What would make you switch to superfast broadband?

by , Conversation Editor Technology 4 July 2013
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Ofcom is consulting on how to bring more competition to the superfast broadband industry. The question is, will the regulator’s proposed improvements to the industry benefit customers as well?

Fibre optics

Despite living in the middle of London, I can’t get superfast fibre optic broadband in my area. I’m stuck with ‘only’ 8Mbps speeds at the moment, which is a darned sight better than the 3Mbps I used to get. Nonetheless, I certainly wouldn’t mind something closer to 100Mbps…

If I was lucky enough for such speeds to be rolled out to my area, I might still be held back by a difficult and lengthy switching process. Thankfully, Ofcom’s on the case – the regulator is consulting on how to make switching to superfast broadband cheaper and easier. Here come its proposals…

Slash the cost of switching to superfast

The first proposed change is to slash the cost of moving a customer from one superfast broadband provider to another.

At the moment, broadband providers who use BT’s fibre optic Openreach network have to pay BT £50 to switch a customer onto their service. This is a charge that Ofcom says is often passed on to customers, and so the regulator plans to cap this charge at a maximum £15. Great news, if this benefit is passed on to customers.

A second proposed change is to require minimum service standards for superfast broadband, and for Openreach to be held accountable for its performance. Considering that we often hear from people complaining about the poor service they receive from broadband engineers, it’s good to hear that Openreach will be required to maintain an acceptable level of performance.

I can even speak from experience – my home broadband connection is down at this very moment. It took an hour of my housemate’s time to convince our provider’s customer service team to send out an engineer for free (they wanted to charge us £50 to fix a fault on their line). Now we have to wait for another engineer to come out and fix it this weekend…

Shorter superfast broadband contracts

Anyway, let’s move back to Ofcom’s consultation. There’s one proposal that interests me most – the regulator has suggested reducing the minimum length of wholesale contracts between BT and the new supplier from a year to just one month. I know that one of the most annoying aspects of signing up to a new provider is being locked into a lengthy contract. It’s one of the reasons why I’m on a pay-as-you-go mobile phone contract.

So, if shorter term contracts are passed on to consumers, it would allow millions of people to switch to faster broadband connections without the fear of being locked into lengthy contracts. That would certainly make me more likely to switch to superfast – how about you?

34 comments

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wavechange

I’m quite happy with my broadband speed, which is now very constant at around 7.5 Mbps, irrespective of the time of day. Once or twice a week the connection drops, which is annoying but it is normally working again within a few minutes.

The only time I would appreciate faster broadband is for uploading large files.

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lessismore

What I’d like is a joined up system. Why can’t the same person do all the setting up instead of walking out and leaving you without an email connection. And as for the problems moving from one provider to another Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh. If they can’t get it together to give the customer a simple service there really is no hope. Or even offer a more complicated service. It isn’t all about size. It’s about quality. How many engineers does it take to….??

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Em

>>> What would make you switch to superfast broadband? <<<

Having the option would be a good start!

I feel the same… but imagine hypothetically it was available in your area… :)

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Em

Hypothetically:

I’m not particulary worried about one-time charges.

It seems like it was only a few years ago that I paid £189 for a dial-up modem that ran at a few kbps, let alone the lengthy telephone bills for hours of connection charges, plus a second line rental so I could actually talk to someone on the phone at the same time as using the computer. (How times have changed for the pioneers of the Internet and how quickly it all gets taken for granted and abused by spammers, scammers and worse.)

I’ve been with the same ISP (Eclipse), ever since Which? withdrew from the market(!!!), and have been very happy with them, so again, I’m not unduly worried about a lengthy contract term – unlike my mobile phone contract.

BT Openreach – just get a move on!

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Chris,Moray

I get 1.98 mbps in the Highlands and would dearly like a little more. I think we have missed out on BT Openreach as the councils didn’t apply. I’m not sure I need superfast, but super-slow is not fun as I have two websites to maintain and I’m unable to see how well they perform for the average user.

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NFH

The thing that annoys me most is most providers’ mandatory requirement to have a phone line in order to have broadband. All I want is a 50Mbps internet connection. I don’t need a physical phone line, as I can get a virtual fixed line for free over the internet using SIP/VOIP and a physical SIP phone.

