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UK Falls to 47th out of 221 Countries for Average Broadband Speed

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 (7:43 am) - Score 3,650
world network and broadband connections

The annual 2020 world speeds report from research firm M-Lab and Cable.co.uk has revealed that the United Kingdom delivered an average (mean) broadband ISP download speed of 37.82Mbps, ranking us just 47th fastest in the world (that’s sharply down from 34th last year). But there are some caveats to this report.

The research stems from information gathered via 577 million speed tests (up from the 276 million conducted last year), which were carried out across the world. The average global broadband download speed was recorded as 24.83Mbps, which is more than double the 11.03Mbps recorded last year.

However, M-Lab‘s measurement platform was upgraded for 2020 and this has skewed year-on-year speed tracking, which means a direct comparison with the Mbps figures from previous years would be misleading (i.e. the average global broadband speed actually increased by a fairly steady c.20%). We should also point out that some 221 countries were included in this report, which is up from 207 last year.

Despite this we note that the average UK speed of 37.82Mbps (Megabits per second) under the new system is still well below the 64Mbps recorded by Ofcom’s 2020 fixed line broadband speeds report (here). Admittedly Ofcom used a different methodology to M-Lab (i.e. the regulator directly tested connections via a modified router, which rules out key issues like poor WiFi and local network load etc.), but that’s still a huge gap.

Despite this the UK has still seen its ranking tumble down the table this year and the report notes that we’re “now among the slowest countries in Europe.” As before, this is due in no small part to being behind on our “full fibre” (FTTP) deployments and other gigabit-capable network coverage (here and here). Suffice to say, the top countries in today’s study all have strong FTTP coverage, although the UK is starting to rapidly improve but it’s a long game of catch-up ahead.

NOTE: Jersey is ranked 2nd in this table (218.37Mbps), largely thanks to JT’s island-wide full fibre network, and similarly Gibraltar places 4th (183.09Mbps). Another British Crown dependency, the Isle of Man, ranks 40th (44.16Mbps), while Guernsey comes in at 48th (36.83Mbps).

As usual speed testing based reports like this should be taken with a pinch of salt because they can easily be misinterpreted. In particular, nobody should be equating such studies to directly reflect the availability of faster connections as the two are far from being in sync. On top of that people are more likely to measure their speed if there is something wrong or if they aren’t getting the speed they need, which can produce a negative bias.

At present it’s estimated that fixed “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks are available to over 96% of UK premises and 25% can access a “gigabit” (1Gbps+) capable network, although many people have yet to upgrade (i.e. they cannot afford, are aware of or even feel the need to upgrade). However, roughly a quarter of premises still subscribe to far slower copper ADSL lines, despite most being within reach of faster networks.

Speed tests like this can also be impacted by other factors, such as 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 (i.e. conducting a test while others or background tasks are using the network) and slow home WiFi etc. Likewise, it’s unclear whether this study has also lumped Mobile Broadband (4G etc.) speeds or business connections in with fixed line services.

Nevertheless, if we assume that such caveats will apply to all countries then the data is still useful as a rough gauge of market change and take-up across the world. The good news is that the UK Government plan to invest £5bn to boost gigabit broadband coverage across the final 20% of hardest to reach areas by the end of 2025, even if their target does seem to have been watered down.. yet again (here).

The bad news is that 2025 remains a long way away and we’re ultimately playing catch-up with those who have been deploying at scale for many years longer. We warned in last year’s report that the UK’s ranking was likely to slip and indeed that has now come to pass.

