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George South

Fraudband Britain - Results

  • George South
  • 14 Dec 07, 06:30 PM

Thanks to all of you who carried out the speed test on your internet connection. We got almost 600 responses which we've now crunched - and it appears a great deal of people paying for high-speed internet aren't getting even half of the speed they signed up for. We'll investigate the data and the issues in the programme tomorrow.

The results don't give a full picture, since this obviously isn't a scientific survey. Doing the speed test at different times will lead to different results, and accessing the internet over wireless, or on a computer that is slow or has a badly set up firewall/antivirus can also affect the result. Nevertheless, the results are interesting, and broadly similar to findings elsewhere.

Mark notes in the comments that it:

Seems from the data that you've already gathered that most people with up to 2Mb are getting roughly what they're promised.
If we're Fraudband Britain, the Fraud's being directed at people paying for the highest connection speed. Interesting business strategy - disappoint your highest revenue customers...

The final figures confirm Mark's suspicions - check out below the statistics for people paying for 8mbps compared to lower speed connections:

Advertised maximum speed: 1mbps
Attained (mean speed): 743.9179 kbps - 73% of maximum

Advertised maximum speed: 2mbps
Attained (mean speed): 1356.515 kbps - 66% of maximum

Advertised maximum speed: 4mbps
Attained (mean speed): 2666.743 kbps - 65% of maximum

Advertised maximum speed: 8mbps
Attained (mean speed): 2503.22 kbps - 31% of maximum

Advertised maximum speed: 10-24mbps
Attained (mean speed): 5830.826 kbps

Average speed of all respondents: 2205.077kbps

We've just spoken to Competitiveness Minister Stephen Timms and to the Internet Service Providers Association, and are hoping to speak to Ofcom tomorrow. Is there anyone else we should approach to talk about this issue?

Comments

  1. At 07:22 PM on 14 Dec 2007, AJ Cann wrote:

    Richard Branson (since Virgin now have a monopoly on UK cable)?

    BT honcho (since BT have a vertual monopoly in non-cabled areas - you still need a BT line for most ISPs broadband)?

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  2. At 07:58 PM on 14 Dec 2007, John wrote:

    Ha! Why don't you call Demon Internet's broadband helpdesk in India on 0871 271 9666. Hope you get more sense out of them than I ever could!

    But seriously, you could try the people who run thinkbroadband.com for a more user-oriented, but knowledgeable opinion.

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  3. At 10:25 PM on 14 Dec 2007, Watching Them, Watching Us wrote:

    You should also speak with

    http://www.thinkbroadband.com/

    (formerly ADSLguide.org.uk)


    They have been running these sorts of ADSL speed tests for several years now.


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  4. At 10:15 AM on 15 Dec 2007, MArc Cain wrote:

    I had these problems with Virgin last year, their customer service is terrible after the merger with NTL. I was paying for the top level, when after investigation, I found out from BT that my line would never support anything near the speeds they said. Virgin downgraded my account for me having admitted that I couldn't actually get near 8meg. I do think that there is a cause for 'false advertising' when you scroll your mouse over the connection box and it says 8.00mbps but you are actually getting only 2.

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  5. At 05:42 PM on 15 Dec 2007, Liam MCKnight wrote:

    As someone who plays online games, at least as important to me as a reasonable speed is that I remain connected. Since i switched from NTL 2 meg service, which I could leave running for weeks without the connection dropping, to Virgin 8meg I now get disconnects as often as 8 - 10 times per day.
    I also notice with the Virgin service that although I am near Edinburgh the gateway I connect to the internet through is in Bolton or some other weird and wonderful location and often the internal route through the Virgin site is painfully slow.

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  6. At 05:42 PM on 15 Dec 2007, Stuart Wyatt wrote:

    BT sold me 8, I get 2. I can live with that, although the BT engineer tells me that in the next road he measured 5. It's the disconnects that drive me crazy. Five in the last 24 hours. After one year of BT engineers visiting many, many times, their engineers have admitted to me that the cable in our road needs replacing. But they won't do it. That's right. Up your's dear customer. And by the way, if you change to another provider it won't help, because they use our cable. So, ha, ha, hi ha ha!

