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Average UK broadband speeds hit double figures

Residential broadband speeds more than treble in four years to 12.0Mbit/s

Average residential UK broadband speeds reached 12.0Mbit/s in November 2012, Ofcom research reveals.

Ofcom’s latest report into fixed-line residential broadband speeds shows that the average actual UK speed has risen by a third (3.1Mbit/s or 34%) in the six months from May to November 2012, as take-up of ‘superfast’ services increased.

The report also shows that the average broadband speed has more than trebled in the last four years, from 3.6Mbit/s in November 2008 to its current level of 12.0Mbit/s (an increase of 234%).

Table One: Average actual UK fixed-line residential broadband speeds since November 20081

Date Average actual UK fixed-line residential broadband speed
Nov 2008 3.6Mbit/s
May 2009 4.1Mbit/s
May 2010 5.2Mbit/s
Nov/Dec 2010 6.2Mbit/s
May 2011 6.8Mbit/s
Nov 2011 7.6Mbit/s
May 2012 9.0Mbit/s
November 2012 12.0Mbit/s

Migration to high-speed services gains momentum

Consumers’ continuing migration to higher-speed broadband packages is helping to drive the increase in actual UK average speeds2.

By November 2012, more than three quarters (77%) of UK fixed-line residential broadband users were on packages with advertised speeds above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s, up from 58% a year earlier.

The proportion of broadband connections classed as ‘superfast’ (those with an advertised speed of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s or above) is also on the increase. By November 2012, 13% of residential broadband connections were superfast, more than doubling from 5% in November 2011.

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “Our research shows that UK consumers are adopting faster broadband packages to cater for their increasing use of bandwidth-heavy services such as video streaming. The increase in the average number of connected devices in UK homes is also driving the need for speed.

“Internet providers are working to meet consumer demand through network upgrades and the launch of superfast packages, giving consumers faster speeds and greater choice.”

Average speeds by connection category

Superfast

The research shows that residential superfast broadband connections are getting faster, with average speeds increasing from 35.8Mbit/s in May 2012, to 44.6Mbit/s in November 2012 (an increase of 8.8Mbit/s or 25%).

The increase during this six-month period was primarily driven by growth in take-up of ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) services and Virgin Media continuing to upgrade its existing customer base on to higher speed services.

Current Generation

For connections with a headline speed above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s but below ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s, average speeds increased from 7.3Mbit/s in May 2012, to 8.1Mbit/s in November 2012 (an increase of 0.7Mbit/s or 10%).3

Average speeds within the ‘up to’ 2Mbit/s and ‘up to’ (and including) 10Mbit/s category fell from 5.6Mbit/s to 4.4Mbit/s during the same period (a decrease of 1.2Mbit/s or 21%).

This decrease is partly due to the fact that this category now contains a lower proportion of cable connections (as a result of Virgin Media’s ‘double speed’ upgrade programme), which typically deliver much higher speeds than the copper connections that make up the rest of this category.4

Average speeds by technology

Of the different types of broadband technologies, Ofcom’s research found that cable broadband connections generated the greatest increases in average speeds in the six months to November 2012 – up by 10.4Mbit/s (58%) to 28.3Mbit/s.

Average actual speeds recorded for fibre connections also increased, by 9.4Mbit/s (30%) to 41.0Mbit/s, during the same period.

Average speeds for ADSL broadband – a technology that delivers broadband over copper wires – also increased, albeit by just 0.2Mbit/s (3%) to 6.0Mbit/s.

Comparisons between ISPs’ download speeds

Of the 12 ISP packages included in the report, Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 100Mbit/s service was the fastest, with the research revealing average actual speeds of 92.6Mbit/s over a 24 hour period.

Of the other superfast packages included in the research, the average download speed on BT Infinity’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s service was 63.3Mbit/s, compared with Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 60Mbit/s at 59.0Mbit/s.

BT’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s package achieved speeds of 34.2Mbit/s while Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s service had average speeds of 28.7Mbit/s.

Measuring speeds at peak times

The report contains new analysis comparing average peak time speeds (weekdays from 8pm to 10pm) with maximum connection speeds (the maximum speed achieved by each connection during the month).

