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Ookla Sees UK Fall in Global Rank for Mobile and Broadband Speeds

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 (9:13 am) - Score 3,631

The latest data from broadband speed testing giant Ookla (Speedtest.net) has revealed that the United Kingdom is now ranked just 42nd in the world for fixed broadband ISP download speeds (61.75Mbps average) and a dismal 49th for mobile (30.93Mbps), which compares with 29th and 46th respectively in January 2018.

According to the company’s May 2019 data, the UK also delivered average fixed line upload speeds of 14.82Mbps (11.16Mbps on mobile). The situation means that the UK’s fixed line and mobile broadband (3G / 4G) performance is now decidedly mid-table and perilously close to the global average of all countries. We’re also further away than ever from the top 10, which continues to pull away.

speedtest global index may 2019

Many people may be surprised to see a relatively wealthy country like the UK in such a position, not least when the expectation would probably be that we should be at least placing somewhere within the top 20 and not facing toward a fall into the bottom half of the world league table.

At least one of the reasons for this stems from the fact that other countries are much more advanced in their “full fibre” (FTTP) deployments, while countries like the UK and Germany have been slower to adapt (i.e. we were strong in the so-called “superfast” generation of hybrid fibre services but weak on full fibre). This is well illustrated by our awful FTTP and “ultrafast broadband” (100Mbps+) rankings within the EU (here and here).

The good news is that over the past couple of years this has begun to change and there’s now an increasingly rapid rollout of FTTP/H services (Summary of UK Full Fibre Plans), although it’s impossible to avoid the fact that deploying brand new infrastructure is an inherently slow and expensive process due to the need for extensive street works. In other words, it may be awhile before we get anywhere near that top 20 again (if ever).

NOTE: Our 4G rollout also started later than a lot of other countries and mobile networks are helped when optical fibre is readily available (capacity).

At this point it’s important to note that Ookla has a tendency to weight their results more toward the positive side and thus their reported speeds can often appear somewhat inflated in comparison to other studies, not that this helps the UK in a global ranking where the same rule is applied to all counties.

Reports like this serve a useful purpose in that they help to keep track of change, particularly in terms of take-up via faster connectivity solutions. Nevertheless it’s also very important to take such reports with a pinch of salt and to avoid conflating them too closely with network availability, which is particularly relevant for fixed line providers.

For example, it’s estimated that fixed “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks are available to almost 96% of UK premises (rising to around 98% by the end of 2020) and “ultrafast” covers nearly 60% (hopefully universal by 2033), although in reality many people have yet to upgrade (i.e. they cannot afford, are aware of or even feel the need to do so). Indeed around 35% of premises still take far slower copper ADSL lines, which is despite most now being within reach of faster networks.

Speed tests like this can also be impacted by other factors like poor home wiring, user choice of package (e.g. 1Gbps could be available but most people may still pick a slower and cheaper tier), local network congestion and slow home WiFi performance etc. Nevertheless, as stated earlier, such caveats are true for all of those countries in Ookla’s global ranking.

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12 Responses
  1. Phil says:

    Deployment of FTTP by passing properties is one thing, actually getting people on the service is another. Given the majority of the UK believe they have fibre broadband already, as that is what was sold to them, getting people onto FTTP is going to be hurdle and will see our ratings drop further in the meantime.

    Until BT Openreach are moving people over to FTTP and connecting them up regardless of the customers wants, which they will need to do in order to retire copper in the future, we aren’t going to move up those rankings anytime soon.

    1. Badem says:

      Don’t forget its not just BT in the FTTP market, plenty of other competitors are out there. But whats the point of FTTP being installed when the ISPs are selling them at tiers ranging from 80Mbo 1G – Given the current economic climate in the UK not many people will be forking out upwards of £100 a month for 1 Gig broadband from certain ISPs, they instead will remain on the most cost effective tariff, regardless of speed.

      Also the ‘majority’ of people are not in FTTP enabled areas so what product they believe they are on is a moot point, where FTTP is enabled you can expect the ISPs with the product to me ‘Migrating’ users off Copper networks onto FTTP in order to improve their ARPU for these connections.

