Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Up to 80Mb/s

Once again there are calls to change the way "broadband" is advertised [ispreview], describing it as misleading.

I have said this before, but once again I'll try and explain why the proposals make no sense. It was rather telling that 10% of people surveyed were happy with the current system. The current system involves lying about the technology, claiming it can only achieve a maximum speed that is a speed 10% of people could get, e.g. 76Mb/s. instead of 80Mb/s That means 10% of people will get more than that maximum and so have been lied to about it being the maximum. It means that if people feel misled by "up to 80Mb/s" now you have 90% of those people still feeling misled by "up to 76Mb/s". The problem is not solved, you simply have 10% fewer complaints about being "misled".

I do wonder if a simple solution is changing "up to" to "not more than". Would people still feel misled? I bet they do somehow.

Personally I think people are not clear on the way the technology works, and that is a hard one to solve. Let's consider two technologies here that are pretty simple, and for which people may have a choice. One is ADSL to the exchange, using ADSL2+ modem standards, and this allows up to 24Mb/s sync rate on the line. The other is VDSL to the street cabinet, and this allows quite high speeds but is sold by Openreach in a package with an 80Mb/s sync limit, so up to 80Mb/s sync rate on the line.

If you have a choice of "ADSL or VDSL" they are technical terms and the average consumer has no clue.

If you have a choice of "up to 24Mb/s" or "up to 80Mb/s" you can guess which is better and have some rough idea of the scale of "betterness" that may apply. Note that actually, it is possible, for long lines to get better speed on ADSL than VDSL in a few cases, but that should be clear when actually ordering. The key here is that the different technologies can be simply compared. Indeed, a 330Mb/s FTTP service is clearly "better" still, where as 8Mb/s ADSL1 is "worse", and so on.

So for comparing the technologies, the "headline" speed in the "up to" claims is a perfectly sensible comparison for most consumers.

The problem then comes when people actually buy a service and find it is not, for example, 80Mb/s.

The guidelines are very clear on this and I believe most ISPs follow them. When someone orders, they are told an estimate of the speed they are likely to get where they are. If you order from A&A, and are told 25-30Mb/s you cannot really complain that you have been "misled" with "up to 80Mb/s" when you actually get a speed within that estimated range, e.g. 28Mb/s.

There are issues as the lines may not get the sync speed within the ranges we quote, that can happen. These are estimates are based on BT data which we cannot control. Nobody seems to be complaining that these estimates are wildly wrong though, which is good. That probably means we have a system that works.

So for a start I really do not understand why we are having these cries of people feeling misled in the first place. Who are these people buying a service with a specific speed range estimate and then getting upset that the speed is within that estimate but not the "headline" speed advertised?

Anyway, there are a few other problems. For a start I think people really struggle with the idea of speeds of broadband. E.g. you don't use the full speed all the time - you use a certain amount if streaming a video, or playing a game, you may use the maximum when downloading something or maybe not. I think people see that, but I think they expect that if the service is "up to 80Mb/s" that they can push it that far if and when they need, at least some of the time. People seem not to realise that the limit will be constrained by their line and location and that is not something they can generally change in anyway, and neither can the ISP.

People also don't seem to appreciate that there are a relatively small set of technologies available, and in many cases actually the same wires and modems and equipment and backhaul between different ISPs - so if one ISP sells Openeach FTTC GEA as "up to 76Mb/s" and another as "up to 74Mb/s" they will actually be buying the same thing from either, and it might be only 50Mb/s, so the comparison of arbitrary per-ISP 90th percentile is not actually helping people decide.

