/ 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?


Three mobile sim only package giving me 1.2mbps download speed. Surely this cannot justify making me pay out a 18 month contract?

That also sounds bad to me. Many sim only contracts operate on the basis of a rolling contract, with a notice period of one month.

There was a time when signing up for a 12 month notice period gave slightly less expensive rates.

That said, i recently switched from an O2 sim only contact to giffgaff payg and I’m getting a much better deal on the latter.

Derek, have you noticed a drop in signal at all on giffgaff? We have one phone on giffgaff and an old one on o2. The old o2 phone always gets the better signal so I don’t know whether it is the phones or giffgaff that gets a reduced signal. As giffgaff uses the o2 network, you would think we should get the same signal but I have wondered…..

alfa, I’ve not noticed any problems myself.

Must be the phone then which is surprising seeing as it is at least 5 years newer. We don’t have a good signal at home so more calls are made on the old o2 phone and I have held back transferring it to giffgaff.

Quite often, I think older phones do have better performance in areas with poor signal.

But you could always (temporarily) swap your two sim cards around, to see if that makes any difference.

Several years ago, I used to find that I got slower internet access with giffgaff that with O2, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for me any more.

The phones use different size sim cards so I can’t easily swap them.

Nigel says:
3 March 2020

You can get adapters for the smaller sims permitting use in older phones

Nigel says:
3 March 2020

0.7 Mbps here on the top of the South Pennines. Appreciate that it’s a lovely bit of the country but why do we get neglected for everything? We are the last house on the road to get any service beyond us there is no broadband capability and dialup has gone so they have to use satalite!!! I don’t think it’s directly the provider it’s the infrastructure which has not been updated.

David Roberts says:
18 March 2020

I joined BT Fast Broadband and TV package i had a fault since it was set up TV GOING blank then saying BT TV is awaking every time also my mobile phone saying no WiFi signal and am sitting right by the router they have said they have fixed the problem several times and still kept on doing it i final got fed up with it now they want to charge me for the next few months for going to change provider also i am paying £10 a month for BT sports but there is no sports on with the current out break going on stay away from this company

malcolm percival says:
24 March 2020

Based on Exmoor ,Bt Customer currently, have been reporting lines lying in Hedges and Fields, around 6 spans, for about 3years, Broadband drops out frequently, have been trying to get reduced line rental for some time now, but am always told “we can’t consider anything until openreach close the matter” Catch 22 !!!!!

I live in Sixmilecross my megabyte reading is 1.4 at best. Terrible for 2020 you should be ashamed of yourselves. New providers welcome please.

[Moderator: this comment was edited to remove personal contact information. Please do not post personal contact information–either your own or those of others–as this is against the Community guidelines]

carol says:
4 June 2020

B4RN has thee fastest and up to date rural broad band in the country…was started by volunteers in North of UK

John Wells says:
6 June 2020

I’m with PlusNet. My service is dropping out every few minutes due to an intermittent fault. This means that when I report the fault PlusNet say they either can not detect it or they can detect it due to it being intermittent. The infrastructure provider is Open Reach. So PlusNet call open reach who come out to check it. When they check it they may, or may not find a “fault”. It’s intermittent. They know the cable is damaged. They’ve just charged £65 to not fix it. To change supplier I will have to use a non Open reach supplier. Which limits my options.
Where do go from here? PlusNet are happy to pass on the Open reach charge, take their cut from that, but not get a grip of their infrastructure supplier. Of course Open reach won’t speak to me. I have to do it through PlusNet. Neither PlusNet, or Open reach have any desire to fix the fault, but are happy to take my money each month plus the £65 for not fixing the equipment, each time I raise it with them. How do I get to talk to the Open reach, or PlusNet directors to get some answers?

Hi John – I suggest you file a complaint with Plusnet. I don’t understand why you should have been charged if the fault lies outside your home. Even more so if they have not repaired the problem that they have been paid to sort out.

Although Openreach should deal with this, your contract is with Plusnet, so Openreach is unlikely to help.

One way of finding a contacts for senior people is to use this website: https://www.ceoemail.com
Don’t be surprised if you just get a reply from customer services, but at least your efforts should not be wasted.

A friend has had problems with her phone line crackling badly for several months before Covid and nothing has been achieved. She acts as secretary for the local branch of an association and needs to keep in touch. Yesterday she asked us to switch to using her mobile number for the foreseeable future.

Is it legal for BT to disallow me to keep my @btconnect email address if I leave them for another provider, unless I pay them a huge amount per year, please?

