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Ovum Says UK Consumers Need 10Mbps Minimum Broadband Speed

Monday, September 14th, 2015 (2:42 pm) - Score 776

London-based analyst firm Ovum has published a new report (Global Broadband Experience Scorecard 2015), which among other things concludes that for typical usage broadband ISPs must be able to deliver a minimum of 10Mbps (Megabits per second); rising to 50Mbps for users of Ultra HD (4K) video.

The report, which looked at a mix of 30 countries across the world and ranked the United Kingdom 8th overall (tied with the USA in the same position), appears to support similar calls from the national telecoms regulator (Ofcom) and not to mention last week’s report from the Federation of Small Businesses (here).

ovum broadband scorecard 2015

Overall the WHITE PAPER drew all of its analysis together and used that to highlight the three core components for delivering “the best network experience” to consumers. As usual this should be taken with a pinch of salt, since different people have different needs and that will no doubt give rise to alternative perspectives on the report’s findings.

Core Components for the Best Network Experience

1. Network performance: A stable and reliable network, waiting time (zero to maximum 3 secs), buffering (‘never’ to ‘rare’) and picture quality (‘excellent’ rating).

2. Network speed: Minimum 10Mbps for Internet applications and SD video, 50Mbps+ for UHD/HD video.

3. Excellent customer service: Issue resolution at first contact, responsive service provisioning, activation and restoration.

At present the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme is already working predominantly with BT to ensure that 95% of people can access a superfast broadband (24Mbps+) service by 2017/18. It’s also expected that a plan to reach the final 5% will surface before the end of 2015, with inferior Satellite likely to be used to fill the very last 1-2%.

But the current Universal Service Obligation (USO) only legally requires, upon an end-user request, BTOpenreach to deliver a phone line that is capable of dial-up style Internet connectivity. A review will soon look at whether or not this USO should be raised to support a minimum speed of 5Mbps, although Ofcom, Ovum and many others suggest that even this isn’t going to be fast enough.

In fairness you can do most things with a 5Mbps connection, including a single so-so quality HD video stream, but this soon begins to struggle when you enter a family or even office environment with lots of connected devices all sucking from the same pipe.

Michael Philpott, co-Author of the Report, said:

Demands on broadband service provided to consumers is compounded by the rise in connected devices. Homes in mature markets were found to typically have up to four devices connected to the network, all of which have the potential to support a wide range of applications.

Ever since broadband services were launched, there has been discussion on what is the definition of broadband and how much speed do consumers really need? In 2015, the answer is at least 10Mbps if you wish to receive a good-quality broadband experience, and a significant number of households, even in well-developed broadband countries, are well shy of this mark.

With a clear link between poor user experience and customer churn, broadband service providers need to continue to invest in broadband infrastructure in order to provide their customers with the best broadband experience and maintain a satisfied customer base.”

In political terms it’s not all bad news for the Government’s broadband policy, with the report stating that Europe “remains the best performing region” and this leadership is being “driven by high-performing countries such as France, Spain, Sweden and the UK which have high levels of high-speed infrastructure“.

Mind you it also states that the UK’s “growth momentum is exceedingly low in fixed broadband implementation“. Elsewhere the report finds that just giving high bandwidth connections is not enough to ensure satisfied customers. “Customers experiencing issues such as buffering, latency, low picture quality, or long update times are more likely to be dis-satisfied,” said Ovum.

On the flip side we must not forget that updating the USO may also attract higher costs, unless it’s expanded to cheat with include Satellite connectivity of course, but even that doesn’t come cheap and consumers may end up footing the bill.

Interestingly the Government also has an often forgotten non-binding universal commitment (USC) to deliver at least 2Mbps to all by 2016, but this has always appeared to be in a rather odd conflict with the long term aspiration for 100% coverage of “superfast” speeds.

Leave a Comment
12 Responses
  1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

    Romania as #2?

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      As ever it’s dangerous to walk the Apples-to-Apples comparison assumption route. Romania does actually have a pretty good broadband infrastructure, but there are key differences.

      The country also has a low Internet penetration rate of about 50%, while its pop is 19 million and inside a fairly small land mass. It’s a lot easier to connect a country like that.

      Also telecoms operators were so slow to catch-up that Romania established a lot of B4RN style community networks, which did more than merely fill the remote gaps like they do in the UK.

    2. Avatar Ignition says:

      Indeed Steve. High proportion of population in apartments, lots of FTTB, no vested interest in sweating copper as in many cases it either wasn’t there or was non-existent.