The other problem is people do not know what the speed actually means, if we say 25-30Mb/s and the line gets 28Mb/s, then great, but what does that 28Mb/s mean? It means that the modem to modem sync rate provides 28Mb/s throughput (downlink). It does not mean you can download a file from google at 28Mb/s. Why? Well, a lot of reasons...
  • Your computer will have limitations on what it can do. To be fair, most modern computers are very fast and can easily exceed the speed of you line, but that will not always be the case as we get faster and faster technologies.
  • Your wiring and network in your home, and especially (if you are using it) your WiFi. These are limiting factors, and WiFi can be a big one.
  • The fact that your home network is shared (contended) with other people in the house, or your neighbour using your WiFi - this all creates a risk that things slow down due to other people's actions, even before we look outside your house!
  • The modem itself, probably provided by the ISP, should be able to handle the speeds. Depending on the equipment, that is not always the case though.
  • The modem to modem link, the sync speed of the line. That is a limiting factor. That is what the ISP is selling in terms of "speed", and that alone.
  • The link from cabinet to exchange for VDSL is shared (contended), so usage by other people own the same cabinet (regardless of ISP) can slow you down.
  • The link from exchange to BRAS is shared (contended), so usage by other people in your part of the country could slow you down
  • The link from the BRAS to the ISP is shared (contended), so usage by other people in the whole country could slow you down
  • The link in to the ISP themselves is shared (contended), and so other usage by the ISP's customers could slow you down. That is, in part in the ISPs control (see below).
  • The ISP network is, of course, shared, as are their links to peers and transit, so other usage by the ISP customers could slow you down. That is, in part in the ISPs control (see below).
  • The transit networks and peering points are shared (contended), so other internet users in the world could slow you down.
  • The link to the web site or server you are accessing is shared (contended), so other users of that service could slow you down.
  • The servers themselves will only be able to handle so much traffic, so other users of each server could slow you down.
  • The servers could impose specific rate limiting on what they will send, and that is their choice.
There are very few parts of this equation that the ISP actually controls. They control their links to the broadband network (and some have links they control right out to BRASs and even exchanges). They control their network and links to the transit and peering networks. They control their choice of backhaul and transit and peering networks, but there is often quite little choice.

However, these links will always be shared. To make them un-contended so that they can never fill up would mean costs rising by factors of many hundreds. It would make the broadband service ridiculously expensive, and would not eliminate all of the other aspects where the network is shared. There simply is no point. In practice ISPs do vary, and have different policies, but these are not something addressed by the ASA in any way or published by ISPs. At A&A we aim to keep links to carriers un-congested, i.e. we have enough capacity, but this is no guarantee that usage won't suddenly exceed it on occasion. Some ISPs run their networks so they hit limits when busy every day.

Ultimately what you are buying is a access (at a modem to modem access speed) to a shared global network, most of which is totally outside your ISPs control.

P.S. A&A have announced that Home::1 BT back haul FTTC will be one price now, dropping the extra £5 charge for the 80/20 option (from next bill). This brings the pricing in line with the TT back haul FTTC products. Yes, this means the same price whether the sync is 8M or 80M.


  1. One thing that used to get advertised a lot more back in the ADSL days was the contention ratio. That was clear (to those of us that understood 'sharing') that the speed being advertised was achievable but not guaranteed.

    It was also a lot easier in ADSL days because the pipe that the server sat on was larger than the pipe that you were sat on. If you get a cheap webhost nowadays it may _only_ be on a 100mbps connection, which means that you only need 2 people with fibre to be on it to cause it to slow down.

    I think a lot of it comes down to perception. The typical family would be hard pressed to saturate 40mbps, let alone 80. All they can see is that the number that they're "paying for" (the 80) is less than the number that they're getting (say 60) and therefore they think they should be paying less. To a certain extent this happens. If you're only getting 50 then I believe that your ISP should let you downgrade to the 40 package without penalty, no matter what the estimate said.

    1. Not sure about the last comment to be honest, but for us it is likely to be academic. We already have dropped the extra charge for 80M rather than 40M on the TT backhaul FTTC, and plan to do the same on the BT in due course. So dropping to a 40M cap would not change the price in that case an so be pointless.

