UK Broadband Speeds Rise But Urban-Rural Divide Persists

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Ofcom says average UK broadband speed is 28.9Mbps, but urban speeds are three times faster than rural

The average UK broadband speed rose by 27 percent from 22.8Mbps to 28.9Mbps during 2015, but a gap between urban and rural network performance persists, with connections in towns and cities now three times faster than those in more remote areas.

Ofcom says the overall increase can be explained by better coverage and greater adoption of superfast broadband services, the average speed of which jumped by 6.4Mbps to 56.8Mbps between November 2014 and November 2015.

Nearly two thirds of residential connections now receive download speeds of more than 10Mbps, the government’s new proposed universal service obligation, while 38 percent now have access to speeds of 30Mbps – up from 30 percent.

Ofcom broadband speeds

packetfrontHowever the average download speed in urban areas is 50.5Mbps, while the rural average is 13.7Mbps. Ofcom says this can be explained by the lower availability of fibre and cable, as well as slower average ADSL and fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) speeds.

Commercial and government-assisted deployments of fibre should reach 95 percent of the UK population by 2017, while the government is offering vouchers for satellite broadband in areas deemed not commercially viable for terrestrial rollout.

The vast majority of superfast broadband customers receive services over cable or FTTC, the latter of which uses copper for the final few hundred metres. BT has committed to rolling G.Fast, which speeds up copper, to 10 million homes by the end of the decade and the majority of the UK within a decade.

Virgin Media is also working on cable speed upgrades and a number of other providers offer fibre to the premise (FTTP).

Fibre Broadband © Datskevich Aleh Shutterstock 2012In terms of technology, cable offered the highest download speed of 73.6Mbps, compared to FTTC, which delivered 41.2Mbps. Virgin Media’s 200Mbps package had the best average actual speeds of 174Mbps.

Ofcom said that because nearly every single FTTC package used Openreach’s network, it is unlikely that moving provider would have an impact on speeds unless customers opted for a faster package. The only significant differences were on peak download speeds, says the regulator.

The average speed between 8pm and 10pm on weekdays across all connections was 27Mbps, marginally less than the 28.9 Mbps average.

Ofcom recently published the findings of its once-in-a-decade review of the UK communications market, recommending reforms the governance of Openreach and measures to open up its network of ducts and poles to other providers. This, it says, would allow other providers to lay more fibre and provide more competition in the sector.

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