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Ofcom – Average UK Home Broadband Speeds Jump to Reach 22.8Mbps

Posted Thursday, February 26th, 2015 (11:44 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 43,859)
Slow Broadband Speed UK Internet Download

The telecoms regulator has today published their latest Q1-2015 report into the real-world performance of the largest fixed line broadband ISPs and their customers across the United Kingdom, which found that the average download speed has increased by 21.93% over the past six months to top 22.8Mbps (NOTE: Most of this boost came from urban areas, with rural and suburban being fairly flat).

In addition, the average upload speed increased to 2.9Mbps (up from 2.4Mbps at the last report). Take note that Ofcom’s study is based on data gathered during November 2014, which was collected via specially modified routers from SamKnows that were installed in around 2,000 homes across the UK (these conducted a total of around 2.4 billion separate tests).

Sadly the limited sample size means that Ofcom’s results are only useful for reflecting the performance of those who subscribe to the markets largest ISPs, including BT, Sky Broadband, KC, EE, PlusNet, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. Never the less it’s interesting to note that, with the exception of the previous October 2014 report, the biannual performance improvements have been fairly steady.

Average UK Download Speeds (% Improvement vs Prior Report)
* February 2015 = 22.8Mbps (+21.93%)
* October 2014 = 18.7Mbps (+5.06%)
* April 2014 = 17.8Mbps (+21.09%)
* August 2013 = 14.7Mbps (+22.50%)
* March 2013 = 12Mbps (+34%)

Most of the reported performance improvement in this report stems from already well upgraded urban areas and their expanding adoption of superfast connectivity, particularly on Virgin Media’s cable network. But we’ll come back to that in a moment.

ofcom_average_uk_rural_vs_urban_broadband_speeds_h1_2015

It should be noted the availability of a superfast connection method doesn’t strictly mirror take-up, and a lot of people will still be happy to stay on slower copper ADSL2+ (up to 20Mbps) lines for the time being. Meanwhile rural areas will slowly start to see an improvement through the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme (this aims to make speeds of 24Mbps+ available to 95% of the UK by 2017). In that sense we anticipate somewhat of a performance growth spurt from rural areas over the next few years.

So, in terms of the performance by technology type, it’s no surprise to find that older style ADSL / ADSL2+ connections haven’t really moved (they remain much the same as they were several years ago), while the average performance of Virgin Media’s cable (DOCSIS / EuroDOCSIS 3.0) based broadband network manages to push above out rival “fibre broadband” (FTTx) connections (mostly because UK FTTx lines are dominated by BT’s slower up to 40-80Mbps FTTC services).

We can’t help but wonder how much of an impact FTTC crosstalk interference might be having on the FTTx scores here, especially as it’s most likely to occur in busy areas.

ofcom_average_uk_broadband_isp_speeds_by_technology_h1_2015

Specific ISP Performance and Latency

Thankfully Ofcom’s report does provide a useful breakdown of performance by different ISPs and packages, including at different times of the day. This is useful for seeing how close to advertised reality the various services tend to be, especially in terms of ADSL2+ products that perform well below the common advertised rates of ‘up to’ 16-18Mbps.

ofcom_average_download_speed_by_isp_h1_2015

In terms of mass market national broadband performance, Virgin Media clearly tops the table with their 152Mbps package and this sometimes even produces speeds of above the stated maximum.

Meanwhile FTTC products on BTOpenreach’s platform still appear to strong but be a bit more variable, especially once you pick one of the ‘up to’ 76Mbps options where issues like crosstalk interference, capacity and copper line quality constraints are likely to become far more apparent.

It goes without saying that some of the smaller fibre optic ISPs, such as Gigaclear, Hyperoptic, B4RN and others that offer service speeds of up to 1000Mbps, are often significantly faster than all of the ISPs listed above. But they’re sadly also too small to show up in Ofcom’s limited data sample.

Next we’ll take a quick look at Latency, which is a crucial measure of the time (delay in milliseconds [1000ms = 1 second]) that it takes for a single packet of data to travel from your computer to a remote server and then back again (ping).