    2. Interesting that you're going down the route of selling the connection instead of the speed.

      I missed what was going to be my final argument for the comment! There needs to be a line drawn somewhere, otherwise an ISP could sell an "up to" package but know internally that there was no way the customers could achieve that speed (due to other factors that are within their control). It doesn't seem like it should be a 'competitive ASA' problem, as the ISPs are all using the same equipment.

      Anecdotally, one of my workmates has a connection that is on an "up to 24mbps" through ADSL, and he gets 2mbps on it. Granted he lives in the middle of nowhere, but I can see why people think this is a problem that needs addressing. His scenario does appear to be something that OR are trying to address at least - http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/7398-openreach-to-trial-18-2-mbps-service-aimed-at-slow-adsl-lines.html

    3. Well, the unto 24Mb/s is ADSL2+, which can and does get 24Mb/s on short lines. That is the technology, and that is its limit, but yes, middle of nowhere, 2Mb/s, sounds like what it will do. One issue is simple English here. If he got 25Mb/s then the claims would have been a lie, getting 1Mb/s, 0.5Mb/s, indeed anything BELOW OR AT 24Mb/s is all within the meaning of "up to" and not misled or mis-sold. As I say, had the wording been "not more than 24Mb/s" would that workmate feel as bad? Is there any wording that could say to him simply "It will not be any faster than 24Mb/s but may well be lower depending on where you are"?

    4. I suppose I'm looking at it in terms of expectations. To take a similar example seen on TV I've seen adverts for hair products that advertise "up to 100% grey coverage". 10% coverage would fall into that criteria but I would not consider acceptable for that product. You're not going to get anyone complaining if a product goes above and beyond what it is advertised of doing. The issue is (as you've said) to do with the wording and, as an extension of that, managing expectations.

      Adding the words "you can expect speeds" to the front of the statement stops it being a lie. If the product is pitched as "you can expect speeds up to 76mb/s" then it's preparing me for lower speeds, but not ruling out that speeds can be higher (just not to expect them).

      Another sort of comparable example is "representative APR" for loans. That's currently the amount that "no less than 51% of customers will pay". This is to stop loan companies giving 2% of customers a 10% interest rate, then 98% of customers a 40% rate and advertising their services as 10%. While it's technically correct, it's misleading.

      I think the idea about increasing the percentage isn't to reduce the number of customers that complain (by lowering everyone's expectations) but it's meant to encourage the development of the infrastructure so that the expected speed increases.

      While we're at it, can stop using bits and start using bytes for advertising speed too? :P

    5. That will not encourage networks to faster speeds, it will encourage narrower products. E.g. we could sell a service average 75Mb/s which is just VDSL where any lines estimated below 70Mb/s are "sorry that service is unavailable, but we do have other slower services you could by instead". Arguably this is no different to 80Mb/s FTTP which is very limited availability but always 80Mb/s, indeed an FTTC that was only sold where it could get the high speed would be more available that such an FTTP services. Ultimately these high speeds are not needed, at least for now - once you can stream an HD or UHD video or two, what do households really need the extra speed for anyway?

    6. Oh and why change from bits to bytes. Comms links have always been measured in bit/s. If you change you create confusion. It is a perfectly adequate measure and can be compared. If you went for bytes, why not go for 'characters' based on average number of bytes used in utf-8 for unicode, or 16 bit words, or 64 bit words, or whatever your machine uses as a native size. Bits is much more universal.

    7. Mostly playing devil's advocate here, as I agree with you in principle, but selling the "slower" services based on availability would be a clearer way of doing it as far as the customer is concerned, but they'd probably want to pay less if it's for a slower service (like I mentioned in my first post). However it would add a lot of confusion and then people might want to opt for a slower speed.

      Great news about you dropping the premium for 80/20 though, as that puts you one step closer into my budget when my current contract comes up for renewal!

  2. I've been thinking about this, and maybe advertising speeds at all is just not a good way to go at all if people are getting confused. I recently came across this (http://www.fixbritainsinternet.co.uk/) which among a lot of things I don't quite agree with claims "two thirds of people are not getting speeds BT are paid to deliver".

