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The Top 27 Fastest UK and EU Countries by Broadband ISP Speeds

Posted Wednesday, March 6th, 2013 (10:18 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 3,613)
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The publication of Ofcom’s European Broadband Scorecard yesterday was notable for its inability to compare UK fixed line broadband and mobile internet speeds with other EU states. But other real-world performance data, courtesy of Ookla.com, does still exist and can be used for a rough comparison.

Ofcom’s scorecard (here) was constructed to help the government asses its progress towards ensuring that the United Kingdom has “the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015” and the “fastest broadband of any major European country“. The outcome was intended to be rated by a balance of several factors including service speed, coverage, take-up, usage, price and choice.

Unfortunately the communications regulator was unable to procure enough “suitable data” for an effective comparison of fixed-line download speed, fixed-line upload speed and mobile download speed, which resulted in a somewhat inadequate report (internet speed is perhaps the government’s most significant and publicly identifiable target).

Ofcoms Explanation

At the time of publication we did not consider that there were suitable data available to illustrate three of the metrics in Figure 2. These were fixed-line download speed, fixed-line upload speed and mobile download speed. We have not been able to identify fixed-line upload speed and mobile download speed datasets that might be considered for publication in this Scorecard.

While fixed-line download speed datasets are publicly available, in our opinion there are limitations to the methodology used to obtain these datasets that mean that they may not offer comparable, robust estimates of national average fixed-line download speed. For this reason we have not included the data in this Scorecard.”

In fairness there’s no easy solution to the problem and even the regulators own speed testing methodology (here) suffers due to only being based off a comparatively small number of homes (under 2,000 homes took part in their most recent May 2012 study), which also excludes data from some of the most rural (Market 1) areas.

Thankfully Ookla, which runs the hugely popular Speedtest.net service, does collect speed testing data from right around the world. Admittedly the anecdotal information is far from perfect and indeed they have a tendency to drop “the slowest 30% and fastest 10%” of test data (here), which is supposedly done to help them “identify the fastest sustainable throughput“.

On top of that there’s no way to separate tests conducted by faster business connections from those of consumer lines in the home and tests from Mobile Broadband services, which are all just as likely to affect the end result.

Never the less Ookla’s information still provides for a useful, if somewhat overly optimistic, comparison of speeds. Indeed Ookla’s final Feb 2013 result for the EU27 countries of Europe has been based off around 90 million speed tests from unique IPs (post-filtering only 16m of these were actually used). So how does the UK compare?

Top 27 EU Countries by Download Speed (EU Average 16.80Mbps)

1 Lithuania 36.89 Mbps
2 Luxembourg 32.05 Mbps
3 Netherlands 29.99 Mbps
4 Sweden 28.05 Mbps
5 Romania 28.03 Mbps
6 Latvia 27.99 Mbps
7 Bulgaria 25.80 Mbps
8 Denmark 25.38 Mbps
9 Portugal 23.19 Mbps
10 Belgium 21.84 Mbps
11 Finland 20.18 Mbps
12 United Kingdom 19.26 Mbps
13 Germany 18.69 Mbps
14 Malta 17.45 Mbps
15 Estonia 17.33 Mbps
16 Hungary 17.32 Mbps
17 Czech Republic 17.12 Mbps
18 France 16.14 Mbps
19 Slovakia 14.76 Mbps
20 Austria 13.87 Mbps
21 Spain 13.83 Mbps
22 Poland 11.83 Mbps
23 Slovenia 11.73 Mbps
24 Ireland 11.17 Mbps
25 Cyprus 7.60 Mbps
26 Greece 7.12 Mbps
27 Italy 5.98 Mbps

A position of 12 (19.26Mbps) out of 27 puts us around middle of the table and leaves the UK lagging a number of predominantly East European and Scandinavian countries, which isn’t too surprising as many of them have more advanced fibre optic networks in the ground.

On the flip side we still come ahead of “major” EU countries like Germany (13), France (18) and Spain (21) but this may change in the future. For example, France has committed 20bn Euros to build a national fibre network and that’s around 20 times the equivalent BDUK spend on lesser hybrid-fibre.

Top 27 EU Countries by Upload Speed (EU Average 4.76Mbps)

1 Lithuania 29.43 Mbps
2 Latvia 18.98 Mbps
3 Romania 16.91 Mbps
4 Luxembourg 16.40 Mbps
5 Bulgaria 15.12 Mbps
6 Denmark 13.04 Mbps
7 Sweden 12.01 Mbps
8 Netherlands 9.87 Mbps
9 Czech Republic 7.48 Mbps
10 Estonia 6.51 Mbps
11 Finland 6.20 Mbps
12 Slovenia 5.25 Mbps
13 Slovakia 5.13 Mbps
14 Hungary 4.70 Mbps
15 Portugal 4.17 Mbps
16 United Kingdom 3.77 Mbps
17 France 3.52 Mbps
18 Poland 3.11 Mbps
19 Austria 3.02 Mbps
20 Belgium 2.74 Mbps
21 Germany 2.66 Mbps
22 Spain 2.53 Mbps
23 Ireland 2.44 Mbps
24 Malta 2.06 Mbps
25 Cyprus 1.44 Mbps
26 Italy 1.16 Mbps
27 Greece 0.89 Mbps

Sadly the UK places in the lower half of the table for upload speeds but at least we’re not too far off the average pace. At this point it’s worth noting that the majority of broadband connections in the UK are still delivered via ADSL or ADSL2+ links, which tend to offer upstream speeds of around 0.4Mbps – 2Mbps. Virgin Media’s cable network also offers upload speeds of 2Mbps – 12Mbps, which is still being rolled out, and FTTC lines tend to deliver 2Mbps – 20Mbps.

Generally speaking the UK could be doing a lot better, although our performance should improve as state aid funding through the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office works to expand the coverage of superfast broadband (25Mbps+) services out to 90% of people by 2015. On the other hand we’re not the only EU state investing in better broadband so others will also improve.

Just remember to take Ookla’s overly optimistic stats with a big pinch of salt. In fairness Ofcom’s report also found that the UK was hovering around mid-table.

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