Faster download speeds for internet users in Northern Ireland

16 November 2012

Average download speeds for internet users in Northern Ireland have more than doubled in the last year, according to the communications regulator Ofcom.

The region has the highest average download speeds in the UK, as well as the highest availability and take-up of superfast broadband services.

The figures are highlighted in Ofcom's latest Infrastructure Report update, which gives an overview of communications networks across the UK.

According to Ofcom, average download speeds1 in Northern Ireland have increased from 6.3 Mbits/s a year ago to 14.4 Mbit/s. This compares to the UK average of 12.7 Mbit/s.

The rise reflects the widespread availability of superfast broadband in Northern Ireland with the completion in March of the Next Generation Broadband Project, jointly funded by the Northern Ireland Executive and BT.

This means that 95% of premises now have access to superfast broadband services, defined as being capable of delivering download speeds of more than 30Mbit/s. The UK average is 65%.

While the new fibre optic cables that deliver these fast internet services have been in the ground for more than two years in some cases, increased take-up over the last 12 months has helped drive up average recorded download speeds.

Better download speeds allow more people in the home to use a greater variety of services, including bandwidth hungry applications such as video on demand.

Ofcom has found that 64% of premises in Northern Ireland (homes and businesses) now have a broadband connection, and 11% have a superfast connection, compared to 7% for the UK as a whole.

Jonathan Rose, Director of Ofcom Northern Ireland said: "Consumers are beginning to reap the rewards from the significant investment by the Executive and telecoms companies.

"The expansion of the fibre optic network across Northern Ireland means the region has a telecommunications infrastructure which is the envy of many other countries."

Mr Rose said the latest report suggested that increasing use of the internet, sometimes through multiple devices at home, was helping drive demand for superfast broadband services.

"Many homes now have laptops, tablet computers, smartphones and smart TVs, which is where superfast broadband comes into its own.

"It is good news for consumers and for Northern Ireland, which is now an exemplar of how publicly led investment can help deliver superfast broadband to areas where it would otherwise not be available."

While Northern Ireland is leading the way in superfast broadband, other figures in the report show the region still lags behind the UK for 3G mobile coverage. Ofcom says just 56% of premises have 3G coverage from all operators, compared to 77% for the UK as a whole.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

  1. This is the modem sync speed - the downstream data rate at which the internet service provider's equipment in the local exchange sends data to the customer's broadband modem. In practice, the speeds achieved by the end user will be lower because some capacity is required for information that accompanies the data, and there may be network congestion. But while modem sync speeds do not directly reflect end user experience, they are a useful proxy for the state of broadband over the UK's telephone line infrastructure. This data differs from our regular Broadband Speeds research.