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.
Source: Ofcom, based on data provided by the UK’s largest ISPs (representing over 90% of the total market)
Broadband speeds by technology
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.
Urban and rural broadband speeds
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.
Fastest download and upload speeds by provider
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.
Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in November 2014. Panel Base: 1,711
Note: Ranges show the 95% confidence interval of the average speeds measured on the ISP packages.
Broadband speeds at peak times
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.
Data on internet disconnections
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.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in November 2014
2. The research looked at packages provided by the seven largest ISPs by subscriber numbers. Consumers should note that there are many other services available, some of which may match or better the performance of some of the ISP packages included in this report. There were 2.4 billion separate test results recorded in 1,192 homes during November 2014.
3. Cable networks use a mixture of fibre optic cable and coaxial cable to transmit data to the end user, whereas the networks that we refer to as 'fibre' networks are mainly FTTC networks which use fibre to transmit data from the exchange to the street cabinet and the twisted copper pair for the remainder of the journey to the user's premises.
4. The research was conducted in partnership with broadband monitoring company SamKnows. For more details, visit www.samknows.com.
5. The broadband market has developed over recent years, in particular with regards to the growing availability and take-up of higher-speed services, and Ofcom is taking the opportunity to reposition the panel and research to meet new requirements and reflect these market changes.
6. Going forward, the reports will continue to report average performance at a UK and ISP package level, but there will be panel changes to ensure adequate representation of all major packages and to allow more robust analysis of the experiences of consumers in urban and rural areas. The methodology used to collect the data on which the reports are based is likely to experience some change, in order that it better reflects the market and consumers use of fixed broadband services and to ensure that Ofcom can continue to provide robust and fair comparisons of ISP packages.
7. The main impact of this reflection on methodology that Ofcom is proposing:
a. To change the frequency of the reports from bi-annual to annual with first annual report (covering November 2015) being published in the first quarter of 2016.
b. There will be a hiatus of this research between February 2015 until the third quarter of 2015 to allow a review of methodology and sample rebalancing.
c. The sample will be rebalanced so it is less dominated by high-speed packages and so as to provide more robust analysis of performance in urban and rural areas.
d. It is likely that some changes to methodology will take place, such as the introduction of new tests, including those around video streaming, and normalisation of fibre-to-the cabinet test result data.
8. In April 2012, guidance on the use of speed claims in broadband was introduced. This was produced by the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice. The guidance states that advertised speed claims have to be achievable by at least 10 per cent of the relevant ISP's customer base. Many ISPs have since stopped promoting their services primarily on the basis of speed. In July 2011, Ofcom introduced a strengthened voluntary broadband speeds code of practice to help ensure consumers are aware of the likely broadband speed they can get on their line from an ISP, before signing up to a service. Ofcom has conducted mystery shopping to check ISPs compliance with the code which found that, overall, it is working effectively. Ofcom has, however, identified areas where the code might be strengthened further to better serve consumers and has discussed improvements with providers and Ofcom expects to publish a revised code of practice.
9. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications, wireless communications and postal services.
10. For further information about Ofcom please visit ofcom.org.uk. Ofcom's news releases can be found at media.ofcom.org.uk
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