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Only 9% of respondents expressed overall dissatisfaction with their broadband service

Comment by Rupert Wood, Principal Analyst at Analysys Mason, the premier telecoms adviser (

London, 09 January 2009

The initial findings of Ofcom’s report "Consumer experience of broadband performance", released this week, look likely to cause a stir. Firstly, Ofcom indicates that the average broadband speed is below the average maximum available across the UK, and significantly below advertised headline speeds. Secondly, it highlights the low average broadband speed available in the UK compared with other developed economies, which for some is a source of national shame.

However, looking at the report in more detail, we begin to see a different story. Only 9% of respondents expressed overall dissatisfaction with their broadband service. So what does this tell us?

- By and large, people understand the limitations of what they are buying. They understand that the maximum speed available in their area is dependent on how close they are to an exchange, and/or how many people are online in their area at any time. There are of course ISPs that provide a materially better service than others, but the overall low level dissatisfaction would suggest that accusations of mis-selling have been somewhat over-hyped. In fact, the average speed of 3.6Mbit/s is quite close to the average maximum available across the country, 4.3Mbit/s.

- Speed does not matter that much so long as the application works satisfactorily. For many Internet applications 3.6Mbit/s provides a perfectly reasonable user experience. The report also showed that only 67% were satisfied with the experience of using their broadband connection to download or watch TV programmes. While the iPlayer and other similar services represent the greatest new source of demand for bandwidth and they will no doubt increasingly influence customer perception, the fact that 91% of respondents were not dissatisfied overall suggests either that they are not yet used by a majority of users, or that such services do not yet influence overall satisfaction levels a great deal.

- Of course, the survey may also indicate something that many of us have long suspected: that British people are not very good at complaining.

The telecoms industry is used to hearing tales of consumer dissatisfaction and of ‘pent-up’ demand for bandwidth – often from excitable bloggers, or from parties that have an obvious interest in promoting that view. Research often misinterprets long-term predictions of bandwidth usage as indicators of demand. What this survey shows above all else is that, so long as people are aware of what they are buying, supply to a large extent informs demand and that the two are in truth substantially aligned.

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