    Now obviously there is likely to be a bit of bias there, as the company brands at the bottom of that page will tell you, but this is likely what some people actually think.

    Since most ISPs sell the same basic products from BT, maybe a better way to advertise products would be something along the lines of "Power Broadband" "Standard Broadband" "Basic Broadband" along with some description about what their typical use cases would be.

    Further into the order process you could get an actual speed estimate for the chosen package, and speed estimates for the other packages with an option to choose that one instead.

    The only problem I can see with this is how you name your packages that are of a higher speed that come out? IE FTTP? Maybe have an industry wide shift of packages to the left? IE Basic vanishes. Standard becomes Basic etc etc?

    1. Well, sort of nice idea, but there is no "standard" and obvious scale, and we already have super-fast and ultra and who knows what. A number, even if it is the technology max, is a scalable metric people can see, 8, 24, 40, 80, 330, 1000, etc, and you can keep going. The other problem is the trademarks get in the way - "infinity" is BT's, so people do not know that A&A sell the same thing as not called "infinity". Also, we have gone all buzz light year and there are products beyond infinity now!

    2. I would see this as an industry standard dictated by ofcom (They seem intent on telling ISPs how to advertise their products anyway?) If they find 'up to' is too confusing for consumers, they need to come up with a different method other than just shifting the number down that ISPs need to advertise at.

      Maybe don't announce any speeds at all until a user enters a telephone number or postcode? Then packages can be displayed with an estimate for that line? Gets rid of the 'up to' and replaces it with a 'hopefully... if the BT estimate isn't lying'.

    3. Then how does someone with gigabit fibre advertise that it is better than FTTC without some numbers? It is tricky.

    4. It is tricky. Though when you get away from variable sync rates things get a lot easier in terms of guaranteed speeds

      I'm not certain there are currently many consumers who would purchase a full gigabit fibre yet mind. Maybe that is a future problem? If I remember right (and its possible I don't) FTTP only goes up to 330Meg right now?

    5. Some small networks are doing gigabit, and have a hard time explaining the difference. And of course would can never guarantee speeds - Internet as a whole is shared as will access networks always be.

  3. If I were making the rules, I'd say that the advertised speed in "up to" has to be the speed that I could in theory, as an arbitrary random line, achieve to a destination off the ISP's network, but that technology names are always OK.

    So, if your fastest off-network link is 100M, that's the highest speed you can claim in "up to 100M", even if your links are gigabit throughout. If you claim "1000BASE-BX", "VDSL2" or "DOCSIS 3.1", you're clear - those are technology names, not speeds. If you use BT FTTC, with a minimum speed of 160k before BT will accept a fault, then your "up to" speed is 160k. If you use BT FTTP where the link speed is fixed, but you're contended, you're allowed to say "up to 330M", even if the guaranteed speed post-contention is 10M.

    1. If 160k is the minimum it cannot be the "up to" speed, explain?!?

    2. In my world, "up to" implies that you can get the "up to" speed as long as circumstances outside the control of the ISP and their suppliers don't intervene; so, for example, if I can get "up to 33 Mbit/s", you will ensure that the things inside the control of you and your suppliers (like line length for copper, or largest backhaul/peering/transit link) are suitable for me to get 33 Mbit/s if I time it right. I can still be affected by congestion, or by things outside your control, but at least in theory, if you say "up to 33 Mbit/s", I could get 33 Mbit/s to a destination with capacity (such as Facebook or Google/YouTube) on my lucky days.

      You can, of course, escape this by not talking about speed, but about technologies in use; ADSL2+ on a given line is likely to perform comparably between providers (if I get 15M on ADSL2+, "up to 24" from a competitor looks like it will be faster, but if I'm being offered ADSL2+ from two providers, I know that I'm likely to get 15M on both providers).

