/ Technology

Win! Broadband providers are dropping exaggerated ‘up to’ speed claims

In a Which? campaign win, broadband companies are being forced to drop the unrealistic up to speeds they advertise following rule changes.

For too long, many consumers have been taking out broadband deals but getting speeds much slower than were advertised to them. But our latest research shows that’s now changing.

Previously, suppliers were able to advertise broadband deals which claimed ‘up to’ speeds that only one in 10 customers would ever reach.

But after our sustained campaigning, pressure from our supporters and rule changes from the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) in May, some suppliers have now reduced advertised broadband speeds by as much as 41%.

New rules

The new advertising rules mean that at least half of customers must now be able to get an advertised average speed, even during peak times (8-10pm).

We’d been calling for these vital new guidelines to be introduced since 2013 through our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign.

We’ve now found that 11 out of 12 major suppliers have had to cut the advertised speed of some of their deals by an average 15%.

BT, EE, John Lewis Broadband, Plusnet, Sky, Zen Internet, Post Office, SSE, TalkTalk and Utility Warehouse previously advertised their standard (ADSL) broadband deals as ‘up to 17Mbps’. The new advertised speed is now more than a third lower at 10Mbps or 11Mbps.

TalkTalk has completely dropped advertising speed claims from most of its deals. While Vodafone has even changed the name of some of its deals: Fibre 38 and Fibre 76 are now Superfast 1 and Superfast 2.

And only Virgin Media’s advertised speeds have gone up since the change.

What’s next?

Alex Neill, our Managing Director of Home Services, said:

“Customers will now have a much clearer idea of the speeds that can be achieved when they are shopping around for broadband – even though their broadband won’t get any faster.

“With the change in advertising rules now showing the true landscape of broadband speeds, the Government must press ahead with its crucial plans to increase full-fibre availability and deliver the service that broadband customers need, without it costing them the earth.”

Have you bought a broadband package that hasn’t lived up to the speeds advertised? Have you noticed a change in how providers are advertising speeds?


Well this should only be the start….. ( I’m with Virgin and in fairness their Broadband in my area has always performed well and it beats all the others by miles….However)
As ever this large corporate organisations are running the Government. They have also smoke screened the issue through the marketing teams claims. If its £3 a pint then for 1/2 or 2/3 surely the price should reflect this?
This matters as all the main and most of the smaller outfits base all their charges on the prices BT,SKy etc charge. THIS is the rip off, they have used TAX payers money for 20 yrs or more ..failing year after year to deliver on the promises they made, we all pay this through our tax then again to get a substandard service.
Imagine you buy 2 1st class stamps send 2 letters one takes 1 day the other 4 days ..( yes I guess sometimes this does happen) but not to the same degree over 20 yrs with no change in the latest “crack down”. How about a std 25p per Mb per month fixed cost….. after all we have already paid for most of the infrastructure?
If the co’s need more money they deliver faster speeds to more customers, everywhere or else….. NO funding end of. I thought this was how a market economy worked? Those that can do and those that can’t fail. Still this the UK so that won’t happen. The price of HS2 could of delivered 100MB to everyhome in the UK ( some do already have it) on the “national network” with free use to tax payers, very cheap use for small business, and a pay as you go at normal rates for visitors and foreign nationals etc. This would deliver a far better return much quicker than the railway ever would. & Do more for the UK post brexit than a train that 80% of the country won;t be able to afford. ( see M6 relief road) IMHO and sadly not shared by the clowns running the show.
I;ll give it a couple of months enough time so the marketers re jig the ads in such a way that focus on a “much improved dropout rate” “best ever continuous data strings” “award winning packet compression delivering best ever performance” …..all waffle just as before and the prices … will go UP. So good on you Which … now start to tackle the real issues …. useless connection speed .= very cheap monthly bills. Max Charges per Mb of speed. You get the idea.

