Which broadband provider is best for gaming?

Adam Oxford

broadband speed ping_2

Think your broadband's rubbish? You're probably right. UK telcoms regulator Ofcom has released its sixth report on average connection speeds in the country it found that while the average download speed has increased a small amount since May last year, to 7.6Mbps, ADSL customers on packages advertised as 'up to 24Mbps are getting just under a third of the expected bandwidth.

Shockingly, more than a quarter of customers (27%) are on connections slower than 2Mbps.

The report is based on 572 million test results collected from a panel of 1,703 UK residential broadband users, and conducted in partnership with analysis site SamKnows .

The company which comes out best from the report – as far as download speeds go - is Virgin . According to the data collected cable customers are getting between 94% and 103% of the bandwidth they're expecting, as well as the smallest fall off in speeds at peak times. That's better than BT's rival fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) service Infinity , which is delivering 36Mbps on average, or 90% of its 'up to 40Mbps' advertised speed. O2/Be Broadband also came out well, with significantly faster connection speeds for customers on ADSL.

The typical speed for a customer on an ADSL connection – including 2Mbps, 8Mbps and 20Mbps packages – is just 5.3Mbps, Ofcom and Samknows found.

What the report does highlight, however, is a growing speed gap. Results are slightly skewed by the fact that customers who were already on a fast connection of up to 20 or 24Mbps are migrating onto even quicker ones, leaving people already on slower connections further behind.

Ernest Dokum of comparison site uSwitch , says that the gap is predominantly a question of urban and rural location.

"Although internet providers are investing millions of pounds in bringing the UK's broadband infrastructure into the 21st Century," Doku said, "The reality is that many parts of Britain, and especially rural areas, are still operating in the broadband dark ages and are digitally isolated due to sluggish speeds and patchy coverage.

"At a speed of 1Mbit/s it would take around 12 hours to download a feature film and 45 minutes to download a music album.... Continued investment in the broadband infrastructure is vital if the UK is to remain a major player on the world economic stage, and if – as the Government envisages – Britain is to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, but it is also crucial that this investment is spread fairly across the country."

Not all ISPs were included in the test, but it did cover 78% of the contracts current available.

For gamers, however, the really interesting stuff is buried at the end of the report in the Annex information. Headline speed is nowhere near as important as ping, jitter and packet loss, and for these metrics Virgin actually came out significantly worse than its ADSL rivals in most of the tests. While its up to 10Mbps service faired well against similarly advertised rivals in some metrics, at faster download speeds cable was noted as slower than ADSL for webpage loading times, average latency and packet loss. Especially at peak times.

Critics might be concerned that the race for high speeds, which make for good adverts, is being conducted at the expense of quality.

If you're thinking of changing your supplier, it's BT, O2/Be and Orange which come out looking the most promising results. But don't take my word for it: have a read of the full report yourself here .

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