/ Technology

Great British Broadband?

Laptop with cake

We might be home to the world’s best TV baking competition, but the UK’s broadband providers are the worst in Europe for delivering the broadband speeds they advertise. Are you getting the speeds you pay for?

About a month later than the rest of the world, I have finally caught up on the latest series of Great British Bake Off on iPlayer.

Yes, like the rest of the country I got swept away in the emotion of cake baking. I will even admit that I shed a tear when Mary Berry announced how happy she was for the winner, Nadia.

Broadband in the Bake Off tent

Speaking to friends, colleagues, and fellow bake-off enthusiasts, I know I wasn’t alone. But I do question: was I the only one in the country watching this sugar-coated, innuendo-filled competition wondering if the white tent could get broadband?

Now, this might have been on my mind after discovering that the average broadband speed in urban areas (28Mbps) is now almost three times faster than the average rural connection (10Mbps). But it’s more likely because I was gritting my teeth watching the dreaded buffering wheel waiting for the announcement of star baker.

UK worst for broadband advertising

As I run Which?’s campaign on broadband speeds, I am attuned to the frustrations of Great British broadband users.

So it came as no surprise to me when the European Commission revealed that broadband users across Europe are only getting 75% of the speeds advertised.

What’s more, the UK is the worst in Europe for delivering the broadband speeds advertised by ADSL providers. While Slovakia, Poland and Portugal deliver over 80% of the advertised speeds to consumers, UK companies only manage to deliver a puny 45% of the advertised speed during peak periods. You can see how the countries compare in this interactive map:

It’s worth pointing out that UK fibre and cable broadband is more aligned with the rest of Europe when it comes to delivering the broadband speed advertised. But getting what’s been advertised to you shouldn’t just be limited to these customers.

We think all UK consumers should get the broadband speeds they’re paying for, which is why we’re calling on the advertising watchdogs to review their guidelines for broadband ads.

F J Rawlings says:
27 October 2015

should show speeds that 80% can receive at peak usage times

As a loyal BT user and ex.BT engineer even though I do criticise them at times I must say BT for me have been true to their word . I pay for the top end fibre and using Which,s own speed tester 5 minutes ago I got nearly 80 Gbts download and nearly 20 Gbts upload which for my area is good (on a London server ).I have FTTC but have a direct feed to my PC no other internal wiring . For those with a slow speed bear in mind that your ISP doesnt always provide the fastest speed and in some cases it is worthwhile using a DNS Changer program to increase the speed by quite a bit ,server speeds are always varying you also must realise that most servers track you in the sense that they note your location and destination this isnt always “above board ” for those like me who know the state of the web and dont mind a slight drop in speed there are servers which dont “track ” you.

The trouble with many providers is that they never mention that they use ‘traffic management’ which restricts speeds during peak times. I only discovered this with Plusnet after studying the small print! My fault I guess but these companies should be more open and transparent during the initial sign-up and tell you everything.

Absolutely right Chris S and thats why I am with BT I am not “traffic managed ” I am on Infinity 2 “superfast” broadband and on checking on MY BT ,BT if providing exactly the broadband speed it advertises for my contract . Several ISP,s provide higher speeds but “choke ” your speed during peak periods and if you are a heavy user. Worst case for me was 63Gbs but I use different DNS servers as I said above.

Hi again Duncan on a different subject and yours by the look of it. I dont know what I am being sold so a litlle help might go a long way,
I am according to g maps 2.8 mile from the exchange and as best i can see the nearest u/ground box is 1.9 miles down the road. I’m assuming that fibre only goes u/ground
When all these dudes come on the phone trying to upgrade us to fibre I wont agree to anything (nothing new about that) because I cant see how I can have fibre if I havnt seen BT putting down anything new for many years so where does the fibre come to. I might add I am out on the sticks so seeing BT putting stuff down would be noticed