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Malcolm R

Higher speed broadband for business use is sensible, and if you download large files. But for me it would be an unecessary luxury for leisure use. I pootle along with about 2.5 Mb/s as we live in the stix, but it really is not an issue – I don’t use my computer for films or music and living in a rush is in the past.
I agree that you should be able to separate a landline from broadband, although I think it very sensible to keep a landline – I don’t want the cost of only being able to contact someone on a mobile.

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NFH

By losing an expensive physical landline, you can still have a virtual landline for free. For example, you can buy telephone numbers from Flextel for a one-off cost as little as £1. You can then point the number for free at a SIP address, which is the VOIP equivalent of a telephone number. You can then make and receive calls using a physical SIP phone and/or a virtual SIP phone on a smartphone. You can use the latter as a cordless phone. Outgoing calls can be made via VOIP providers such as http://www.voipcheap.com or http://www.freevoipdeal.com. The only downside is that, unlike the many physical landline providers, VOIP providers usually don’t include 0845 and 0870 numbers in inclusive free minutes, but these expensive customer service numbers will soon become a thing of the past when Article 21 of the Consumer Rights Directive is enacted in the UK next year. So you can have a landline for free instead of for £10/month.

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Em

If you intend to do without a landline, be very careful that you have adequate arrangements in place for making calls to Emergency Services, i.e. “999″ calls. Some VoIP services support 999 calls – others do not.

Even if you are aware of their policy, consider what would happen in the event of a power cut. VOIP phones, as well as wireless DECT phones that connect to a landline, do not operate without power. And does your router have a UPS back-up? I doubt it.

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NFH

Yes, 999/112 calls are indeed a problem with VOIP providers, especially with the best value ones, but a mobile can always be used for these rare occasions.

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Em

Of course. But if a mobile phone is to be the emergency phone, people do need to make sure it is somewhere accessible to all members of the household. I usually keep mine down the back of the sofa or covered under a pile of clothes for ease of access. :-)

I was told by the Fire Service who attended a lithium battery fire that, with increasing use, mobile phones and dodgy phone chargers are becoming a more common source of house fires – you could find yourself in a Catch 22 situation!

I don’t want to overstate the risk here – just not something that everyone is aware of.

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NFH

I still don’t think that £10/month is worth it just to have a second means of dialling 999/112. In any case, my mobile is always closer to hand than my fixed line.

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wavechange

I moved to a combined broadband and phone tariff a couple of years ago. I make considerable use of both services, and both are reliable. I recently replaced my fixed landline phone so that it’s always available as an emergency phone, though I have three cordless phones round the house.

I would not want to depend on a mobile phone. For example, I shared transport with a friend on Friday, when I went to a conference in Wakefield. We made numerous calls to try to meet up after the event until one of us was successful. Some mobile phones (for example my friend’s iPhone) will not take a spare battery, which is ridiculous. I keep a spare battery and spare mobile in the car.

I make frequent use of mobile broadband when I am out and about. It is getting better but it is always good to be back home to use my 7.5 Mbps service. I am glad that my ISP seems to have stopped advertising it as ‘up to 24 Mbps’.

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David Dundas

Speed and reliability are both important issues. Outside the London area and perhaps outside the centre of major cities, the problem is that often only one company has fibre optics laid, so if that’s not good quality you are stuck with that provider even if another will sign you up to use it. Here in Lichfield we have an old creaking fibre network presently owned by Virgin Media who inherited from NTL who bought it from Comtel 20 years ago. BT refuses to lay their super-fast fibre because Virgin is already here. Virgin makes big promises but nothing happens.

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Figgerty

I ws offered superfast broadband last week for the bargain price of £10 per month, for the next year. I declined their offer as I am happy with an almost costant speed of 6.5Mb/s. Why would I wish to spend an extra £10 a month, I could buy a few bottles of artisan cider for that.

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mark

I am fortunate that Fibre (FTTC) broadband is available in my street, even though I live in a rural area. I wouldn’t have upgraded if my ADSL performance had been adequate though. Living a long way from the exchange meant I could only get about 2Mbps which was inadequate (I have children who seem to spend all day (and night!) streaming videos). It only costs me about £5 a month more than ADSL from PlusNet, so it’s good value too.

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paulyb

sharing videos of the kids with grandparents and friends means upload speed is the most important feature (download speeds are pretty good across most providers). Currently, upload rate is a maximum 600 kb/s, and takes hours to do a very short film of the kids. For ‘cloud’ backups, it will take 50 days to encrypt/upload 250GB of precious photos and video of the kids, hopefully switching to high speed will increase upload speeds 30-fold. HOWEVER, if these things aren’t important, standard broadband is almost being given away so those of you happy with lower download/upload speeds.

