uSwitch research contradicts Ofcom findings, but BT says to believe the official figures
Price comparison and switching service uSwitch.com has claimed that not a single city in the UK currently has access to superfast broadband, which the government defines as 24Mbps or more, but its findings clash with recent research from communications regulator Ofcom.
uSwitch’s findings are based on 1.4 million consumers using its broadband speed testing tool StreetStats, and found that the fastest urban area in Britain is Telford, as residents in that Shropshire town enjoy 23Mbps, which is still short of the 24Mbps ‘superfast’ definition
The research also declares that Belfast is the only capital city in the UK with speeds of more than 20Mbps, with London only achieving average download speeds of 17Mbps, with a fifth of residents receiving speeds of less than 3Mbps.
Superfast Or Not?
uSwitch says that although the average download speed across the whole of Britain has risen in recent years to 14.5Mbps, more than a quarter (27 percent) of British broadband users have speeds under 3Mbps.
“Urban speeds in the UK are around three times faster than rural speeds, but even download speeds in Britain’s 50 biggest cities still aren’t super-fast,” says Marie-Louise Abretti, telecoms expert at uSwitch. “The Government’s blinkered focus on bringing super-fast connections to 95 percent of Britain by 2017 is all very well but, if they pull it off, it’s only half the battle won. If people don’t actually use super-fast broadband because it’s too expensive, or they don’t know they can get it, then what’s the point? Uptake will be heavily dependent on both price and awareness.”
The uSwitch findings are controversial, as they seem to contradict the official research from Ofcom which in its annual Infrastructure report, states that 73 percent of UK premises can receive superfast broadband speeds of 30Mbps.
The price comparison and switching service will no doubt point to the fact that its findings are the result of data collected from actual broadband users in the 50 biggest UK cities and towns.
Ofcom cannot comment on third party research, but a spokesperson has told TechweekEurope that its findings in its annual Infrastructure report are based on the actual “modem synch speeds that come directly from the ISPs themselves.”
The regulator admits that this is not an effective measure of what actual speeds a user will get in their home because of all the possible other factors (contention ratios, distance from telephone exchange etc), but the watchdog insists it is a sound technique for tracking progress year-on-year as it is a “pure metric”.
Ofcom also says it publishes a regular Broadband Speeds report carried out by its research partner SamKnows, which gathers data from a volunteer panel of UK residential broadband users. “This is based on the speeds people are getting on the home. It is a robust and scientific approach, using sophisticated techniques and is the most accurate figure,” adds the spokesperson.
That research shows that the average actual download speed of a UK fixed broadband connection was 14.7Mbps in May 2013, but it did not break down broadband speeds that can be achieved in UK’s cities.
Meanwhile, BT has responded to the uSwitch claims by stating that the UK is making great strides in superfast broadband.
“The UK is actually making fantastic progress on superfast broadband,” BT has told TechweekEurope. “The latest reliable and independent data from Ofcom shows that more than 73 percent of homes and businesses can now connect to a 30Mbps+ service and that figure is growing all of the time. The number of people using these services is also growing – climbing to around 4.8m from 2.1m last year – whilst average speeds have jumped to 17.7Mbps nationwide.
“Only 3 percent of homes in the UK are unable to switch to a faster service, so we would recommend people pay more attention to the official Ofcom statistics, rather than data from switching sites.”
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