When will “Which” start a campaign to restrict price increases from being implemented throughout a “Fixed Term Contract” ?
I believe it is very unfair that most of the major suppliers feel quite free to INCREASE their prices during a “Fixed Term Contract Period”. It is true that we are given the “option” to terminate without “penalty” once notified of an increase, within a very short notice period , but this remains very unfairly balanced in favour of the major suppliers.
A “Fixed Term” CONTRACT should be exactly that – FIXED in all aspects i.e. “Terms” – CONTRACTUALLY ! In my opinion, the word “Term” still has dual meaning – time-frame and aspects / conditions of the CONTRACT.

In the case of a “fixed term contract” it is the period that is fixed. If it were the price that was fixed it would be a “fixed price contract”. So far as I know there are no “fixed terms & conditions” contracts. I cannot see any supplier agreeing to fix the price throughout a contract [except at a premium] unless it was a very short duration contract.

I do believe that there should be the opportunity to cancel a contract for broadband if it proves unsatisfactory in the first month, the customer paying for the period they have used the service and returning any equipment such as a router. If there is a problem with poor speed or an unreliable connection, switching ISP might not change anything.

I have been on various fixed price contracts, though not for broadband/phone. These include my present two year fixed price contract for gas and electricity. I used to have an annual mobile phone contract at fixed price but since Sept 2016 there is an annual price increase according to RPI. I’m happy with my ISP but if I was planning to switch, a fixed price contract would appeal to me. In early Conversations we have had extensive discussions about customers being faced by some fairly large price hikes by phone companies.

Which? should begin a campaign to outlaw the use of the term “Fibre Internet” unless the connection to the subscriber’s premises is actually optical. The sub-standard “Fibre to the Cabinet” offered as “fibre internet” can make a marginal improvement in speeds to some customers, but the copper pair (or worse – aluminium) of wires connecting to the customer’s premises from the street-side cabinet is the predominant limitation.

“Cable Internet” isn’t much better – the cheap ‘n’ nasty bit of telephone cable is replaced with a ratty old piece of cheap, nasty, waterlogged coaxial cable. Much of the national coaxial infrastructure is now rotting badly.

In both cases, the telcos have used the cheapest materials they can get their grasping hands on, so quality and reliability are a joke. The UK is one of the most expensive places in the world to connect to the internet, and our data rates and contention ratios are laughable. Even Estonia has better internet facilities than us, and Lithuania has the fastest average public free wi-fi connection in most places. Singapore charges almost nothing for the fastest home internet service available anywhere.

As an example – I have to pay £32 / month for a “100Mb/s” connection from Virgin Media. It’s actually around 30Mb/s and heavily contended in the evenings, and they won’t (can’t) do anything about it. I should be paying around £2 / month for this sub-standard service, but it’s all that’s available here. BT can’t offer VDSL to this side of the road, so we’re stuck with this crowd of clowns with their frequent outages.

Please stop these internet companies calling their abysmal offerings “fibre internet” when it’s actually nothing of the sort.

Broadband services could easily be marketed as copper, FTC and FTTP. As one of those fortunate to have FTTP, I have a service that has very few glitches and the speed does not vary according to time of day.

I’m one of the lucky ones, my ISP is BT & my connection was rated as up to 76MBPS, My current speed is always close to 75MBPS although it does drop occasionally, but a modem restart cures that, so BT have done the job in my case & deserve a pat on the back..

I have never managed to achieve the promised speed on my bt router, despite paying for their most expensive server. The best I have managed is 60 against the promised 75.

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I spent over 3 hrs with Talktalk as I am only getting around 20mb on their Faster Fibre service, which is supposed to guarantee a minimum 29.5 mb. Not mention of any refunds against a £43 p.m. charge (including phone rental).

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Mike says:
9 August 2018

When I ordered a package from BT it was advertised at up to 17Mbps. When the paperwork was received with the router, it stated that the speed would be in the range of 4 – 1 Mbps. When complaining about the slow speed of 1 Mbps, BT stated that 1Mbps was within the contracted speed and they would not take the matter further.

