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Global Average Internet Speeds Top 6.3Mbps as UK Falls to 14.9Mbps

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016 (11:30 am) - Score 913

Akamai‘s latest Q3-2016 State of the Internet study finds that the average fixed line broadband download speed in the United Kingdom has fallen slightly from 15Mbps in Q2 to 14.9Mbps in Q3, which compares with a global speed of 6.3Mbps (up 2.3% from Q2). But the UK’s country ranking held at 20th.

It’s hard not to feel disappointed, particularly when looking back at the United Kingdom’s “progress” over the past three quarters of 2016 (below) that has seen precious little change in our performance scores. Luckily we’re not the only major country to suffer, with Germany’s average speeds (13.7Mbps) dropping by -2.5% in the quarter and others did something similar.

On the other hand Akamai’s monitoring cannot reflect the key aspect of network availability. For example, we know that “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) connections are estimated to cover around 91% of the UK, yet the majority of Internet users are still on cheaper and slower ADSL lines (i.e. most simply haven’t upgraded). Openreach (BT) are experimenting with a slower speed 18Mbps FTTC (VDSL2+) option that might help to bridge this gap, but that is still under trial (here).

On top of that Akamai’s figures are based on the performance of their global Content Delivery Network (this accounts for around 15-30% of all web traffic), which is an approach that often fails to accurately reflect actual end-user connection speeds. Never the less, when taken in the correct context, Akamai’s data can still be a useful measure to watch.

UK Fixed Line Broadband Performance Q3 2016 Q2 2016 Q1 2016
% of Users Able to Achieve 4Mbps+ 90% 90% 91%
% of Users Able to Achieve 10Mbps+ 53% 53% 53%
% of Users Able to Achieve 15Mbps+ 35% 36% 36%
Peak Download Speed 62.9Mbps 62.1Mbps 61Mbps
Average Download Speed
14.9Mbps 15Mbps 14.9Mbps
Global Country Ranking (Average Speeds) 20th 20th 19th

Admittedly the global average (6.3Mbps in Q1, 6.1Mbps in Q2 and now 6.3Mbps again in Q3) hasn’t exactly had the best year either, but then comparing the United Kingdom against a global average perhaps isn’t the best place for a more ambitious country to be looking.

Instead a quick glance at the Top 10 shows that we still have a fair mountain to climb. Many of the below listed countries have strong coverage of ultrafast pure fibre optic (FTTP/H) connections, although it’s worth pointing out that only one of the world’s largest 10 economics (Japan), measured by GDP, appears in the the table below.


It’s also useful to contrast the UK against other countries in Europe, which shows that we’re still holding just above the likes of major economics like Spain and Germany, while Italy and France are continuing to suffer a lot further down the list. On the other hand a lot of smaller EU states clearly seem to be running well ahead of us.

Just for a simple comparison, Germany’s country ranking (in terms of average speeds) has been as follows: Q1 = 25th, Q2 = 24th and Q3 = 26th. Meanwhile Spain’s rank has gone from Q1 = 30th, Q2 = 23rd to Q3 = 21st, which suggest that they’re likely to overtake us at some point in the future and that’s partly due to their rapid roll-out of FTTP/H.


As usual Akamai’s report also offers a glimpse into the 3G and 4G data performance of Mobile Network Operators (i.e. Mobile Broadband / 3G / 4G), which is one area where the United Kingdom appears to do better and indeed we’re the fastest country in Europe, with average mobile connection speeds of 23.7Mbps (up from 23.1Mbps in Q2).

Fastest Countries for Mobile Data by Region
• Americas: Canada, 8.9 Mbps
• Asia Pacific: Australia, 12.8 Mbps
• Europe: United Kingdom, 23.7 Mbps
• Middle East/Africa: United Arab Emirates, 13.3 Mbps

On the other hand even Akamai admits that its measurement of mobile connection speeds can be unreliable, not least due to the active use of proxies within many providers. Mobile connections are also by their very nature, mobile, and thus the quality of any given connection will vary depending upon your location, device and signal strength.

Suffice to say that we don’t cover the Mobile Connectivity aspect much due to the potential for misleading results.

Akamai’s State of the Internet Q3 2016 Report

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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
6 Responses
  1. Dumb argument says:

    What ever happened to that government and BT claim of best broadband in Europe over 5 years ago?

    1. wireless pacman says:

      We did it 🙂

      They just changed the rules to make sure we came first!!

  2. gerarda says:

    It became a we will be better than the basket case economies of Europe.

  3. FibreFred says:

    The trouble with charts like this is it is based on the products people consume. There will be a lot of people still on adsl that could get better speeds but choose not to, even if you provide the speed you cannot force people to sign up and use it.

  4. 125us says:

    The biggest problem with Akamai’s report is that it doesn’t take into account coverage. If a country just provided big cities with FTTP and offered nothing to rural areas they’d top this table. The UK could leap up this table by turning off ADSL and disconnecting low speed users.

    A useful measure would show both the mean speed and the proportion of the population able to take advantage of it. Even that is flawed – as others have pointed out, if customers vote with their wallets and buy the cheapest thing on offer the average speed will drop. That’s also a conundrum for network providers – it makes investment harder to justify when not many people actually want to buy the faster broadband services.

    It would be a bad outcome if the UK improved its standing in this report by refusing to serve any properties that could only achieve, say, sub 10Mbps broadband.

  5. MikeW says:

    Another potential “flaw” to this study is that Akamai measure the speed of the connection at the server side, so they only ever see a portion of the traffic that flows across the access network.

    This works well when aggregating results to form the “peak download speed” results. That allows it to throw away the sub-optimal speeds, and select just the best … which better maps towards a line’s actual capability.

    It is commonly said that there is no killer app for fibre. That the increase in capability is most useful when there are multiple people, multiple devices, making more use of the line.

    When the “average speed” measured by Akamai drops, even in the face of increased NGA takeup, it can do so as a result of more parallel use of the connections. A sign that more devices are being connected and being used.

    It can also be a sign that backhaul congestion is becoming more of an issue than access speeds – a little like seeing differences in the TBB x1 and x6 multithreaded speedtests.

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