The independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industry, OFCOM, was charged by the government to reveal consumers' experiences of electronic communications services, including broadband provision, and the results do not make for happy reading.

The research saw in excess of 60 million separate service performance tests carried out in over 1600 homes between November 2008 and April 2009, comparing the real world performance of the UK’s nine largest ISPs by market share.

Perhaps unsurprisingly it found that there were significant differences in the download speeds offered by providers, with speeds depending on the technology used to deliver broadband and the capacity of the provider’s network. However, sadly it comes as no great shock to anyone that the download speeds to be found in the real world at the consumer end of the equation were nowhere near the advertised rates that persuaded them to sign up for any particular service in the first place. How wide was the difference? Well the average broadband speed in the UK in April 2009 was 4.1Mbit/s. This compares to an average ‘up to’ headline speed of 7.1 Mbit/s. Only 9 percent of those on 8Mbit/s headline packages received actual average speeds of over 6Mbit/s and around 19 percent received, on average, less than 2Mbit/s. Looks like the UK is really getting the low speed broadband that has been predicted then.

Live outside an urban area and things were even worse. The average speed delivered to urban consumers was 4.6Mbit/s, compared to an average of 3.3Mbit/s delivered to rural consumers. Overall, consumers on ‘up to’ 8Mbit/s packages whose broadband service is delivered through second-generation DSL technology (ADSL2+) received faster speeds than those who use the more common first-generation ADSL1. But the results also showed that ISPs using ADSL1 who invest in network capacity are able to deliver speeds as good as ADSL2+ operators. Cable customers received significantly faster speeds than both ADSL technologies

Roll on those 60Mbit/s trials.

The full research report which includes a glossary of terms can be found here.