Well your right Dee you are rarely going to see BT Outreach installing fibre as it is usually contracted out to private firms (plain white lorries ) they only usually appear at the green cabinet in the road. Now for fibre to be installed requires a new green cabinet (slightly different shape ) where the copper D-SIDE (customers pole / wallbox DP (distribution box ) .This D-SIDE is connected under the ground next to the old box to the new fibre box which has fibre cable going back to the exchange . Now for the purposes of speed you can take the fibre box as being the proxy exchange so instead of say 3 miles from the exchange you are technically 2 miles from the exchange this is still a fair distance as over a mile speed is reduced significantly but its all down to loop resistance of your copper wire O/H (overhead wiring ) and your internal house wiring if BT has not renewed your overhead in the last 10 years you could have old higher resistance wiring this also includes your internal wiring but nowadays most people in private houses are liable for the condition of your internal wiring thats why I have –and I advise you to have your master socket next to your router/ modem and run a direct line from the box separating your external wiring to your internal wiring . In days gone by this was in a bathroom -BAD move as water/condensation allowed HLI/ S/C(short circuit) (heavy low insulation ) to develop . Check the condition of your external wiring and also check the black box on the pole to see if its okay where your O/H is terminated (might be in somebodies garden /property ) . If you need more info let me know.

Our line, the last bit about 400m is about 23 years old. I think it is 25 pair despite us onlly needing one phone.
It was a distant cousin who arrived with the hole borer and cable trailer and said that that is what he was sent out with. and he done what he was told so up it went.
Theres no new boxs and no new work since the last 20 years at least so I think it may be soem time before we have proper internet.
I can fill the kettle and switch it on and sit back down before my email opens up if it gets real bad.
Sometimes I think I’ll try satellite.
Thanks for an explanation I can get my head around

Hang on Dee that last 400 m is 25 pair ? All is not lost whats stopping you “bunching ” the pairs this was done in the days of pre- satellite when a low loop resistance was required for television transmission via copper UG feed . IN other words twist/crimp several copper pairs together at each end this will half/quarter the resistance of the line. IN my early days with BT I have done just that at a rugby event. Normally in O/H wiring there are 2 pairs of conductors “bunching” them would reduce the loop resistance but are you saying the 25 pair goes to the DP and then UG ? if you are the only one on the DP or there are only 1/2 other subscribers maybe BT would bunch the spare pairs back to the cabinet ? Satellite is pretty dear and heavy rain storms can effect the signal .

I know there has been several of the 25 pair used up in tree rubbing over the years but I would imagine there should be a few left but getting BT to do that might be a problem unless I cheated and put a tone on the extras to check them and then paired them up. But I’m still left with the remainder of the line to the box at near 2 miles

Speed ! Today it is all about how fast you can do things in everything

People dont read first do they. Can you go and put the kettle on and come back just in time for your email to open. I’m paying for a service that is not very good and there doesnt seem to be much anyone can do because we have swapped providers all with great promises and non deliver

Fibre broadband became available where I live. For the last couple of years I have been getting download speeds of approaching 8 Mbps. The speed did not seem to be affected by the time of day and was adequate for my needs. Since fibre broadband became available, the speed has gradually decreased. I will contact my supplier but I’m wondering if someone is trying to encourage me to switch to fibre.

WAvechange whats probably happened is more subscribers have joined you on copper from the cabinet back to the exchange . Signal crossover (induction of signals through an enclosed multi core cable ) causes a drop in speed amazingly enough this can happen to a lower extent in fibre this is why both the US and Russia connect to each others undersea secret intelligence cables to listen into each others calls /data transmissions using subs to connect equipment using induction listening devices specially for fibre (costly ) . Digital transmissions have a few bits corrupted due to this on normal fibre connections it gets worse as more data is transmitted by users on certain sizes of fibre but never as bad as copper which is very leaky both analogue and digital signals can be overheard via an induction pick up probe -aka – Amplifier . I had worse than you on copper 3.5 as apposed to your 8 but FTTC cured that the difference plus the new BT HH5 was massive the most reliable HH yet with a built in modem. But there again I am only 100 yards/metres from my cabinet (yes I know due to underground cabling it could be more ) but my pole DP is even nearer.