221 Countries Ranked by Average (Mean) Download Speed

Rank Country Avg. Download Speed (Mbps)
1 Liechtenstein 229.98
2 Jersey 218.37
3 Andorra 213.41
4 Gibraltar 183.09
5 Luxembourg 118.05
6 Iceland 116.88
7 Switzerland 110.45
8 Hong Kong 105.32
9 Monaco 104.98
10 Hungary 99.74
11 Netherlands 95.60
12 Aruba 89.81
13 Malta 87.36
14 Denmark 85.03
15 Aland Islands 81.31
16 Sweden 81.29
17 Bermuda 73.60
18 Singapore 72.75
19 Slovak Republic 72.26
20 United States 71.30
21 Estonia 70.90
22 Norway 67.31
23 New Zealand 66.66
24 Belgium 66.49
25 Slovenia 65.46
26 Romania 61.08
27 Cayman Islands 57.96
28 Barbados 56.90
29 Republic of Lithuania 56.63
30 Spain 55.84
31 Poland 55.40
32 Taiwan 54.77
33 Japan 54.62
34 Canada 52.60
35 Latvia 52.32
36 France 51.33
37 Puerto Rico 47.87
38 Malaysia 46.82
39 Bulgaria 46.22
40 Isle of Man 44.16
41 Finland 44.05
42 Germany 42.33
43 Republic of Korea 40.81
44 Grenada 38.64
45 Bahamas 38.14
46 Portugal 37.99
47 United Kingdom 37.82
48 Guernsey 36.83
49 Panama 36.55
50 Turks and Caicos Islands 36.29
51 Ireland 34.87
52 Croatia 33.82
53 Thailand 30.61
54 Saint Pierre and Miquelon 30.31
55 Trinidad and Tobago 29.70
56 United Arab Emirates 28.33
57 Czechia 28.12
58 Austria 27.74
59 Republic of Moldova 27.48
60 Israel 26.49
61 Greece 26.01
62 Australia 25.65
63 Montenegro 25.07
64 Russian Federation 24.98
65 Serbia 24.74
66 San Marino 24.26
67 Qatar 23.98
68 Italy 23.18
69 Uruguay 22.16
70 Virgin Islands, U.S. 21.39
71 Curaçao 20.87
72 Sri Lanka 20.73
73 Kosovo 20.30
74 Jamaica 20.01
75 Vatican City 19.12
76 Greenland 18.65
77 Madagascar 18.00
78 Brazil 17.89
79 Belize 16.57
80 Paraguay 16.50
81 Costa Rica 16.42
82 Réunion 16.35
83 Saint Lucia 16.35
84 Mexico 16.19
85 Chile 16.10
86 Belarus 16.08
87 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 15.69
88 Bosnia and Herzegovina 15.66
89 Cyprus 15.62
90 Faroe Islands 15.47
91 New Caledonia 15.15
92 Ukraine 15.09
93 Macau 14.66
94 Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 14.54
95 Saint Martin 14.49
96 Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba 14.28
97 South Africa 14.04
98 Martinique 14.02
99 Virgin Islands, British 13.63
100 Georgia 13.50
101 India 13.46
102 Vietnam 13.41
103 Saudi Arabia 12.67
104 Albania 12.36
105 Oman 12.25
106 Kuwait 12.06
107 Armenia 11.86
108 Guadeloupe 11.49
109 North Macedonia 11.48
110 American Samoa 11.28
111 Bahrain 10.87
112 Dominican Republic 10.69
113 Dominica 9.96
114 Antigua and Barbuda 9.63
115 Northern Mariana Islands 9.53
116 Brunei 8.97
117 Turkey 8.86
118 Fiji 8.83
119 Colombia 8.80
120 Philippines 8.77
121 Ecuador 8.48
122 Kenya 8.20
123 Peru 7.98
124 Guatemala 7.61
125 Lesotho 7.43
126 Mauritius 7.28
127 Indonesia 7.16
128 Saint Kitts and Nevis 7.11
129 Myanmar 7.11
130 Zimbabwe 6.92
131 Liberia 6.83
132 Nicaragua 6.65
133 Cape Verde 6.64
134 Morocco 6.55
135 Saint Barthélemy 6.30
136 Argentina 6.20
137 El Salvador 6.13
138 Guam 5.95
139 Honduras 5.93
140 Senegal 5.93
141 Maldives 5.88
142 French Guiana 5.80
143 Haiti 5.75
144 Tunisia 5.66
145 Cote D’Ivoire 5.55
146 Kyrgyzstan 5.47
147 Ghana 5.46
148 Anguilla 5.38
149 Mongolia 5.25
150 Nepal 5.22
151 Cambodia 5.21
152 Uganda 5.16
153 Bolivia 5.06
154 Kazakhstan 5.01
155 Azerbaijan 4.89
156 Comoros 4.85
157 Egypt 4.71
158 Sint Maarten 4.69
159 Bhutan 4.62
160 United Republic of Tanzania 4.54
161 Eswatini 4.51
162 Iran 4.50
163 Federated States of Micronesia 4.49
164 Lao People’s Democratic Republic 4.47
165 Guyana 4.43
166 Suriname 4.42
167 Gabon 4.37
168 French Polynesia 4.28
169 Palau 4.24
170 Burkina Faso 4.19
171 Angola 4.15
172 Malawi 4.07
173 Burundi 4.04
174 Togo 4.03
175 Seychelles 3.96
176 Namibia 3.91
177 Sierra Leone 3.86
178 Zambia 3.84
179 Rwanda 3.80
180 Mayotte 3.52
181 Mozambique 3.47
182 Mali 3.45
183 Nigeria 3.34
184 Bangladesh 3.24
185 Cuba 3.16
186 Palestine 3.13
187 Guinea 3.04
188 Botswana 2.78
189 Cameroon 2.78
190 Niger 2.77
191 Marshall Islands 2.75
192 Iraq 2.69
193 Papua New Guinea 2.67
194 Libya 2.60
195 Lebanon 2.34
196 Chad 2.25
197 Vanuatu 2.22
198 Pakistan 2.14
199 Uzbekistan 2.10
200 China 2.09
201 DR Congo 2.06
202 Republic of the Congo 2.00
203 São Tomé and Príncipe 1.99
204 Algeria 1.83
205 Benin 1.67
206 Guinea-Bissau 1.61
207 Venezuela 1.61
208 Gambia 1.60
209 Djibouti 1.50
210 Mauritania 1.47
211 Afghanistan 1.37
212 Sudan 1.35
213 Somalia 1.14
214 Ethiopia 1.12
215 Tajikistan 1.01
216 Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste 0.89
217 Syrian Arab Republic 0.76
218 Equatorial Guinea 0.75
219 Turkmenistan 0.74
220 Yemen 0.65
221 South Sudan 0.58

