I don't expect to get 60mpg just because the car brochure says so."

        >I do and so does UK law.

        I don't think the law is that stupid. First off it knows that brochures are just advertising and therefore not part of the sales contract. Secondly it knows that there are too many factors involved to make a simple judgement call. In order to claim you'd probably need to provide technical proof from a qualified motor mechanic.

        The defendant would probably just need to show that the problem was common to most vehicles of that type. That would mean asking their competitors. Given that they'd all be in the same boat they'd likely stand together and agree it was quite reasonable.

        The judge might just accept that and dismiss the case.

        But it's a risky analogy anyway. ADSL is designed to operate at different speeds. A better analogy would be if you bought a car where the brochure said it could achieve up to 60mpg depending how and where it was driven.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge


          >> I don't think the law is that stupid. First off it knows that brochures are just advertising and therefore not part of the sales contract.

          Wrong, information provided in brochures and even manufacturers and dealers websites is part of the contract. That is enshrined in amendments to the Sale of Goods Act made by the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002 (which enacts a European Directive). This explicitly states that public information provided by the vendor or manufacturer (eg on their website) is to be taken as part of the contract.

          But back to the question, I'd like to see a minimum rate quoted when you try to sign up (or enquire). They already have the means to estimate the sync speed you are likely to get based on the length of cable from the exchange, but what we need is a guaranteed rate after taking into account contention with other users - particularly the backhaul.

          Eg, when we first got ADSL here, I went with the 512k service which had a 50:1 contention ratio. In theory that means someone could get as little as 10k - ie about a 1/3 of what I got on dial-up. An ISP should be able to quote a minimum rate given your line length and exchange capacity - if they had to quote that then people could choose, pay more to an ISP with more backhaul and hence higher guaranteed rate, or pay less to an ISP with high contention if you aren't that bothered.

          Also, monthly limits should be part of the "headline" information - some better ISPs already do this, selling different amounts of monthly cap at different prices.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            That's as maybe

            "information provided in brochures and even manufacturers and dealers websites is part of the contract. That is enshrined in amendments to the Sale of Goods Act made by the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002 (which enacts a European Directive). This explicitly states that public information provided by the vendor or manufacturer (eg on their website) is to be taken as part of the contract."

            That's as maybe, but the motor advertising contains small print saying something like "this is the mpg for model X under EU stipulated test conditions, consumption achieved in the real world or with a different model may differ". The law seems to be perfectly happy with this.

            If the broadband advertising contains small print saying something like "speeds delivered on your line may be lower" then I can't see why that should be any different in law.

            Of course we really know the difference don't we? Remember NuLabour and the "court of public opinion" bullshit? This is the same, this is an popular whinge among the middle classes so wants to be seen to do something about it in order to raise it's approval rating.

            What I find more annoying is the advertising a lot of companies are doing at the moment promising the earth, but delivering phuque all. You know the ones "up to 24Mb/s unlimitted downloads for £6.99 a month and free phone calls" then you apply and are told that they can't deliver that service on your line, but they can deliver an "access only" solution for four times the price at a quarter of the speed. What they really mean is IPStream with ridiculous contention ratios so you'll be lucky to get download speed of better than 512Kb/s at peak times. Funnilly enough they don't mention that in the small print except perhaps by saying something like "where available" and thinking that covers them. That's the real con in broadband sales at the moment.

      2. Grease Monkey Silver badge


        "You'll notice that car brochures give you the *average* MPG, usually for Urban, Extra Urban and combined. Unless your driving is awful you should expect to see results close to that. I certainly do."

        Hahahahahahahhahahahahaha! and Ha! You owe me a new keyboard.

        FFS have you done any reading on how the EU standard mpg figures are actually achieved? I suggest you do some then reread your post and you'll find you'll laugh as hard as I did.

        The tests are carried out in a test cell on a rolling road, not on a road or test track which is bad enough. What is even worse is how slowly vehicles have to accelerate, the reason for this is so that the tests will apply to all vehicles no matter how slow. So performance cars are being tested on a whiff of throttle and will, therefore give better results on the test than they will in the real world.

