Consumer magazine Which? has used data from its consumer speedtests to warn that just 13 constituencies in Scotland (unclear if they mean burgh or county constituencies) are achieving a broadband speed of over 20Mbps and half of tests across the UK failed to hit 10Mbps. But this interpretation has some big flaws.
The report, which separately claims that only 39% of people in Scotland trust their broadband service (compared with 45% across the UK), is based on data gathered from just 20,780 consumer speedtests conducted in Scotland during 2018. This is a very small sample size for an entire country over the course of a full year and it’s unclear whether they did any work to exclude business or mobile connections.
Overall Which? said they found that in 18 constituencies across the UK, including 6 in Scotland, at least half of tests failed to achieve a minimum download speed of 10Mbps. This is below the broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), which will provide a legal right to request a connection of at least 10Mbps (1Mbps upload) and should be in place by 2020.
Caroline Normand, Which? Director of Advocacy, said:
“Scottish consumers are struggling with dwindling day-to-day banking services and poor broadband connections and our research suggests this could be having an impact on trust in these vital industries, and demonstrates the need for a dedicated consumer body backed by the Scottish Government.
If Consumer Scotland is to be a real force for improving the lives of ordinary people, it must take on board the concerns highlighted in this report – and make tackling them a top priority.”
As usual there are some big caveats to this sort of data and interpretation, not least because which? appear to have made the classic mistake of confusing consumer speedtests of existing broadband connections with actual network availability. At present it’s estimated that fixed “superfast broadband” ISP networks are available to order by nearly 94% of premises in Scotland (varies slightly by definition: 24Mbps+ or 30Mbps+) and rising.
The latest data from Thinkbroadband’s independent modelling similarly finds that only 3.57% of people live in areas where download speeds of 10Mbps are not yet achievable. The key issue with speedtests is that many people will not yet have upgraded their connection to something faster, even when that choice exists (often due to reasons of awareness, cost or a simple lack of desire / interest).
Speed tests can also be impacted by other factors, such as poor home wiring, user choice of package (e.g. 1Gbps could be available but most people may still pick a slower and cheaper tier), local network congestion and weak WiFi signals etc. In short, always take such results with a pinch of salt.