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  7. At 05:48 PM on 15 Dec 2007, Michael Cobb wrote:

    People who sign up for broadband now are not being misled. All the speed advertisments I see say "up to". When I first got broadband a few years ago now I could only get 512kb because of my distance from the exchange. When ADSL max came to my exchange I was upgraded for free by my ISP (Plusnet). I now get a speed that varies depending on the line quality at the time but always more than what I signed up for. I have had 3Mb. My modem is currently reporting 2.6Mb with my ISP showing a stable speed of 1.5Mb - I am happy as all I was ever promised was "up to" following an earlier lower fixed speed. Do we realy want to go back to the fixed (lowest) speed just because higher speeds cannot be guaranteed and will vary? I certainly think not.

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  8. At 06:09 PM on 15 Dec 2007, DAVID WRIGHT wrote:

    What part of 'UP TO' do you people not understand??

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  9. At 06:26 PM on 15 Dec 2007, Steven Davis wrote:

    I get approx 17 meg true speed from a 20 meg connection with Virgin Cabled Broadband. I have a few issues from time to time with dropouts but very rare and find the system far mor reliable ( and considerably faster) than a BT equivelant.

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  10. At 06:50 PM on 15 Dec 2007, Joe Crofts wrote:

    I agree with Michael Cobb, I live out in the sticks and I am grateful for the 3Meg I get on the line which comes over several miles of telegraph poles. A little research before the program would have told you that the bandwidth is limited by the line conditions, basically how far you are away from the exchange and what sort of line was originally installed for your phone. The equipment automatically decides what is the fastest speed it can reliably operate on the line. You are only being diddled by the laws of physics not the broadband companies. Go and complain to OFCOM and then you can make out they are in the pockets of the broadband companies. Is this journalism?

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  11. At 11:01 PM on 15 Dec 2007, Dilwyn Edwards wrote:

    What would you think if the police stopped you for doing a speed of 80 miles in your car? 8Mb is not a data transfer SPEED. Mb/s is. (and mb would actually be millibits!, not Mb). It doesn't take a huge effort to get the units right. So why not do it?

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  12. At 11:08 PM on 15 Dec 2007, Phil Whitley wrote:

    Hi, My company installs, manages and operates wireless broadband networks in areas with little or no ADSL, despite what the government says, there are still many of these!

