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Broadband speeds reach record levels in UK

Broadband speeds across Britain have nearly trebled in less than four years, according to new research.

The report by regulator Ofcom found the average UK speed for fixed line internet is now 9.0Mbps, up from 3.6Mbps in November 2008. Just six months ago average speeds were around 7.6Mbps.

It believes much of the rise is down to the growth in “superfast” packages – above 30Mbps – from the likes of Virgin Media and BT Infinity. In May 2012, eight per cent of broadband connections fell under this category.

Fibre cable connections provided the biggest surges in speed with traditional copper wire ADSL broadband increasing by 10% compared to cable’s 26%.

And with nearly seven in 10 broadband users in Britain on packages advertising speeds of up to 10Mbps, Ofcom believes the improvements are in part down to many Internet Service Providers investing in upgrading their broadband networks.

Getting what you pay for

Back in April, new rules were also introduced to ensure speed claims by providers could stand up to a test of being achievable by at least 10% of their customer base.

The Ofcom research was carried out by SamKnows. Its website features a broadband checker to show what options are available on your phone line and in your area. You can also compare broadband deals for your postcode here.

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said:

“Our research shows that the move to faster broadband services is gathering momentum. Consumers are benefitting from network upgrades and the launch of new superfast packages, giving them faster speeds and greater choice.”

“We are continuing to work with the advertising code-writing bodies and ISPs to ensure that speeds advertised reflect actual speeds experienced, to allow consumers the ability to make informed decisions when shopping around to find the most suitable package.”

A voluntary code of practice introduced in July last year means ISPs must allow customers whose speed falls significantly below the estimated range to leave their contract without penalty within the first three months.

Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at Broadband Choices, said:

“A jump of almost 20% in average UK broadband speeds to 9.0Mb is impressive and shows the huge impact that fibre optic technology can have.”

“But average speeds only tell part of the story. There are still huge chunks of the UK that do not yet have access to superfast technology and far too many with no real broadband to speak of at all.”

“We want insight into the average broadband speeds experienced by households in rural areas – what speeds are they having to cope with?”

On the subject of advertised speed Vs actual speed received, he added:

“Whilst any overall increase is good news, this research highlights once again the disparity between advertised speeds and the service actually received by customers.”

“Customers on the slowest connections of 2–10Mbps only received an average speed of 5.6Mbps. Although the ASA’s recent ruling has led to fewer providers making unrealistic claims in their advertising, speeds are clearly still a long way off from where they should be.”

Adam Kirby, telecoms expert at uSwitch, agreed. He said:

“Consumers are needing and demanding a faster broadband service and, on the face of it, these figures seem to suggest that many are getting it, with average UK broadband speeds getting faster.”

“However, superfast packages are pushing up the UK averages considerably, and this may not be a fair representation of the overall picture.”

“In remote rural areas and some small towns and villages, broadband speeds can be sluggish and service patchy. A two-tier broadband landscape is emerging, where ISP upgrades are taking some lucky consumers into the superfast lane, whilst leaving others stuck and frustrated in the slow lane.”

“Superfast broadband is a fantastic product for those who can get it, but the proof is in the speed tests and our data shows that three in ten postcodes still have broadband download speeds below 3Mbps and one in five still suffer from average broadband speeds of less than 2Mbps. With a service this slow, it would take 100 minutes to download a high quality film.”

“While it is great news that average speeds are up, until everyone is enjoying a level playing field there is still more to be done.”

“However, consumers do have some power. Many may be able to get a faster service, but just aren’t aware of it. It’s important that they check their current speed and what is available to them – they may be able to upgrade and enjoy a faster service.”

What to do if you’re unhappy

Other websites where you can check your speed include speed.io and speedtest.net.

As long as you are out of contract, switching provider is easy. You will just need to ring up the company delivering your service and request a MAC code. This will allow the new company to take over the broadband on your phone line.

Ofcom offer a good guide to MAC codes on their website with advice on how to switch. Your provider must issue a MAC within five working days of you requesting it.

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