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wavechange

My understanding is that download speed is faster than upload on normal ADSL broadband to accommodate the fact that we generally download more data than we upload. I don’t know if this applies to ‘superfast’ broadband, or if the transfer rates are better balanced.

Before I retired, my university network provided me with fast upload and download speeds, with speedtest.net normally showing >65 Mbps in both directions – the top end of the scale in these days.

I know people who are still using a dial-up service to access the Internet. One has a farm miles from anywhere, and each time he gives out his email address he warns people that he may not be able to receive attachments. The fair solution is to charge people according to the service they are given, and it’s about time we phase out the useless term ‘up to’.

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Em

Not only is your understanding correct wavechange, by definition in an ADSL connection the download speed is faster than upload. A stands for Asymetric (connections speeds). If you want upload and download speeds to be the same, you need an SDSL connection.

I also agree the term “up to” is useless. There is something set by the exchange called the IP Profile that puts an absolute cap on the transmission speed, that will stop the data rate exceeding the your average sync speed and noise margin (basically the distance to the exchange and the quality of the line).

I’m sure the marketing intent is to fool the consumer into believing that at least on some rare occasions the broadband connection speed may peak at 8mbsp, but in practice it can never exceed the IP Profile speed, which is typically 2-4mbps, but can be much worse.

It’s a bit like advertising a car as having a top speed of 240 mph which, even in theory, could only be achieved downhill with a following wind. Not only that, but the car is so unstable that it is fitted with a regulator that will not allow it to exceed 50 mph, to stop it coming off the road. (And they don’t tell you about that part!)

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wavechange

Thanks Em. Do you happen to know if ‘superfast’ broadband is also asymmetric in its data transfer speeds? (From your witty comment I guess you are unlikely to have personal experience.)

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David Dundas

My understanding is that super-fast broadband is also assymmetric (ADSL) which saves on ISP server power although the actual fibre cables could take symmetric (DSL) but that could increase the traffic over the cable and slow everyone down. Some European countries like Belgium have had DSL since broadband was available on copper wires.

If you are living in a remote area, the long term solution to broadband speed may turn out to be the new G4 mobile standard if it becomes available to you, because this is claimed to be able to have similar data transfer speeds to fibre broadband. Also I understand that BT is experimenting with using the old long-wave radio frequencies for high speed broadband.

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mark

I agree the “up to” term is confusing. However I don’t have any good ideas on what the ISPs could do instead. The main factor in how fast performance you get is how far away you are from your exchange and there’s no generalisations there.

IP profiles are not really a big problem since they are linked to your actual line speed.

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mark

There’s no ‘standard’ definition of superfast broadband AFAIK. Right now it’s could be anything faster than conventional ADSL (over your phone line). FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet) is one type of superfast broadband being offered right now. It uses VDSL, which is similar to ADSL, but is a later standard and optimized to run over shorter distances. It is faster compared to ADSL mainly because the data travels over optical fibres until it is close to your home and only over copper wires from the cabinet. Generally it is offered in “up to 40Mb/s” or “up to 80Mb/s” flavours. I have the “up to 80Mb/s” and actually get around 40Mb/s real download speed[1]

[1] The actual throughput will always be limited by the slowest speed.

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Andrew Ferguson

I am a little dismayed to read the original article as the recent Ofcom changes are nothing to do with switching from ADSL/ADSL2+ to an Openreach FTTC based service. The reduction from £50 to £15 (plus VAT) is about switching between FTTC providers once connected to the Openreach FTTC network.

Similar with the contract length, it is about not adding a new 12 month contract if you switch from one fibre product to another.

Also the minimum service standards would apply to the work Openreach does on any of the broadband related products working over its local loop.

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Richardalamaro

Although I live in a modern development by the Thames in Greenwich, BT has no plans to provide BT Infinity to my address.

Just as I was thinking that I would have to put up with my 4.5 MB/S broadband service for ever Hyperoptic arrive and start laying cable to our development with very reasonable price ranges for different speeds from 20MB/S to 1GB. This will be fibre to your home rather than to the cabinet.

Does anyone know anything about this company? I have heard George Soros the investor has invested in it.

Richard

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RM

I have “Superfast Broadband” BT Infinity upto 76Mbps, I live in a house built in 2012 on a brand new estate so you would expect the latest infrastructure possible. I achieve an average of 31.29Mbps download and 7.00Mbps upload during July (as recorded by SamKnows.com).

