Average broadband speeds in the UK are increasing, but there still remains a serious discrepancy between advertised speeds and average actual speeds, according to new research from comms regulator Ofcom and broadband monitoring specialists SamKnows.
Many customers are getting less than half the speed they pay for, the research suggested, as the UK's copper network infrastructure creaks under the strain caused by growing levels of traffic, especially video.
The report found that cable broadband services offered substantially better speed than comparable DSL services, with Virgin Media's 'up to' 10Mbit/s and 'up to' 20Mbit/s cable services around twice as fast.
Virgin's 'up to' 50Mbit/s service was the fastest tested, although on average it still came up short by just under 3Mbit/s, and only obtained those speeds between 4 and 6 a.m.
Other ISPs tested included AOL, BT, O2/Be, Orange, Plusnet, Sky and TalkTalk, with none coming close to hitting their advertised speeds.
Ofcom has already strengthened the Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds, signatories to which undertake to give consuemrs a more accurate and consistent estimate of the maximum speed available on their line.
Under the terms of the Code ISPs also undertake to help customers improve their speeds and give them a three-month get out clause should maximum speed be significantly below that promised at point of sale.
It is also in discussions with the Advertising Standards Authority to pressure ISPs to deliver more accurate estimates in their marketing campaigns.
"Average speeds have increased, which is good news, but there is scope for a further step change in the quality of the UK communications infrastructure," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.
"[It is] essential that consumers are given information which is as accurate as possible at the point of sale; this is what the new Code is designed to deliver," he added.
Broadbandchoices.co.uk's product director, Michael Phillips, welcomed the findings and called for the abolition of misleading messaging in advertising.
"Ofcom's report is great news for Virgin Media customers but for those that don't happen to live in one of their cabled streets then existing copper wirephone line delivery is the only option, unless they can get BT's new fibre optic service 'Infinity'," said Phillips.
He added: "A 'typical speed range' would at least manage consumers' expectations more effectively."