Internet service providers (ISPs) are providing unreliable information on broadband speeds, according to a consumer survey undertaken by Ofcom.
The communications watchdog compared the performance of the UK’s nine largest ISPs between November 2008 and April 2009 by conducting 60 million service performance tests in more than 1,600 homes.
It concluded that there were significant differences in the download speeds offered by providers, with less than one in 10 people receiving speeds of more than 6Mbit/s on their 8Mbit/s packages.
The average broadband speed nationwide was found to be 4.1Mbits/s, compared to an average advertised ISP speed of up to 7.1Mbit/s.
The location of the consumer, the type of technology used and the capacity of the provider’s network were all found to affect the high speeds needed to stream audio and visual content from the internet.
Tiscali and AOL, which both advertise speeds of up to 8Mbit/s, achieved a national average speed of 3.2Mbit/s to 3.7Mbit/s and 3.3Mbit/s to 3.9 Mbit/s respectively. Virgin Media appeared stronger, achieving a national average of 8.1Mbit/s to 8.7Mbit/s compared to an advertised speed of up to 10Mbit/s.
With all nine ISPs surveyed, internet speeds during peak evening hours (8-10pm) were 20 per cent slower than during the rest of the day. The survey also found that consumers using the first-generation Asymmetric Digital Subscriber (ADSL1) received slower speeds than those on 8Mbit/s packages being delivered through second-generation DSL technology (ADSL2+).
However, results indicate that ISPs that invest in network capacity can deliver speeds via ADSL1 that are comparable to those operating ADSL2+.
In addition to the performance tests, a consumer perceptions survey was conducted, which revealed that 26 per cent of consumers felt the speed they received was not what they expected when they signed up to the service.