Broadband in Europe: Consumers are not getting the internet speeds they are paying for

Published on June 27th, 2013.

Europeans consumers are not getting the broadband download speeds they pay for. On average, they receive only 74% of the advertised headline speed they have paid for, according to a new European Commission study on fixed broadband performance.

Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes says: “This is the first time the difference between advertised and actual broadband speeds is confirmed by comparable and reliable data from all EU Member States.” There are significant differences in the European national markets, most likely due to advertising practices. Kroes says “Consumers need more of this sort of data to help make informed choices, so we will repeat the exercise. And we take these first results as further proof of the need for a real connected single market.”

Key findings in the study include:

  • Cable has the most reliable download speeds: The European average of 74% hides significant variation in the performance of different technologies. xDSL based services achieved only 63.3% of the advertised headline download speed, compared to 91.4% for cable and 84.4% for FTTx. (see annex).
  • In absolute terms, the average download speed across all countries and all technologies was 19.47 Mbps during peak hours. FTTx services achieved the fastest speeds at 41.02Mbps. Cable services achieved 33.10Mbps, whilst xDSL services lagged far behind at 7.2Mbps on average.
  • The upload speeds are closer to their advertised speeds. Across Europe, the average upload speed was 6.20 Mbps, representing 88% of advertised upload speeds. FTTx services achieved the highest speeds by far, at 19.8Mbps. This is because many FTTx services provide an upload speed far closer to the download speed. Cable and xDSL services achieved a modest 3.68Mbps and 0.69Mbps respectively.

    Results are based on peak time performance, which is defined as weekdays 7:00pm to 11:00pm (inclusive). These are the overall results of the study sample and do not refer to the actual composition of the broadband market across each country.


Speeds of broadband products are advertised as “up to XX Mbit/s”. This speed is called “advertised”, “nominal” or “headline” speed and it is what we see in the adverts. But there may be significant differences between the advertised speed and the actual speed consumers receive. Variations in download performance between Member States are primarily driven by the technologies that have historically been deployed in those countries.

Research shows that between 27% and 41% of European Internet subscribers claim that their download speed does not match that in the terms of their contracts. And almost half of EU subscribers claim that they sometimes experience difficulties accessing online content and applications due to insufficient speed or capacity.

This is the first study on broadband performance that covers all EU Member States, including, Croatia which will join the EU very soon, as well as Norway & Iceland, using the same approach. The project is being run by broadband performance testing specialist, SamKnows, which has already conducted similar projects in the UK and the US.

It is based on a methodology that uses hardware devices and provides the most accurate and independent results of internet performance regardless of access technology and home installation. This methodology has also been used by national regulators in the US, the UK, Brazil and Singapore.

The Phase 1 report was completed independently of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), however ISPs are invited to participate in Phase 2 and should contact for more information.

Results were taken in March 2012 from a panel of 9,104 participants. A total of 3,065,341,850 measurements were taken across 75,978,173 unique tests.



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