My fault is with EE. Constant drop of service with most times getting below10 Mbps of my 20Mbps contract speed. Every time I complain I am told to change my connection to a digital connection which should resolve the problem. I believe without prejudice my loss of speed is a deliberate attempt to get me off one of their old contract. So rather than fix my fault deliberately cause the constant drop to cause frustration, Can they force me out of my contract or do they have the rights not to fix my problem faults ?

I am with Virgin Media Fibre 200Mbps and yet my WiFi signal is changing every minute and conversations ‘dropping off’ or people trying to get in contact get a ‘not available’ response. Every time I have an on-line discussion with a technician invariably, after several hours, they say ‘We’ve fixed it now, just wait 24 or 72 hours for it to take effect.’ …. but nothing improves! I’M ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTED.

Well thank you very much Which? We are really paying for your WIN.

Our line is capable of 40Mbps and we regularly got 38/39Mbps for at least a couple of years.

We renewed the contract a few days and checked the speed that has dropped to 31/32Mbps.

We called Sky this morning who told us we are getting our guaranteed 27Mbps so they don’t have to do anything.

So thanks to your WIN, you have devalued ours and probably many others internet speeds, and we are only getting about 75% of our available speed.

Before your WIN, 31/32Mbps would have been acknowledged as a problem.

Today, we got a text asking if our fault was fixed, I replied no and got another text asking us to call again.

The contract we were on was Sky Fibre Unlimited that still had 6 months to run and covered a speed up to 59Mbps. The maximum available to our address is 40Mbps and until last week we were connecting at 39.9Mbps. Speed tests on our PCs were always 38/39Mbps.

When we renewed a week ago, it seemed no problem to set up all the contracts to run concurrently, by extending the broadband contract another year. We were even sent a new router/hub. Apart from renaming parts of the TV package, we understood everything else i.e. Phone and Broadband, would stay the same with the monthly cost staying almost the same.

So today we called Sky again to try and sort out why our speed has dropped.

Again Sky argued we were getting our guaranteed 27Mbps so there was no problem. While she was on the phone I did a speed test on my PC that is connected directly to the hub and got a download speed of 26.27Mbps. She insisted I had done a Wi-Fi test and anyway it didn’t count because I hadn’t used their app or used one on the Sky website. Some time ago Sky engineers told us to use speedtest.net so have done so ever since.

The renewal confirmation email estimated our line could support between 32.5 and 37.0Mbps download speed with a guaranteed minimum of 27.8Mbps

Sky are now using that estimate to argue that we have agreed to a maximum speed of 37.0Mbps.

We hadn’t noticed, but our Sky Fibre Unlimited had been changed to Sky Broadband Superfast. Does everyone know exactly what each part of a contract is called especially when they keep renaming all the parts of it?

We also can’t get 37.0Mbps because the connection to the exchange is now only 36.0Mbps.

I eventually got her to admit we had been downgraded but she insisted we had agreed to it when we renewed. It took several calls to get the contracts right and we were both on every call and neither of us heard anything about a downgrade.

I asked her ‘Do you honestly think we would have agreed to a downgrade in speed? She maintained we did and we eventually gave up and will have to pursue this elsewhere with Sky.

On the Sky website they say:
Sky Broadband
Get super reliable, Superfast Broadband.
With Speed Guarantee as standard, we’ll guarantee you get the speed we promised, or money back.
(wonderful English)
It also says the average download speed is 59Mb/s

It would be worth pursuing this with Sky, Alfa. There has been a great deal of pressure for ISPs to market broadband more honestly: https://www.asa.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/c7caeaeb-24e0-40d4-a49455747eb51bde.pdf

I was very annoyed when I received a call from Domestic & General trying to sell their expensive insurance cover on a new freezer, which I had declined when I purchased the product. By registering the freezer with the manufacturers I had unwittingly agreed to my details being passed on to D&G. The manufacturer quickly showed me what I had agreed to. 🙁

If Sky cannot show you where you agreed to a speed reduction then they should reinstate what you had. The requirements are clearer than they ever have been.

Hey @alfa,

I’m catching up on your broadband saga. Sorry to hear you’ve been having issues- I know how frustrating that is, not least when lockdown puts a lot more onus on having a good internet connection.

I’m not sure I’m seeing the link between your issue with Sky and the Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign though? The campaign was about how broadband speeds were advertised, and advertising rules shouldn’t affect whether or not your broadband provider would compensate you for a change in speed.

It sounds like the two issues to sort are the lost speed, and the communication over the contract. On the speed, did Sky give you any explanation as to why your speed has changed at all? What is your speed like throughout the day – is it different at peak times? Does plugging straight into the cable modem change your speed at all? While 7mbps is significant, it’s not out of the ballpark to lose that much speed at a peak time or with more people online generally.

