Useless Ofcom broadband map misses the point

By Richi Jennings (@richi). The communications regulator, Ofcom, has released a map of the UK, showing broadband speeds around the country. Amazingly, it shows higher speeds in dense, urban areas, while sparsely-populated rural regions suffer...

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By Richi Jennings (@richi).

The communications regulator, Ofcom, has released a map of the UK, showing broadband speeds around the country. Amazingly, it shows higher speeds in dense, urban areas, while sparsely-populated rural regions suffer slower service. OMG, what a huge surprise; our taxes well spent there, eh?

  • On the one hand, politicians will love it: it's useful to show them what's blindingly obvious to anyone with half a braincell.
  • On The Other Hand, this is a mainly useless study, only good for a tick in the box to show that Ofcom has done what the government asked them to do.

Plus, today's skateboarding duck: Ever wondered what dark matter really is?..


Aunty reports stat-facts:
It shows that 68% of homes had a fixed connection with an average speed of 7.5Mbps. ... But 14% of connected households remained in the slow lane with speeds of less than 2Mbps. ... Ofcom hopes that the data will be useful to local authorities. ... The government [wants] the UK [to be] the best place for broadband in Europe by 2015.
...
The map ranks each area according to four criteria:
  • availability of...speed above 24Mbps
  • ... take-up
  • ... speeds
  • ... homes with less than 2Mbps. more.png


Tony Smith points out one failing of the study:
Ofcom tracked the performance of Openreach, the division of BT that sells ADSL connectivity to ISPs, and of Virgin Media. ... [They represent] the vast majority of UK broadband. ... Ofcom also included Kingston Communications, Wight Cable and South Yorkshire's Digital Region. ...

You can check out the full UK broadband data set at Ofcom's website. more.png


Gareth Morgan drives the point home:
As Ofcom highlighted...there are some understandable reasons why broadband provision in rural areas is so poor. Not all telephone exchanges in the Western Isles are broadband enabled...In other rural areas,...line lengths tend to be longer, resulting in lower broadband speeds. more.png


And David Jamieson notes there's little hope in sight:
Ofcom noted that low housing density in rural areas was making it cost prohibitive to build new superfast...networks in these areas.

The government has set itself the target of providing the whole country with at least 2Mbps broadband by 2015...[revised from] the previous government’s target date of 2012. more.png


But Alexis is suitably scathing:
Utterly pointless. The flat I used to live in got 8Mb. 1.5 miles away I can only get 4Mb. ... At work, 3 miles away, I get 20Mb because I am across the road from an exchange.

So what am I supposed to do with the information that the whole of Salford gets an average of 9.1Mb? more.png


Richi's rant: why do I say it's a useless study? Two reasons:

  1. Ofcom didn't include ADSL that's not provided by BT or BT Wholesale. The fastest ADSL speeds are currently provided by "unbundled" providers, such as O2 and Sky.
  2. Ofcom only measured sync speed, not the actual throughputs achieved. This conveniently ignores the twin elephants in the room: congestion and throttling. What use is a "50 Mbps" fibre-to-the-cabinet link, if I can only achieve 1% of that speed, because the ISP's network is overloaded?

What a pathetic waste of time.



Today's Skateboarding Duck...



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Richi Jennings Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. His writing has previously won American Society of Business Publication Editors and Jesse H. Neal awards. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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