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2020 vs 2019 – UK Broadband and Mobile Speeds vs the World

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 3,840
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We thought it might be interesting to end 2020 by looking at how the United Kingdom’s position has changed since 2019, at least in terms of the top 50 fastest countries for both fixed broadband and mobile broadband (4G, 5G) speeds. Overall the UK jumped from 52nd to 42nd for mobile, while we fell from 45th to 47th for fixed lines.

In order to create this report we made sure to keep track of the publicly available data released by Ookla, which runs the popular Speedtest.net service for testing internet connection performance. We should caveat that, in our experience, Ookla’s performance data has tended to weight more toward the optimistic side, but for the purpose of this article that same issue isn’t such a concern as it applies to every country in the table.

As usual the main differentiator for performance between countries tends to reflect a balance between the availability and take-up of faster connection types. For example, countries with a significant availability of “gigabit-capable” fixed broadband networks (e.g. full fibre FTTP and DOCSIS 3.1 cable) or strong 4G and 5G mobile availability (ideally with lots of spectrum) will usually rank highest in the table.

The United Kingdom has significantly improved its broadband and mobile infrastructure over the past decade, but such change is just as true in other countries and, judging by the results, it appears as if our development has struggled a bit to keep pace. In particular the UK was late to begin truly large-scale Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) deployments, which has left us trailing much of the EU, as well as other countries (here).

Despite those setbacks it’s worth noting that the UK is now making rapid progress on “full fibre” delivery (here and here) and we recently became one of the earliest adopters of ultrafast 5G technology. Lest we also forget that Virgin Media’s upgrade to 1Gbps capable DOCSIS 3.1 will make such speeds available to around half of the UK by the end of 2021. So we might be late to the gigabit party, but things are getting better.

The Top Fastest 50 Countries for Broadband

At the end of 2019 we recorded that the average global fixed download speed was 71.55Mbps (38.91Mbps upload), while the average global mobile download speed was 30.93Mbps (11.88Mbps upload). At that time the UK ranked 45th for fixed broadband (63.65Mbps down and 18.75Mbps up) and just 52nd for mobile (34.14Mbps down and 11.56Mbps up).

By comparison, at the same time in 2020, we recorded that the average global fixed download speed was 87.84Mbps (47.16Mbps upload), while the average global mobile download speed was 39.18Mbps (11.63Mbps upload). Meanwhile the UK ranked 47th for fixed broadband (76.49Mbps down and 22.88Mbps up) and 42nd for mobile (41.72Mbps down and 10.44Mbps up).

Overall the UK’s ranking has improved for mobile, which may be partly due to our early adoption of 5G networks (we weren’t even in the top 50 last year), but sadly we’ve fallen back a few places for fixed broadband performance because other countries have improved their position at a faster pace.

We should add that the average global latency on fixed broadband lines in 2020 was 21ms (same in UK) and 38ms on mobile (42ms in UK) – lower figures for this are faster. The following tables show how the countries compare, using only download speed as the key measure, across the top 50 countries.

NOTE: Data is gathered by ISPreview at the same time in late November each year.

Fastest 50 Countries for Fixed Broadband Speed (DL)

  Country (2020) Mbps Country (2019) Mbps
1 Singapore  229.42 Singapore  193.21
2 Hong Kong (SAR)  215.19 South Korea  164.12
3 Romania  188.55 Hong Kong (SAR)  157.64
4 Switzerland  186.4 Monaco  151.24
5 Thailand  183.58 Romania  147.87
6 Denmark  179.81 Switzerland  144.34
7 Andorra  178.1 France  131.03
8 France  177.93 Liechtenstein  130.5
9 Hungary  169.52 United States  129.81
10 Monaco  167.9 Hungary  128.42
11 United States  165.88 Sweden  127.88
12 South Korea  162.4 Andorra  127.09
13 Spain  160.41 Macau (SAR)  122.94
14 Sweden  158.73 Spain  121.84
15 Liechtenstein  154.78 Denmark  118.87
16 Macau (SAR)  154.34 Norway  118.82
17 Canada  149.35 Canada  118.62
18 Norway  146.53 Luxembourg  117.04
19 Luxembourg  144 Thailand  111.49
20 China  140.74 Netherlands  106.99
21 Chile  140.23 New Zealand  104.83
22 New Zealand  139.82 Portugal  103.34
23 Japan  139.24 Taiwan  103.32
24 Taiwan  136.95 Japan  103.31
25 Portugal  131.5 China  101.28
26 Netherlands  125.82 Latvia  98.85
27 Lithuania  120.89 Lithuania  98.38
28 Germany  120.13 Malta  93.93
29 United Arab Emirates  117.84 United Arab Emirates  90.27
30 Malta  115.45 Chile  87.73
31 Latvia  115.22 Barbados  85.67
32 Israel  113.48 Poland  85.44
33 Poland  111.81 Belgium  85.23
34 Kuwait  110.33 Panama  84.49
35 Finland  108.84 Finland  84
36 Panama  99.9 Israel  82.91
37 Barbados  98.79 Malaysia  78.13
38 San Marino  98.73 Germany  77.57
39 Belgium  97.32 Ireland  75.82
40 Moldova  93.51 San Marino  74.83
41 Ireland  93.34 Qatar  72.48
42 Qatar  91.01 Slovakia  71.03
43 Malaysia  90.81 Slovenia  66.85
44 Slovakia  90.65 Estonia  64.56
45 Slovenia  86.41 United Kingdom  63.65
46 Russia  78.07 Russia  60.73
47 United Kingdom  76.49 Italy  59.22
48 Saudi Arabia  75.42 Czech Republic  59.09
49 Italy  75.42 Kuwait  58.47
50 Estonia  74.73 Moldova  58.32