Duncan – I am intrigued by the way the Americans and the Russians are cooperating with each other through their interception of each other’s undersea secret intelligence cables. This obviously makes for a safer world as we can observe every day since better knowledge is the first step on the path to peace. Given that the US Navy are probably still employing Native Americans [eg Cherokee, Navajo, and Cheyenne language speakers] for signals intelligence work, which is then multiply-encrypted, you’d think there’d be an easier – and dryer – way to promote international harmony.

A very intelligent reply John probably thats why you do so well on which,s website as you probably know the same native Americans have been employed on building skyscrapers for 60 or more years due to their “head for heights ” . Its good to see someone wanting International harmony instead of being influenced by rhetoric coming out of this end of the world its a pity only UK/US professors /Intellectuals can see the truth and suffer for it by opening their mouths I dont want to go any further on that as it becomes pretty political and this is not the website for it but on other sites I am more frank.

Thanks Duncan. I hope there is a technical explanation rather than my ISP doing something underhand. I will monitor my download speed for a week and then see what they have to say. It’s years since I complained but after blaming my equipment they did something at their end and I saw a major improvement, which was sustained.

It has just occurred to me that taking regard for Dee saying his O/H wiring was 20 years old or more that those people living in rural areas might not have had their O/H wiring upgraded to the latest solid core copper. Many might have miles of say Dropwire NO 6 this old stuff was introduced to strengthen the resistance of the cable to internal breakage due to storms /snow on lines etc. While the strength was good this cable only had copper COATED conductors ,now think of the resistance of it over miles ? .This cable is obsolete and the latest stuff is copper ,supported by high tensile inner wires but its one answer to some low Internet speed problems.

I can’t speak for all rural areas, but a lot of roads in East Anglia have been dug up over the last decade to put ducting in to connect all the exchanges and eliminate overhead cables for the main network. Fibre should now be in place over the greater part of the distance to subscribers’ properties, even remote ones.. This has accounted for the high cost of bringing broadband to all areas and it is the final mile or two that is now being done and which is taking the time [after all you have to provide the trunk lines before you can hook up the outlying villages and homesteads]. The distribution within small towns and villages is still via overhead lines in most cases but I expect they are gradually being replaced with higher conductivity cabling but fibre to the property remains a dream in many places

Distribution points -pole DP,s (black boxes on poles ) still account for the last mile or in many cases several miles of O/H wiring .Yes many small local exchanges have been done away with in country regions due to fibre upgrades but actual houses have to be supplied many require long local runs of O/H .Even in towns many buildings to directly fed require long runs of dropwire led in from wall-boxes far from the premises direct feeds are a dream that has not become reality yet due to cost except in new housing estates where cable is fed direct to UG ducts and then back to the cabinet . Old houses being what they are usually have OH wiring to them and on farms this can be through woods and over rivers requiring miles of OH. I know I have been there installed it requiring “two man parties ” to do the job thats the reality of the situation. It is possible (at a price ) to have FTTP from BT .

Back again Had a chat with wifey.
The phone was put in with the big cable in 1989.
The cable from that to end of road is beyond remembering but my father says the current apparently copper one replaced and awful aluminium one at which point and the then customers got a phone that worked near all the time.
The one from road end to half way to first box and u/ground is beyond memory but about 6 maybe 7 years ago the bottom half to the box was replaced as we all remember the lorries and phone were a mess for a day.

Yes aluminum cable was tried out nation wide ,it proved to be absolute rubbish a whole cabinet in town was wired up with it ,it lasted 6 months ,every time a large lorry went by the cable went faulty, it also badly corroded . It sounds like there is a joint in the cable it depends if all the paper insulation cable has been replaced it was always going faulty along with the old lead joints I am sure they all have been replaced but you never know. The new shrink plastic joints are a lot more waterproof as is the new UG cable.

Maybe my thoughts on satellite might not be far wrong. BT doesnt seem to replace anything until it falls off the poles. Much of the cable is now older than the new poles.

