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Wednesday, 21 October 2009

UK Broadband speedtest - if only!

Just been playing around with the broadband speedtest on Top 10 broadband after reading the BBC article and....

I'm sorry but I think these guys need to open up about how they are measuring speed because there are some very major inconsistencies showing up and if this site is used to even approximate what Broadband Britain looks like, there are many who will get completely the wrong idea.

The tech behind speed tests has long been the subject of arguments, as we saw last year when Virgin tried to pre-empt false speedtest data just before the launch of their new 50Mbps service, and the reality is that the only halfway accurate speed test is like that which, for instance, SamKnows used to produce their recent report with Ofcom.

The point is that if false measurements are pinned to a map such as this which is publicly available, there are going to be uninformed journalists, MPs, quangos and who knows who else leaping onto the data saying, "We told you it wasn't as bad as you thought," or individuals, journalists, MPs etc getting lost in pointless discussions and arguments about the inconsistencies between one house and next door/the rest of the street etc. It's a red herring 'cos the stats are wrong and hence misleading.

Unless the Laws of Physics have just become very elastic, there is no way that the figure shown for my connection (4.6Mbps) is possible this far from the exchange (5 km according to BT exchange checker though I'm not sure that even a crow could manage to physically get it to that short a distance!) Whilst I am sure there are few other insomniacs online between myself and the exchange right now, something doesn't quite ring true! In another rural area that I know down in Lincolnshire, one of my friends' neighbours is showing at 56.8Mbps. Ho hum. See the problem?!

The real point here though is that whilst we have numpties in government and elsewhere who believe 2Mbps will be sufficient in 2012, this type of data can only mislead them and lead to aggregated and averaged speeds for the UK which are used to make people feel warm and fluffy. The point is that even if the average speed across the UK was 10Mbps, that would mean that there are a) many people who fall below the median line eg in rural areas where the economy desperately needs better broadband and b) everyone would still be on asymmetric connections. It isn't sufficient for Internet use in the 21st century and the sooner this key message reaches those in charge of purse strings, be they industry or public pursestrings, the better.

Speed tests such as the one on Top 10 broadband do little to help matters if the data they reveal is based on inaccuracies in measurement and then further adds to The Big Lie that we live in a Digitally Enabled Britain.


Alex said...

I just took the speedtest and it claimed it had reached a speed of 7.4Mb/s, however netmeter on my computer showed that the incoming data rate never exceeded 400KB/s

Cybersavvy UK said...

Anyone else care to post an example to support my post about accuracy?!

(Thanks Alex)

helenander said...

How an earth can they get it SO wrong. The image you sent me is crazy Lins, as an ISP and a person running a wireless network in our village I absolutely know that the only part of the village that can actually receive anywhere near the top of the UP to 8 Meg is station Avenue as that is the closest to the Thistleton exchange. Our exchange does not yet support the up to 24 Meg service, so how the heck a speedtester can show 58 meg I'll never know. The funny thing is the precise pinpoint is exactly where we have one of our transmitters and receivers! Even with bonding lines which we do here that sort of speed would still be in our dreams.

Cybersavvy UK said...

I have asked top 10 broadband for a comment. If you want to give examples of your speed test result and comment on its potential accuracy, please do so.

jackie said...

I just took the speed test for my internet from the site & we can check this @ any place

Cybersavvy UK said...

@jackie - how do the two sites compare for your internet connection?

My point in the blog post is that the information on the Top 10 site map is publicly available and may well cause confusion and mislead because of the methodology for measuring the speed of a connection.

Alex said...

Think they might have fixed it, just tried it again and this time it gave a much more accurate result of 6.05Mb/s, and my netmeter actually reached 850KB/s.
Also it actually transferred much more data than before. I think before it was only downloading a very small amount and therefore creating an accurate result of speed was pretty much impossible.