UPDATE 4:55pm

Rural ISP County Broadband has just added a comment.

Lloyd Felton, CEO of County Broadband, said:

“We’re disappointed but not surprised to see once again another report showing that the UK is languishing near the bottom of a global broadband league.

The Covid-19 lockdown exposed just how poor and unfit the UK’s current copper-based digital infrastructure is – from Zoom meeting drop-outs to Netflix binge bufferings. We urgently need to catch up with the rest of the world by building new Hyperfast networks.

We were thrilled to connect the first set of thousands of residents and businesses to our growing network during lockdown in Essex, with engineers being granted key worker status.

We are continuing to hold virtual public meetings and progress our rollout plans to turbo-charge broadband for thousands more in desperate need.”

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar Alex says:

    Self-serving and myopic ‘research’ from a switching site.

    1. Avatar Mike says:

      The best switching site is this site, the review section is gold.

  2. Avatar Rural Lives Matter says:

    According this this data, many if not most of the third world countries have much better average broadband speeds than myself and many other rural UK households. Will the BT/Openreach, Ofcom and the UK government discrimination of Rural UK citizens ever end?

    1. Avatar Some guy who lives in a village says:

      ISPs are pretty much incentivised not to lay cables to rural locations due to their lack of demand. The UK government is trying to solve it by throwing money at the problem so they can meet their 2025 “gigabit-capable” goals. Nevertheless, as time goes on, rural internet will improve as newer technologies allow for things like the lower cost of laying down fibre cables or wider adaption of 5G or faster fixed wireless technologies.

    2. Avatar 125us says:

      Be careful what you wish for. Some countries achieve high average speeds by simply declining to serve locations that would lower the average. The U.K. is very high up the list of broadband availability. Some countries have very high average speeds but only available to people who live in major cities.

      The U.K. could storm up this table by turning off rural customers completely. Any sensible measure must include bandwidth, affordability and availability.

  3. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    This story in 2018 pretty much summed it up back then.

    https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2018/01/government-hails-95-uk-coverage-24mbps-superfast-broadband.html

    This was a collective pat on the back for UK government and perceived as a case of JOB DONE the UK is now “superfast”!

    This is why. If MP’s who are predominantly less likely to understand most things technical see a sentence like that it makes them wonder why anyone needs anything faster.

    From this article “At present it’s estimated that fixed “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks are available to over 96% of UK premises”
    So in 2 years they’ve managed another 1% then!

    The reality is the entire UK industry rested on their laurels, paid their execs big bonuses and invested very little.

    24Mbps may have been superfast in 2010, but I wouldn’t award it the moniker “fast” in 2020 because it isn’t. 24Mbps in 2020 is “adequate” at best, and utterly useless when you actually need it to download really big files (or update a console game!).

    The wording of how fast broadband is in the UK is now impeding our progress to the real fast services.

    Superfast 24Mbps needs to be rebranded “adequate” and sold as such IMHO.

  4. Avatar Aimdev says:

    I am not surprised we are low on the list.

    Considering there are 610,000 properties below Superfast (24Mbs), paid for with public money, and if you take into consideration Superfast is now 30Mbs, there will be many more.

    It would have been more informative if the UK figures were split into the individual countries, guess this will come in time 🙂

    It would have been a different picture if the government had made the correct decision in 1998, and now history is repeating it self.

  5. Avatar oscarandjo says:

    It’s time to stop lying to ourselves. We need to ban the advertising of Virgin Media’s DOCSIS broadband and Openreach’s telephone-line broadband as “fibre”.

    Unless there’s a fibre optic cable going into your property they shouldn’t be allowed to call it Fibre.

    Next we need to abandon this delusion that copper will ever deliver the results we want. DOCSIS 3.1 and G-Fast are just delaying the inevitable and burying our heads in the sand to the realty that we need to spend a lot of cash and build a full fibre, fully connected country – and we should have done it 5-10 years ago like everyone else.

    1. Avatar 125us says:

      Everyone else? There are only a handful of countries that have done that.

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