UK Drops Behind Madagascar In Broadband League Tables


Britain now ranks 35th in the world, behind France and Bulgaria, in spite of the government’s ultrafast rollout plans

The UK has dropped to 35th place in an annual global broadband speed rankings, behind Madagascar and Bulgaria and in the lower third of EU countries.

The list, compiled by UK broadband comparison site Cable based on data from M-Lab, a partnership between Google Open Source Research and Princeton University’s PlantLab, is drawn from 163 million speed tests in 200 countries.

Analysts said the rankings can be somewhat misleading since they don’t reflect factors such as the size or geography of a country, with No. 1-ranked Singapore being about the size of London.

Nevertheless, Cable noted that the UK was leapfrogged this year by France and Madagascar – where only 2 percent of the population was online as of 2012 – and said it was likely to fall further down the list as speeds rise globally.

Full fibre

“Compared to many other countries both in and out of Europe, the UK has simply come too late to a full-fibre solution,” said Cable analyst Dan Howdle. “Despite plans to roll out FTTP (fibre to the premises) to UK homes across the next decade or so, the UK is likely to fall further behind while we wait.”

He said it was “somewhat sad to see the UK not faring better”.

In January the UK government said that more than 19 out of 20 UK premises have the opportunity to upgrade their internet connections to superfast speeds of 24Mbps or faster, but often didn’t do so because they were unaware of the option.

Britain weighed in at 18.57 Mbps on average, compared to Singapore’s 60.39 Mbps and Yemen, at the bottom, with 0.31Mbps.

It was behind 25 other European countries and the US, at 20th place and Japan, at 12th place, and was ahead of Ireland, which was 36th, Austria at 38th, Italy at 43rd and Australia at 52nd.

The UK’s average rate would see a 5GB file take about 36 minutes to download, Cable said.

Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Romania rounded out the top five, while East Timor, Turkmenistan, Somalia and Guinea were all in the bottom five.

Broadband rollout

Ofcom in November 2016 ordered BT-owned Openreach to split itself into a legally separate entity in part to speed up superfast broadband deployments. Openreach operates BT’s telecommunications infrastructure.

“We are in the process of hiring 3,500 engineers to support us with the rollout of ultrafast fibre to 3 million more people by 2020,” Openreach said in a statement, while acknowledging there was “more to do”.

Assembly researcher Matthew Howett said companies plans for deploying full-fibre networks – in which fibre links directly to a premises, as opposed to FTTC, which sees copper being used for last-mile connections – could see the UK’s broadband speeds rise.

“Encouragingly, Britain is set for more fibre, with leading operators and their competitors all having committed to deploy so called full-fibre,” he said. “Once those deployments ramp up, they would be reflected in similar league tables.”