/ Technology

Superfast broadband – is speed your priority?

The current government hasn’t minced its words over its plans for broadband. It dove straight in with a goal for the UK to have ‘the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015’. So how close are we?

Superfast broadband can broadly be described as any service that’s advertised as offering a speed of over 24 Megabits per second (Mbps). It runs over fibre networks rather than the old-style copper ADSL ones that simply can’t cope with the same speeds.

The most widely known superfast services are probably BT’s Infinity, which boasts speeds of up to 40Mbps, and Virgin Media’s cable packages which claims to reach as high as 100Mbps.

Superfast broadband targets

According to Ofcom, superfast broadband networks can now be accessed by 58% of UK households. Sound like a lot? Well, the government wants 90% of UK homes and businesses to have access to a superfast service by the end of 2015.

It’s a grand aim, though I think it’s rather interesting that the target is around availability rather than people taking it up. But perhaps that’s a wise caveat – is the average Brit actually concerned enough about broadband speed to upgrade to a superfast service?

I’m lucky enough to live in an area where a superfast connection is already available, though there’s not a choice of services yet (I’m currently with Virgin, but BT’s service will arrive at my postcode in March this year according to its broadband checker).

And, I must say that I do notice the difference in response time when I go back to my parent’s house and their slower connection.

There’s only a small time lag, but it’s definitely a frustrating one, especially when websites I use regularly take noticeably longer to load. Perhaps if I’d never have experienced a superfast connection I wouldn’t even have noticed this, but now I don’t think I could go back to a ‘standard’ service.

Don’t forget rural areas

I haven’t forgotten about the remaining 10% of households that the government expects to be without superfast broadband by 2015. We’ve heard from many of you who currently struggle to get any sort of decent broadband speed, let alone a fast one.

The government does have targets in place for these people as well, with an aim to get everyone on a minimum 2Mbps broadband service by 2015. I certainly think it’s more important to get this right first, before concentrating on making already fast services even faster.

That’s not to say less populated rural areas won’t benefit from superfast speeds too – the government’s allocated over £530 million to ensure these areas get access to a superfast service. Time will tell if this actually happens, and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on how this progresses.

There are more superfast options available to us than ever before, with TalkTalk, Plusnet and Zen Internet offering services on top of BT and Virgin. The question is – are you interested in upgrading to one? And if you already have, have you noticed a significant difference?

Comments
Anon the mouse says:
4 January 2012

Speed is the main priority for me, as it establishes the number of stable connections we can have to the wider world. Here’s a quick comparison

The minimum the government wants is 2mb per house, that is 1 HD iPlayer video at a time. No browsing headroom.

Jumping to the 10mb and you can get 2 HD videos, browsing, and maybe an erratic Live connection. Again no headroom for much beyond the basics.

Going to the top end 50mb (can’t get 100mb around here). Suddenly you don’t need to monitor what you are doing online, streaming from the net becomes about as quick as browsing the computer. There is so much headroom that visitors can use it without worrying about bandwidth limits.

Unfortunately the companies won’t put these fast connections where there aren’t lots of potential customers/upgraders.

Oh and for reference a 50mb connection could support nearly 1000 of the old dialup connections.

I’d be happy with being able to watch a youtube vid w/o it pausing every few secs.

…. try using a different browser OR indeed O S….

same issue with chrome, ie running on xp or 7, only common thing between the 4 combo is virgin media 🙁

But thanks for the tip anyway

Was having same problem using XP Pro until
I switched to Ubuntu using Firefox or Arora but
not Chrome, a browser I dislike along with IE ….
…. if YouTube pause, restart immediately… with
Ubuntu, videos/ i Player seem to run OK.

If still no joy, maybe problem due to your BB speed
not being fast enough.

Anon the mouse says:
4 January 2012

Try changing your DNS settings to opendns http://store.opendns.com/get/basic

The issue in reality is nothing to do with whether we would want it, its whether the BT infrastructure can handle the necessary throughput.

Lets face it if everyone was on super fast in the country (25 million homes) all watching the Olympics how would they be able to cope with Full HD to everyone? (Its about 2Gb/s according to EBU).

