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UK broadband speeds leap ahead, according to Ofcom study

UK broadband speeds leap ahead, according to Ofcom study

  • 9 May 2018
Image copyright Netflix
Image caption The growing use of streamed TV services has encouraged users to seek out faster speeds

There has been a marked improvement in home broadband, according to an annual survey by the UK's communications watchdog Ofcom.

It said that average fixed-line download speeds rose by 28% over the year to 46.2 megabits per second, while uploads gained by 44% to 6.2 Mbps.

It added that the typical household now consumed 190 gigabytes of data a month, in large part due to the use of Netflix and other streamed TV services.

But rural consumers still lag behind.

Ofcom said:

  • in urban areas, 59% of connections delivered average speeds topping 30 Mbps over the 20:00-22:00 peak-time period - meeting the watchdog's definition of "superfast" - while 17% were under 10 Mbps.
  • but in rural areas, only 23% of connections surpassed 30 Mbps over the same hours, while 53% were under 10 Mbps.

The regulator said the primary reasons for the discrepancy were less availability and reduced take-up of cable and fibre services in the countryside.

Later this month, internet service providers will be obliged to quote average peak-time speeds in their adverts and other promotional materials, rather than the "up to" figures that have been more common.

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Time to switch

The report's numbers were generated by installing speed-testing boxes at about 4,700 volunteers' properties in November.

Ofcom has also broken down its results by nation, revealing that England had the fastest speeds while Wales had the slowest:

Nation Average download speed
England 47.8 Mbps
Scotland 43.6 Mbps
Northern Ireland 39.2 Mbps
Wales 33.4 Mbps

The watchdog highlighted that many households could improve their speeds at no extra cost by asking to be switched to fibre where it was available.

It noted that 93% of UK properties now had access to superfast services but said that about 40% still subscribed to a copper-based "standard" ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) package.

The report also highlighted that Virgin Media - the UK's biggest cable provider - had made improvements, particularly over the peak evening period.

Ofcom ascribed this to an investment in additional network capacity, although the Thinkbroadband news site noted that a critical BBC Watchdog investigation was likely to have spurred matters on.

Virgin's "up to 200 Mbps" package was singled out for delivering the fastest measured download speeds, averaging 193.6 Mbps over a 24-hour period.

But Ofcom noted that the firm had launched an even faster 300 Mbps deal in 2017. However, too few of its volunteers had subscribed to generate a report.