Fastest 50 Countries for Mobile Broadband Speed (DL)

  Country (2020) Mbps Country (2019) Mbps
1 South Korea  145.03 South Korea  117.79
2 United Arab Emirates  129.61 Qatar  77.07
3 China  124.39 Norway  72.8
4 Qatar  108.44 United Arab Emirates  69.72
5 Australia  88.35 Australia  68.87
6 Netherlands  88.13 Canada  67.57
7 Norway  87.37 Netherlands  62.86
8 Saudi Arabia  84.64 Croatia  59.83
9 Canada  84.54 China  58.44
10 Bulgaria  77.3 Switzerland  57.09
11 Switzerland  73.85 New Zealand  54.38
12 Denmark  66.68 Singapore  53.64
13 Croatia  66.31 Luxembourg  52.91
14 Singapore  64.06 Saudi Arabia  51.8
15 Luxembourg  62.26 Belgium  50.8
16 New Zealand  61.27 North Macedonia  50.75
17 North Macedonia  60.3 Denmark  50.67
18 Kuwait  58.95 Albania  49.92
19 Taiwan  58.71 Czech Republic  49.29
20 Cyprus  58.66 Lithuania  48.91
21 Belgium  58.12 Lebanon  47.99
22 Sweden  56.64 Malta  47.62
23 Albania  56.44 Sweden  47.34
24 Hong Kong (SAR)  56.33 Austria  46.85
25 Austria  55.19 Finland  46.35
26 Finland  53.89 Estonia  46.3
27 United States  53.44 Cyprus  45.09
28 Lithuania  53.39 Serbia  44.45
29 Bahrain  50.5 France  44.12
30 France  50.45 Montenegro  43.97
31 Germany  49.67 Taiwan  43.95
32 Estonia  48.82 Hungary  43.88
33 Serbia  48.44 Kuwait  43.28
34 Czechia  46.57 Suriname  41.66
35 Slovenia  45.77 Greece  40.74
36 Macau (SAR)  44.94 Oman  40.03
37 Hungary  43.6 United States  39.29
38 Portugal  43.27 Slovenia  38.46
39 Malta  42.19 Portugal  38.03
40 Spain  41.98 Romania  37.76
41 Trinidad and Tobago  41.81 Slovakia  36.12
42 United Kingdom  41.72 Germany  36.04
43 Romania  41.48 Moldova  35.85
44 Montenegro  41.47 Italy  35.76
45 Oman  41.24 Spain  35.52
46 Greece  41.16 Macau (SAR)  35.36
47 Lebanon  41.03 Bahrain  34.98
48 Italy  40.65 South Africa  34.91
49 Slovakia  39.78 Poland  34.67
50 Moldova  39.02 Bosnia and Herzegovina  34.61

Leave a Comment
29 Responses
  1. Avatar Han says:

    I’d like to see it adjusted for max usage allowance.

  2. Avatar Not Proud says:

    Why is the UK so terrible?

    We’ve let go and hard…

    1. Avatar Optimist says:

      @Not Proud
      Even where high speed broadband is available, many people not requiring high-bandwidth services such as streaming videos will opt for a cheaper packages. This must push down the average performance figure.

  3. Avatar Shaukat says:

    Thatcher’s legacy alive and kicking today where she let the market forces decide.

    The incumbent government owned telecoms (BT/GPO) provider wanted to rollout fibre to every premises 30 or so years ago (as the story goes) .

    Today, On fixed broadband the UK would have been in the top 5 of the chart.

    Does the UK Govt (namely the Tories) do anything to benefit the people of this country, other than sell us down the river.

