1 in 4 UK residential fixed broadband connections is ‘superfast’: Ofcom

One in four UK residential fixed broadband connections is ‘superfast’, according to latest Ofcom research.

The proportion of superfast connections – those offering headline speeds of 30Mbit/s or more – has risen from 5% in November 2011 to 25% in November 2013.

And the average superfast connection speed has continued to rise, reaching 47.0Mbit/s by November 2013 – an increase of 47%, or 15.1Mbit/s since May 2010.

These are some of the findings from Ofcom’s tenth report measuring consumers’ actualbroadband connection speeds, as opposed to headline advertised speeds. As well as looking at superfast broadband, the report considers ADSL broadband, which accounts for 69% of UK residential broadband connections.

The report reveals that at 17.8Mbit/s, the average actual fixed-line residential broadband speed in the UK is almost five times faster than it was five years ago when Ofcom first began publishing the data (up from 3.6Mbit/s in November 2008).

Differences across the country

While the growth in average speeds show that investment in broadband technology is delivering benefits for most consumers, the UK picture is uneven. A significant number of households especially those in rural areas, can experience considerably slower speeds.

Ofcom’s indicative analysis suggests that:

  • the average urban download speed in November 2013 was 31.9Mbit/s, a 21% increase since May 2013;
  • the average suburban download speed in November 2013 was 21.8Mbit/s, a 22% increase since May 2013.
  • The research also suggests that average speeds in rural areas increased from 9.9Mbit/s to 11.3Mbit/s between May and November 2013. The sizes of the rural samples from which these averages were taken, however, are not large enough for the change to be deemed statistically significant. As such, the figures should be treated as indicative only.

One key reason for the slower speeds in rural areas is the limited availability of superfast broadband services. In addition, broadband speeds over ADSL, a technology that uses the copper wire telephone network, are generally slower in rural areas because of the longer distances to the telephone exchange.

Problems with slower broadband speeds are not just confined to rural communities but can also affect urban areas. Ofcom will be publishing research into the important issue of urban broadband variability during the course of this year and seeking to explore with operators any barriers to roll out of higher speed services.

Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards said: “The growth in superfast broadband and the rise in average speeds is testament to the investment in the sector. But the benefits are not shared evenly across the UK.  There is more work needed to deliver wider availability of broadband and superfast broadband, particularly in rural communities but also in some locations within cities to enable wider access to fast internet.”

Improving speeds in rural areas is a priority for the government which has committed funding to ensure superfast broadband is more widely available across the UK. It has reported it is on course to reach 90% superfast coverage by early 2016 and recently announced an extra £250 million investment to extend superfast coverage to 95% of premises by 2017.

Of the ISP packages included in the report, Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 120Mbit/s service, which delivers broadband using cable technology, achieved the fastest download speeds over a 24 hour period, averaging 114.9Mbit/s.

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