Broadband carriers urged to tell the truth about broadband speeds

11 Feb 2010

Broadband provider Magnet Networks has thrown the gauntlet at the feet of other providers in the market and has asked them to be truthful about advertised broadband speeds during peak times.

The company has found that operators are ignoring an Advertising Standards Association of Ireland (ASAI) directive, issued in March 2008, to advertise the average speed customers can expect during “the busiest hour” of the week when usage is highest. 

After surveying the websites of the main providers, Magnet found that none have explained the limitations their services experienced at peak times. “Busy hour” speeds are affected by the number of other users sharing the broadband connection, known as contention.

Mentioning broadband busy hour speeds

Magnet CEO Mark Kellett says that as well as failing to come clean on average busy hour speeds, operators either hide the contention figure in the small print or don’t even mention it at all.

“Despite the recent launch of headline-grabbing high-speed products from various providers, actual broadband speeds attained are still only a fraction of what’s being advertised,” Kellett said.

“’Up to’ so many megabits is a relatively meaningless figure because providers omit to reveal to what level the speed is shared with other customers. In many cases, it can be as high as 47 other people, so if everyone on that service decided to go online at the same time, they receive nowhere near the speed they’ve signed up to.”

An Ofcom survey carried out last year in the UK revealed that actual speeds were 43pc slower than advertised speeds and that consumers experienced a further 20pc slowdown during peak evening hours (8-10pm). 

“It’s time this issue was highlighted so that customers can make a more informed decision when buying broadband. It’s highly disingenuous to exclude any mention of expected busy hour speeds when this is the time most people use the internet. Either come clean when you advertise, or invest in upgrading to give customers what they’re paying for.”

Magnet Force 5

Magnet has made the call as it launches its latest uncontested product. Magnet Force 5, which offers a fast, unshared phone and 5Mbps broadband package that outpaces Eircom’s 3Mbps package on speed and price. As well as free calls, installation and a router, the package delivers a free TV service, including channels RTE1 and 2, TV3, TG4, 3e and MTV.

“We don’t advertise ‘busy hour speeds’ because our speeds don’t fluctuate depending on the time of day and the amount of other users on the service. Because of this, our new 5Mbps product can be more than 50 times faster than Eircom’s 3Mb. It’s also cheaper and you get free TV on your laptop or PC,” said Kellett.

Magnet believes that Ireland’s languishing in the lower placements of international broadband speed tables can be in part blamed on the industry’s careless advertising of speed.

“If the industry owned up, then the onus would be put on the providers to work on increasing their capacity and help bring the country on a par with the rest of the world. This can only bring benefits to the consumer as well as helping with the country’s competitiveness,” Kellett said.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Magnet CEO Mark Kellett

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years