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Deloitte Study Finds Big Broadband Speed Divide in North West England

Wednesday, Jul 3rd, 2013 (10:03 am) - Score 1,008

A new study from global financial services firm Deloitte has unsurprisingly revealed a big Digital Speed Divide between the performance of broadband internet connections across the North West of England, which it fears could damage business. Speeds were found to vary between a low of 3.94Mbps and a peak of 60Mbps+.

Ofcom’s most recent study of national UK fixed line broadband ISP speeds (here) reported that the average internet download rate was 12Mbps (Megabits per second). By comparison Deloitte’s study found the slowest speed in the rural South Lakes area of Cumbria at just 3.94Mbps, while the peak of 60Mbps+ was discovered in Manchester City Centre.

Elsewhere the firm found that people in Preston city (Lancashire) had speeds of 41Mbps, while Haydock resolved to deliver up to 26.5Mbps and Birkenhead experienced 30Mbps. Meanwhile those at the bottom were Warrington with speeds of just 6.19Mbps, Bolton on 6.51Mbps and Prestbury with 9.81Mbps.

It goes without saying that a significant divide still exists between urban and rural areas, which is sadly nothing new and has been well documented for many years. Ofcom’s own study notes that the average speed for rural areas is 5.1Mbps, which rises to 13.9Mbps in urban areas. But Deloitte also reminds us that poor speeds are also still a problem for some large towns, which we covered in more detail last year (here).

Jodi Birkett, TMT Partner at Deloitte, said (Bdaily):

What we’re seeing here is a lack of consistency. Businesses are essentially playing a lottery – some have access to superfast connections while others are having to make do with much slower speeds that would be more likely to be found in family homes. This will no doubt impact on their day-to-day activities.

Infrastructure isn’t just about roads and rail, it’s about connectivity too. Broadband has become something that all businesses completely rely on, so it should be right at the top of the priority list.

To put it plainly, those companies with slower broadband speeds are at a huge disadvantage. It’s crucial that the investment in our broadband infrastructure continues in order to level the playing field for all businesses in the North West.”

This is of course a big part of the reason why the government’s national £1.2bn strategy to make fixed line superfast broadband services available to 95% of the country by 2017 exists in the first place. Not to mention the effort to boost 3G and 4G based mobile broadband coverage out to 98-99%.

But work to focus some of this State Aid on disadvantaged urban areas has been stalled by EU competition concerns (i.e. the expectation is that private sector investment should be an easier case to make for urban areas), which has instead resulted in an equally controversial voucher scheme to help businesses cover the installation charges for faster connectivity (here).

In related news the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) is currently applying for £4.9m of EU funding, which will be on top of the £12m from the Broadband Delivery UK scheme (£150m urban broadband fund), to help upgrade local broadband infrastructure. But their plan, which is open to feedback until 1st August 2013, could face similar hurdles to those mentioned above.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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