Virgin and BT in war of words as broadband speeds drive up

Ofcom research highlights UK service imporvements

Average residential UK broadband speeds have jumped in recent months according to Ofcom research, although a war of words has broken out between BT and Virgin Media as to who provides the best services.

According to the Ofcom research, the average residential broadband speed across 12 providers in the UK has reached 12mbps, taking account of both slower copper connections and much faster fibre services.

Ofcom said the average speed had risen by a third - 3.1mbps or 34 percent - in the six months from May to November 2012, as take-up of "superfast" fibre services increased.

The report also shows that the average broadband speed has more than trebled in the last four years, from 3.6mbps in November 2008 to its current level of 12mbps - an increase of 234 percent).

By November 2012 more than three quarters (77 percent) of UK fixed-line residential broadband users were on packages with advertised speeds above "up to" 10mbps, up from 58 percent a year earlier.

The proportion of broadband connections classed as "superfast" (those with an advertised speed of "up to" 30mbps is also on the increase. By November 2012 13 percent of residential broadband connections were superfast, more than doubling from 5 percent in November 2011.

Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said, "Our research shows that UK consumers are adopting faster broadband packages to cater for their increasing use of bandwidth-heavy services, such as video streaming. The increase in the average number of connected devices in UK homes is also driving the need for speed."

However, despite the overall good news about average access speeds, BT took a shot at Virgin Media for "throttling" its customers' services during peak times.

A BT spokesman said, "Ofcom's research reveals our network is much more likely than Virgin's to deliver the same speeds in the evening peak times when people most value their connection. Ofcom noted that on some Virgin products up to two-thirds of customers saw a significant slowdown in speeds at peak times."

He said, "Ofcom found 'that there was relatively little congestion in BT's fibre network in November 2012, levels of contention were higher in Virgin' cable network'. Virgin admits that it manages traffic by up to 75 percent if customers use their broadband too much, unlike BT's new Totally Unlimited Broadband, which will never slow customers down."

But Virgin aimed its own salvo at BT in response. A Virgin spokesperson said, "BT's chosen to ignore the fact that we often over-deliver, and at peak times and throughout the day we're the fastest broadband around. It's worth noting - according to Ofcom's research - that BT's 'up to 76mbps' service only ever reaches between 60.4mbps and 68.1mbps at the very most."

They added, "We always deliver speeds far closer to our headline claims than BT manages at any time of day so BT is right to point out their network's consistency - consistently failing to deliver what they promise."

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