Broadband Speeds: Advertised versus Real World

The broadband speed you see in marketing material is seldom what you will experience in real life. Here are the facts.

By - August 25, 2009
Broadband Speeds:  Advertised versus Real World

When broadband providers want to sell a broadband service they generally use the theoretical maximum speed of the technology to market their product.  These theoretical maximum speeds are however much higher than the average speeds achieved by users in everyday usage.

A recent survey in the United Kingdom found that the average download speed of an 8 Mbps broadband service is only 4.1 Mbps – just over 50% of the advertised speed.  This average speed drops to 3.7 Mbps between 8 pm and 10 pm when most broadband subscribers are online.

In South Africa the situation looks similar.  Results from the recent MyBroadband Survey shows that the average ‘real world’ download speed is only 54% of the advertised speed.  This figure drops to 52% for upload speeds.  (The real world speeds were calculated by finding the average of the local and international speed test results of the 2 000 broadband subscribers who completed the 2009 MyBroadband Survey.)

Some good results

There were however a few surprises.  Telkom’s WiMax service, which the telecoms provider no longer actively markets and sells, had an average download speed of 0.59 Mbps – 8% higher than the advertised speed. 

iBurst’s WiMax service also performed particularly well as a best effort broadband service with an average download speed of 1010 Kbps – very close to the advertised downlink speed of 1024 Kbps.  The average upload speed of 1001 Kbps is within 2% of the advertised speed of 1024 Kbps.

The following table provides an overview of the ‘Advertised Speed versus Real World Performance’ for most of South Africa’s mainstream broadband services.

Advertised Speed versus Real World Performance
Service Advertised Download Speed Average Download Speed Percentage of Advertised Speed
iBurst WiMax 1024 Kbps 1010 Kbps 99%
Telkom DSL384 384 Kbps 330 Kbps 86%
Telkom DSL512 512 Kbps 395 Kbps 77%
Telkom DSL 4Mbps 4096 Kbps 2462 Kbps 60%
iBurst Wireless 1024 Kbps 597 Kbps 58%
MTN HSDPA 3.6 Mbps 1397 Kbps 38%
Neotel NeoConnect Prime 2.4 Mbps 858 Kbps 36%
Vodacom HSDPA 3.6 Mbps 1231 Kbps 33%
Neotel NeoFlex 3.1 Mbps 941 Kbps 30%
Telkom HSDPA 7.2 Mbps 1804 Kbps 24%
Average     54%
       
Service Advertised Upload Speed Average Upload Speed Percentage of Advertised Speed
iBurst WiMax 1024 Kbps 1001 Kbps 98%
Telkom DSL384 128 Kbps 98 Kbps 76%
Telkom DSL512 256 Kbps 183 Kbps 71%
Telkom DSL 4 Mbps 512 Kbps 333 Kbps 65%
Neotel NeoConnect Prime 153 Kbps 85 Kbps 56%
iBurst Wireless 384 Kbps 203 Kbps 53%
Vodacom HSDPA 1.4 Mbps 309 Kbps 22%
Neotel NeoFlex 1.8 Mbps 346 Kbps 19%
Telkom HSDPA 2.4 Mbps 258 Kbps 11%
Average     52%

Advertised versus Real World broadband speeds discussion 

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