For sale: gorgeous node in a well-connected area. Excellent up/down bandwidth, with average download speed of 20 megabits per second, and 99.6% uptime over the last 12 months. Yours for just $300,000. Comes with free family home.
No wait, stop and think for a moment: Does broadband speed matter to you so much you’d consider it during a house purchase? It matters to some.
According to the Daily Telegraph, UK home sales website Rightmove is about to confirm a deal with telecoms giant BT that will allow it to list broadband connection speeds alongside the number of bedrooms.
Rightmove was somewhat coy when Techland called them to confirm the story. “Superfast broadband is something of interest to us,” said a cagey spokesman. “But we have no agreements in place with BT at the moment.”
Note the “at the moment” part there.
Broadband is very much a mixed bag in the UK. BT, formerly a state-owned monopoly, still maintains the entire physical telephone network through its subsidiary company, BT OpenReach.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can buy bandwidth across this physical network and sell it on to their customers. Some of them also use fibre-optic cable connections, originally installed for cable TV but now usually used for combined TV, internet, and phone services.
Even if the Rightmove rumor is true, not all is well for UK broadband customers. Only a week ago, industry regulatory body Ofcom released a report saying that many UK ISPs weren’t providing the service they promised in their advertising.
It’s common for ISPs to use the dreaded phrase “up to” when advertising what they offer. Ofcom’s survey found that average speeds were less than half the “up to” maximums claimed, and called for tighter rules on advert wording.
That said, there are promising signs of a speedier future. BT’s own Infinity service is slowly rolling out, claiming “up to” 40Mbps. Cable provider Virgin tops that with “up to” 50Mbps.
According to OECD data of advertised (as opposed to actual) broadband speeds from 2010 (direct link to spreadsheet document), Japan’s ISPs claim the world’s fastest network, at just over 100Mbps. In South Korea, the nest fastest, the figure is around 50Mbps; in the UK, about 20Mbps. And in the US? A measly 12Mbps.