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Broadband speeds up 20 per cent, still nowhere near promises

Broadband speeds have shot up by almost a fifth, according to telecoms watchdog Ofcom, but they're still miles off what's promised in ads.

Broadband speeds have shot up by almost a fifth in the last year, according to telecoms watchdog Ofcom. In new figures released today, Ofcom reveals the average residential broadband speed is now 9Mbps, boosted by the arrival of superfast packages from Virgin Media and BT, as well as general improvements -- but speeds still fall short of advertised rates.

Broadband pipes now shuffle Internets around an average of two and a half times faster than in November 2008 when Ofcom records began. Back then, when the iPhone 3G was the latest thing, we still had a Labour government and Carly Rae Jepson was just a blueprint in some fiendish record company cloning lab, the average speed was just 3.6Mbps.

This time last year the average speed was 6.8Mbps. Rates have improved in part because Ofcom's research now includes some new superfast packages, such as Virgin Media's service, which quotes speeds of up to 60Mbps service, and BT's Infinity 2, which advertises speeds up to 76Mbps.

Despite these advertised speeds, the average superfast customer gets 35.8Mbps -- still impressive, just nowhere near those often misleading ads. Just 8 per cent of the country's broadband users are on superfast packages, but network upgrades have also raised the speeds for much of the remainder of the population, often at no extra cost. BT has, for example, upgraded its copper ADSL network and moved many customers from ADSL1 to the faster ADSL2+.

Today, over two-thirds of UK fixed-line residential broadband users are on packages capable of maximum speeds above 10Mbps, where less than half could say the same this time last year.

These are download speeds -- the rate at which you pull data from the web -- but BT also looked at upload speeds, the rate at which you send data to the web, such as uploading videos. BT Infinity's 76Mbps service delivered the highest upload speeds of all the packages available, averaging 15.6Mbps.

But not everybody is benefiting from head-spinning speeds. "Average speeds only tell part of the story -- there are still huge chunks of the UK that do not yet have access to superfast technology and far too many with no real broadband to speak of at all," points out Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at Broadbandchoices.co.uk.

"Whilst any overall increase is good news, this research highlights once again the disparity between advertised speeds and the service actually received by customers," Baliszewski adds. "Customers on the slowest connections of 2–10Mbps only received an average speed of 5.6Mbps. Although the ASA's recent ruling has led to fewer providers making unrealistic claims in their advertising, speeds are clearly still a long way off from where they should be."

How's your broadband? Are your speeds jaw-dropping or teeth-grinding? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.