    Its not always the fault of the EU.

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      The old Thatcher story keeps resurfacing on this forum, quite often even being used as an excuse of why there is no widely available fibre broadband in this backward country.

      The truth is different. Nobody has prevented BT from deploying fibre for well over decade now, this has nothing to do with Thatcher who is dead. Rather, it’s plainly an example of sheer incompetence and a prevalent “Can’t Do” culture inherited from old GPO times. This incompetence has been to the detriment of both the customers as well as BTs shareholders.

    2. Avatar Yeehaa says:

      Another thing to add, is that there was no World Wide Web, Tablets, Smartphones requiring Wi-Fi etc. back in the 1980s. Also it was felt that BT building a fibre network would scupper competition with Cable & Wireless’ new Mercury consumer phone provider and with the new cable franchise, who might have been reluctant to plough on, spending millions with building out their networks using what would have been inferior technology compared to BT’s fancy fibre network.

      Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing and of course it would have been better if the UK had this infrastructure built back then. There’s almost no doubt this country would have been world leaders in the tech industry, but that’s life.

  4. Avatar Regorimabitbackward says:

    Shaukat what you say is true BT was stopped from trying to roll out a fibre network for fear of stopping competition in a free market who would try to compete against an already big player. However that said Mercury did try and compete against BT in the then telecoms market …what happened to them? When competition did come it came in the form of cable tv telephone line included. Now it is interesting to read that customers are moving away more from some form of subscription tv packages and “cord cutting” becoming more the norm which is now why we see TV providers co-operating more with other media providers amazon now on skyQ and virgin and a healthy market of broadband suppliers. However I cannot help but think that history will eventually repeat itself as it did with the railways bus company’s motor industry where you find in the end you are left with only a few big players the small outfits having been gobbled up by the big boys

    1. Avatar Shaukat says:

      Thanks for the further and wider perspective on that, forgot about the competition about mercury (think Vodafone run the network nowadays, or cable and wireless).

      Just about remember the mercury button on landline phones.

    2. Avatar History lesson says:

      Mercury was launched by Cable & Wireless plc as a consumer competitor to newly privatised BT. You might remember the 132 sticker or Mercury button on landline telephones back in 1980s and 1990s.

      Eventually in the late 1990s Cable & Wireless plc merged Mercury Communications with the UK cable companies (most of which were US and Canadian owned): NYNEX, Videotron & Bell Cablemedia (which amazingly after all these years still has its website from the late 1990s still up and running! https://business.netcom.co.uk/bcm/Default.html BCM was itself jointly owned by Bell Canada, Jones Intercable and Cable & Wireless) to create Cable & Wireless Communications plc, which was majority owned by Cable & Wireless plc with NYNEX (now Bell Atlantic) and Bell Canada (now BCE) owning smaller stakes and the rest of the share floated on the London Stock Exchange. As a side note, Mercury one2one which was the World’s first GSM 1800 mobile phone network was never officially part of Mercury. Cable & Wireless plc owned 50% of the network alongside Media One (US West) Eventually the Mercury part of the name was dropped to one2one (which is today part of EE via Deutche Telekom’s T-Mobile UK)

      In the early 2000s NTL Inc. made a bid for the consumer division of Cable & Wireless Communications plc. The company was demerged as CWC ConsumerCo (which encompassed the cable TV, consumer Internet: mcl.net; mcmail.com; cwcom.net and residential telephone (the former Mercury telephone service) which NTL Inc. acquired and Cable & Wireless plc acquired CWC DataCo which was the business and main infrastructure division left of Mercury Communications.

      In 2010, Cable & Wireless plc demerged into Cable & Wireless Worldwide plc (where the Mercury assets were part of) and confusingly another version of Cable & Wireless Communications plc, which this time was the holding company of the international operations.

      In 2013, Cable & Wireless Worldwide plc was acquired by Vodafone. The former Mercury division today now forms part of Vodafone’s Business division.

      NTL Inc. of course went on to merge with Telewest and eventually acquire Virgin Mobile to form what we now know as Virgin Media. The few remnants of the former Mercury Communications residential side of the business have now been sold (such as the former cwcom.net ISP business to BoltBlue) and eventually closed down.

      I hope that answers your question.

  5. Avatar Billy nomates says:

    Meanwhile people like Boris and the culture secretary: “UK are world leaders in broadband”.

  6. Avatar j karna says:

    I am sorry to say that the UK is yet again the laughing stock of the world.
    Former Eastern Europe leaves the UK standing.

    1. Avatar Optimist says:

      @j karna
      “Former Eastern Europe leaves the UK standing.”
      From 2021, these countries will no longer be receiving UK taxpayers’ money via the EU so the figures might well start to change and tell a different story.