Take note that a lower score (shortest time) is always best for latency and this measure is especially important for fans of online multiplayer games, where a low ping gives you smoother and more accurate gameplay.

ofcom_average_latency_by_isp_h1_2015
ofcom_average_latency_by_superfast_isp_h1_2015

Generally speaking there’s not a lot of difference between the ISPs and everybody should be fairly happy with the latency performance of the “superfast broadband” (30Mbps) providers, although scores of 30ms+ (e.g. TalkTalk) at the ADSL2+ end might not be perfect for some multiplayer fans (most games should still be perfectly playable).

Connection Stability

Ofcom’s report includes analysis on service disruptions (disconnections), which found that there “were no significant differences” between the average number of actual daily disconnections of 30 seconds or more for ADSL2+ based broadband services (these ranged from 0.4 to 0.9 each day per ISP).

Among the 30Mbps 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 FTTC packages to 0.5 for PlusNet’s 76Mbps FTTC and Virgin Media’s 152Mbps cable packages. Virgin’s 152Mbps package had the most disconnections longer than two minutes, an average of 0.3 per day.

Tackling Speed Complaints

It’s worth remembering that consumer broadband services are very much a “Best Efforts” solution to Internet access, where capacity is typically shared between many users in order to keep the connection affordable. Customers that want something better still have to look towards more expensive business solutions, which often come with Service Level Guarantees (SLA) and traffic prioritisation for better performance.

Meanwhile the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme with BT is also slowly working towards ensuring that 95% of the UK can gain access to superfast broadband speeds by 2017 and plenty of smaller alternative providers are making big improvements of their own. On top of that BTOpenreach and Virgin Media are constantly improving their networks and thus we anticipate that performance will continue to climb as some of those upgrades are introduced over the next 2-3 years (e.g. FTTC Vectoring, DOCSIS 3.1 etc.).

On top of that Ofcom will this year make it easier to switch ISP, but this system won’t be ready until June 2015 (here). In the meantime it’s worth remembering that most of the big ISPs have also signed up to the regulators 2010 Voluntary Broadband Speed Code of Practice, which requires ISPs to explain to new customers the access line speed that they’re likely to achieve at home, and to try to resolve any problems when speeds fall significantly below the estimate.

Any ISPs that fail to resolve the above problem must allow customers to leave, without penalty, within the first 3 months of a new contract. But switching ISP without fixing the underlying issue first may not always result in better performance, although a new provider could equally show more willingness to help.

Finally, Ofcom indicates that their future reports will introduce “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“, including moving to an annual instead of biannual report frequency (expect the first of these in Q1 2016). Apparently the samples will also be rebalanced “so it is less dominated by high-speed packages” (good to hear).

Ofcom’s UK Fixed Line Broadband Speed Study (Nov 2014 Data)
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/../Fixed_bb_speeds_November_2014.pdf

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26 Responses
  1. gerarda

    Another meaningless statistic from Ofcom as they use mean instead of median average. So according to their figures more than two thirds of connections are on a technology cannot achieve the average.

    Additionally Ofcom also notes that there has been no improvement in rural speeds in the last six months despite the BDUK rollout which suggests their data collection methodology is flawed

    • The BDUK rollout has only recently started to move more into truly rural areas, so I wouldn’t expect a massive change in data gathered for Nov 2014 (post 2015 data is more likely to show something).

    • gerarda

      I think its more likely that the 337 rural panellists is too small a sample to be statistically valid during this type of rollout

    • You could argue that Ofcom’s whole report suffers from the same problem due to the small sample of panellists in general.

    • gerarda

      Ofcom to be fair do admit that their rural data is flaky. However on the basis of their panellist data rural average speeds of 15.2mbps fall to a more realistic 5.8mbps median

  2. Al

    So in essence the faster more urban areas have gotten faster, and the slower more rural areas have seen little to no change. Tell me something I didn’t know. The more interesting report(s) on speeds might come when the more rural areas are enabled via the BDUK project. Will rural areas see a higher uptake of FTTC/P than urban areas. If you are getting a decent 12Mbps connection via ASDL2/2+ you might not feel the need to upgrade however if you are receiving only a couple of megs on a 20CN ASDLMax connection you might be more likely to upgrade.