  2. Avatar Steve Jones says:

    Romania a small land area? It’s 92,000 square miles against the 94,000 of the UK (and only about 52,000 for England). Almost 45% of the population live in rural areas. With just 19 million that means the population density is about 1/3rd that of the UK as a whole and more like 1/5th of England’s.

    It’s actually got very large areas devoted to growing wheat and the like. Even though a lot of it is very flat, it doesn’t sound exactly easy to connect up outside urban areas where 55% of the population live.

    I rather suspect this is all a quirk of the way Ovum have generated their scorecard. It’s actually a deeply frustrating report as it’s very short on actual national statistics. My guess is that the high score is overly influenced by the growth rate from a low base.

    Better comparisons are surely with comparable European countries like Germany, The Netherlands, France and Italy. I’ve always suspicious of these scorecard type systems which use a weighting system to combine a number of different measures, both subjective and objective.

    nb. the 10mbps conclusion for some form of USO/USC is one that does make sense to me if public money or cross-subsidisation is required. At least for consumers. The Internet is approaching the point of being an essential utility, but I’m not sure that includes the ability to stream 4K. Having said that, with more remote properties, it often means FTTP so you suddenly got from sub 1mbps to ultrafast speeds.

  3. Avatar Neil says:

    “I rather suspect this is all a quirk of the way Ovum have generated their scorecard.”

    Sorry Nope Romainia as MarkJ points out is one of the best in the world for broadband and has been for several years according to several reports on the matter…

    As he also points out many projects rather than one provider were given opportunity to provide out there. A pity their rollout models was not adopted here.

  4. Avatar gerarda says:

    I think any USO should be relative to the average national speed, say 50% of it. 2Mbs was about that when mooted in 2009, and 10Mbps is about that now.

    If its a fixed figure then it will become unusable fairly quickly – 2Mbps is not sufficient for many applications already- and many more will be designed on the assumption that most people have a higher speed.

    1. Avatar Neil says:

      Some people are happy to download like a snail but want to upload at 20Mb or more for hours at a time 😉

    2. Avatar gerarda says:

      I think the USO should cover upload speeds too.

  5. Avatar Dave King says:

    I am one of the unfortunate 5% of Cornwall that has not got a fibre connection. That is 1 in 20 of the population in Cornwall are unlikely to have a usable broadband connection., And can only dream of having a USC of 2mbs by 2016.
    As for 10mbs this is never going to be achieved. (Unless you count expensive and inferior satellite)

  6. Avatar Al says:

    Yet another report which states the obvious, sure the situtation is slighlty better than a few years ago and will likely to continue to improve as the BDUK finally gets to the rural areas who are creaking along on 20CN exchnages. But the entire BDUK rollout could have been handled better.

    Better communication about what is going on with individual cabinets i.e reasons for delays , expected go live dates

    The 20CN exchanges covered under BDUK should have been done first as they would be amongest the most underivested areas with ASDLMax, whilst other exhcnages had already been upgraded to ASDL2/2+. But they went for numbers first rather than speed.

    And those on the tailend of the various BDUK voices will only get louder as they are left in the digital slowlane, but some of those could be plcated by communication along the lines I indicated above. Being left in the dark about what is going on only angers people.

    And yes I’m still waiting for FTTC/P to arrive in my part of the village, 2 of the 3 cabinets have new FTTC cabinets, and I’ve seen NGA vans running cable aloong my street and behine one of the telephone posts is a coil of cable which says FTTP. So I think part of the reason for the delay is that my part of the village is getting FTTP. But OR site still says Under review. So do I go by the physical evidenc of NGA vans laying cable, FTTP cable coiled behind a telephone pole, a new BT manhole cover by the existing cabinet or what the OR site says.

    1. Avatar Ignition says:

      20CN is nothing to do with Openreach.

      You’ve had a longer wait but by the end will be in a good place. Very, very few urban areas have FTTP, and even fewer if you remove the apartment blocks covered by Hyperoptic. There is more of it in the most rural than all urban areas thanks to BDUK and other projects.


      FTTP would’ve been relatively cheap to deploy here and in a number of other urban areas, however FTTC was way cheaper still.

  7. I agree, but if we’re setting standards then we really should be aiming higher. 20MBPS would actually stimulate the economy, especially with 4K TV sales on the rise, we’ll need fast internet to stream.

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