What’s Your Real Broadband Speed?

By Craig Buckler
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UK telecommunications firm BT was recently slammed by the Advertising Standards Authority for misleading broadband speed advertisements. BT’s television advert stated the company was “rolling out up to 20 meg speeds” to give “consistently faster broadband” yet they could not provide sufficient evidence to support the claims. In a similar case in Australia, regulators accused Optus of breaching the Trade Practices Act by misleading customers with its “Supersonic” and “Think Bigger” broadband plans.

Unless you happen to be living in South Korea, broadband speeds can be disappointing. Service providers make bold statements but, examine the small print, and you’ll discover that few people can achieve the advertised speeds.

Western countries often have the slowest broadband connections. Few companies invest in modern communication infrastructures when it’s easier and more profitable to push aging copper networks to their limits. The Speedtest.net global report shows the US in 30th place followed by the UK at 33, Canada at 36, and Australia at 40. The average speeds are dwarfed by those available in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria.

The average UK download speed is 9.18Mb/s yet many people receive far less. For the record, I can achieve 2.7Mb/s and households a short walk away are even slower. It’s fine for watching a YouTube video, uploading SitePoint articles and sending tweets, but large downloads are painful and it’s no where near the “up to” 20Mb speed advertised by my ISP.

For the latest SitePoint poll, I’d like to know how your actual broadband speed measures against your provider’s advertised figure…

  • Measure your actual broadband speed at an independent site such as Speedtest.net.
  • Visit your ISP’s website to find their advertised broadband speed.
  • Divide the first number by the second and complete the SitePoint poll.

For me, it’s 2.7 ⁄ 20 = 0.135. It’s like buying a Ferrari to find it’s been limited to 30mph. How does your provider compare?

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  • Hey Craig,

    I’m actually fighting my provider at the moment – I’m on a 1500/512 Mbps plan but rarely crack higher then 300kbps down and 15kbps up…

    It’s a constant frustration, though they are looking into it for me. Personally, I think it’s because I’m so far from my telephone exchange, but yeah…sucks to actually expect the speeds advertised and never fully get there…

  • DigitalSuture

    It is unfortunate that advertisers have to spin their product to make it seem competitive. There are a few things to consider about the speed of your internet.
    1. Time of day- unfortunately peak times do affect speed.
    2. Distance to server/fiber optic or copper wiring from provider/ speed of server you are trying to connect too.
    3. Processing capabilities of your computer or their crappy website code.
    4. http://advice.cio.com/who-owns-the-internet-we-have-a-map-that-shows-you?page=0,0 – “who owns the internet” article on internet providers, net neutrality, and some other interesting points.

  • My ISP advertises 10 Mbps, depending on what I’m doing I do get that. While downloading from Steam I average around 1 MBps (10 Mbps) for most of the download. However, it all depends on how busy the line is I’m on cable after all.

  • JR

    I get exactly what I’m promised – 6 Mbps down, 1Mbps up – because I have business service for my home office, and business customers are guaranteed the advertised rate. (There is no “up to” with my cable company’s business service.) It does come at a cost – I pay about double what “residential” customers pay.

    (There are some nice perks to it, though, in addition to guaranteed speeds. When my internet goes out, they have someone here within the hour, even if it’s 2AM in a snowstorm. Yes, I know that because they offered to do it one night, and no, I’m not mean enough to actually let them drag someone out in that.)

  • With my service, it was easy to score a high percentage with my service because the advertised speed is low (and thus realistic) at 3mbps. I live in a rural area, so higher speeds are not easily available.

  • I don’t understand the values I found :
    Download : 65.12Mb/s
    Upload : 0.71Mb/s
    My provider says ’28M ATM’ (in French).
    If i do what you say, I find : 2.32 It’s like buying a bicycle and getting a Ferrari isn’t it ?

  • Paying for 10Mbit here, often times I’ll see over 12Mbit.

    Very happy with my ISP.

  • Andrés

    I have 12Mb with Vodafone in Spain and I get 13,70, so… 1,14

  • Rick

    It depends on the type of connection here in Holland. I had cable for a while, which was advertised as 25 Mbps and actually delivered 21 Mbps.

    Although I was happy with the connection, I hated the fact that those “customer support” representatives made me feel like a 2-year-old child whenever I needed them, so I recently switched to a different provider’s ADSL connection (in Holland there is usually only a single cable-provider for a particular region, and fiber-optic is insanely expensive for home use, so the only alternative to cable is ADSL — or satellite, but again: insanely expensive).

    This ADSL-connection offered up to 20 Mbps, but in practice barely reached 8 Mbps. Several phone calls later I found out that the copper wiring running from my house to the provider’s control box was about 3.5 kilometres (2 miles) of poor quality wiring, which they weren’t planning to repair.

    Needless to say that, despite my annoyance with their customer service, I am now back with the cable provider after barely 2 months with that ADSL provider.

  • Broadbandwatzthat?

    still dreaming of 1mbps as I chug along at 450kbps full throttle when working late at night. If it is early evening and the traffic is heavy, I dream to the good old days of dial up when the pages at least loaded……. and all this for £25 per month – who would live in the country.

  • jsonencode

    I’m curious to know why Bulgaria and Romania have such high speeds. I can understand why Korea has.

  • Virgin promised me 10Mbs down and I get 9.87Mbs, so I think I’m happy with that. Cable connection, UK

  • adimauro

    I’m actually pleasantly surprised to find out that I got fast than advertised! I got 20.59 Mbps down, 4.21 Mbps up…and the advertised rates are 15 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. (Cable modem)
    That being said, the cost is still way too high, in my opinion…$50/month before taxes.