      The idea is to avoid advertising the unachievable - if you advertise "up to 10,000 Mbit/s" on ADSL2+, you're within the meaning of "up to" (you will get a speed that's not more than 10G), but it's deceptive - there's no way I can get 10G from ADSL2+ (technology limitation). You can, however, advertise "ADSL2+" to consumers, knowing that you will get ADSL2+ speeds whatever they happen to be on your line. You can also advertise up to 20M if you're willing to sort the technology out so that I could do 20M in theory.

      However, you can't advertise 250M on FTTC, because (while the DSLAM in the cab can technically do that, given short enough copper), that's not enabled in BT land.

    3. Put ever so slightly differently - if you tell me that AAISP are selling me VDSL2, and BT Infinity Option 3 is also VDSL2, then I know that they're equivalent.

      If you tell me it's up to 80M, I've got to somehow magically know that switching a 28M down, 20M up AAISP service to (say) BT Infinity Option 3 will not result in a noticeable increase in speeds.

      Finally, by requiring it to be possible to reach the advertised speed (even if it's something like "stay up until 3:30am to do so), you give the fixed-speed providers an advantage; as a technical matter, I would prefer stable fixed speeds to unstable speeds at the Shannon limit for my line, as it's incredibly challenging to explain to non-technical people why (e.g.) bad weather makes their Internet unstable.

  4. Surely it would be easiest to mandate advertising the range, so e.g. 20-80Mbit/s, as that is then not misleading.

    If your estimate shows someone won't get the minimum you've advertised, you can't accept the order, and should someone in reality get below the minimum you'll treat it as a fault (obviously this would need regulatory things to ensure BT also treat it as a fault so it doesn't leave the provider in the lurch)...

    1. Well not really - for an individual line you can do an estimate, but for a technology you end up with 0-8 for ADSL1, 0-24 for ADSL2+, 0-80 for VDSL, which is basically all "up to" is saying anyway. These rules are for the big adverts not in the individual estimates for a specific line.

    2. What I'm suggesting is an artificial minimum, so if the estimate is below it you don't accept the order, and if the user doesn't get it you treat it as a fault (with BT being forced to do likewise)...

    3. Not sensible - it either means people that could get below that level and use the Internet cannot - why is that sensible, or it defines a correct and working line within the limits of the line characteristics as a fault, when it is not. If we set an artificial limit of 1M on ADSL that would mean cancelling service for all those that get and use 500k correctly with no fault. What would that be sensible for anyone?

    4. Bear in mind we have people with quite usable Internet service bonding multiple (e.g. 4) lines that all do under 1Mb/s. Long lines exist, and they can only get low speeds with this technology.

    5. The problem at the moment is that BT charge the same for an ADSL line capable of < 2M as they do for a line that can do > 16M. If ADSL was two products (with an overlap of speeds), say 160K to 4M and 2M to 24M Alex's suggestion would work. It might also help push OpenReach to fix lines get poor speeds as they'd lose revenue. On FTTC the bottom speed band would be 0-40M (2M up) with the 40/10 being something like 15-40M.

      It would actually make your 4 bonded < 1M line users happier as they'd see a reduction in costs.

  5. Are there any plans to remove the 80/20 caps on FTTC? I'm only 110m from the cabinet and I'm hitting the caps, sync is 79.6/19.9. I'd be happy for this to be a chargeable extra speed grade since so few lines will be able to take advantage of it.

  6. But when you compare advertising between suppliers of different services, this _is_ confusing.

    Compare an "up to 80Mbps" VDSL connection with a Virgin "up to 50Mbps" DOCSIS connection - which one is "better" in terms of speed? It may very well be that the "up to 80Mbps" connection is actually slower than Virgin's "up to 50Mbps" connection.

    Now it is true that *at the point of sale* you may get an estimate that corrects this, but the original VDSL advertising hooked the potential customer on a false belief that it might be better than their Virgin connection.

