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Conflicting broadband speed data causing confusion

Friday, March 15th 2013 by Paul France
Consumers confused over conflicting broadband speed data
It's tough to judge the UK's broadband performance when so many different reports on average speeds are released.

It's hardly surprising that consumers often complain of confusion about broadband speeds, considering the vast range of conflicting information that exists on the issue.

If you listen to the latest Ofcom research, the UK is in a pretty strong position when it comes to the average fixed-line downstream rates customers can expect to receive. The regulator claims that actual speeds rose to 12Mbps last November, representing an upturn of 34 per cent - or 3.1Mbps - over the preceding six months.

But these figures seem in stark contrast to some of the other data doing the rounds. In the same week Ofcom's report was published, streaming video provider Netflix said Virgin Media offers Britain's fastest broadband, with the cable company's average speed climbing from a paltry 2.24Mbps last November to just 2.37Mbps in February.

Admittedly, Netflix stressed that its ratings are based on the average performance of all Netflix streams on each internet service provider's (ISP's) network, with factors such as the variety of devices used by its customers meaning that the average is "well below the peak performance". Still, to the average consumer there is a huge disparity between the results from Netflix and Ofcom that's only likely to cause more head-scratching and furrowed brows.

To make matters even more confusing, content delivery firm Akamai releases new broadband speed results every quarter, with the UK regularly faring pretty poorly. The company's latest stats, published in January, show an average connection speed of 6.3Mbps with a peak rating of 28.1Mbps. This fairly uninspiring result leaves Britain floundering in 12th place overall in Europe, behind the likes of Latvia, the Czech Republic and Romania.

So who do we believe? Well, the problem is that consumers simply don't know, and this lack of clarity is ultimately leading to frustration - particularly towards ISPs. A study carried out by ICM on behalf of Virgin Media discovered that two-thirds of broadband customers are angry with broadband providers, accusing them of regularly failing to deliver on their speed promises.

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