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Win-win for consumers as broadband speeds get faster

The Office of Communications (OFCOM) is the UK’s regulator of all things communication which nowadays includes radio, TV, all telephonic devices including mobiles and, of course, broadband. OFCOM is Government funded and exists in order to represent the interests of UK citizens; therefore any information published by OFCOM is generally perceived by the public to be true and accurate.

You can read OFCOM’s fascinating facts on UK broadband here

In May 2012 OFCOM undertook extensive research into domestic broadband speeds and discovered an apparent average user speed across the UK of a healthy 9 Mb per second. This is a massive 2.5 times faster than the average residential broadband speeds recorded in a similar OFCOM study in 2008 of some 3.6 Mb per second. However as ever with statistics, you need to understand the data behind the figures to draw much in the way of conclusions. How do these statistics manifest themselves to the end user using fixed line broadband services?

A major reason average speeds have increased is due to the availability in some areas of so-called super-fast broadband, classified as delivering over 20 Mb per second, but these services are only available in some high population and city areas. It’s indicated that around 8% of UK homes can now access the super-fast broadband services of over 30 Mb, up from 5% 6 months ago and a mere 2% in May 2011.

However, because these high end services are so much faster than the vast majority of user’s broadband products, they tend to distort the statistics of what the average user actually gets at the end of their broadband wire.

Super-fast broadband and what it can do

True to its name, super-fast broadband is, well, faster than traditional broadband services mainly due to the extensive use of fibre optic cables in the infrastructure rather than the traditional copper wires. As well as the fibre optic route, super-fast broadband can also be delivered via other mediums such as satellite and wireless.

These higher broadband speeds make little perceptible difference to the performance of day to day web browsing and email but are very useful if you want to download a lot of video or TV on demand, or send lots of very large files.

Interestingly, customers using traditional copper wire broadband during this same period enjoyed increased speeds from 5.3 Mb to 5.9 Mb without an increase in cost. But it was cable broadband users who scooped the highest basic increase from 14.3 Mb to 17.9 Mb, an increase of 3.6 Mb.

Download and upload speeds – rarely the same

Download speed is the measure by which broadband speeds tend to be determined, and quoted, but upload speed is also very important. This is something that’s taken a long time for the major broadband ISP’s to understand. Uploading large files and pictures as well as using video requires a super-fast upload too.

Business users, particularly those looking to extend corporate networks to other locations via the internet and using Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s), have been lobbying infrastructure providers to understand the importance of upload as well as download speed for years.

In August 2012 BT’s Infinity product took the crown as the fastest upload speed provider delivering a consistent 15.6mbit.

Broadband advertising practice changed in April 2012

In a bid to rid the market of misleading advertising with broadband companies quoting ‘up-to’ data speeds that the majority of users wouldn’t be able to achieve, OFCOM has been looking hard at the way traditional broadband services are sold.

Guidance that came into force during the first quarter of 2012 states that any broadband speed advertised by an ISP must be obtainable by at least 10% of the service provider’s customers. This in itself doesn’t seem illogical, indeed maybe doesn’t go far enough. This has meant that many broadband providers have changed their advertising with many now concentrating on low cost deals and free add-ons such as internet security, parental controls as opposed to just advertising high headline speeds.

ISP’s necessary upgrades are snowballing and OFCOM note that customers in all parts of the UK are benefiting from these improvements, which bring faster speeds and more choice.

OFCOM promise to continue working to ensure advertising accurately reflects genuinely achievable broadband speeds to allow customers to make informed choices on which ISP should have their business.

Satellite Broadband and  (formerly ToowayDirect) continue to fill in the gaps

For homes and businesses that can’t get fast broadband over wires, satellite broadband and Tooway continues to blaze the trail as the leading alternative broadband technology. Tooway satellite broadband services can deliver up to 20 Mb download, 6 Mb upload to any home or business in Europe, wherever its located, virtually immediately.


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