Even more to the point what happens if Apple do introduce an ‘iTV’ with a data content 4 times that of Full HD (so 8Gb/s)

The infrastructure model will have to change from a star network to a Peer-2-Peer a bit like torrent style delivery where the data is sent and reconstructed from many different sources so that the load is spread evenly. (I think that is about 50 Pb/s for Full HD and 200Pb/s for ‘iTV’, I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong)

You’re right about infrastructure, though I doubt very much iTV or anything will deliver ‘4 times Full HD quality’. A lot of broadcast HD is only 720p or 1080i and Blu-rays are still just 1080p. I say just…that’s plenty enough.

As a gamer, I require that my gaming packets are prioritised over bulk data transfer. I also don’t want any packet loss on those packets.

As a media consumer, I want enough bandwidth for HD video streaming without pausing.

Currently, I’m on 3mbit/s (on a good day) with all my gaming packets prioritised by plusnet and have to be a bit careful I don’t do anything else heavy on the network when watching standard definition iplayer streams.

nah…..govt targets over-ambitious….. I presently get no
more than ten.

‘Ten’ refers, of course, to Mbps or mbps…. I note in London
the really faster speeds are confined mostly to the posher areas
such as W1, W2 …. SW1, 3, 5 and 7… and quite likely NW3, NW8,
Highgate ecetera ecetera…. have I left anyone out?

I forgot to mention if your area is covered by
Virgin, you may have the option of a much higher
speed of maybe up to 50 but it costs much more.

cyberdoyle says:
4 January 2012

the digital divide is growing even wider, and the £530 million pound pot is being diverted through councils into BT pockets to put a few cabinets in the urban fringes and totally ignore the 10% who will be offered expensive satellite or bonded copper rubbish, and the whole job will be to do again in a few years. What a fiasco.
The best thing any area can do is copy the b4rn model, build your own fibre network and cut out the greedy monopoly of wholesale and openreach and get some dark fibre leased from another company. Otherwise you’ll all end up going slow for infinity.

I do not find the need for much greater speed than I already get aroung 4MB/s but then if I wnat to watch TV I use a TV, strange eh. I do not play on line games either so the need for enormous speed is not there. I do think that rural areas should get a decent speed 3 to 4 MB/S but those aho want more should pay for it. I do not believe that there are many private individuals who want it.

Locally I can get 40 Mbs if I wanted to pay for it – but the regular 10 Mbs is perfectly adequate.

Reliability is more important to me. Even with a difference in 2 – 7mb or so, you can’t really tell the difference.

I have never had any issues watching iplayer on a 1.8mb connection

I pay for an ‘up to 24 Mbps’ connection. Until recently the average speed for my postcode,was shown as 10 Mbps. The speed range for my postcode is now quoted as a minimum of 6 Mbps with an average of 8 and a maximum of 10 Mbps. Useful information at last, and I can generally achieve the minimum speed. Thanks to Ofcom for pushing ISPs to provide useful information. I think it is disgraceful hat the service is still marketed as ‘up to 24 Mbps’.

The law in operation here is the Law of Physics, which cannot be changed :).

It is the technology being employed over copper lines, ADSL2+, that limits the connection to “Up to 24 Megs” and it is a physical fact that the speed falls off as the copper line gets longer, i.e. the further away from the telephone exchange you are.

Changing between ISPs using the same ADSL platform will not generally affect your speeds.

‘Up to’ a specified speed cannot be faulted as a matter
of law which is why ISPs continue to engage in
such advertising with impunity.

Then the law should be changed.

Changing law is easier said than done.

If I were changing ISP, shall make speed within certain
parameters as being acceptable AND then making
them a term of the contract…. then clobber them
if they deviate too much from what is agreed OR exit
therefrom on breach of a fundamental term OR
‘fit for purpose’ provisions.

By so doing you have a cast iron case as to contractual
obligations.

I had not realised it was so easy for a humble consumer to impose such conditions in the terms of the contract, which in the nature of things is a two-sided instrument. Surely no ISP would tolerate such a departure from their standard T&C’s?