  • W2ttsy

    Im hitting 11 – 15 Mbps on a 24Mbps rated connection, so can’t really complain there. I did experience the drudgery of unusable ADSL and line interference during the weekend when there was a heavy storm and the phone pits were flooded and the lines underwater.

    I was going to go with Optus cable (as aunt and dad both have solid connections at 16mbps) and the house im renting is wired from the previous owner, however Optus dont allow servers on their residential connections. Even though it wouldnt be a true server, I didnt want my contract revoked by running a small svn/jira server for a peer coding project.

    Cant wait for the NBN to arrive in Melbourne suburbs. Will be a glorious day when we have access to reliable fibre to the home.

  • mmj

    Up: 0.85Mbit
    Down: 9.8Mbit

    When you account for the overhead of ADSL that perfectly matches my sync speeds of 1Mbit/11Mbit respectively. So I’m getting my advertised speeds perfectly. Actual throughput to the U.S. is different though.

    Australia ISPs aren’t allowed to market ADSL2+ as being a 24Mbit connection anyway – the best they can do is state it’s a “theoretical maximum”.

  • Virginia

    Technologist Richard Bennett has a good bit on this in HighTechForum … people are getting what they are paying for:

  • I don’t know what my ISP advertises, but at the moment here in NZ the govt. is busy rolling out fibre (and stuff!) and in my town we got upgraded to ADSL2+ a few months ago. The best I’ve seen on that was 14MBbps.

    I’m super happy with my surfing and download speed – I can stream HD YouTube videos and NZ’s TV On Demand service in high-quality, and I guess that’s all I ask from my bandwidth…

  • ricktheartist

    I use Charter here in Texas and after having them out for a few days because I was having trouble even getting close, I have been surfing near, at and sometimes even above the rate I am paying for. I have 25Mbps service and with the test I just took, I got a 24.13Mbps. My up speed is very good at 3Mbps as well.

    It is a bit pricey for residential service, at $85 USD per month (does not include TV or phone), but since I telecommute, I save a ton on gas.

    I am very happy with my ISP. I am not looking forward to going back to Florida and dealing with Comcast again. ugh.

  • davidcroda

    People need to be aware that almost all of these services advertise their speeds in megaBITS, while you are usually measuring your download/upload speed in megaBYTES. While cheesy to use different measurements, it is technically true that there are 8 bits in a byte.

    Using the original poster as an example

    He has a 1500 kiloBIT per second connection
    300 kiloBYTES per second (what he sees in his browser or torrent client) * 8 bits in a byte = 1800 kilobits per second, which is actually higher then what you are paying for.

    Now I am not saying that ISP’s don’t rip people off and that they always deliver their advertised speeds, but I wanted people to be aware of the difference in terms.

  • davidcroda

    Oh my goodness I feel so dumb. I meant to say 300 * 8 = 2400.

    Sitepoint why no edit button to restore my dignity!!

  • Mine’s better than advertised.

    It’s a business hi-speed package but it isn’t really what I would consider a blazing fast package. It’s faster than others I’ve had and advertises 7.5 Mbps down and 512 Kbps up.

    I’m actually getting 9.6 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up.

  • I’ve used 325Kb/s in all honestly I’d be quite happy with that compared with what I get. Yet I read some of you are getting 10+ Mbps, download 80+Gigs is what I could see those speeds are useful for, unless you disagree :) ?

  • Arkh

    ISP says up to 100Mbps download, 10Mbps upload.
    Speedtest : 90.54Mbps download, 8.85Mbps upload. 2ms ping.

  • My internet has consistently run at about 1.2x the advertised speed for the past four years.

  • I just did a test on my connection at work and found that it is 50% higher than the advertised speed.

    Perhaps you need another option in the poll for those of us who get readings above 1?

  • Alexxandar

    It depends very much on where is the server you are using for testing, like I have 4Mbps/384kbps within Europe it stays around 3.8Mbps/360kbps with decent highest ping at 70ms while if I test it on server in north America, it varies very much. Dallas got only 1.2Mbps/200kbps, Montreal did a lot better with 3.3Mbps/320kbps with ping around 120-150ms, while when I tested it on Honolulu it was 3,8Mbps/240kbps.

    And by the way, you can have a 100Mbps connection in South Korea but it rarely goes more than 2Mbps on servers outside the country.

  • greenjumpyone

    I did much better than I thought I would too! :o)

    DL: 13.26Mb/s
    UP: 1.74Mb/s

    The service I am paying for is 10/2Mb/s. So, I exceed on the download side and nearly meet it on the upload side. Not too bad! :O)

  • rozner

    Mine advertises 100mbps but I get about 50. Although the fine print says “up to 100mbps but they guarantee 30. It’s not the 100 that’s advertised but I’m not really complaining with 50. It’s fast enough for me.

  • I’m getting 58Mbps down/5Mbps up on a 60/6 plan. Very happy with it!

  • Chris White

    I had similar issues when i was with BT. I switched to Virgin to a 20Mb line and i usually get 10-15Mb regardless of time of day. I also have ADSL, not Cable so id recommend dropping BT and paying an extra pound to Virgin for line rental.

  • daniel

    here in new zealand
    30kbps <not a typo
    this article made me cry

    • Who’s your ISP and where do you live? Good lord that’s slow, even for NZ.

  • Hannah

    Hi everyone,

    Virgin Media launched a new campaign today to address this problem of misleading broadband advertising.

    You can test your broadband speed on the campaign website http://www.stopthebroadbandcon.org to see if you’re getting what you pay for.