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Up-to-20Mbps ADSL2+ broadband speeds: O2/BE are fastest says Ofcom

What’s new in UK ADSL2+ broadband speeds?

Ofcom’s 2012 fixed-line broadband speeds report places O2 and BE in first place for average ‘up-to-20Mbps’ ADSL2+ speeds during the evening peak.

O2 and BE managed an average peak-time performance of 9.8Mbps, and the biggest losers in Ofcom’s report are Orange and Sky, at 7.7Mbps.

BT, Karoo, Plusnet and TalkTalk are also slower than O2 and BE, but it’s not a major difference at peak-time, or over a whole day.

UK ADSL2+ peak time broadband speeds Ofcom 2012

What does ADSL2+ broadband mean?

ADSL2+ is the technology behind most up-to-20Mbps broadband services operating over old-fashioned copper phone lines – with the exception of Virgin Media and some small broadband operators using cable, fixed wireless or satellite technology.

Virgin Media’s 10Mbps and 20Mbps services are being withdrawn by May 2013, as it sets a minimum speed of 30Mbps across its network (although it still has some off-network customers using DSL or ADSL2+).

Ofcom and its research partner SamKnows measured speeds for more than 1,000 customers of BT Retail, Karoo, O2/BE (which use the same network), Orange, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media during May 2012, to deliver the latest report.

If you’re interested in the results for superfast broadband at 30Mbps and above, click here.

What are the average UK ADSL2+ speeds?

Average UK broadband speeds, Ofcom 2012The average speed for up-to-20Mbps broadband services (ADSL2+) has risen by just 0.03Mbps to 7.3Mbps since November 2011’s report.

For broadband users on older up-to-10Mbps DSL packages, the average speed has also gone up to 5.6Mbps, from 5Mbps in 2011.

More than two-thirds of UK homes with internet access now have a headline speed of over 10Mbps, compared to less than half in May 2011.

UK residential broadband by headline speeds, Ofcom Nov 2012 - May 2012

Who’s fastest in ADSL2+ broadband?

O2 and it’s partner, BE Broadband, are the clear winner, with the fastest daily average speed at 10Mbps, the fastest maximum average speed (10.6Mbps), and the fastest peak-time speed between 8pm-10pm (9.8Mbps).

BT, Karoo, Plusnet and TalkTalk are all a fraction behind, but the only major differences are with Sky and Orange.

Sky’s 24-hour average is 7.7Mbps, slightly behind Orange at 7.8Mbps, while Sky’s top speed is 8.4Mbps and at peak time, both Orange and Sky managed just 7.7Mbps.

Overall, the 24-hour and peak-time speeds were almost identical, with just a two per cent difference for O2/BE users and none for the other providers.

The major factor affecting the speed of all the ADSL2+ connections measured was the distance from the customer to the local BT exchange.

Average ADSL2+ download speeds, Ofcom May 2012

Who’s got the fastest ADSL2+ uploads?

O2 and BE also triumphed in the upload rankings, with an average speed of 1.1Mbps at all times, significantly faster than all the other ISPs.

BT and Orange stood out in second place, with a maximum average of 900kbps and 800kbps daily and peak-time average speeds. Plusnet came at the bottom of the league, with a daily average speed of 600kbps.

Average ADSL2+ upload speeds, Ofcom May 2012

What else does Ofcom’s fixed broadband speed report measure?

The broadband experience is about a lot more than raw speed, particularly for applications such as gaming,and VOIP telephone calls.

Ofcom and SamKnows collected data on web browsing times, latency, packet loss, DNS response times and failure rates, and jitter, to build a complete picture of who’s got the best broadband services for different users. 

Who’s got the fastest ADSL2+ web browsing times?

Even if you’re just browsing the internet, there’s a variety of background factors beyond raw download speed, which can affect the time it takes to download a webpage, especially in these days of pages heavy with interactive graphics, animations and sound effects.

The fastest browsing service of all was Hull ISP Karoo, at under a second, but the fastest nationals were BT, Orange and Plusnet with around one-second page loading times. O2/BE and Sky came in at under 1.5s, while TalkTalk was significantly slower at 2s.

