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German regulator challenges Operators to give discounts for slow Internet speeds

Published on December 10, 2021

German Telecom regulator (BNETZA) challenges Operators to give discounts for slow-than-promised Internet speeds

The new regulation on advertising compliance for fixed internet access services, part of the latest reform of the Telecommunications Act of Germany, will change the relationship between consumers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) forever in Germany. 

Providing a proper compliance of contractually agreed speeds, highest speeds, speed consistency or a consistent Quality of Service (QoS) will no longer be just a marketing award or promise for Deutsche Telekom, 1&1, Vodafone, O2 (Telefonica), Pyur (Tele Columbus), NetCologne, M-net or EWE, among others. ISPs will be hold accountable for when consumers do not receive promised or minimum guaranteed speeds.

Based on the Annual broadband speed test report published on the 20th April 2021 by the German Federal Network Agency (known as BNETZA for its German abbreviation), 50% of fixed broadband connections had a download speed below 90 percent their contractually agreed maximum speed. 

In the following, some additional findings and insightful statistics about speed compliance in Germany for the period 2020-2021:

  1. The proportion of users across all bandwidth categories and providers whose connection had a speed equal or higher than their contractually agreed maximum speed (advertised speed or headline speed) was 24.0% (2018-2019: 16.4%).
  2. The proportion of fixed broadband connections that had a download speed at least half their contractually agreed maximum speed was 73.6% (2018-2019: 70.8%).
Figure 1. Percentage of the contractually agreed maximum speed. Source: BNETZA
Figure 1. Percentage of the contractually agreed maximum speed. Source: BNETZA

Advertised speeds in Germany generally correspond to maximum speeds. The current regulation forces ISPs to disclose the minimum, maximum and normally available speeds to customers in their contracts. Those contractually agreed speed thresholds will be compared against actual speeds measured by the end-user.

New legal and regulatory framework in Germany

BNETZA has recently published the guidelines on the new requirements for fixed internet speeds pursuant to Article 4(2), Article 4(4), and Article 5(1) Regulation (EU) 2015/2120[1]. According to the BEREC guidelines on the Implementation of the Open Internet Regulation, NRAs should “assess the impact on the availability and general quality of Internet Access Services (IAS) by analysing, inter alia, QoS parameters (such as latency, jitter and packet loss), the levels and effects of congestion in the network, actual versus advertised speeds and the performance of IAS as compared with services other than IAS”. 

The German regulator has chosen an Internet Access Service performance assessment at the user-level to help monitor ISPs’ speed performance, empower the end-user and support consumer complaints relating to low data transmission rates.

Under particular regulatory compliance scenarios, BNETZA would be enforcing Article 4(4), which states that “Any significant discrepancy, continuous or regularly recurring, between the actual performance of the internet access service regarding speed or other quality of service parameters and the performance indicated by the provider of internet access services in accordance with points (a) to (d) of paragraph 1 shall, where the relevant facts are established by a monitoring mechanism certified by the national regulatory authority, be deemed to constitute non-conformity of performance for the purposes of triggering the remedies available to the consumer in accordance with national law.” 

According to the German fixed internet speed guidelines, consumers can test their broadband Internet speed with an updated tool ("Breitbandmessung" tool) and check whether they are getting what they are paying for and whether the ISP is fulfilling its contract. 

The "Breitbandmessung" broadband speed checker is a web browser-based test or an version (desktop app) that can be used for fixed-line broadband and an app-based one (Android and iOS) for mobile connections. However, the measurements for speed verification process are only carried out using the desktop app. Discounts will only be available for fixed broadband connections (desktop tool) and mobile results are just to consumers can report dead zones to their providers. If the fixed internet connection does not deliver the speeds the ISP promised, then the consumers can defend their rights to a lower price or ending the contract.

If there is a large difference between the throughput measurement results and the contracted and expected speed, starting on December 2021, a speed compliance below “90%” could imply that end-users can reduce their monthly bill by the same percentage, but the devil is in the details.

Non-compliance scenarios, or when a German consumer gets the money back

Consumers can select their upload and download contractually agreed speeds in the broadband speed checker developed by the BNetzA. The tool then starts a series of measurements (at least 30 tests over three days) to determine actual download and upload speeds and evaluate whether the service is matching the promise or not (underperformance). 

