Nearly one in three UK broadband connections are now superfast, up from around one in four in November 2013, according to new Ofcom research.
The growing take-up of superfast cable or fibre services – connections delivering 30Mbit/s and above – has resulted in average UK broadband speeds increasing by a fifth in the six months to November 2014.
The average UK broadband speed is now 22.8Mbit/s, up from 18.7Mbit/s in May 2014, marking the largest absolute rise (4.1Mbit/s) in broadband speeds Ofcom has recorded (-1-).
Faster cable and fibre services have lower availability in rural areas, and rural broadband speeds are typically slower, delivering around one third of urban speeds on average.
Nearly one in three UK broadband connections (32%) are ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s or above services, up from 24% in November 2013, according to the research. The average actual speed being delivered across connections with headline speeds of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s and above was 50.4Mbit/s in November 2014, although a small proportion of customers will receive actual speeds below 30Mbit/s.
Cable broadband saw a 26% increase in average speeds, bringing average cable broadband speeds up to 54.4Mbit/s. This follows a speed upgrade programme by the UK’s largest cable broadband provider, Virgin Media, allowing customers to ‘opt-in’ for faster broadband. The average speed of fibre services (not including cable connections) was 41.6Mbit/s, showing no significant change in the six months to November 2014.
The average speed of ADSL connections – still the most common type of residential broadband – saw no significant change in the six months to November 2014, providing an average speed of 7.3Mbit/s.
Average download speeds in urban areas increased by 21% in the six months to November 2014, largely as a result of increasing take-up of faster services and Virgin Media’s upgrade programme. As faster cable and fibre broadband services, with headline speeds of 30Mbit/s or more, typically have lower availability in rural areas, no statistically significant change in average speeds in suburban and rural areas was recorded over this period.
Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 152Mbit/s service achieved the fastest download speeds of the broadband services covered in Ofcom’s research, averaging 132.6Mbit/s over 24 hours. Ofcom’s research also examines upload speeds, which are particularly important when sharing large files or using real-time video communications. The research found that Plusnet’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s package delivered the fastest upload speeds at 17.0Mbit/s on average.
Broadband can slow down at peak times (between 8pm and 10pm on weekdays) due to a large number of people going online at the same time. This is known as network ‘contention’. Sky’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s broadband showed the effects of network contention the least, with 96% of panellists taking part in Ofcom’s research receiving 90% or more of their connection’s maximum speed at peak times. EE’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s broadband performed the least well, with 7% of panellists receiving 90% or more of their maximum speeds at peak times.
Cable services also suffered from slowdown at peak times. As Virgin Media delivers maximum speeds faster than its headline ‘up to’ speeds, peak time slowdown for its services is also measured against headline ‘up to’ speeds. The proportion of Virgin Media panellists getting at least 90% of their headline speed at peak times were: for Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 50Mbit/s broadband it was 100%; for 100Mbit/s it was 59%; and for 152Mbit/s it was 33% in November 2014.
Ofcom’s report includes analysis on service disruptions or ‘disconnections’ which occur when a modem loses its connection to the internet. When this happens, streaming or downloading may be interrupted and consumers won’t be able load web pages or access email until the modem re-connects. There were no significant differences between the average number of actual daily disconnections of 30 seconds or more for ADSL2+ services, which ranged from 0.4 to 0.9 each day.
Among ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s and above packages, the average number of daily disconnections of 30 seconds or more ranged from 0.1 each day for BT and Sky’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s packages to 0.5 for Plusnet’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s and Virgin Media’s ‘up to 152Mbit/s packages. Virgin Media’s 152Mbit/s package had the most disconnections longer than two minutes, an average of 0.3 per day.
Steve Unger, Acting Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “The UK has seen significant investment in superfast broadband, and millions of households are now benefitting from faster speeds and more choice. But there’s still more to be done to ensure that everyone can share in those benefits. It’s encouraging to see continued investment in infrastructure from broadband providers, supported by Government funding to bring faster broadband to harder to reach areas. By providing the best possible information, Ofcom can help people understand the broadband services available to them and what they can do to get the most from their broadband.”