    • Stephen

      Couldn’t agree more.I know that me and many of my neighbors will be upgrading from our 1MB/S service as soon as we get an opportunity.

    • Steve Jones

      Indeed. Many people on decent ADSL2+ speeds are probably not to worried about upgrading when it’s going to cost more, but if you can’t even able to stream iPlayer reliably then FTTC is a much easier sell.

  3. hmmm

    where do these idiots get the figures from because the 22.8mbps is totally wrong lmao dim wits

  4. Paul

    I found this an interesting read, especially how speeds on some products over the years have improved and how significant and insignificant they have improved on some services.

    The latency charts are also interesting with Virgin and Sky turning in the best performance on the 30Mb and higher charts. Interesting and contradicts what ive seen some posts here and on other sites say about those 2 organisations products. I guess it shows proof is in the testing rather than opinion 🙂

    Great news item MarkJ

  5. Roy MacDonald

    How long are the local authorities going to throw millions of pounds of tax payers money at a private company that uses it to upgrade their own systems in the most profitable areas.
    BT then charge their customers more and make existing customers sign new contracts to use the service they have been paid support money for.
    My local town got Infinity but our village received only “superfast” which seems are very different, my max download speeds are 11 meg and uploads 1 meg – as well as BT having a £94 million underspend on their budget my “superfast” and my neighbours are half of their “average speed,” yet I have a 30% increase in price and am stuck in a new 12 month contract.
    thanks
    RM

    • AndyH

      Your post is confusing.

      Infinity is a BT Retail product for superfast broadband (FTTC/P). It is available to areas that have been upgraded to NGA broadband. You are free to chose which ISP you want for FTTC/P, there are no restrictions as long as they can offer the service.

      Unless a premises receives FTTP, it’s governed by the physical capabilities of the copper line which determines the speed. Those who live a significant distance from their cabinet are unfortunately unlikely to see any benefit of FTTC. However, most people on cabinets will be able to get superfast/24Mbps+ broadband.

    • gerarda

      Not surprising people are confused as BDUK, DCMS, Bt and councils are increasingly confusing fibre broadband and superfast in order to cover up the limited coverage FTTC is capable of in rural areas

    • AndyH

      Do you have any examples of who’s actually describing ADSL as ‘superfast’?

      I thought this was solely used for fibre services.

    • fastman2

      roy i assume your cab was either upgraded by commercial of BDUIk programme, with either progamme for you to receive cira 11meg suggests you are aroud 1.1- 1.3k From the cabinet – i assume there a high number premises much closer to that cab that gained in excess of 24 m/bps within the funding envelope to enable that cab to be value for money and therefore enabled – dont forget BDUk is around XX% coverage above 24 M/bps within a defined funding envelope — your speeds wont be included in the BDUK published figure — i assume you were on less that 1.2 so only an 11x uplift for you if that is the case

    • hallelujah

      LMAO if they use that nonsense calculation at every cabinet then 100% get 24Mb or more as those under 24Mb are as you say “wont be included in the BDUK published figure”

      LOL I spose thats one way to BS the figures, just ignore the ones you do not like.

  6. Roy MacDonald

    Hi
    If its my post that is confusing I would be happy to respond to any particular question you may have.
    Basically local authority paid BT considerable sums to develop “superfast” in my area, they did, They offer me “superfast” as Infinity not available as I am too far from cabinet, they miss sell offer to me as 14meg min – to 20meg max – line doesnt go live until 14 day distance selling act runs out and I get 9-10meg downloads – far lower than the minimum they say and much less than the maximum and not near the average.
    I am stuck in new 12 month contract with an extra £72 to pay to BT for only a couple of meg increase in speed. BT whose figures an inaccurate get my money and the grant from local authority and people in a new contract.
    RM

  7. Roy MacDonald

    Hi
    Thank you very much for thatlink- they called it “superfast” (they being BT) they told me on phone and by email that as I was too far away from cabinet to get over 20meg they called this “superfast”and not infinity, they said had they been able to give me over 20meg then they would call Infinity.
    Thanks
    Roy

    • fastman2

      FYI infinity is +15 meg under 15 it is called faster total broadband what did the BTw checker say when you looked at it

    • hallelujah

      So the adverts i see for “Superfast Infinity” from BT actually do not have to exceed 24Mb?