Why does Ofcom continue to allow broadband companies to charge for a service that is not being received by its customers. I understand that very connection know has to provide the speed which you are likely to receive, BT interprets this as giving a guaranteed minimum speed for my line this is 28Mbps.

My proposal would be that all broadband suppliers can only bill for the proportion of broadband speed that they are prepared to guarantee, in my case this would be 28/76 multiplied by the monthly broadband cost. This would then mean that people are paying for what they receive and would encourage investment in the infrastructure to guarantee higher speeds and more income for the broadband suppliers.

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Andrew Ferguson

The only way a new home would have better connectivity than one built 50 years ago was if the builder had ensured this was built into the property, alas builders do not seem to care about Internet connectivity and doing deals with Virgin Media or one of the new full FTTH providers.

On the pricing, if you are on Infinity 2 (which the up to 76 Mbps) and getting speeds under (40 down/10 up) then consider saving £6 a month by switching to Infinity 1, BT has an unlimited version at £20/month.

On the guarantee the cost of doing this would mean overall the price would probably rise or providers stop doing unlimited deals and charge us all per GB consumed. Remember that guarantees of speed are irrelevant once onto any shared part of the Internet, and the guarantee you say BT has given you is just a guideline, nothing at all legal about it.

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mark

Or better still switch to a better ISP. Most ISPs offer the fibre option if it is available in your area and BT has a terrible reputation for poor customer service.

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Mmailes

My sky b/b dropped from approx 1.3 to 0.8-0.9. I suspect this was manipulated to encourage a change to fibre. Downloading films was almost a days work! Having bitten the bullet and deciding to change to Sky fibre I went ahead. Sky customer service were very good. First agent wanted to charge a £50.00 connection fee despite me telling him this was immoral as Ihave been with Sky for several years. A second call a day later with a different agent, no charge. Change over/installation dates were fixed. Engineer arrived within allotted time and I was on the air in less than an hour.
One important question I asked was max speed quoted 39mbs what was minimum? Guaranteed minimum 15mb. If less than this over 3 months, free cancellation. My speeds are, line of site to router approx 37mbs, upstairs 34mbs. Call centre is in the U.K. Overall very satisfied.

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IAN

What ever happened to use all being charged 50p for superfast broadband .I am with sky with there unlimited package or as i say limited I should receive 4mp but at best I will manage 1.6mp after no end phone calls nothing as changed all they say is ware I live is the furthers from the exchange.i was looking to swop to super fast broadband but sky want to rob me of £50 to connect .with all hassle I have had to put up with the least they can do is to set it up for nothing and it gets better they also want £20 per month for me to receive It like everything in this country just ripped off .

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Richlaser

High speed fibre optic broadband by VM, 100mb BUT! Not when you and others want it! If I am lucky I get 1-2mb/sec at peak times. Technicians engineers have visited but can do nothing, network is over subscribed. No estimate as to when problem can be resolved. So would be better with Sky or BT broadband.
BE WARNED you will not get WHAT YOU ARE EXPECTING! Overseas call centers a waste of your time.

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David_Dundas

Not surprising, the engineers can do nothing about local conditions, these are set in some ivory tower in the management hierarchy. The problem is that the contention ratio, which is the maximum number of users connected using the particular connection which has a certain capacity. The higher the ratio the more likely you are going to be slowed down at peak times. I understand that in the UK private subscribers are offered a contention ratio of 50 whereas a business subscriber who pays more, will get 20. Contention ratios are not usually mentioned by ISPs looking for your business.

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David Torrens

Having scanned the various offers and considered what a faster connection is worth to me I think I would pay no more for the faster speed than the the ratio compared to the speed I have now and I would like to be able to choose my speed.

So now since the FTTC box was installed t the top of the road my speed has gone up, for free, from about 6MB/sec to about 12Mb/s. Most of the time this is well fast enough.

This is costing £6.98 per month.

I think a doubling of the speed would be totally ample and for that I think I would be happy to pay twice as much so around 24 MBS for £14 per month. Note that I would probably not actually use very much more data I would just get it quicker.

However that is not what is on offer from my current supplier who want £23 for Ultrafast broadband unlimited downloads and up to 56MB/s. So 4 times the cost for far more speed than I need.

Talk Talk offer normal broadband at £2.50 per month and 38MB/s at £12.50 that seems not too bad.
Others are offering 38MB/s for £23. That is far too much.

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