    We're having these kinds of advertising issues at the moment. An existing customer says "we want to do X", so we say "yes, the product will do X but it will introduce problems Y and Z". A number of competing suppliers are just saying "the product will do X" without discussing the associated problems. In the eyes of the customer, our product has problems supporting X and the competitor's does not. If they move to another vendor they will certainly have exactly the same problems, the only difference being that the other suppliers aren't discussing them.

    Worse, the problems here are hidden security issues, so if the supplier doesn't tell the customer about them, the customer probably won't find out for themselves and will live in ignorant bliss believing they've made the right choice to change supplier.

  7. What about multiple products with different prices?

    10-20Mbps: £10
    20-30Mbps: £15
    30-40Mbps: £20

    If your line can't handle the higher speeds then those products are unavailable to you. That seems like a reasonably fair way of doing things, and if that pricing was implemented by BT rather than just the ISPs it would give BT some incentive to improve the low-end lines.

    1. Seriously, the modem to modem speed is not usually a cost issue and so need not be a different price. Even BTs 40/10 and 80/20 is very artificial. The cost is mostly backhaul, the via BT, so actual usage matters not modem spec. The VDSL modems have cost to install in cabinets so they cost more than ADSL which makes sense, but the speed is not a factor so why should it be a cost difference.

    2. If the price BT were allowed to charge was limited for slower speed lines was restricted it becomes a cost issue for BT if a line does not perform. Also you only sell people the price band their line supports which reduces the complaints about lines not performing at the "up to" speed when they are a long way from the cab/exchange - surely that is the main issue with the current system?

    3. Totally does not help. Let's say lines actually don't change over time, you could have, say, 80 different products one for 1M, one for 2M etc. Then you advertised that you have this 80M product which is up to 80M, average 79.5M and even minimum 79M. Yah, nice advert, but when people try to buy you say sorry, the 80m product is not available there but we have a nice 34M product you can buy instead (does not even have to be a different price). How is that answer any different to the "up to 80M" people feel misled by now?

    4. People are going to feel misled to some extent regardless if their line is such they can't get the full speed of a technology.

      However, at the moment it is not just about feeling misled, but it feels unfair that you pay the same for e.g. a 1M connection that someone else pays for e.g. a 24M connection.

      If you remove the unfairness, and make it really clear at purchase time what speed is available and therefore what 'package' you are buying (with enforcement that if the minimum estimate isn't achieved it is either rectified or the customer pays for the level down based on what they actually get), and all providers using the same underlying access mechanism do this, while people will still feel misled by the adverts potentially, at least they feel they are paying a fair price for what they actually get.

      If the adverts then have to include the minimum package and the maximum (so e.g. "Get 1 to 80M for £10 to £40 per month depending on your line"), that's also less misleading surely?

    5. But people do not feel misled that they pay the same regardless of water pressure, or that they pay the same regardless of maximum current draw on their electricity feel, or regardless of gas pressure. The modem speed itself does not change the costs of providing the service, it is the backhaul usage (which depends on overall download amount, not speed directly) that has a lot of cost, and in some cases the choice of technology, but not the speed the modem syncs at. Indeed, arguably, a long line costs more to maintain than a short one, so costs are inversely related to speed!

    6. The problem is the "up to". If it is advertised as up to 80 people will happily accept that they might not get the full 80 but will not unreasonably expect that they should get at least 50-60. If FTTC products were advertised as 1-40, 10-55 and 30-80 and priced with the same price differences as the wholesale charges it would at least set reasonable expectations. With such a wide range as 30-80 it would hopefully prompt them to actually look at the predicted speed for their line.

    7. True, but with electricity / gas (and water in many cases) use is metered so you pay for what you use, thus the pressure / current draw etc is not a factor to you as such.

      In fact the electricity one is interesting as if you need a bigger supply you end up paying the electricity board for the work to upgrade it not your actual supplier...