Standard form contracts are what large outfits use
in relation to the consumer…. the supplementary
contract you create is ancillary to the main standard
form one entered into… fine if you accept existing terms
otherwise move on and find another that will
agree as to minimum actual speed stipulated OR agree
speeds within the parameters set out by you.

If higher speed is of the essence, you may have to pay quite
a bit more but the choice is there, and it’s up to you to
accept or decline what’s offered.

If more people were prepared to complain about shabby treatment by companies then we might get somewhere. I realise that you are trying to put things in perspective, Argonaut, but if we just accept the situation then there is little chance of improvement.

About connection speeds, was able to play chess of a certain type
on logging in to website and play with folks on their computers
similarly logged in, could even have a simultaneous chat as we played
along and that was in the days of DIAL-UP… and no technical
problems of any kind encountered with, of course, Firewall being on.

Ben1 says:
6 January 2012

My exchange has Infinity but it’s not available on my line. The best I can get is 1mbps. Often it’s down to 0.4mbps That rules out iPlayer on my TV. 2mbps seems like a dream to me, let alone anything higher!

John HUdson says:
6 January 2012

What I need above all else is a reliable speed and smooth download and upload. Went with Tesco broadband as they were recommend n which but have had over 8weeks of no or very poor broadband with both upload and download very spiky and often fltlining at zero. If the suppliers can’t get basic copper based broadband to work at their advertised speeds they should provide fibre free. Tesco seem unable to solve their problems or often keep promises to call back, based n our experice avoid.

David says:
6 January 2012

Talk Talk have just put in their own equipment at the exchange and my speed has increased from 1.9 to 2.6 – no big deal but iPlayer does run more reliably. The service is billed as up to 8.

Superfast might be nice to have if the price was not much higher than now but that’s probably a dream. The question really is surely how much would consumers be willing to pay for superfast? As the price comes down which in time it probably will I guess more people will sign up but nationally I would see the priority to be able to offer everyone say 5 – 10 Mbs

Fletch says:
6 January 2012

Coverage in this country is so inconsistent. I live in urban Bromley in a street which I know can receive high speed Virgin coverage but I get a slow 4mps with Sky. My package says up to 20 mps. My brother in rural Wiltshire with a similar package gets 5 mps. We need more clarity about what is actually available when we sign up rather than finding out once locked into a contract.

Engineer AL.. says:
6 January 2012

As a computer engineer who deals on a daily basis with internet issues in the home. I have come across virtually all scenarios from dreadful to excellent provision. Unfotunately it is virtually impossible to get the same service to every home. Some providers are without doubt very much better than others. The broadband speed some people want (but don’t always need) varies dramatically. Where some are happy with 2Mbs or indeed less than that, others demand 20+.. I agree that if a supplier is failing to provide the service then complain or ditch them. However I have come across many people who have done just that and found the new supplier no better than the previous. Often it is down to the infrastructure in a particular area. Yes, that is more often BT. My own view is that with technology changing at breathless speed – then the whole country should be on fibre B/bd as soon as possible. To me this is an investment the government should be suppoting much more than at present.

Terry Dowd says:
6 January 2012

Frustration abounds with the absurd situation existing between so called “developed” areas being privilege to a faster broadband than those in what is being classified as “rural”. The geographic situation is irrelevant – it is strictly a “comercial/business” decision made by primarilly BT to serve areas of popluation before those less populated areas. BT, all ISP’s, suppliers, manufacturers, BBC iplayer, government, You Tube, LoveFilm (Amazon) should wake up to this fact and predicate that they accept some areas do NOT get anywhere near decent enough broadband to use their services anywhere near to an acceptable level – try using BBC i-player, stream films or just watch You Tube where I live – impossible at ANY time of the day. 21st Century – joke..!!

Norman Downie says:
6 January 2012

We get a low c400kbps service, as we live a long way from the exchange. A faster connection would be good, but I would not pay extra cost to get that!! The current service is adequate for 90% of the stuff I want to do.