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Upload speeds an increasing concern for broadband users

Changing usage patterns and consumption habits mean that for many consumers, slow broadband upload speeds are as big a concern as slow download speeds, says survey

Almost a third of home broadband users, and over 60% of mobile broadband users are put off uploading content to the internet due to slow speeds, according to a consumer survey carried out by comparison website Broadband Genie.

While the majority of metrics rank home broadband services by download speed, upload speed is becoming increasingly important for activities such as video streaming, using cloud storage services and sharing media content.

However, according to Broadband Genie, 35% of users have never checked what upload speed their internet service provider (ISP) is providing them – over half of those had never thought to, and around 30% didn’t think it was particularly important.

“Slow upload speeds have affected consumers for some time now, and it is becoming more of an issue with the huge popularity of social media, streaming video and cloud storage,” said Broadband Genie head of strategy, Rob Hilborn.

While consumers are able to get out of their contract without penalty if download speeds fall below the minimum level guaranteed by their ISP, the same conditions do not apply to upload speeds, according to the current industry code of practice, which is entirely voluntary.

In reality, average home upload speeds have increased by a similar margin to download speeds over the past five years, but are still far slower in almost every case. Ofcom statistics claim the average download speed UK users could expect to receive in 2016 was 36.1Mbps, but the average upload speed clocked in at a mere 4.6Mbps.

“Although many of the technological challenges are being overcome through the transition to fibre and 4G, the issue now seems to be in how the industry markets upstream performance. Good upload speeds appear to be treated as an added bonus, not a core part of the package,” said Hilborn.

“Upload speed is frequently buried in the terms and conditions, if it is mentioned at all. Making this information more prominent early in the sales process will help broadband users select the most suitable provider when comparing home and mobile broadband services.

“Upload speeds should also carry the same protection as download rates, so that if a minimum speed is not met customers can switch without penalty.”

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Commenting on the survey findings, a TalkTalk spokesperson said the amount of data uploaded to the internet was not growing nearly as fast as the amount downloaded, but said the ISP was constantly reviewing how people used its services.

“If we see a significant shift in demand from customers, we will of course review our offering as part of the ongoing improvements we are making to our network. We’re committed to making things faster, simpler and better value for customers,” the spokesperson said.

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