Thanks for your input Duncan I appreciate it

Dee have you checked the prices of satellite broadband ? . Example 22Mbts download speed and a limited download allowed (subject to restriction ) = £84/ month . I tried 3 different UK suppliers + £289 installation fee even the slower versions are around £50/month with lower usage quotas.

That just put a halt to that than. Thanks Duncan, I’ll just have to put with with broadband speed that most think is dial up for a while yet.
People ask if our internet is working it takes them so long to get on
Its really noticeable in our motorhome when I have this same laptop and the site wifi seems like its opening all the pages as fast as I’m clicking on them.
Thanks again Dee

Wow this is a timely thread. Last week – on BT Infinity 1, typically get speeds around 25 MB/s download – I received an email from BT which (in essence) said “BT Infinity 2 is available in your area now with speeds up to 76 MB/s. Click here to order”. Which I did. I was “enabled” the following day and received an email saying “you are now on BT Infinity 2. We estimate your speed will be between 28-36 MB/s”. Not even at the top end of BT Infinity 1 rates (@ 38MB/s).

A week later and I am not getting any improvement whatsoever – I’m still at the rates I Was getting 2 weeks ago – so after an angry exchange with BT help desk who told me I was mis-sold, I have asked BT to take me back to Infinity 1 and I am awaiting a call from their customer services to arrange this. I want them to refund all extra charges they have made also of course and get me out of the 12 month contract that was part of the condition for taking Infinity 2.

I really have to ask why BT are allowed to mis-led and “con” so significantly by advertising that 76MB/s service is available to me, yet I only get around 1/3 of this. Surely this has to be against the trade descriptions act?

Now, I am told it takes a week or so for their modem to adjust to the potential of the new service. So I may get some small l improvement but still not even up to the Infinity 1 headline rate, Do you think BT should keep me on the Infinity 2 service but charge me at Infinity 1 charges? I certainly do! – since today they can’t get me close to 38 MB/s, but have some way (Infinity 2) to get me closer to that.

Thoughts? What should I say to the BT Customer Service advisor when they phone?

StephensS- That BT sales hadnt checked up with their technical services that your particular location and distance from the cabinet didnt allow for Infinity 2. All that really was required is a couple of click on the computer to get that info. For the price difference in rental if I was you I would stick to Infinity 1 unless you have not optimized your internal wiring/computer settings etc to try to get the best possible speed . At the end of the day its up to you if you think there are ways of getting a big jump in speed but BT must know that the loop resistance from your house to exchange does not allow for full Infinity 2.

Thanks Duncan – yes I will be asking BT to go back to Infinity 1. (and btw I have my router connected directly to the main BT entry point into my house (whatever it is called!) taking any internal wiring out of the equation. Because the sales processes is automated (online), I only received notification of estimated speeds after I signed up. I didn’t’ know of any links to check that before I pressed the “upgrade” button, nor did BT tell me any! I personally think they have knowingly mis-sold to me, and here I thought only the banks were known for mis-selling!

Thanks Zoe for the links. I only ordered 7 days ago so I do plan to exercise my rights! I will keep you updated.

Given that BT should know estimated speeds before they sent me the “upgrade for £6 a year” email, I would argue they are guilty of mis-selling. If I wasn’t keeping an eye on speeds, they would happily take money from me despite not meeting the service expectation, and in fat not providing any benefit over their base level Infinity 1 product. One point: while my download speed hasn’t changed, I do think/suspect the upload speed is better. If this is the case, is there not a case for BT keeping me on Infinity 2 to enable me to get closer to the speeds of Infinity 1 – but at the Infinity 1 price?! It’s all about service levels, not about product names, in my view!

On a side note, I work contracted 40 hours a week. I’m going to my boss today and say I’ll only do 25 or 26 hours a week, and expect to get the fully pay. I’ll quote the BT example (buy 38, get 25 or 26) and see what he says 🙂

StephenS . In contract legal terms BT cant keep you on Infinity 2 while paying for Infinity 1 if you do not “qualify ” (in terms of Internet speed ) for Infinity 2 they would be braking the law twice and would allow massive claims by many members of the public . Even if you got a lawyer to ask for “compensation ” in that form you would not win . Its one thing for BT to say =okay we made a mistake its another to change a public contract with far reaching legal consequences ,but there is no harm in asking . I would be also interested if they said yes ?