Average and peak time ADSL2+ web loading times, Ofcom May 2012

Who’s got the best ADSL2+ latency?

Latency is the time it takes for a single packet of data to travel from a user’s PC to a
third-party server and back again. Low latency connections feel more responsive, and online gaming is an application where low latency is vital for a good experience.

Here, BT, O2/BE, Orange and Plusnet all stand out with around 22 milliseconds of round-trip delay. TalkTalk has around 32ms, Plusnet suffers around 38ms and Karoo is slowest, with 42ms latency, almost double the most responsive connections.

Average and peak time ADSL2+ latency, Ofcom May 2012

Who’s got the best ADSL2+ packet loss?

Internet connections parcel your data into small packets that take the easiest route they can find around the web, and they’re designed to continue working if a few packets are lost in transmission.

Losing a lot of packets will lead to poor performance for online gaming, streaming audio and video, or Skype-style two-way voice and video communications. This results in choppy and broken-up video and audio.

TalkTalk, Plusnet and Sky had the lowest rates of packet loss overall, at less than 0.25 per cent of traffic, although Plusnet and Sky’s reliability becomes slightly worse at evening peak times.

BT and Orange are just slightly behind, but still comfortably under 0.5 per cent packet loss, and BT’s performance actually improved at peak times.

O2 and BE lose their crown in this category, losing around 0.6 per cent of packets over a day, and 0.75 per cent in the evening peak. Karoo comes bottom of this league, at around 0.75 per cent packet loss.

Average and peak time ADSL2+ packet loss, Ofcom May 2012

Who’s got the best ADSL2+ DNS response times?

The world wide web wouldn’t work without the Domain Name Service, which converts numerical IP addresses like into domain names such as ISPs operate their own DNS servers, and when these operate slowly, web browsing becomes extremely unresponsive.

BT, O2, BE and Plusnet are the winners with around 22-24ms response time, followed by Orange and Karoo at an average of 32-34ms, while Sky lags behind with a 40ms DNS response time.

Average and peak time DNS response time for ADSl2+ ISPs, Ofcom May 2012

Who’s got the worst ADSL2+ DNS failure rates?

If you receive the messages “This server is unavailable’ or ‘Host could not be found’, it’s probably because your ISP’s DNS server has failed to translate its web address into an IP address.

TalkTalk and Plusnet are the best, failing around one a thousand DNS requests (0.1 per cent). BT, O2, BE, Orange and Sky are closer to a one in 400 DNS failure rate (0.25 per cent), and Karoo fails DNS requests about 0.75 per cent of the time.

With the exception of Karoo, Orange and Sky, all eight of the ISPs in this test suffered worse DNS failure rates during the evening peak time than across a day, although it was only noticeably worse for O2/BE, which went from around 0.3 per cent to 0.5 per cent of DNS requests.

Average and peak DNS failure rate for ADSL2+ ISPs, Ofcom May 2012

Who’s got the worst ADSL2+ jitter rates?

If latency results in an unresponsive connection, ‘jitter’ results in an unstable connection because your PC can’t reliably predict the buffering it needs to create a stable connection. In technical terms, jitter is the rate of change of latency in your connection.

As such, it’s vital to keep jitter low for enjoyable online gaming and and IP communications. Applications such as Skype can typically cope with about 20 milliseconds of jitter without any noticeable effect.

None of the ISPs tested by Ofcom were likely to endanger this buffer, with all of them displaying downstream jitter of less than 1.5ms. Outside of peak times, all showed jitter of less than 0.75ms, and in peak-time, only Karoo rose above 1ms.

ADSL2+ downstream jitter, Ofcom May 2012

Our ADSL2+ ISPs also performed well with upstream jitter. All were under 2ms, although Orange crept occasionally above 1.5ms at peak times.

BT, Karoo, O2, BE, Orange and Plusnet are all under one millisecond of jitter, Sky and TalkTalk are just over 1ms.

ADSL2+ upstream jitter, May 2012


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