Average UK broadband speeds hit double figures

14 March 2013

SpeedometerAverage residential UK broadband speeds reached 12.0Mbit/s in November 2012,  Ofcom research reveals.

Ofcom’s latest report into fixed-line residential broadband speeds shows that the average actual UK speed has risen by a third (3.1Mbit/s or 34%) in the six months from May to November 2012, as take-up of ‘superfast’ services increased.

The report also shows that the average broadband speed has more than trebled in the last four years, from 3.6Mbit/s in November 2008 to its current level of 12.0Mbit/s (an increase of 234%).

Average actual UK fixed-line residential broadband speeds since November 2008

DateAverage actual UK fixed-line residential broadband speed
Nov 20083.6Mbit/s
May 20094.1Mbit/s
May 20105.2Mbit/s
Nov/Dec 20106.2Mbit/s
May 20116.8Mbit/s
Nov 20117.6Mbit/s
May 20129.0Mbit/s
November 201212.0Mbit/s

Migration to high-speed services gains momentum

Consumers’ continuing migration to higher-speed broadband packages is helping to drive the increase in actual UK average speeds.

By November 2012, more than three quarters (77%) of UK fixed-line residential broadband users were on packages with advertised speeds above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s, up from 58% a year earlier.

The proportion of broadband connections classed as ‘superfast’ (those with an advertised speed of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s or above) is also on the increase. By November 2012, 13% of residential broadband connections were superfast, more than doubling from 5% in November 2011.

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “Our research shows that UK consumers are adopting faster broadband packages to cater for their increasing use of bandwidth-heavy services such as video streaming. The increase in the average number of connected devices in UK homes is also driving the need for speed.

“Internet providers are working to meet consumer demand through network upgrades and the launch of superfast packages, giving consumers faster speeds and greater choice."

Average speeds by connection category

Superfast

The research shows that residential superfast broadband connections are getting faster, with average speeds increasing from 35.8Mbit/s in May 2012, to 44.6Mbit/s in November 2012 (an increase of 8.8Mbit/s or 25%).

The increase during this six-month period was primarily driven by growth in take-up of ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) services and Virgin Media continuing to upgrade its existing customer base on to higher speed services.

Current Generation

For connections with a headline speed above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s but below ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s, average speeds increased from 7.3Mbit/s in May 2012, to 8.1Mbit/s in November 2012 (an increase of 0.7Mbit/s or 10%).

Average speeds within the ‘up to’ 2Mbit/s and ‘up to’ (and including) 10Mbit/s category fell from 5.6Mbit/s to 4.4Mbit/s during the same period (a decrease of 1.2Mbit/s or 21%).

This decrease is partly due to the fact that this category now contains a lower proportion of cable connections (as a result of Virgin Media’s ‘double speed’ upgrade programme), which typically deliver much higher speeds than the copper connections that make up the rest of this category.

Average speeds by technology

Of the different types of broadband technologies, Ofcom’s research found that cable broadband connections generated the greatest increases in average speeds in the six months to November 2012 – up by 10.4Mbit/s (58%) to 28.3Mbit/s.

Average actual speeds recorded for fibre connections also increased, by 9.4Mbit/s (30%) to 41.0Mbit/s, during the same period.

Average speeds for ADSL broadband – a technology that delivers broadband over copper wires – also increased, albeit by just 0.2Mbit/s (3%) to 6.0Mbit/s.

Comparisons between ISPs’ download speeds

Of the 12 ISP packages included in the report, Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 100Mbit/s service was the fastest, with the research revealing average actual speeds of 92.6Mbit/s over a 24 hour period.

Of the other superfast packages included in the research, the average download speed on BT Infinity’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s service was 63.3Mbit/s, compared with Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 60Mbit/s at 59.0Mbit/s.

BT’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s package achieved speeds of 34.2Mbit/s while Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s service had average speeds of 28.7Mbit/s.

Measuring speeds at peak times

The report contains new analysis comparing average peak time speeds (weekdays from 8pm to 10pm) with maximum connection speeds (the maximum speed achieved by each connection during the month).

Networks can become more congested at peak times resulting in lower speeds. This is known as ‘network contention'. The most significant differences in speeds achieved at peak times occurred for superfast packages.

In this category, the proportion of panellists who, on average, received more than 90% of their maximum speeds at peak times ranged from 35% for Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s service to 91% for BT’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s service.

The findings suggest that, while there was relatively little congestion in BT’s fibre network in November 2012, levels of contention were higher in Virgin Media’s cable network.

Average download speeds by ISP package

These ranges reflect the average speeds that would be achieved 95 times out of 100 if the exercise was repeated with 100 sets of different panellists. If the range of two operators overlap, then these operators offer comparable performance. These ranges are not a description of the range of speeds actually measured.

  Table showing average download speeds by ISP package

Fastest upload speeds

Ofcom’s research also looks at upload speeds, which are particularly important to those consumers looking to share large files or use real-time video communications. The average actual upload speed of a UK fixed broadband connection was 1.4Mbit/s in November 2012, 0.3Mbit/s (30%) higher than the average recorded in May 2012.

The research found that BT Infinity’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s service delivered the highest upload speeds of all the packages, averaging 16.1Mbit/s. Among the ADSL2+ packages included in the research, O2’s service provided the fastest average upload speeds at 1.0Mbit/s.

Ofcom broadband speeds research

This is Ofcom’s eighth report into fixed-line residential broadband speeds using data collected by research partner SamKnows.

The report provides data on the average performance of fixed-line residential broadband in the UK and of the individual ISP packages included in the research. In total, these packages accounted for over 60% of UK residential broadband connections in November 2012.

The results help consumers to understand the significant variations in the performance of ISP packages and, when considered alongside other factors such as price, can help them to make more informed purchasing decisions.

All of the UK’s largest ISPs are signatories to Ofcom’s Voluntary Code of Practice on broadband speeds. Ofcom is conducting mystery shopping research to check ISPs’ compliance with the code this year.

Ofcom will also be carrying out research to assess the average mobile broadband speeds received by 3G and 4G customers. Ofcom expects to conduct this research around December 2013 and publish the results in spring 2014.