Thanks Zoe and Duncan for swift advice. I spent almost 2 hours on the phone on Saturday trying to get “downgraded” to Infinity 1. The poor lady on their support line had real trouble understanding my request, which was frustrating since I spent 30 mins with someone else on Thursday in BT tech support who told me it was “inappropriate” that I had been offered and sold this “upgrade”, as it was clear from the line data they have that my street cannot support Infinity 2 speeds.
i did eventually get through to someone on the sales side who initiated the “downgrade” and gave me a £7.65 per month discount to keep me from moving away from BT (as well as waiving the extra Infinity 2 charges I had incurred since the move). Let’s hope when the move happens tomorrow I don’t suffer any impact to the Infinity 1 speeds I was previously getting.
Thanks again for your replies above.

PS: I thought I had written this reply on Saturday but doesn’t look like I remembered to press the “post” button – so apologies in case there are 2 replies on this from me!

I love all the talk about “Infinity Broadband” & MB/sec speeds (is there some confusion between bits & bytes/sec – 8 bits in a Byte) but I can only dream!
My concern is that rural broadband averages at 10Mb/sec but was is the range of speeds? How many are dragging up the average by getting high speeds and how many like me, 4 miles from a rural exchange, drag it down by getting around 480 Kbps/sec, less than half the “up to” I am paying BT for. It is unreliable, dropping to 15 or 30Kb/sec for days at a time & rarely & inexplicably rising to 90Kb/sec for a few days. Streaming audio can be difficult and forget video, we live in the digital Stone Age here.
Matching that with very poor 2g phone signal at my house (little 3g and no 4g locally) means that I have had to invest in TooWay satellite broadband, expensive but the only way I can get usable speeds. It is very reliable and only rarely has heavy rain affected it.
Should what we pay for broadband not be based on the true speed provided and not on the fantasy figure dreamt up by marketing departments? Why should I pay the same as someone who gets usable speeds?
Perhaps it might make companies improve their service if they were not allowed to charge for speeds below a certain level, after all, in certain countries broadband is seen as a human right.

Sorry about the bits/bytes not paying enough attention to it will stick with Mb/sec as you say. In relation to your speed ,as you know BT has an ongoing roiling out process of FTTC all over the UK yes some areas are getting more attention than others but BT is not the government which in some Scandinavian countries are helping implement total “high speed ” broadband. If you check up the latest figures BT is doing well although that will not please you it is pleasing many others . BT is using practical engineering logic of supply to cabinet of fibre THEN concentrate on the collective majorities location and your right getting high speed fibre to you direct is not something achievable quickly as like a lot of other people in outlying isolated areas you have to take into consideration distance . BEfore you condemn BT just rememder the government with the UK vast approval privatised the telephone service so that competition from PRIVATE firms could take place –GUESS ??? where those private firms were only interested in ?? thats right large towns cities with the highest revenue taking business from BT while the public applauded -bad BT -getting its comeuppance etc . But now the “chickens have come home to roost ” and those “left out in the cold ” are not happy petition the government to increase the grants to BT or like some small villages have done got together and had fibre installed privately (at a cost ) you cant have a socialist aimed society unless the people vote for it and thats what some continental countries have done. This country is mainly capitalist run even more so now and people seem to be happy with that I remember the days when the old GPO telephones Union went out and installed telephones FREE to the wheel chair crippled those near death etc brought to an end with private enterprise .

The ofcom claim that the average rural broadband speed is about 10 Mbits/sec seems flawed to me. Ofcom say their sample from 1500 households includes too few with connection speeds rated at 2Mbits/sec or less to be analysed as a separate category. They are lumped into the upto 10Mbits/sec category, from which the so called rural broadband rate is derived (http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/other/telecoms-research/broadband-speeds/broadband-speeds-november2014/ ). However, ofcom analysis of broadband rate in Scotland shows you have to live within three miles of the exchange to get speeds in excess of 2Mbits/sec. (http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/cmr-10/SCO-1.19.html)
So when you read of rural speeds of 10M bits/Sec, think of ex urban commuter fringes, not rolling green country side.