        When these figures first came out a lot of people in the industry were puzzled by the fact that automatics did so well, indeed they often seemed to do better than the equivalent manual. Why should this be when real world experience shows the opposite to be true? Because the test standards stipulate the gear change point for manual boxes, these shift points are not magically the most efficient for every car. However because they couldn't find a way to make an auto shift at these points there is no such stipulation for automatic transmissions. Guess what, the auto box will generally be designed so that it shifts somewhere near the optimum point, especially if the transmisson comes with different modes like "economy" and "sport". The only fair way to run the tests is to allow manuals to shift where the driver feels they should shift, most decent drivers can tell where the best shift point is, or perhaps where the owners manual says you should shift.

        The stupid thing is that these tests are also used to measure your CO2 emissions. So the tests are actually encouraging people to buy vehicles which may have higher CO2 emissions just to make things simple for the testing agency. Did they think: "what's the most accurate way to measure and represent fuel consumption?" No, they thought "Shit, this is difficult, what's the easiest way we can do this and what time's lunch."

        Let a eurocrat get involved with anything and it will turn to meaningless shit.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Not just ISP's

    Your car is sold to you stating that it's capable of a 'up to a zillion' miles to the gallon. In fact it only does this under laboratory condition when driven by computer.

    The reality is that it delivers far less mpg. I'd prefer to see a different system to let buyers more accurately guage cost of ownership. Perhaps summat similar to Fridges. Cost band B etc.

    As it is - advertisers, manufacturers just follow the Governments example a lie their ass off.

    1. MrT

      it already is like that in car dealers

      New cars are sold with those green to red A-G scaled stickers on the Windscreen. They base them on the g/km CO2 emission figures, plus a cost of ownership calculation that gives a price per year based on the average mpg and a notional average mileage. All of these things are driver-dependant, but given the vast array of models etc it's a fair comparison. It doesn't matter a hill of beans that eco-warriors' favorites get beaten on the outright mph battle by modern high-performance diesels, the comparison is made on the available standard data

  15. Riscyrich
    Big Brother

    @ Oliver Mayers

    Perhaps you should read up on the properties of coaxial cable, might help to explain why it isn't subject to the same interference problems the copper pair you get from BT is.

    I have the same 20Mb cable service from VM in Leeds and get exactly that. In fact I downloaded software from Steam yesterday at 2.4Mbyte/s.

    Let us not forget the impact of contention ratios and the dreaded Virgin Media Traffic management policy... :-)

  16. Mage Silver badge


    The fibre feeds a box of tricks that feeds coax. The coax is shared among a number of users. So while any user (unlike DSL) can get the full speed, once the number users and their activity exceeds the shared coax bandwidth, then it gets slower per person.

    DSL is only shared at the exchange/ backhaul (equivalent to virgin's fibre), but the line speed drops dramatically with distance.

    Fixed Wireless (used more in Ireland) is like lower capacity coax. Mobile Wireless (i.e. 3G or 4G) is up to x10 or x16 worse than fixed Wireless, which is worse than Coax. So the 7.2Mbps or higher claims of Mobile phone networks are totally dishonest and make DSL claims look saintly!

    see some comments & discussions


    Mobile is advertised as Broadband, and compared to DSL or Cable, it's not remotely Broadband. A scandal.

  17. Colin Miller

    educate customers?

    ISP's advertisements should make it clear that real-world speeds are dependant on the quality of your phone line, which is outside of their control, and, if you are using Wi-Fi, your house's construction.

    However, they should have enough back-haul to keep up with the speeds they are providing.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    I must be

    I must be the only person that actually gets more than the advertised speed i pay for the 50Mb but i get an average of around 60Mb

  19. Joefish

    Surely what this is a measure of...

    Surely what this is a measure of is the complete and utter combined incompetence of OFCOM and the ASA?

    And there's a slight misprint.

    "BT reacted to the research by pointing to its ongoing £2.5bn investment in fibre optic upgrades..."

    should read:

    "BT reacted to the research by pointing to its ongoing £2.5bn investment in making adverts about its fibre optic upgrades like they'll make any difference..."

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      And dont get me started on Unlimited deals with "Fair usage" smallprint.

      All this survey goes is prove OFCOM would rather spend time talking about a problem rather than fixing it.

  20. Chris Miller

    Which speed is being measured?

    Is it the speed at which my DSL router connects to the exchange (in my case, it reports 7616/448kbps)? Or is it the speed at which I can download a file from a web server (in my case roughly 6Mbps - since the data is coming from SamKnows, I guess it's this one)?