Networks can become more congested at peak times resulting in lower speeds. This is known as ‘network contention’. 5 The most significant differences in speeds achieved at peak times occurred for superfast packages.

In this category, the proportion of panellists who, on average, received more than 90% of their maximum speeds at peak times ranged from 35% for Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s service to 91% for BT’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s service.

The findings suggest that, while there was relatively little congestion in BT’s fibre network in November 2012, levels of contention were higher in Virgin Media’s cable network.

Table Two: Average download speeds by ISP package6

These ranges reflect the average speeds that would be achieved 95 times out of 100 if the exercise was repeated with 100 sets of different panellists. If the range of two operators overlap, then these operators offer comparable performance. These ranges are not a description of the range of speeds actually measured.

 

Fastest upload speeds

Ofcom’s research also looks at upload speeds, which are particularly important to those consumers looking to share large files or use real-time video communications. The average actual upload speed of a UK fixed broadband connection was 1.4Mbit/s in November 2012, 0.3Mbit/s (30%) higher than the average recorded in May 2012.

The research found that BT Infinity’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s service delivered the highest upload speeds of all the packages, averaging 16.1Mbit/s. Among the ADSL2+ packages included in the research, O2’s service provided the fastest average upload speeds at 1.0Mbit/s.

Ofcom broadband speeds research

This is Ofcom’s eighth report into fixed-line residential broadband speeds using data collected by research partner SamKnows.

The report provides data on the average performance of fixed-line residential broadband in the UK and of the individual ISP packages included in the research. In total, these packages accounted for over 60% of UK residential broadband connections in November 2012.

The results help consumers to understand the significant variations in the performance of ISP packages and, when considered alongside other factors such as price, can help them to make more informed purchasing decisions.

All of the UK’s largest ISPs are signatories to Ofcom’s Voluntary Code of Practice on broadband speeds. Ofcom is conducting mystery shopping research to check ISPs’ compliance with the code this year.

Ofcom will also be carrying out research to assess the average mobile broadband speeds received by 3G and 4G customers. Ofcom expects to conduct this research around December 2013 and publish the results in spring 2014.

UK internet ‘to be fastest in Europe by 2015’

The UK will have the fastest broadband of any major European country by 2015, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

He reiterated that he wanted to bring high-speed broadband – which he defined as greater than 24 Megabits per second – to more than 90% of the country.

Mr Hunt outlined the ambition in a speech at Google’s Campus building in east London.

His comments followed heavy criticism last month from a Lords committee which said plans were too focused on speed.

The report from the communications committee said Mr Hunt’s ambitions were “misguided” and left “a very real risk that some people and businesses are being left behind, that inadequate access to the internet and all its benefits is actually afflicting their daily lives”.

On Monday, Mr Hunt defended his focus on higher speeds, which he said would be needed in order for the UK’s network to remain competitive with others in Europe.

“We simply will not have a competitive broadband network unless we recognise the massive growth in demand for higher and higher speeds,” Mr Hunt said.

“Today’s superfast is tomorrow’s superslow. Just as the last government was wrong to hang its hat on 2Mbps speeds, we must never fall into the trap of saying any speed is ‘enough’.”

Fibre To The Home

He said the government had begun looking at the ways it will allocate part of a £300m slice of the television license fee to provide high-speed broadband to a greater number than the existing target of 90% of the country.

Initially, much of this speed increase will be achieved by a Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) system, in which high-speed fibre cabling is connected to a cabinet near a user’s home.

Internet data will then travel the final distance through copper cabling, which is slower. The possible connection speed available via FTTC decreases as it travels further away from the cabinet.

Because of this issue, Mr Hunt said FTTC will only be a temporary measure.

“The reason we are backing Fibre To The Cabinet as a potential medium-term solution is simple: The increase in speeds that it allows – 80 Mbps certainly but in certain cases up to 1 gigabit – will comfortably create Europe’s biggest and most profitable high-speed broadband market,” he said.

“And in doing so we will create the conditions whereby, if fibre to the home is still the best way to get the very highest speeds, private sector companies will invest to provide it.”

Fibre To the Home (FTTH) allows a fibre-speed connection to reach individual homes without the need for slower copper cabling.

By 2016, he said up to two-thirds of the country will be able to access Fibre To The Home (FTTH).

[Via BBC News]