    2. Avatar j karna says:

      Moldova is not part of the EU.

    3. Avatar 125us says:

      In the top quartile is a laughing stock?

  7. Avatar Regorimabitbackward says:

    Remember the old quote “ a politician is only telling the truth when he accuses another politician of lying “

  8. Avatar Oscar says:

    We need investment in broadband. The internet is awful in this country.

    I read an article in The Guardian yesterday saying how the UK attracted more tech company venture capital than every other country in Europe combined. It now has as many “unicorns” as Germany, The Netherlands and France combined.

    Ehen we fail to provide good broadband we suppress this positive growth industry, especially when so many are working from home.

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      It is evident that commercial companies like BT aren’t able to build a widespread fibre broadband in this backward country. The cherry-picking approach and short-term ROI strategy doesn’t work, it only leads to a bigger digital divide. And it was a big mistake to throw taxpayer’s monies at a beggar like BT who as a commercial company had no need for it.

      Fibre broadband needs to be treated as a vital utility. An NBN-style approach which allows for ROI measured in many years in the future rather than having to rely on short-term gain is more appropriate.

    2. Avatar Optimist says:

      @Oscar
      “We need investment in broadband. The internet is awful in this country.”
      Have you thought of investing in such a venture yourself?

    3. Avatar Optimist says:

      @GNewton
      Reducing taxes on internet providers would help, e.g. being charged business rates simply to pass premises, then charging customers 20% VAT.
      I suspect also that investors must be waiting to see what difference LEO satellite services will make before forking out on connecting up any more hard to reach places.

    4. Avatar yeehaa says:

      The build out of NBN in Australia (NBNco) has had quite a few issue well from what I understand.

    5. Avatar The Facts says:

      @GN – how much taxpayer’s money would have to have been thrown at another company to rollout a 100% FTTP network?

    6. Avatar GNewton says:

      @The Facts: “how much taxpayer’s money would have to have been thrown at another company to rollout a 100% FTTP network?”

      Your very question shows that you didn’t understand anything at all. I suggest you do a research on the original Labor NBN in the new year, focusing on the longterm financial plan, which wouldn’t have been a longterm burden to the taxpayer.

    7. Avatar The Facts says:

      @GN – as in this. What about Virgin Media, CityFibre, Gigaclear etc. Would they be taken over or overbuilt?

      Labour will deliver free full-fibre broadband to all by 2030. We will establish British Broadband, with two arms: British Digital Infrastructure (BDI) and the British Broadband Service (BBS). We will bring the broadband-relevant parts of BT into public ownership, with a jobs guarantee for all workers in existing broadband infrastructure and retail broadband work.
      BDI will roll out the remaining 90–92% of the full-fibre network, and acquire necessary access rights to existing assets. BBS will coordinate the delivery of free broadband in tranches as the full-fibre network is rolled out, beginning with the communities worst
      served by existing broadband networks.
      Taxation of multinationals, including tech giants, will pay for the operating costs of the public full-fibre network. The plan will boost jobs, tackle regional inequality and improve quality of life as part of a mission to connect the country.

    8. Avatar GNewton says:

      @The Facts: You are simply not getting the point. My example was referring to the original Australia NBN fibre project, not about your pipe-dream of an unrealistic UK labour-style promise.

      Perhaps in this new year you’ll for a change come up with some more constructive ideas instead of constantly posting your lame questions on ISPReview or tearing down other user comments.

  9. Avatar GNewton says:

    @Optimist: Why would anyone tax windows? Well it seemed like a good idea to some in late 17th century England? And we all know the rest of the story. 🙂

    A similarly troubling tax exists today, but for light that passes underground rather than overhead – fibre rates. Not everyone realises it, but there is a tax to pay for each metre of previously dark fibre when it is lit. Details available from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Custom.

    So yes, this is just another absurdity in this backward country.

  10. Avatar Furious Sponge says:

    I live in a Bradford West Yorkshire inner city and BTs gauranteed speed was 1mb download and fibre and cable is unavailable it’s a absolute joke

  11. Avatar Leon says:

    Ha! Nice this but living here in Harrow, London in this particular appartement block the best I can get is 8mbs. Average doesn’t say everything

    1. Avatar Fastman says:

      leon so do something about it with your residents and management company of your block and get someone to install an FTTP solution for your block

  12. Avatar Fastman says:

    the facts – labour plans wouodl have cost 5 – 7 time the actual labour estimate and send evry back to GPO days what could do you want and long as it black and ps there a waiting list for 8 months – to get what your given

    no one was stupid enough to think it would work – (it was nationalisation by stealth

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