      The obvious answer here is a metered internet service, unfortunately it seems in the commodity consumer space that doesn't work very well (probably because while most people can easily identify if they're going to be a heavy user of electricity / water / gas, it's a lot harder for your average consumer to identify how much bandwidth they / their family is going to use), and has proven very unpopular in the general case, so it's a bit of a lose-lose situation...

    8. jelv, again, that won't help - we have people selling 40/10 and 80/20 packages now but the "headline speed" advertised is, of course, the top package which is 80Mb/s. The more different levels you have (regardless of different pricing), the more justified they can be in saying that this specific top package is 80Mb/s, and a higher proportion of the people on that package can in fact get the 80Mb/s level.

    9. Interesting that you choose water pressure, gas pressure and maximum current draw for electricity. Those are three things I've looked into with respect to house buying, so I've got a bit of a clue to hand.

      In all three cases, I pay the same rental regardless of current limit or pressure; however, if the current limit or pressure supplied by my utility firm is within the acceptable bounds set by the regulator, but lower than I would like, I can pay a fixed capital cost to have it increased; having paid that capital cost, my rental does not increase.

      So, I can get 10M ADSL2+ at home; what is the fixed capital cost to up that to 100M service at the same rental as ADSL2+?

    10. To put numbers on it, if you want to wave this at BT:

      Where my incoming feed is good enough, but a fuse has been fitted that's less than my incoming feed will safely handle because my meter tails are not up to spec, it's £150 to replace the fuse.

      Where my incoming feed needs replacing to get the service I want, it's £500 to get them out (fixed cost), plus £2/metre of cable route from my meter to the substation for single phase up to 100A. If I want three phase up to 630A per phase, it's £4/metre of cable, plus a further £250 for a new meter; note that if I want to go beyond 100A per phase, I must take out a commercial tariff instead of a residential tariff, but I can switch my three phase supply from 100A per phase to higher limits for £150 each change, and I can go back to 100A per phase limits at £150.

      Similar applies to gas - it's £700 call out charge, plus £2/metre for pipework from my gas meter to the mains, and if I pay for that, I can get the pressure upped to the regulatory limit for consumer gas.

      I didn't need to get pricing for water, but I was assured that it was a similar setup - a call out fee in the £500 to £1,000 range, plus a price per metre for pipework from my house to the water mains.

      So, if I'm buying "up to 80M" service from A&A, and I get a sync speed of 30M, what are the one-off charges you make to improve my line to a point where I can get 80M? :)

    11. Well, sadly in that case the analogy does not quite tie up. My point is that it is really unusual for anyone to care in the slightest how "fast" their water, gas, or electric is. There are some similarities in terms of digging in a new figure, or buying two lines and bonding, but they do have different and higher maintenance costs and hence ongoing charges.

    12. Well, yes, it's different, but only because your suppliers refuse to treat telecoms the same way as the electricity companies treats power.

      My current electricity service is single phase, 60A fuse, on two cores of 16 mm² per conductor copper cable. If I pay the capital costs, they will replace that copper cable with 4 cores of 400 mm² per conductor copper cable - significantly beefier copper. I then pay the same as I've always paid for service up to 100A/phase, or can choose to shift to commercial up to 630A/phase service if my wallet feels distressingly heavy.

      Why can I not pay you a capital cost and get the local loop relaid between the DSLAM and my premises to support higher speeds, like I can the power cables? Why do I have to pay an ongoing fee for an EAD instead of just paying for the upgrade then getting GEA service at a perfect 80/20?

    13. Well, as you know, most of that is down to Openreach, and you can pay to have fibre. Fibre (with fibre tube) takes more space in ducts, so would have to have higher ongoing costs I expect. The economics are, as always complex, and sadly some are horribly legacy based.

    14. And, in answer to the question of why people don't care about electricity limits (see other utilities, too), but do about broadband.