    First, let me dispel some myths about broadband (BB) You will never see 8Mbps on any connection except as a spurious reading. the actual deal includes approx 512Kbps (about 1/2 Mbps). UPLOAD, therefore you will only ever get a max of about 7.5Mbps. Also note that this is mega BITS per second: 8 bits=1Byte.
    For every packet of data that you download, an ACK (nowledgement) is uploaded which says "I have got that packet OK, send the next" therefore even if you are only surfing web pages, you are actually downloading and uploading simultaneously.
    Internet based "line tests" where you enter your phone number and get a "guesstimate" of what BB speed you will get are fairly useless. they simply check,
    A) is the exchange enabled?
    B) are there any disqualifying services on the line (DAX line sharing, remote alarms, any other digital service etc)
    C) what was the last test results for condition and performance on this line. (which may never have been done)
    It then gives a best possible result, i.e. one that will encourage you to buy!!
    If you receive your broadband via your telephone line, it makes very little difference which ISP you use, you will get approximately the same result, because the limiting factor is the BT equipment at the exchange, and the broadband "pipe" that feeds that exchange. most small local exchanges have a 30Mbps pipe, town exchanges generally have 100Mbps pipe, in larger towns and cities where there are area exchanges, each area exchange will have a 100Mbps pipe. So how many "up to" 8Mbps connections will a 30Mbps local exchange pipe support at full speed? Answer 3.75! yes, that's three point seven five!! After this "contention" takes over. We carried out a simple experiment at one of our gateways , where we have two BT lines, both with "plusnet" "up to 8 Mbps"business class connections on them, connected to the same local exchange. with one line in use on a full bandwidth test at off peak time, we get about 7Mbps, when we run a full bandwidth test on both lines together, we get 3.5 Mbps on each! this is because the equipment at the exchange shares out the bandwidth available regardless of what your connection is supposed to deliver. At peak times, which are now from 3-30 to 9-00 each evening, and all weekend, the load on the national internet network is such that every BB connection will slow down. If you read the small print on your service level agreement you will see that no claims whatever are made for what speed you will get, or how reliable it will be. In fairness to the isp's it would be commercial suicide to make any such claims because they have very little control over the hardware that actually delivers your service. The exception to this is LLU or "local loop unbundling" this is still relatively rare except in large towns and cities, and means that BT disconnect your "last mile" (the copper wire between you and the exchange) and hand it to another company who supply you with internet services and telephone services. "Distance from the exchange" as a limiting factor is actually a lot more complex than it sounds (surprise!) it actually means the length, age and condition of cable between you and the exchange, and your cable may take a very roundabout route to get there, it may pass through many different junction boxes where the cables are cut and joined, it may have been re-routed down "spare pairs" of cables to navigate round faulty lengths of cable etc etc.. All this introduces resistance and capacitance into the cable, and this in turn "attenuates" (reduces) the signal. At the exchange your line is connected to a DSLAM (digital services line access multiplexer, gasp!) During the first ten days of your BB connection this kit constantly tests your line looking for packet (data) loss and progressively lowers the speed until it finds the fastest speed at which you line is stable and loses no packets. that is the maximum speed that you will get, but that will only happen when there is little or no load on the exchange, the rest (majority) of the time you will be subject to contention AS WELL. The good news is that we have noticed that lines tend to improve (dry out?) over time after they are BB enabled, and the DSLAM does periodically retest, so you may see gains over several months, but it wont be that much. At least part of the problem is that since the introduction of the up to 8Mbps service, demand for bandwidth has soared with the introduction of YouTube, Myspace, facebook, Beebo and all the other new and interesting ways of wasting bandwidth, feeding the egos and extracting the personal info of the younger generation of internet users. With C21 networks, it will undoubtedly get much worse before it gets better. BT says it will take 5 years and cost £10 Billion to implement, and that
    " The government cannot stand by with their hands in their pockets as they did during the introduction of ADSL". I take this as meaning they want taxpayers money to be used as well or maybe instead of their own.
    Remember there is also national and international contention to be considered. If you log into an American based website when most of America is asleep you will get a fast service, if you are trying when that particular website (I.E. web server, a computer) is busy, you will get slow speed, even though your local and national speed may be good. In short, it's a complicated business, I have simplified most of the above for ease of understanding. Given that some arms of the ageing BT network display properties more akin to wet string than copper wire, and many rural cables are full of long forgotten and mainly un-logged repairs and re-routes it is a miracle it works at all. What do we want? Simple, A new fibre optic network into every house within easy reach of the exchange, and fibre optic (FO) feeds to be made available as gateways to wireless networks, in order to cover the more remote areas where running many miles of new FO cable to feed very few subscribers is not practical. Will we get it? Probably not. In the meantime here's a couple of tips:
    Make sure you have a micro-filter on every telephone socket in your house including unused ones, not just the one with the ADSL modem on it.
    Make sure that the modem is connected to the BT master socket, NOT an extension.
    Every couple of weeks, or whenever you experience a constantly slow connection, reboot your ADSL modem (turn it off, wait 30 minutes, turn back on again)
    Good Luck!

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  13. At 02:14 AM on 16 Dec 2007, John wrote:

    Very clear, informative post by Phil Whitley.

    The upshot of this is that it really doesn't matter what the advertised speed of your ADSL connection is - 8Mbps, 24Mbps, whatever... - or how far you are from the exchange.

    All of this only refers to the speed that your line is technically able to deliver.

    But you'll never actually get that speed because the BT network is too congested to deliver it.

    A bit like driving down a busy motorway in a powerful car. There is no technical reason why you couldn't be cruising along at 70Mph, but the traffic means you can't; and you slowly pass the speed cameras with a wry smile, because you can't do anything else!

    And by the same token, it really matters very little which ISP you choose because almost all of them rely on BT's network. Try complaining to your ISP - they'll just blame BT. Demon Internet certainly do. You might as well save your breath and phone bill. YouTube isn't that interesting anyway!

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