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I bought a package from talktalk which included catch up tv, when I tried to use this service, it would play for a while would freeze restart if lucky, intermittent longer than the program took real time,i often gave up ,eventually completely, in one of my many telephone calls, (take more than an hour out of my life each time)2 years later they told me I never had enough speed , didn’t think to tell me the reason originally , took my money though

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I live on the Isle of Man. We have two main Broadband and line rental suppliers who both charge close to £39 per month and it is unaffordable. The Isle of Man Communications Commission who is the equivalent of the Isle of Man version of OFCOM refuse to address why we pay so much for it. They bin people’s emails and get paid to sit back allowing us to be overcharged. In the UK including line rental it is £16.99 to £25 typically. Here we pay close to £39 per month for the same service and I do not know who can take this up. I wondered if Which Magazine could expose this. People living here cannot go to Sky, PlusNet, talk talk or anyone else except Manx Telecom and a Channel Island company called Sure who set up here. It is not competition except somewhat in the Mobile phones area. I cannot use a mobile phone for internet access due to my location and I am stuck with paying these prices just to go on the internet, and the price of phone calls via landline is high. I try not to use the phone.

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My limited experience of these things is that they are all pretty useless. My current speed seems to be OK for virtually all of the time. However there are occasional days when it seems to have a life of it’s own and wants to disappear and do it’s own thing off in the ether, but it is usually OK. I am currently with BT who, as an organisation, are a law unto themselves and are completely hopeless. I used to be with Virgin before I moved, who I used to think were hopeless but, to be fair, were a whole load better then BT. It is pity I can’t have them back. BT, as an organisation are complete junk. No use to man nor beast as far as I am concerned. I would like to get rid of them but, it seems, all of the companies that I thought might be a good alternative turn out to be owned by BT so, at this moment I feel like I am completely buggered!!

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Lucy Hawkes says:
9 August 2018

I still think we should only pay for the speed we get rather than what they say you can get! I pay the same amount of money a month as someone who gets 17 to 35 speed but I only get 9 to 11 max!

Hi Lucy. Totally agree, we are with Sky and during the last few days we had issues around not being able to access the Internet. Contacted Sky who checked out our Speed and it was 13mbps. So on their suggestion moved the router to a more prominent position, and we already have a booster upstairs, this initially solved the problem, but it all dropped out again last night, sorted it myself by pushing the reset button on the back of the router in for 30 secs and so far all is good. One other suggestion they did make is that we could have too many devices all potentially accessing our internet at the same time, i.e. 4 mobile phones, 2 PS4, 3 Amazon TV sticks, 1 desktop PC, and a HD Sky box. Apart from the mobiles whilst the other devices may be turned off but whilst in standby they could still be accessing the internet? However I must mention that we have had these devices for a number of years, without seeing a serious drop out for days before, the occasional problem logging in yes, but it sorted it self out within a short while. But speeds up to 17, never got anywhere near it, and we do regularly check with the Which speed checker

The whole issue of “up to” offers is absolutely misleading wherever it is used by retailers. “Up to 50% off” is supposedly justified if just one or two items carry this actual discount: For the rest of those products in a sale it could be just 5%. Technically correct because the “up to ..” caveat is still correct. But in reality nonsense.

Paul Rotherham says:
9 August 2018

What I hate most is although we can only get up to 6mbs which should let us watch a video or u-tube clips but when you go to watch and all you see is that tiny wheel going round and around. Then you decide to do a speed test which wont work until the problem is fixed so you then cant go to your provider and say that you were only get a lower speed you can tell them about the wheel turning but all you get is there must have been a spike of high demand.

