UK compares well to the rest of the world in terms of broadband, but experts say more FTTP is needed to compete at the top
The UK ranks 31 out of 189 nations in terms of broadband speeds, according to new research which suggests the average connection is 16.51Mbps.
Cable.co.uk has compiled figures from a year-long study by M-Lab – a partnership between New America’s Open Technology Institute, Google Open Source Research and Princeton University’s PlanetLab – which found Singapore has the world’s fastest broadband with 51.13Mbps.
The UK ranks behind 19 European countries but is still ahead of the likes of Italy, France and Ireland. Yemen has the world’s slowest rate of just 0.34Mbps while 17 of the slowest 30 countries are in Africa where fixed connections are at a premium and many are going straight to mobile.
UK superfast broadband
Researchers suggest the speeds quoted in their research might be lower than other tests because they assess more parts of the connection than just the ‘last mile’. Indeed, 139 nations have less than the 10Mbps rate proposed by the government’s universal service obligation (USO) consultation.
The majority of the UK’s superfast broadband infrastructure uses fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology, which uses copper for the final few metres of the connection, slowing down speeds.
This has attracted criticism from those who feel the UK should be investing in ‘futureproof’ fibre to the premise (FTTP) technology, while rural communities have voiced their anger at slow speeds.
However Openreach is now investigating a ‘wide-scale’ rollout of FTTP, while a number of other providers are also deploying ‘pure’ fibre. BT has also promised to provide a superfast broadband connection to anyone in the UK in place of the proposed USO regulation.
“These results offer us a fresh perspective on where we sit in the broadband world. Relatively speaking, we are near the top of the table,” said Dan Howdle, telecoms expert at Cable.co.uk. “However, many of those ahead of us – some a long way ahead – are our neighbours both in the EU and wider Europe.
“Superfast rollout in the UK continues apace. Goals are being met, new initiatives undertaken and public funds being made available. However, clearly there are lessons to be learned both from Europe and from those topping the table.
“Not least the importance of reaching those with the lowest speeds, predominantly in very rural and/or hard-to-reach areas, but also greater investment in [FTTP], which currently reach only 2 percent of properties in the UK, compared to Sweden or Latvia, say, where [FTTP] exceeds 40 percent.”
Openreach says the research does not reflect availability, only adoption, adding that most of the UK can receive speeds of 24Mbps or faster.
“Cable.co.uk’s research highlights the need for a better understanding of the broadband speeds people currently use, compared to the actual superfast speeds they can sign-up to right now,” said an Openreach spokesperson.
“More than 93 percent of the UK can already access superfast speeds of 24Mbps or above and a recent survey by Ofcom shows that the average household can receive speeds of 36.2Mbps – a speed that allows households to easily stream films, carry out video conferencing and browse the web at the same time.
“However, so far, only 30% of UK homes and businesses have signed-up to these superfast broadband services, which explains the results of Cable.co.uk’s tests. The UK is the leading digital economy in the G20, and we’re working with the broadband industry as a whole to make more homes and businesses aware that these superfast speeds are available to them today.”