    But the latter speed cannot exceed ~80% of the former, due to overheads in the protocols being used. If I link two PCs with a crossed 100Mb Ethernet cable and carry out a file transfer, I don't expect to see a 12.5 megabyte transfer rate. Ought I to sue the IEEE because I can't use the full rated speed?

    None of this should be used to excuse ISPs that sell 100 x 8Mb packages from a single exchange and only provide a 25Mb uplink to their POP.

  21. Jonte Monkey


    What gets me is that BT thinks that pointing to "ongoing investment" is in any way an answer to the fact that actual speed is lower than advertised speed. I'm not paying for speeds that I might achieve in the future, I'm paying for these speeds now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      At least BT are investing in the network. Most other ISPs are cherry picking urban exchanges and providing a horribly expensive, heavilly contended IPStream service for everybody else. That's the one that ought to be banned. If O2 et al want to advertise a service nationally they should have their own kit installed in every exchange in the country rather than fobbing off people outside the biggest cities with a shite IPStream service.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    This isn't "Ofcom's network of speed testing hardware"

    Surely this is the Samknows "network of speed testing hardware", in association with Ofcon.

    More at

    Poor chap's gone all corporate. I remember when he was still a techy. Maybe someone will find a cure for his ills one day, but until then, I wish him well (and if he's got a fiver spare till the end of the week, may Paypal account number is ......).

    Cheers Sam!

  23. David Gosnell

    You cannae change the laws of physics

    Any provider managing better speeds than BT over unbundled BT lines is almost certainly massaging things somehow. Certainly unbundled providers in the past have set their hardware to work on lower noise margins than BT, which allows higher speed at the cost of dramatically reduced sync stability. BT I believe operate at 6dB by default, and can be tricked to go higher, whereas others are set to 3dB. Give me stability over speed (within reason!) any day.

  24. James Hughes 1

    Toothless offcom

    I listened to some spokemans from Ofcom this morning on Radio 4. What a complete and utter wimp. He came across as so on the side of the ISP's it was absurd. Ofcom are letting the ISP's get away with lying and enforcing a city/country divide in speeds - they are a waste of space. Voluntary codes are hopeless - they need to get statutary stuff in place to force the ISP;s to actually spend some of the colosal amount of money being paid to them for a substandard service (according to their own upto figuires) on new infrastructure, countrywide.


  25. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Usually good for me

    On Virgin's 20Mbps offering and just speed tested it at 19.5Mbps (12:58) and I usually get that speed. But it does crash and burn at various times and that presumably is contention and bottlenecks up the highway. DNS lookup delays are what mostly seem to hit my surfing enjoyment plus adservers working like tar pits.

    But I have got new 'digital filters' and put on a new circuit having had less than stellar performance. In most cases Virgin seem to throw in a new modem and that's it; if you don't complain, job done. I have friends on the same or better packages who don't get the speeds I do.

  26. Harry
    Thumb Down

    So why haven't they done something about it before ?

    "A year ago the average actual performance of 4.1Mbit/s was 42 per cent less than advertising claimed."

    Supermarkets aren't allowed to mislabel 300 gram packets as "contains up to 500 grams".

    Ofcom could and should be insisting that telcos stop advertising these misleading "up to" figures and require them to publish an "at least xxx bps" figure as the sole trumpeting figure.

    But the change from 42% undersold to 54% undersold is only proof that the rule SHOULD have been brought in a year or more ago.

    "Advertisers should also be made to include a "typical speed range", the regulator said."

    That's not a lot of help. The speed that is advertised needs to be a guaranteed, CONTRACTUAL speed with no loopholes. It must be sufficient to ensure that a buyer who does not receive the advertised speed can legally withhold all or most of the payment, in the certain knowledge that a court would agree that the service was not up to the advertised standard.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Not possible

      >That's not a lot of help. The speed that is advertised needs to be a guaranteed, CONTRACTUAL speed with no loopholes

      That isn't possible in this universe with today's technology. Maybe one day when FTTP is commonplace but right here, right now it's xDSL for most of us and guarantees would be lies. As with everything else it's up to the consumer to know what they are buying. Stop trying to abdicate responsibility to someone else. Step up and do your own thinking.

  27. Red Bren

    OFCOM - between a rock and a hard place

    They want to be seen to be doing something for the consumer so the Con/Lib gov might grant them a stay of execution. But they don't want to upset their corporate friends or they will miss out on the juicy consultancies and directorships when the axe finally falls!