I live in rural Suffolk and have struggled for years with a broadband download speed of around 1mbs. Upload sometimes dwindled to Zero. The county council has a contract with BT to upgrade this ‘uneconomic’ area with the help of government cash but progress is glacially slow and the latest timetable is for us to get a speed of 2mbs by the end of 2017. The target was originally 2015, so there is little confidence that the new one will be achieved.

A couple of months ago EE upgraded their local cellphone mast, which is about 500 metres from my house, to 4g so I bought a mobile DATA SIM
and put it in my iPad. Bingo—I achieved up to 56 Mps download and 16mps upload. I then bought a 4g wi-fi router so now every device in the house has access to a 21st Centurybroadband speed.

The downside, of course, is the cost. A 12 month contract for 25 GB a month is typically £25–£30 a month but that’s enough for the vast majority, including me and you get a much better and far cheaper service than from a satellite set up, something that quite a few people in this part of the world have turned to in desperation.

Good advice David thats a very reasonable price when you compare it with the excessive charges(from a consumer point of view ) for sat.broadband I am sure this will help those within range of a 4g cellphone mast who have very slow broadband . BT now own EE but BT will eventually upgrade your area if they said they would I had only 3.5 M originally, had to wait about 2years but they delivered and I am happy with them. http://www.ispreview,co.uk state that it will take up to 2017 for BT to cover 95 % of Suffolk

It’s not just the speeds which are bad. I recently tried to change to John Lewis Broadband on your recommendation and received the worst service I’ve ever encountered from a broadband provider, apart from BT.
They failed to migrate my landline number so that I was left with a number no-one knew, and when that was put right (it ALWAYS takes 2-3daysof course)they said that the bank had rejected my Direct Debit mandate, which was NOT the case. They had not forwarded it to the bank in the first place. I was cut off from any phone or broadband as soon as I returned from holiday. They barely apologised when I finally got through to them.
The only thing in their favour is that the waiting time for calls to be answered is shorter than the other providers.

For many years I suffered Sky 3Mbps as a broadband speed. Every time I enquired about Virgin cable I was told it was not available in my part of the UK (East London postal district). Then, lo and behold !, my prayers were answered and I changed my services to Virgin. Mine was the first house in the area to use Virgins new service and when I tested the speed with Ookla and other programs, my broadband speed had increased from 3Mbps to 160 Mbps download, and an upload speed of around 11Mbps. Needless to say, I recommend Virgin !

Anyone tried mobile internet? I havnt a clue about bits and bytes, all I know is that I’m paying for a very poor service. Mobile would also work some of the time in our camper and the cost could be offset by not having to pay for site wifi which can be expensive.
Anyone with a motorhome and experience

Dee didnt David Mitchell 5 posts above provide the answer to your question ?

Good Man Duncan, I had read the first bit of his post and not finished it.
I’m as bad as everyone else. Shoot first and ask questions later!!
Thanks to David as well
We are moving into a new cabin maybe early next year and that would also cut out the landline.

DK – If your phone supports tethering and your service provider allows it (not all contracts do), give it a go. You need to be careful to avoid exceeding your data allowance.

I travel around when on holiday and in my experience, mobile broadband is often poor in rural areas. Before I used my phone for mobile broadband I had a 3 MiFi rechargeable router and a 12 GB sim cost about £55 (purchased online rather than from 3) and would last me a year when out and about, because I used WiFi when available.

There is now 4G coverage where I live and the speed is much faster than my landline broadband.

I pay for sky fibre broadband speeds and I know I don’t always receive the speeds that are advertised. The reason I’m given is pathetic….I’m at the furthest distance from my telephone exchange.

William how far are you from the cabinet because if you have fibre the cabinet takes the place of the exchange –2 miles/3/4 ? . If you dont know what your cabinet number is it can be found on the Internet by checking your local area via a BT website and what is your speed ?