  8. Roy MacDonald

    Hi
    They diefinitly told me 20 not 15, sorry. I did as AndyH suggested with clause 14 of terms and conditions and they immediatly agreed to end the contract whenever I wish, so now looking at other options.
    Many thanks
    RM

    • MikeW

      They offered to end the contract without offering an engineer to check out the line? That would normally be the first action to take, but I guess it depends how close to the 90 day deadline you are.

      On older stuff:

      If the bloke on the phone used the term “superfast” for something slower than 25Mbps, then he’s badly mistaken – either individually or as part of training.

      The term “superfast” is used pretty strictly to mean speeds of higher than 24Mbps, though sometimes (usually when referring to the EU) the minimum is even higher than this, at 30Mbps.

      @gerarda says that various organisations make it confusing by muddying definitions, but I find that they are less likely to be confusing now than a couple of years ago. Nowadays, the terms “NGA network” and “fibre broadband” tend to be used to refer to the technology without reference to the speed, while “superfast” has come to be more closely aligned with the speed.

      On the other hand, he’s right that there are plenty of press releases that highlight only one aspect, rather than both. With only one aspect highlighted, we can’t trust that the organisation making the release understands the difference.

      The NGA fibre-based broadband infrastructure that BT are installing (and BDUK are subsidising for around 15-20% of the country) is capable of working at “superfast” speeds when the distance from user to cabinet is less than around 1.2km, following the line. Between 1.2km and 2km, the speeds will be less than this – but are usually still an improvement on the older ADSL technology based in the exchange.

      You were sold a package based on the newer NGA, fibre-based technology, aka FTTC, using hardware that is capable of running at superfast speeds. However, because your line is too long, you can’t get these speeds.

      The consumer ISP arm of BT – aka BT Retail – only sell a product with the “Infinity” brand if the estimate is for something higher than 15mbps. If the estimate is for less, they will sell you a differently-branded product known something like “Faster Total Broadband Option 3”.

      They are the only ISP that make a branding distinction based on a speed threshold – any other ISP would have sold you a standard “fibre broadband” package, and achieved identical speeds.

      And the choice of the threshold to use for that branding is an entirely artificial choice made by marketers at BT retail; they certainly used 15Mbps in the past – but if they have changed recently to 20Mbps (as you experienced), they are free to do so. The threshold makes no difference to you.

      If you want to seek help in troubleshooting your connection, I’d suggest visiting one of the broadband forums on the net, such as http://forums.thinkbroadband.com/fibre.html

      As for subsidy funding for “superfast” speeds – you’ll probably find that somewhere in the region of 80-90% of properties on the cabinet are within the 1.2km necessary to qualify for superfast speeds (the nationwide average is that 95% of lines are within that distance of the cabinet). The subsidies being spent are focussed on those people – even though there is a percentage of collateral improvement to people like yourself, whose speeds don’t hit the magic 24Mbps+ threshold.

      However, there is more work to come from the BDUK subsidies. If you are in a significant pocket of sub-24Mbps speeds, you might find that you get re-visited in phases 2 or 3.

  9. danny

    its an absolute farce with speeds

  10. peter

    We live in rural Shropshire. Everyone is advertising fast internet round here. I just tested our connection on this site. Download = 1.3 Mb Upload = .46 Mb

    Bit of a joke really. And we run a very busy web business – any updates or video uploads – we just go out and do the shopping – come back an hour or two later and its maybe uploaded a bit of a 5 minute utube video.

    Folks complaining about whether its 24 or 48Mb need to go get a life!

  11. Brian Heslop

    Live in Dumfries & Galloway, here the exchange connections have been upgraded so that all those in the town on the highest speeds now have access to FTTC speeds, those outside the town, even within sight of the exchange have had no improvement as the cabinets are all located within a few hundred yards of the exchange. The subsidised scheme has been to give coverage, not benefit, no suprise take up is low when the higher speeds are offered to those who already had the highest speeds in the area.

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