      My peak electricity use in my current house has been 40A single phase, of a maximum 60A on the current fuse (80A on the current wiring if I had the fuse replaced); I've got a huge margin before I hit the supply limits. And that's the supply that I've taken closest to its limit, as I use gas for cooking and heating; if I used electricity for everything, I could reach as high as 80A 3-phase, assuming that I didn't change anything other than the fuel source.

      In contrast, I know from access available to me at work that I'd hit the limits of a gigabit service from time to time using kit I carry with me on a daily basis, and that for about £500, I could equip my home server to hit the limits of a 10 gigabit service. However, what I can actually buy is an "up to 80M" service that only gets a real-world 60M now that every port in the cabinet is full.

      So, electricity is at the point where I use about 66% of the maximum available to me; broadband is at the point where I can use about 1,700% of the maximum available to me with no further investment. If you delivered the "up to" speed, I'd still be able to use 1,200% of the maximum available to me. With electricity, I can pay about £5,000 to triple the peak power delivery available to me (forever) without increasing my monthly fees; with Internet access, I'd have to pay about the same in capital costs, plus increase my monthly fee by 10,000% to get to the point where my kit would be the limiter, not your service; I don't even want to consider what 10G service would cost me.

      And that's assuming that contention effects work out in my favour on the broadband - if not, I could use even higher speeds to allow the rest of the household their Internet access without affecting my speeds.

    15. Ah, not quite a valid argument (as I am sure you know). Protocols such as TCP are designed to fill the link and so, given devices with gigabit or more interfaces they can fill the link. That does not mean you need that speed to achieve useful tasks in reasonable timescales at much lower speeds.

    16. I'm ignoring cases where I'm not waiting on the machine - overnight updates don't count.

      These are the line speeds I see saturating at a point where I am waiting for the network - transferring large amounts of data in order to unblock my work takes time.

      10G means that I'm blocked for 2 to 3 minutes. 1G means that some situations result in 30 minutes downtime. The "up to 80M" service I have at home means that there are situations where I should simply abandon a task and leave it until I get to the office.

    17. Of course, for a lot of cases, my employer solves the problem differently - I book out a remote server instead, and saturate it, using £3,000 of Apple kit as an overgrown ASR-33, simply because the last mile network is so damn expensive.

  8. What about the impact of crosstalk. My FTTC circuit has dropped nearly 10 Mb as the cabinet has become further utilised

    1. Indeed, another issue over which the ISP has no control. Though 10M seems a lot. Other changes like vectoring have increased speeds.

    2. I thought OpenReach hadn't deployed vectoring, it's just in trial in a couple of locations?

    3. Same here. I was the third FTTC customer on the cabinet just over a year ago and got 67mb/s

      Within 2 weeks this had dropped to 55 and now I get 42

  9. The only option I see is to stop selling in the first instance on speeds completely, and only after postcode/phone number information is given that a speed estimate be presented to the customer - anything outside of a reasonable range, say 10-15% slower than that, would be designated a fault.

    1. Again, not going to work as people will not know which offerings of the different technologies being advertised are better. How does someone know VDSL is better than ADSL or Actual fibre is better than so called Fibre that is via coax copper? The speed possible by the technology (whatever percentile you have to quote from them) is one of the few simple metrics people can compare. Personally I'd say not the best when comparing ISPs but is a good one for comparing the basic technologies.

  10. True there is many components that fit together which ultimately decide speed that occurs. It only takes one component to be slow and that will make the rest slower on that particular tcp connection.
    A comparison of the issue here is I think comparing a typical well run FTTC isp to Virgin Media. On VM cable you get pretty much guaranteed access speds,however the actual throughput is very variable in some areas, and its a problem that seems to get worse after every speed bump VM do on their products. On the flip side FTTC is a variable access speed depending on your proximity to the dslam and luck of the draw on line quality/crosstalk. However most isp's will generally give you consistent performance around the clock at the access speed. This gives me the view unless you have a extremely bad dsl line, you probably better off than on VM. Obviously occasional throughput drops a few times a year is acceptable, its when it becomes a daily occurrence I have a problem with it.