In the following one example of what the minimum guaranteed, normally available, maximum and advertised download and upload speed means in the case of fixed networks in Germany, inspired in a standard 100 Mbps VDSL package from Deutsche Telekom: 

Product Information sheet for MagentaZuhause L (100/40 Mbps). Source: Telekom
Figure 2 Product Information sheet for MagentaZuhause L (100/40 Mbps). Source: Telekom

There is a significant, continuous or regularly recurring deviation in download or upload speed with fixed-line Internet access, or  there is a non-conformity of performance when:

  1. 90 percent of the contractually agreed maximum speed is not reached at least once (1 out of 10 measurements per day) on at least two out of three measurement days, or
  2. the normally available speed is not reached in 90 percent of the measurements (27 out of 30 measurements in total), or
  3. on at least two out of three measurement days, the speed falls below the minimum speed at least once (1 out of 10 measurements per day)

Following the Magenta Zuhause L example above, if Telekom promises 100 Mbps and 91 Mbps are always provided, then everything is OK, because the 90 percent criteria is met. The complaint would be justified, if, for example:

  1. a throughput of 90 Mbps (90% of maximum speed) is achieved at least once in one out of three days, but everything is below that on the other two days.
  2. 26 or less of the prescribed 30 measurements (less than 90% of measurements) are below the normally available speed of 83.8 Mbps.
  3. a throughput below 54 Mbps (minimum speed) is achieved at least once in two out of three days.

The supervision and enforcement procedure (see article from CHIP) should somehow ensure that there are no environmental factors that might be skewing the results (such as connected devices to the home-network, testing with significant parallel data traffic, insufficient CPU power and memory space in the testing device, testing over Wi-fi instead of via Ethernet cable). Then, if Internet download and upload speeds are slower-than-promised (as per the conditions above), the customer becomes eligible for a discount or can even change their fixed broadband provider before the contract termination.

How MedUX helps Telecom Regulators and ISPs support policymaking, effective regulation and regulatory compliance

Several speed test methodologies are built in the MedUX measurement ecosystem that regulators and ISPs have been using for over 5 years. Our speed measurement portfolio covers a variety of approaches and supports all typical regulatory requirements:

  • MedUX covers the typical collection of speed performance metrics—specifically throughput (i.e., “speed”), latency, and packet loss - but also beyond (Traceroute, DNS resolution, Web Browsing, Gaming and Streaming experience etc).
  • Our tests can perform single server or multi server testing, as well as follow single- or multi-thread approaches.
  • Our tests can be configured to perform stress tests against on-net, national off-net or international off-net measurement servers depending on the testing objectives.
  • Our recently patented Cloud Speed Test is a multi-thread and multi-server speed test that can leverage public servers, particularly CDN enhanced edge sources that are independent of Telecom Operators or ISPs.
  • Our speed performance tests can use several protocols to measure throughput, including TCP or FTP.
  • Our test can be embedded in different types of clients (e.g. MedUX robots, APP/SDK, Desktop or Web) that initiate the speed performance test.
  • MedUX Web analytics portal provides easy access to all measurement data and all test agents can be remotely controlled via MedUX ecosystem.

Having said this, a slow Internet connection or a service degradation does not necessarily relate only to an issue on the telecom provider’s side. There are many factors that can affect the Internet Quality of Experience such as network congestion, equipment or node failure, OTT servers unavailability, cloud services disruptions, routing or access provisioning failures, among others. That’s why broadband monitoring from the TRUE end-user perspective is more important than ever. 

Regarding the Quality of Service and Quality of Experience (QoE) there is a world of KPIs to measure beyond speed, but the telco German regulation is now introducing small changes into the right direction, which may set a precedent to develop similar legislation in other countries. Some countries are launching new speed regulation initiatives to protect the consumers or support consumer complaints relating to low data transmission rates, such as United Kingdom (OFCOM), France (ARCEP), Chile (SUBTEL) and Perú (OSIPTEL).

MedUX helps telco operators, regulators, digital companies and even end users understand the matching-the-promise challenge and a wide range of incidents affecting QoS and QoE. With regards to ISPs, we help them analyze and improve their broadband QoE with performance insights from end-users’ perspective (and those end-users of the competitors), to offer the best-in-class service and comply with regulatory measures. 

At MedUX, we are always working hard to improve network performance, monitor Customer Experience and deliver innovative solutions to support the telecommunications industry. Get in touch with us at hello@medux.com for more information on how we can help you with Internet speed monitoring compliance and more! Stay tuned to our next reports and insights! 

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  [1] REGULATION (EU) 2015/2120 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 25 November 2015 laying down measures concerning open internet access and amending Directive 2002/22/EC on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services and Regulation (EU) No 531/2012 on roaming on public mobile communications networks within the Union

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