Everyone is aware of the problem with advertised broadband speeds, such a problem in fact that it led to the Ofcom voluntary code, an updated version of which came into effect this October.

The voluntary code of practice on broadband speeds requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide clear and transparent information on broadband speeds to consumers when they are choosing a home broadband service.

And of course there’s the problem; ‘…consumers choosing a home broadband service’.

What about the service provided to businesses and more specifically the SMEs that make up more than 99% of businesses in the UK? According to Ofcom’s own ‘Broadband services for SMEs: assessment and action plan’ report, released in June, things are not good and the same issues applies with the speeds quoted.

The numbers just seem to add to the confusion, some might suggest deliberately so, with the headline quoted speeds the focus of every advert or pitch to businesses. As a manged IT services specialist, we are used to network and infrastructure issues and understand data speeds just fine.

But the problem with broadband for business is the same as consumers, decision makers are concentrating on the ‘up to’ numbers and more specifically the ‘up to’ download speed with less consideration given to the upload numbers.

The download numbers will be of most importance to home users, worried about streamed video filling big flat screen TVs. The quoted ‘up to’ upload speed will be of greater significance for business users plugged into the Cloud, meeting via video-conferencing and utilising VoIP to talk to customers and colleagues.

Now in the real world, businesses are struggling to take advantage of new technology, held back by slow broadband, with few really understanding the issue and what they can do about it.

To highlight the problem, we undertook a review for a client who was suffering with a slow connection from their old broadband provider. The screen shots below show the results of our monitoring over one week of their business grade ADSL2+ service.

This service is typically advertised with big numbers, stating up to 24Mb download speed’ and up to 2Mb upload speed’. However, in reality most ADSL circuits have a contention ratio of 20:1, which means the circuit is shared with up to 20 other users, which can slow the speeds both ways quite considerably.

Unfortunately few clients are aware of the standard contention ratio of between 10:1 and 50:1 on ADSL and FTTC internet connections, largely because most network providers fail to explain this when signing up clients for their service.

In fact the service we were investigating, over a working week failed to achieve even 50% of the client’s expectation of what they thought they were paying for. In the real world away from the numbers, this manifested itself as slow browsing and long receiving times for important data files to regular dropping out of connections sometimes in the middle of sending and completing web based forms. This also creates problems when the business is trying to access its hosted services.

Poor ADSL services like this are also the reason businesses that have added Voice over IP to the services using their broadband connection, have suffered potential revenue losses and reputational damage caused by poor quality calls or calls being cut off.

In reality, with ever greater demands placed on broadband connections by technology hungry businesses, ADSL2+ and even FTTC are becoming less ‘fit for purpose’ for most businesses. It is time businesses assessed their growing demands on internet access and invest in an uncontended service that guarantees the connection speeds required to deliver the quality of service expected by users and customers alike.

These screenshots are from October 2015, not as you might expect October 2005, so isn’t it time you read the small print, got your speeds assessed and then made an informed decision? Remember, Quiss can help.

Broadband speeds