October 2011 saw average download speeds recorded by users of our Broadband Speed Test drop compared to September's result, falling by 0.51Mb down to 7.48Mb. Average upload speed remained stable with a 0.06Mb drop to 1.20Mb.
Despite the overall downward trend, Virgin Media's average download and upload speeds saw significant gains, rising to 15.18Mb and 2.47Mb respectively. This increase comes as Virgin Media issued a press release boasting the ability to now offer 100Mb broadband to a third of UK households.
Unfortunately almost all other ISPs saw their average speeds drop, perhaps due to the darker autumn evenings causing an increase in peak time congestion as more broadband users turn to their computers, on demand video systems and games consoles for entertainment.
The best performing non-fibre-based provider was again BE and O2 (who share a common infrastructure) who retained 4th place with 5.95Mb average download speed over its Local Loop Unbundled ADSL2+ service.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have published guidelines on how Internet Service Providers should be describing their speeds in advertisements. Currently ISPs advertise using 'up to' speeds based on the highest speed available in the most ideal situation. Unfortunately, these speeds are rarely achieved by the majority of broadband lines, making advertised speeds misleading, and confusing many potential customers in the process.
The new guidelines - which ISPs are expected to be following by April 1st, 2012 - state that ISPs can only claim to provide maximum speeds that at least 10% of their customers can achieve. ISPs will be expected to justify their advertised speeds every 6 months based on actual usage data, ensuring that figures are kept up to date.
While this is unlikely to affect maximum advertised speeds for Virgin Media cable (already well within the suggested guidelines) and should have little affect on Fibre to the Cabinet solutions such as BT Infinity, the advertised speeds for telephone line broadband (ADSL) may well drop from up to 20/24Mbps down to 18Mbps, or even 13Mbps, depending on the ISP.
This variation is because speeds available for broadband supplied over telephone lines are very much dependent on the length of the line between the local exchange and the property. The longer the line, the lower the maximum download speed. Variation between individual ISPs may be due to how over-subscribed (highly contended) their service is and whether the product is supplied using older technologies (such as 'up to 8Mb' ADSL Max) in some areas.
Although this should allow better comparison between different broadband providers and their services, critics of the new rules point out that potential customers are still likely to be confused by the new advertised speed figures as most will be in the 90% that are unable to achieve the maximum speeds. A side effect of the new regulations means that some small proportion of users will soon be in the confusing position of having speeds higher than the advertised maximum.
Critics argue that broadband advertising should make it clear that speeds available over telephone lines are hugely dependant on the customer's individual line and that customers should be encouraged to enter their postcode or phone number for a personalised estimate. Broadband providers are already required to give an estimate of expected download speed before the customer commits to signing up, and comparison sites such as Broadband.co.uk's availability checker will give estimates of all the broadband speeds available to any particular line.
In addition to these new advertised speed guidelines, new rules regarding the use of the term "unlimited" in reference to download allowances will also come into play:
The term "unlimited" can only be used if the customer incurs no additional charge or suspension of service as a consequence of exceeding a usage threshold associated with a Fair Usage Policy (FUP), a traffic management policy or similar
Limitations that do affect the speed or usage of the service must also be moderate only and clearly explained in the advertisement (small print is not enough)
Controversially, traffic management policies limiting the performance of particular uses of the service (such as file sharing or streaming video) can still be maintained on an 'unlimited' product
While there are concerns that these new rules are not enough and are still open to confusion, it can still be considered a large step in the right direction to allow consumers to be able to make their choices with more accurate information available to them.
Monthly line rental of £13.80 applies, though you can take advantage of their Value line rental - pay £114 for a year upfront, and make a saving of £51.60. A £25 activation fee applies on Fibre Boosts.
For a limited period, Virgin Media are offering a saving of up to £149.90 on their TV packages. The offer comes with free installation worth £49.95, a free TiVo box worth £49.95 and £50 account credit to your first bill.
September 2011 saw average download speeds recorded by users of our Broadband Speed Test remain stable compared to August's result with a drop of only 0.06Mb down to 8Mb. Average upload speed also remained stable with a 0.05Mb gain to 1.26Mb.
Despite the stable overall result, individual ISPs saw significant changes. Virgin Media's average download speed again dropped after gains in July, now averaging 14.79Mb, but FttC providers BT Broadband and Eclipse saw gains in their average speeds, up to 7.84Mb and 7.3Mb respectively, presumably due to the continued rollout of Fibre to the Cabinet to new telephone exchanges allowing more customers to switch from up to 20Mb ADSL services to the faster BT Infinity and Eclipse Fibre services.
The best performing non-fibre-based provider was BE and O2 (who share a common infrastructure) who took 4th place with 6.69Mb average download speed over its Local Loop Unbundled ADSL2+ service.
Eclipse Internet have introduced a range of new Fibre Optic deals for home users, with download speeds of up to 40Mb and upload speeds of 2Mb. For £5 a month, customers can upgrade to 10Mb upload speeds. Usage allowances range from 10GB to unlimited.