  28. Cameron Colley

    Think I'll stick with Virmin.

    While I occasionally forget the "fair use policy" I otherwise find my 10MB connection to be about 9.8-10.2MB.

    However, when I found VM were potentially overcharging I went looking for a replacement -- and the fastest BT would guarantee over their lines was 2.5MB, and that was a "best endeavours". Oddly, a young lady from Sky turned up a few months later touting "20MB Broadband" -- she didn't know what to say when I asked her if they'd been down the street replacing copper. I checked the BT site later that evening, they hadn't but they did seem to have deployed new MODEMs and suggested a cautions "up to 3.6MB" on "best endeavours" though.

    So, even in 2010, it is not possible to get a decent broadband speed in the outskirts one of the UK's biggest cities without using cable.

    1. Geoff Campbell

      "Best endeavours"

      Now there's a rather dangerous phrase to use. It means something rather different in law to what most people think it means. When writing any document that might become evidence in case of legal dispute, always, and I mean *always*, use "reasonable endeavours" instead.

      Otherwise, if the other party can find any possible method by which you could have done better, irrespective of price, then you will lose.

      Now, back to our advertised programme....


  29. CJO


    I am with VM, and although I dislike dealing with them as a company, I wouldn't go anywhere else because I like the speeds and consitency of speed with my connection.

    The fair use policy is the only bit I do not like, I accept that throttling *may* be required during peak hours, but 1.5 gig between the hours of 4-9 is a little unreasonable if you ask me. Especially considering that I am usually only in during 4-9 :/

    It has to be said that the throttling has improved, but they should bump the cap (for 10meg) up to 3gig, and also scrap the day time cap...

    They used to also throttle you for 5 hours even if you hit the cap at 8:59 - don't know if this is still the case though....

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Absolutely Joke

    Would I accept it if I purchased a car advertised with a top speed of 120 mph, but when receiving I found it only went 60 mph. No I wouldn't I would demand my money back and claim damages for loss of time.

    If people actually took action against their ISPs things would soon change. The problem is that no body is going to stand up against the ISP to risk having no internet access.

    This actually need to government stepping in and insisting that the UK ISPs sort out their services. If it were a utility like Gas - we would not pay for gas if there was not enough pressure to run both our cooker and boiler.

    This is a Joke and people need to lobby their MP to do something about this because it's not going to happen otherwise and we'll fall further and further behind.

  31. Harry

    "That isn't possible in this universe with today's technology. "

    It's not possible to guarantee a line to the stated 20Mbps -- true. Which is precisely why we are saying they shouldn't be able to make any claim which they cannot guarantee.

    Instead, the line could and SHOULD be sold honestly as a line which guarantees "at least 2 Mbps". Substantially different, but completely truthful.

    And in areas where the service is better, they can (again, truthfully) sell lines which guarantee "at least 5 Mbs",

    And they can (and SHOULD) be required to charge LESS for those lines for which they can guarantee only 2Mbps.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I don't see the problem. If they advertise up to xMb/s then anything at all up to that speed is what is advertised. How stupid are consumers getting.

    I saw a sale advertised yesterday with "Up to 25% Off" I didn't hear anybody howling that the items with only 5% off were breaching the sales descriptions act or similar.

    I can't speak for all providers, but the major ones will tell you what line speed you can expect at the time of the order. As such I think they are being fair. After all when you see an advertisment for a car it may have a headline consumption figure of 60mpg, but the small print at the bottom might tell you that is the official EU figure is for the 1.2DTx and that you may achieve different figures in use and that furthermore other models in the range may get significantly different consumption figures. I don't see anybody saying car manufacturers should be forced to advertise the average mpg figure for the whole range.

    A friend of mine recently rang to order ADSL for his new home and was told that the line speed he could expect would only be about 12Mb/s. I particularly liked the "only".

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Damn Right They're Full of Sh*t!

    Sky Advertised an "upto" 20Mbps service. I was advised on the phone I'd get 6-8 which is acceptable. What do I get? Upto 2Mbps, but practically, I've never had more than 1.8 in quiet periods. That's 10% of the advertised! They need to legislate. Nothing else is going to motivate honesty!

