Broadband networks stand firm during pandemic

13 May 2020

Average UK broadband speeds largely held up during the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown  despite rising demand from home working, online lessons and TV streaming.

This is according to our Home Broadband Performance Report, which shows how broadband speeds changed before and after the lockdown.

Demands on the broadband network have been driven in part by home working and by school closures, leading to a rise in use of streaming and learning services. Some broadband providers have reported an increase  up between 35% and 60% in weekday daytime traffic since the lockdown began.

Our report also shows that broadband speeds in rural areas are catching up to those in towns and cities. The proportion of rural lines receiving at least superfast broadband during peak times continues to increase – from 44% in 2018 to 56% in 2019 – while the proportion not receiving a decent connection  at peak times fell from 33% to 22%.

However, broadband speeds in rural areas still lag behind those in urban areas. Urban peak-time speeds reached almost double those reached in rural areas during 2019.

Broadband in the UK has really been put to the test by the pandemic, so it’s encouraging that speeds have largely held up. This has helped people to keep working, learning and staying connected with friends and family.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Group Director for Strategy and Research

Top tips on helping you stay connected

Ofcom’s Stay Connected campaign includes a range of tips to help ensure people get the best out of their internet connection during the coronavirus period:

Our ten top tips to help you stay connected during the coronavirus. You can use our broadband and mobile coverage checker to test your speed, and try using landline or wifi calling if you can.

For more information, see our guides on getting the most out of your broadband and mobile services at home.

Broadband and mobile coverage revealed

Today, we’ve also published our Connected Nations spring update, which looks at broadband availability and mobile coverage in the UK in January 2020, before the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK. It shows:

  • 3.5 million homes (12%) can now access full-fibre broadband, up by a fifth since September last year;
  • availability of other high-speed broadband services has continued to increase. Ultrafast broadband is now available to 55% of UK households, compared to 53% in our last update. Meanwhile superfast broadband remains available to 95% of UK households.
  • Around 2% of homes and businesses are unable to get a decent fixed broadband connection. However, anyone who can’t get a decent service now has the legal right to request one – thanks to new rules that came into force in March. The continued rollout of mobile broadband services is also helping to get more people connected.
  • We’re making sure our regulation helps support local areas as they roll out faster fibre networks – including price protections for customers. This is part of our work to support competition and investment in faster, more reliable fibre networks.
  • Mobile coverage remains largely unchanged since our December report. But since then, the UK Government and four mobile network providers have agreed to develop a shared rural network, to help improve coverage across the UK. Each company has committed to deliver good quality 4G coverage to at least 90% of the UK over the next six years.