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Mixed UK Results in EU Study of Broadband Speeds, Price and Coverage

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015 (2:29 pm) - Score 2,366

The European Commission’s (EC) Digital Agenda project has today published three separate studies that examine the real-world Internet speeds, coverage and prices of broadband services across most of the EU states, which also reveals how well the United Kingdom is doing.

The reports (here, here and here) use data from the end of 2014 and early 2015, thus they don’t represent the most current picture, although the information is still of interest. For example, across Europe it was found that subscribers are getting 75% of their advertised download speed, with FTTx (FTTH/P/B/C) connections delivering 83.14% and old style xDSL (ADSL) only able to offer 63.32%.

Elsewhere cable (DOCSIS3 / EuroDOCSIS) technology, such as the platform that Virgin Media uses, outperforms all other access technologies and achieves the highest level of download throughput as a percentage of advertised speed with 86.51% during the peak period (these advertised vs real speed results haven’t changed much since 2013).

Broadband Speeds

Interestingly the study of real-world broadband speeds uses an identical approach to the one taken by Ofcom, which involved installing specially customised SamKnows routers in 8,582 homes across 30 countries (we assume this includes the 2,000 or so in the UK, so it’s not an extensive sample size) and then using those to automatically monitor line performance.

The average advertised download speed across all EU countries and technologies was found to be 47.9Mbps during peak hours (up from 38.50 Mbps one year ago), which compares with 38.19Mbps of actual speed (up from 30.37Mbps a year ago). By comparison the average actual upload speed was 10.94Mbps, which is up by 35.6% from one year earlier (8.07Mbps).

The bad news for the United Kingdom is that consumers with FTTx and xDSL connections, which account for the lion’s share of our fixed line broadband market, generally received average speeds that were below the EU average. The exception being cable (DOCSIS) connections, where the UK delivered above average.

Below you can see that we’ve edited together a table of real-world download and upload speeds by country / technology type (sorry it’s quite long, but there’s a lot of data), which shows the difference. Just remember the real-world speeds don’t reflect the availability of faster connections and it usually takes time for consumers to fully adopt faster services.

european_broadband_speeds_download_2015
european_broadband_speeds_upload_2015

NOTE: Most of the results are based on peak periods as this is when the bulk of home users tend to be online.

Broadband Coverage

The results for broadband coverage (availability) doesn’t actually appear to add anything new over the report we ran in June 2015 (here), which found that overall EU fixed broadband coverage remains stable on about 97% at the end of 2014 and this falls to 68.1% for those with access to 30Mbps+ capable “superfastNext Generation Access (NGA) broadband services (FTTx/VDSL,Cable etc.). Mind you the UK figure for NGA is a pleasing 89%.

On this front the United Kingdom does quite well, albeit mainly due to the dominance of slower VDSL (FTTC) based hybrid copper and fibre based broadband technologies from BTOpenreach rather than the superior pure fibre optic (FTTH/P) solutions. It’s also worth noting that EU NGA coverage falls to just 25.1% in rural areas, which isn’t surprising as they’re usually the last to benefit from such upgrades.

The following tables show the technology vs coverage split between countries (we’ve marked red dots to help highlight the UK).

european_broadband_coverage_by_technology_2015

Broadband Price

The final study looked at retail broadband prices, which reveals that the price of broadband in the EU28 fell by about 12% between 2012 and 2015. The decline was particularly strong in the 30-100Mbps service speed category (-20% during the same period), which may reflect the impact of rising NGA competition as coverage improves.

Generally 12-30Mbps packages seem to offer the best value for money, while offers with speeds of 100Mbps+ remain in general still relatively expensive (+40-60% higher than 30-100Mbps offers). However the least expensive offers per country are, in around 80% of cases, provided by new entrants (altnets), but these usually only deliver very limited coverage.

Happily prices in the United Kingdom are generally below the EU average, although this doesn’t tell the whole story as some countries have such disproportionately high pricing that it’s probably more accurate to say that ISPs in the UK charge about the same as countries with similar markets to our own.

Sadly there’s too much data in the report to easily summarise, but as an example we have pulled out the following chart for standalone broadband packages. The columns are based on least expensive prices and expressed in EUR/PPP with VAT included.

european_standalone_broadband_prices_2015

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar GNewton

    “The bad news for the United Kingdom is that consumers with FTTx and xDSL connections, which account for the lion’s share of our fixed line broadband market, generally received average speeds that were below the EU average.”

    No surprise here, with BTs severe under-investment in fibre broadband.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Does that make any sense to anyone else or is it just me?

      You are saying that FTTx and xDSL is below average in the UK compared to others in Europe using FTTx and xDSL because of the under-investment in fibre broadband

      Eh?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      What on earth does comparing ADSL and FTTx performance between countries have to do with fibre investment? It’s just a historical reflection of pair lengths and sub-loop lengths respectively with, possibly, some reflection on packages available.

    • Avatar GNewton

      “Does that make any sense to anyone else or is it just me?”

      It’s just you who doesn’t understand it!

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Obviously not, Steve didn’t understand either.

      Your comment it totally flawed.

      If you just said that the speeds compared with Europe in general were less than average because of the lack of FTTP investment that would make sense, but you specifically quoted FTTx/xDSL.

      I think the hatred took over again before you hit Post Comment

  2. Avatar Al

    I doubt users in the 11% of the UK that doesn’t have NGA will find anything pleasing about the fact that the UK has 89% as a whole.

    • Avatar AndrewH

      Yippee!!! I have under 2 meg ADSL2 with no hope of NGA any time soon (5.5KM from my cab, commercial area).
      I am so pleased that 89% have access and my IT business is going to collapse!!
      Woohoo!!

      See, I’m pleased!
      🙂

  3. Avatar themanstan

    Population of EU 500 million people… sample size 8,582 or 0.0017%, p42 of first published study (QualityofBroadbandServicesintheEU.pdf) shows that sample size from each country is not proportional to population… e.g. Croatia 4.2M sample size 38 (sample size 1 for FTTx for gods sake…), Czech Rep 10M samples size 194 and Denmark 5.6M sample size 351…

    I know they try to do their best but… the potential for skewed results is huge…

    • Avatar GNewton

      “I know they try to do their best but… the potential for skewed results is huge…”

      Agreed. Even so, I think the below EU average speed in the UK is probably true.

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