Sky is a broadband provider which unfortunately hasn’t signed up to Ofcom’s voluntary code of practice, so there’s less action that can be taken via this route if your broadband speeds aren’t reaching the promised minimum. Given that your speeds are slower than what you’d like, it might be worth seeking an upgrade from Sky? Or if you’re outside your minimum contract, a new provider may be able to offer you a better value broadband connection.

You may have already done this, but worth checking out the Which? Guide to speeding up slow broadband.

Always worth giving Which? Legal a shout if they can be of any help with the contract issue as well.

Hope that’s of some use – let me know if I can be of further help at all.

I have just read your reply Jon.

Before the campaign the top speed between the exchange and our router was recognised as 40Mbps. Now we are only guaranteed a speed of 27Mbps so anything above that is classed as normal.

After seeming to get nowhere with phone calls and emails, magically, the speed between our router and the exchange has been reinstated to 39.8Mbps (was 39.9).

JS-C: I suspect there’s something of an irony here and it doesn’t really reflect at all well on Which?.

1. For a start, the topic headline is misleading:

“In a Which? campaign win, broadband companies are being forced to drop the unrealistic up to speeds“.

That clearly implies (and many will infer) that this is a mandatory change which will affect all broadband providers. This overly optimistic view, however, is tempered by the next statement.

2. 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%.

and even further by the following:

3,. We’d been calling for these vital new guidelines

So far from it being a mandatory instrument, it’s merely a suggestion, and only to those who’ve signed up. Is that really a ‘win’? Not so, apparently: “Sky is a broadband provider which unfortunately hasn’t signed up to Ofcom’s voluntary code of practice, so there’s less action that can be taken via this route”

And when I tried to follow the link in the header to the ofcom COP it failed. The correct one is here.

I think this might have needed rather more thought than it’s been given.

I wonder whether anyone’s achieved speeds have actually changed, or is it only the way they are advertised. As far as I know it is the latter. But maybe someone has the facts?

I never had a problem with the “up to” claim but then my supplier gave me an estimated speed for my particular premises and that was all that mattered to me. I accept some will get more, some less, depending upon their position in the network.

I see Paul Dacre is mentioned as a contender for the top job at Ofcom. I wonder what qualifications he has for such a job?

Much the same, I should think, as the present post-holder, Baron Burns of Pitshanger, who was a career civil servant ending up as Chief Economic Advisor and Permanent Secretary to HM Treasury. I feel that Paul Dacre is possibly more in touch with popular opinion but I am not sure he is the right person to head up a regulatory organisation. I doubt if Ofcom’s Chairmen concern themselves with broadband speeds [except their own perhaps]. The vacancy does not arise until January 2022 so I don’t know why this has become a current topic. He is already 71 years old and while he might have a passing knowledge of high-tech newspaper production his superfast skills might require some updating.

There are many reasons why customers don’t get good speeds, the capabilities of the line being just one of them.

A better campaign would have been to educate people on the reasons why speeds drop on their side of the router i.e. because of interference or like our problem with laptop internal wireless adaptor that was fixed with a cheap USB adaptor (posted on previous page).

Agreed alfa, but some campaigns ignore the wider picture.

Or consider the consequences.

Service providers often provide information about how to improve speeds on their websites and will provide advice over the phone. A common recommendation is to unplug all internal wiring and plug a computer directly into the master socket. If that provides a higher speed then the problem can be investigated.

Which? provides some advice about improving broadband speeds: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/broadband-deals/article/fix-bad-broadband/speed-up-slow-broadband

I have a had a problem with my Virgin broadband for ages and I have used various tools to measure my internet speed. A Virgin engineer attended my house today to fix the issue and before he started investigation we both ran diagnostics using several tools to measure the before and after speeds. The handed held Virgin tester gave a reading which two broadband checker applications gave almost identical readings. However, the Which broadband checker gave a reading so far out is was almost in another Country. I would not trust this Broadband checker.

Paul Foley says:
26 September 2020

We have Virgin Broadband ultrafast. It is useless. It is forever dropping out, the latency is awful and we get download speeds of between 10 – 30mb when it should be 150mb.

Elizabeth Wood says:
27 September 2020

Its interesting reading some of these complaints. I pay exactly the same as those who are guaranteed upwards of 30mbps. On the very best day I get 9 and am only guaranteed 3-10mbps. Frequently it’s 3-5mbps. I believe you should only pay for what they provide.

I agree, Elizabeth . . . but also more should be paying for what they receive. Streaming and downloading large data packages are draining broadband but neither the users nor the content providers are making an equitable contribution towards its capacity.