  34. Chris Hills

    A novel idea

    Here is a novel idea - charge customers based upon the actual speed they get, so that those with slower access do not end up subsidising those with faster access. E.g. if it is £16 for "Up to 16mbs" and you actually get 1mbs, then you should only pay £1.

  35. Blubster

    No Chance

    "Virgin Media's cable network, which covers about half the country, beat all ADSL providers, with its up to 10Mbit/s package delivering a real average of 9Mbit/s over 24 hours."

    I'm lucky if my VM cable scrapes 3Mbit/s. Only once have I seen it peak at 5Mbit and that only for a few minutes.

  36. Fuzz

    two issues

    I think the problem with this is that there is two issues here.

    Issue 1 is that DSL and, to a much lesser extent, cable suffers speed loss dependent on the length and quality of the line. This isn't something the ISPs can do anything about but it is something they can allow for. With cable it isn't really a problem and for DSL the ISPs do allow for it. When you sign up for a connection the ISP tells you what speed you can expect. I don't see a problem with this.

    Issue 2 is that the ISPs are overselling their connections. If my modem syncs at 20Mbps (which it does) then I expect to get 20Mbps, allowing for overheads, in my case I do get that speed, but I see a lot of people who clearly suffer from contention. When I used to have a Virgin Media connection my 20Mbps line rarely ran at more than 6Mbps. This is just unacceptable, I'm not expecting ISPs not to use contention but it's about setting your network up in a way that the contention isn't noticed. If an ISP can't supply data at my sync speed then they shouldn't be advertising their service at that speed.

  37. Pat 3

    Good news

    All ADSL providers give you a better quote when you sign up based on the length of your line. 'Up to 24mb' is the theoretical maximum of the technology. Unfortunately BT controls the copper so all ADSL providers are the same unless they artifically cap your speed. Sky's 'up to 20mb' just means they'll give you all they can. You've got two choices - BT's network or Virgins. Suck it up.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @You cannae change the laws of physics

    "Any provider managing better speeds than BT over unbundled BT lines is almost certainly massaging things somehow. "

    Depends what speed your measuring. The sync speed, between punter and exchange, is the one that is determined by the immutable laws of physics.

    The actual throughput the end user sees *will* be less than that.

    If the end user's ISP doesn't use BTwoolsale, the end user throughput will be slightly less than sync speed purely because of unavoidable protocol overheads.

    If the end user's ISP does use BTwoolsale, the end user throughput will quite possibly be a lot less than sync speed, not just because of unavoidable protocol overheads, but also because of a silly BTw system called Dynamic Line Management that imposes throughput caps depending on the lowest recently observed sync speed, and because of congestion in BTwoolsale's backbone network.

    Changing the laws of physics is easy, it happens every day on TV. It's BTw you cannae change.

  39. Justabloke 1


    If I'm honest I don't really have an issue with "up to a zillion M/bits per second" stuff.

    I do have a problem with "fair use" on something sold as unlimited however and in my opinion the whole advertised speed / received speed thing is a complete red herring compared to the "unlimited" thing because by definition something that is artificially capped, regardless of what that cap actually is, is not unlimited.

    I really don't understand how they can be allowed to advertise it as such. I can't think of *any* non data/technology related item or service that would get away with it.

    would it really be so difficult to advertise "upto a zillion m/bit per sec" subject to a 15 gig / month limit.

    Now, I've never actually been capped but if I found I was and it happened regularly enough for me then I'd be happy to pay a little more to get a bigger cap BUT ONLY if my service hadn't been flogged to me as "unlimited"

    Pretty scandalous really.

  40. mhenriday
    Thumb Down

    Surprise, surprise !

    ISPs - even i the UK, that bastion of truth in advertising - lie about the speeds of the connexions they offer their customers (please, Reg monitor - read the above as synonymous with «make statements regarding the speeds of the connexions they offer their customers which have at best an ephemeral relation to reality») ! What a revelation ! But users in the UK can comfort themselves - solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris - we users everywhere, in particular ADSL users, are all in the same boat....


  41. cs94njw
    Thumb Down

    I think the real issue is Max and the Price

    They say £blah for a max 24MB/s. So 24MB/s costs £blah.

    But actually, you're getting 6MB/s. So shouldn't you be paying £blah / 4 ?

    You're paying the same price as someone else who may be getting 24 MB/s. So you're not getting value for money / the service you're paying for.

    I think that's the crux of the matter.

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