By Daniel Hunter

UK consumers are achieving 22 per cent faster broadband speeds at home than they were 12 months ago, new Ofcom research reveals.

In November 2011, the average actual UK residential broadband speed was 7.6Mbit/s, compared with 6.2Mbit/s in November/December 2010, and 6.8Mbit/s in May 2011.

This increase was mainly as a result of consumers moving onto higher speed packages. In November 2011, for the first time more than half (58 per cent) of UK residential broadband connections had a headline, or advertised speed of above 10Mbit/s, up from 48 per cent in May 2011.

However, more than 4 in 10 broadband consumers remain on packages with speeds of 10Mbit/s or less even though many of them would be able to get a higher speed at little or no extra cost if they switched package or provider.

Changes to advertised speeds

This is Ofcom’s sixth report of UK broadband speeds which aims to measure the performance of residential broadband in the UK.

Previous reports highlighted how there can be a significant difference between advertised speeds and speeds actually received by consumers. This confirmed the need for the Advertising Code-writing bodies, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), to review the use of ‘up to’ speed claims in broadband advertising to ensure that advertisements do not mislead consumers.

Following this review, CAP and BCAP published guidance in September 2011 on the use of speed claims in broadband advertising, which will come into force in April 2012.

Among other things, it requires that speed claims should be achievable by at least 10 per cent of the relevant internet service provider’s (ISP) customer base, and where a significant proportion of customers are unlikely to receive a speed sufficiently close to that advertised, further qualifying information, such as the speed range obtainable by those customers, should be included in the advertisement. In addition, any claim should be based on robust and reasonably representative data.

In line with this new guidance, using data from Ofcom’s latest research, the industry average speed based on the 10 per cent availability criteria would be 6Mbit/s for services currently advertised at ‘up to’ 8Mbit/s, and 14Mbit/s for services currently advertised at ‘up to’ 20/24Mbit/s. As indicated above, advertisements for these packages would also have to supplement headline speed claims with information such as the median speed or the typical speed range achieved by half of customers around the median.

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