It’s made worse by the popularity of the popular broadband packages that allow unlimited downloads. That’s no problem for those with an FTTP service but encouraging use in this way will just slow down the service for the majority who connect via FTTC or plain copper wiring.

Z Glover says:
8 October 2020

This is amazing. Seeing how virgin customers are taking to here about complaints of their terrible broadband. I have been demanded to pay 50 quid a month for broadband that gives 9mbps MAX & drops out while me and my partner are working from home in these uncertain times. They then tell me I’ve not complained EVERY SINGLE TIME I DOCUMENT & COMPLAIN TO THEM. ergh virgin suck.

Utility Warehouse tell me that the best service I can expect in Hampton (SW London) is 2-4 download even with broadband, because I’m too far from the exchange (2.4 km). Your advice is that the NATION should be getting a min of 10 by 2020.
Is this reliant on Brexit? 31/12/2020?

Basia says:
4 December 2020

I’m with PlusNet and though most of the time tech advice is helpful and polite and I do all they ask me to improve my speeds and connectivity I get speeds in single figures most of the time as low as 1.4 download and 0.something upload. Though I pay for Fibre broadband (£37.99) the dead spots downstairs are as bad as ever. Currently they suggest I buy a better router to try and eliminate the dead spots and that advertised speeds are only for wired connections, not wireless. This is in Isleworth.

Basia, I have a pc at the opposite end of the house from the router and use a Tenda range extender that plugs into the mains. It works very well. You could look at this information from Which? that could help:

That is a useful piece of kit malcolm.

Basia, Have you tried a wired connection then tested your speed?

If you get a faster speed with a wired connection, your laptop internal wireless network adaptor could be faulty.

We had that problem and bought a ‘TP-Link AC600 Dual-Band Wi-Fi USB Adapter – Archer T2U’ from Argos that solved the problem and gave us the wireless speed we expected.


Hi Basia – I suggest plugging a computer directly into the router and checking what speed you can achieve. If it is well below the predicted speed for your service it would be worth discussing this with PlusNet. In my experience, using a wireless connection makes little difference to the download or upload speeds, but I do understand why service providers say that speeds should be checked using wired connections.

If the problem is just with your wireless connection you might find it useful to switch your router to use a different channel if this is possible, which can avoid problems with interference. Instructions can be found online if not in the information that came with the router. It might not be practical to have the router near the centre of the house but try to place it well off the floor.

If you have had it for several years PlusNet can probably be persuaded to provide another one, especially since they have suggested that this could help. It might help to say you are planning to switch provider.

If you have an old house with thick walls or cannot site a wireless router in a good place then the range extender suggested by Malcolm might be the only easy option.

After many complaints to Virgin Media regarding the poor speeds that I am experiencing on the 2.4ghz bandwidth (my contract is for 200mbps) they have sent me an email saying “As you know, we’ve been running a series of speed tests to your Virgin Media Hub. We wanted to let you know that the speeds to your Virgin Media Hub haven’t fallen below your Minimum Guaranteed Download Speed for 3 days in a row.” In other words they have just responded with it’s working! What a completely unprofessional response in not providing any details regarding the tests that took place. Is there any way a consumer can run a test that potentially proves to Ofcom that Virgin Media are not providing the speeds that have been agreed in their contract? In selling their broadband products, Virgin Media do not make know the limited coverage of their 5ghz bandwidth, which is very dismal. Why do the router responses get progressively slower until they are re-booted or reset … or a Virgin Media colleague does something from their end to speed the router back up to a higher speed?

Roberta says:
24 February 2021

Plus Net is rubbish. I moved to a place where there is plus net, terrible, impossible to work online with Plus Net. Change provider

I’ve been with PlusNet for over 10 years at two different properties and I have just signed on for a further 18 months, in order to go back to a discounted subscription.

I have not often needed help from them but they have dealt at least adequately with all my needs.

A few months ago I had a problem with frequent drop outs. After speaking to them about this, they duly sent an Openreach tech to check my line. He repaired the connection to my property and installed a new master socket and things have been much better since then.

I have a number of different routers that I can use. One or two of them sometimes cause my wifi to stop working and then need to be restarted to restore it. Currently, I’m using a PlusNet Hub One which seems to be giving trouble free wifi.

If there is a problem with the line, simply changing providers will not help unless the new one is more willing to investigate the problem. Hopefully most people will have fibre connections to their homes soon and copper/aluminium cables, master sockets and associated problems can be consigned to the history books.

Gary Johnson says:
8 May 2021

Vodafone are very poor. Their speed claim is made on Sync Speed which is quite different from a real world download speed. Their helpdesk are technically poor and do not understand how routers work. When connecting to their social media helpdesk they ask questions that are so intrusive that it could lead to identity theft.