      Fot other FTTP installs these can be delayed for a number of factors, ranging from wayleave issues installing to user changing their minds when they see the ONTs. FTTP is the future but their are always barriers to rolling the product out.

      Another point worth mentioning is SpeedTest results on OOKLA, for example which of their servers is actually set up to accurately test 1Gig connections? I know of 2 (Manchester TNP and Hull) and as more people move to FTTP that’s 2 servers getting hammered for speed tests meaning even 1 Gig capable lines are reporting results well below the expected.

      Then the same goes for mobile, but in all honesty, who users larges amounts of speed over Mobile Networks? Most I user my mobile for is streaming and that’s 7-12Mb maximum that is needed and I don’t run anything else while streaming.

  2. Toby Adams says:

    This is disgraceful. How did we let this happen? Investment in this area should be a key priority of government going forward otherwise we’ll be left behind in the dark ages.

    1. Alex says:

      Well done for ignoring/not reading the bit that said “it’s also very important to take such reports with a pinch of salt” and the reasons why

    2. Badem says:

      Investment does not fix the issue, you can throw all the money in the world at the problem but the issue lies at making your business profitable. Most speed issues are due to the old networks (Copper and Ali cable) and ‘Hybrid Fibre’ meaning speeds will be variable.

      ISPs are attempting to upgrade to FTTP to future proof the UK Telecoms network, but even rolling that out has its own barriers and until these are addressed FTTP will always be a cost driven exercise.

    3. Phil says:

      I guess the overarching question, is the slower speed in the ranking actually restricting us in anyway compared to other countries with faster broadband?

      Companies or businesses that need higher speeds do have access to faster networks and by and large are able to afford it, of course they’d like it cheaper, but it’s not priced so high that the majority of companies can not afford faster connections.

      So it leaves home users with an average of around ~60Mbps download speeds, this is plenty for video streaming up to 4K and for most other uses. Yes families may find the speed lacking if they have children/teens all wanting to stream different content to different devices, but that’s not hurting the economy.

      Now there will be examples of people with very low speeds almost good for nothing, but that would still be the case even if we were number 1 in the speed rankings, until such a time FTTP reaches every person.

  3. SimonR says:

    Do people still use Ookla? I’ve been getting such sporadic results that I rarely use them now. The server picked seems to have a massive effect on speed.

    If that’s a backbone issue, then fair enough as it’s an indication of actual speed. If some of their servers aren’t coping then add to that pinch of salt.

    I thought they didn’t really cope with fast speeds either – if so, is that still the case? People not using it because it’s not a high-speed measuring tool would also skew the results.

    That said, we’d be up at the top if it wasn’t for annoying infrastructure cancellations in the 90s.

  4. Brian says:

    Many still take copper as that is all that is available. I’m at a 1/15 of average download and 1/30 of average upload. Ten years of no action to improve speeds for those on slower longer lines.

  5. Gareth says:

    The government would rather spend 160Bn on a train that will run half way across the country, be so expensive, that only business people will be able to afford to use it and most likely go bankrupt and be sold for a £1 (to a foreign investor) like the Millennium Dome.

  6. Spurple says:

    If a country is scoring 180mbps on this chart and most people take a cheap or mid-tier package as you caveat, then “ultrafast” options must be pretty cheap. Kind of gives a hint how much we’re paying for so little eh?

  7. Trevor says:

    Jersey, UK was previously in the top 10 thanks to it’s full 1Gbps FTTH infrastructure. No statement has yet been released as to why Jersey was removed.

  8. Donal says:

    It’s worth looking at the Gigabit Broadband revolution in Ireland that started in 2015 by SIRO http://www.siro.ie – a joint venture between the state-owned ESB and Vodafone. The 100% fibre network is deployed to individual premises using ESB’s electricity overhead and underground infrastructure. It is inserted into existing ducts that already exist directly to the home. In some areas, it is simply a matter of stringing a fibre cable to existing overhead power cables.

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