Joby says:
9 August 2018

The problem with my Virgin Media broadband is not the speed, when it is working at its best, but the unreliability of the signal. It drops constantly. It drops for a second or two very often (probably several times an hour). It drops for several minutes several times a day. I have to switch the router off and on again several times a day. Occasionally it’s off for hours.I ‘ve complained to VM as have other people in my building (in London) and they always claim to have done something to improve it but it never does improve. Since we don’t know the source of the problem we don’t know whether changing provider will improve things or if the problem is in the external cabling.

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I agree as I too experience the same on certain days with my Virgin broadband. It is so very frustrating when it happens.

I’ve always felt “upto” should be classified as a weasel word when used in advertising. I think they should be made to state the min speed you can get with a valid connection. That would make them up their game.

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I am a 76 yo disabled pensioner, and I do not understand all of these numbers, all I do know is that I get the curly whirly thing interrupting me several times a day, sometimes for several minutes. How can I get faster speeds from my fibre signal when the fibre cable stops at a pole 30 yards down the street and then it becomes copper to my home and all of the cables in my home are copper?

As I understand it, Gwyn, many street cabinets now have a combination of fibre and copper cabling and you will only get the benefits of faster broadband [as a result of higher capacity] if your overhead copper line is connected to a fibre terminal rather than an older copper terminal in the cabinet. If you are paying for fibre to the cabinet then that is what you should be getting and, despite the 30 yard copper overhead line, it should enable faster overall speeds and less [or no] buffering. It would be worth checking with your telecom service provider to make sure you are on the right tariff for the service you are getting and, if not, then get your service upgraded which could involve a higher monthly cost.

The curly whirly thing – sometimes also known as the hamster wheel – can be really annoying.

A poor broadband service – or too many folk using any given one – or a slow PC – or too many people crowding the same wifi channels can all cause these problems.

I wonder to what extent a slow computer affects download and upload speed. I have just compared a 2011 and 2014 laptop and see no significant difference between them. The effect of sharing WiFi is obvious, the speed dropping from about 76 to 42 Mbps on both computers.

We’ve been with VM for around 16 years, there have been some historical and small, irritating issues, but resolved fairly quickly. Currently in the room where we have our router we enjoy between around 170/220 mbps.
In the room with our TV, we have Netgear extender giving us typically 50/60 mbps. (this is approx 8 meters from our router and we have fine concrete walls)

I agree that the up to speed means nothing. I switched to EE two months ago. The advertising speed is 11. When I placed the order they estimated my speed will be 5.5-12mb/sec. Minimum Guaranteed Download Speed will be 2.00 Mb/sec. The actual speed I got for the first 10 days is around 3mb/sec. Then it fell to 1.5-2 all the time. After a few complaints they sent an engineer to my home to check up the wiring and proved it was not my fault and they can do nothing to fix it. The only way to solve it was to pay more to upgrade it to fibre optic. They said that I already got the Guaranteed 2mb/sec speed.

My story shows that advertising speed is meaningless. They will use the Minimum Guaranteed speed as an excuse. The same story happened when I was with Sky. The only fair method is to make price relates to the actual speed we can get.

John says:
15 August 2018

I am with Plus.net; I was getting between5.8 and6.5 mbps, which covered,just, my needs. I moved to a different part of the county, and they arranged the transfer, new line No.. They assured me I would get at least the same speeds, if not better, as it was a new building. After the move, I suffered disconnections, loss of internet, and, have not got a speed, any faster than 4.8mbps. Despite many visits and being told there was 7mbps at the local junction; they now tell me that what I am getting is the best because of the distance from the Exchange, and because the speed range is 4.0 to 7.0mbps I an within their speed range. To cap it all they now want £65 to cover,they say, a missed visit by the engineer. Now if I am on the computer, and a family member wants to watch “catch up t,v,”, we suffer download problems. I was persuaded to update a contract near end of term for a new one. I now have to wait to change by completing the term of contract, or await a price increase, to get out of it. This company will not get my vote with Which in their ratings, if they will ask me.