Ofcom reveals average broadband speedConsumers receive an average speed of 3.6Mbps

08 January 2009

A graphic showing broadband related words on a blue background

UK consumers receive an average broadband speed of 3.6Mbps, according to research conducted by telecoms watchdog Ofcom.

Ofcom also found the maximum possible broadband speed is 4.3Mbps across the UK - significantly slower than the 'up to 8Mbps' advertised by the most popular broadband packages.

Which? has reviewed and rated over 30 broadband providers including BT, AOL, Virgin and Talk Talk.

Broadband speeds research

To test broadband speeds, Ofcom ran 7,000 tests in around 1,500 consumers' homes over a 30 day period, resulting in over 10 million separate tests of a range of broadband suppliers’ services.

The average 3.6Mbps is sufficient for many internet applications, including streaming audio and standard definition video, but falls short of the maximum speeds advertised by broadband suppliers. 

Consumer satisfaction with broadband services

The research also revealed that while 91% of consumers said broadband speed was an important consideration when signing up with their current broadband provider, 28% of them were unaware of the headline speed of their broadband package.

Although 93% of consumers were satisfied with their web browsing experience, satisfaction rates were lower among users of applications which typically benefit from faster speeds or more consistent performance. For example, only two thirds (67%) of those who use their broadband connection to use online TV services online were satisfied with the experience.

Only 9% of broadband users surveyed by Ofcom were dissatisfied overall, but speed was the most commonly cited cause of dissatisfaction. 

For Which? customer satisfaction scores for individual broadband providers, read the Which? broadband review.

Which? broadband research

Which? broadband expert, Ceri stanaway, said: 'Ofcom's findings confirm previous Which? research that shows many people, particularly those on packages with higher advertised speeds such as up to 8Mbps, often achieve nowhere near the headline speed.

'Broadband is becoming as increasingly important part of people's lives, and as new technologies like online TV take off, broadband speeds are an ever more important factor when choosing an ISP.

'Ofcom's research confirms the need for broadband providers to be clear and up front about what speeds people can reasonably expect to achieve so they can choose a broadband deal with confidence.'

Achievable broadband speeds

DSL and cable broadband speeds vary by time of day due to differing traffic levels on ISPs’ networks. Across the UK, speeds were slowest between 5pm and 6pm on Sundays, when use of the internet is at its highest.

Ofcom found consumers living in urban areas received speeds which were on average 15% faster than those in rural areas. 

Consumers in London received the fastest average speeds, with those in the north east of England, Wales and Scotland receiving on average the slowest speeds.

Regional differences

Broadband speeds valso depend on distance from the local BT exchange.

Overall, dissatisfaction with broadband is higher for rural users (12%) than urban users (7%), according to Ofcom. 

At a regional level, consumers in the North East, Eastern and South West English regions are significantly more satisfied with their broadband than users in East Midlands, Wales and Scotland.

Broadband speeds code of practice

Ofcom took measures to act on broadband speeds last month by requiring all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) signing up to the Broadband Speeds Code of Practice to provide an accurate estimate of the maximum speed they can expect when signing up to a service.

Since 5 December 2008, over 95% of people choosing a broadband service have been covered by the Ofcom broadband speeds Code of Practice.

Under the code, ISPs must also explain to customers the factors which determine the actual broadband speeds they can receive and give guidance on how to improve speeds. 

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