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UK Climbs to 43rd out of 224 Countries for Broadband Speed

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 1,728
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The annual 2021 global speeds report from research firm M-Lab and Cable.co.uk has reported that the United Kingdom delivered an average (mean) broadband ISP download speed of 51.48Mbps (up from 37.82Mbps last year), ranking us 43rd fastest in the world (up from 47th last year, but still down from 34th in 2019).

The research stems from information gathered via 1.166 billion speed tests via around 250 million unique IP (user) addresses, which were carried out across the world via 224 countries (up from 221 last year). The average global broadband download speed was recorded as 29.79Mbps (Megabits per second), which is up slightly from 24.83Mbps last year.

On the surface, some may remark that the latest figure of 51.48Mbps for the UK is remarkably similar to the latest data from Ofcom (here), which was published last week and recorded an average download rate of 50.4Mbps. However, Cable.co.uk are using a “mean” average, while Ofcom used a “median“, and if we convert the regulator’s data to a “mean” then it comes out at just over 79Mbps. But both studies used very different methodologies (e.g. the regulator directly tested connections via a modified router, which rules out key issues like poor WiFi and local network load etc.).

The good news is that the UK’s global country ranking did improve, if only slightly. But at 51.48Mbps the UK ranks 20th out of 29 states in Western Europe, or ninth slowest. Average speeds in the UK are roughly 57% of the Western European average (90.56Mbps). As before, this is due in no small part to the UK being behind on our “full fibre” (FTTP) and other gigabit-capable network coverage, but we are rapidly improving (here).

By comparison, the five “countries” with the fastest internet speeds in the world are Jersey (274.27Mbps), Liechtenstein (211.26Mbps), Iceland (191.83Mbps), Andorra (164.66Mbps) and Gibraltar (151.34Mbps). All five are within Western Europe and all are either very small or they are island nations, where FTTP is usually prevalent and often easier to deploy.

On the flip side, the five countries in the world with the slowest network speeds are Turkmenistan (0.50Mbps), Yemen (0.68Mbps), Ethiopia (1.20), Guinea-Bissau (1.24Mbps), and Equatorial Guinea (1.30Mbps).

Caveats of the Data

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.

An Ofcom spokesperson said:

“Comparisons like this should be treated with caution. The speeds people actually get and the speeds people could get are not the same thing. Superfast broadband is available to the vast majority of UK homes, but millions of people are yet to take this up. Many customers might be surprised to learn they can upgrade to faster speeds, for no extra cost.”

Just for some context, Ofcom reports that fixed “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) networks are available to over 96% of UK premises and 40% can access a “gigabit” (1Gbps+) capable network (24% if you only include FTTP networks), although many people have yet to upgrade (i.e. they cannot afford, are aware of or even feel the need to upgrade). Meanwhile c.17% of premises still subscribe to far slower copper ADSL lines.

Such testing can also be impacted by other factors, such as poor home wiring, user choice of package (e.g. 1Gbps could be available, but 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, 5G etc.) speeds or business connections in with fixed line services to homes.

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 UK Government’s new £5bn Project Gigabit programme, which aims to extend gigabit coverage to at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025, will also help to improve matters, eventually.

224 Countries Ranked by Average (Mean) Download Speed

Rank Country Avg. Download Speed (Mbps)
1 Jersey 274.27
2 Liechtenstein 211.26
3 Iceland 191.83
4 Andorra 164.66
5 Gibraltar 151.34
6 Monaco 144.29
7 Macau 128.56
8 Luxembourg 107.94
9 Netherlands 107.30
10 Hungary 104.07
11 Singapore 97.61
12 Bermuda 96.54
13 Japan 96.36
14 United States 92.42
15 Hong Kong 91.04
16 Spain 89.59
17 Sweden 88.98
18 Norway 88.67
19 France 85.96
20 New Zealand 85.95
21 Malta 85.20
22 Estonia 84.72
23 Aland Islands 81.31
24 Canada 79.96
25 Belgium 78.46
26 Vatican City 73.49
27 Cayman Islands 71.47
28 Aruba 70.66
29 Romania 67.40
30 Slovenia 67.20
31 Poland 63.84
32 Bulgaria 63.41
33 Latvia 63.28
34 Portugal 63.02
35 Republic of Korea 61.72
36 Germany 60.55
37 Republic of Lithuania 56.17
38 Barbados 55.92
39 Finland 55.08
40 Slovak Republic 54.92
41 Thailand 53.95
42 Isle of Man 52.10
43 United Kingdom 51.48
44 Ireland 51.41
45 Switzerland 50.83
46 Croatia 49.77
47 Denmark 49.24
48 Saint Pierre and Miquelon 47.92
49 Taiwan 46.43
50 Réunion 43.62
51 Malaysia 42.83
52 Greenland 41.56
53 San Marino 40.55
54 Puerto Rico 40.52
55 Australia 40.50
56 Saint Martin 40.19
57 Montenegro 40.14
58 Bahamas 39.71
59 Austria 37.99
60 Czechia 37.23
61 Italy 36.69
62 Serbia 36.59
63 Republic of Moldova 36.47
64 Turks and Caicos Islands 36.09
65 Trinidad and Tobago 35.81
66 Russian Federation 35.73
67 Israel 34.97
68 Brazil 33.34
69 New Caledonia 31.79
70 Bosnia and Herzegovina 31.72
71 Guernsey 31.20
72 Panama 30.58
73 United Arab Emirates 29.90
74 Greece 29.76
75 Virgin Islands, U.S. 29.34
76 Cyprus 28.30
77 Ukraine 25.26
78 Qatar 24.16
79 Belize 23.12
80 India 22.53
81 Kosovo 22.21
82 Uruguay 21.73
83 Faroe Islands 21.59
84 Guadeloupe 21.32
85 Jamaica 20.96
86 Guam 20.76
87 Vietnam 20.66
88 Grenada 20.49
89 Curaçao 20.18
90 South Africa 19.94
91 Martinique 19.88
92 Belarus 19.86
93 Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba 19.60
94 Paraguay 19.41
95 Virgin Islands, British 19.40
96 Albania 19.36
97 Costa Rica 19.02
98 Mexico 18.83
99 Saudi Arabia 18.10
100 Kuwait 18.06
101 Armenia 18.05
102 Philippines 16.84
103 Oman 16.73
104 Bahrain 16.37
105 Madagascar 16.28
106 Brunei 15.79
107 North Macedonia 15.38
108 Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 15.25
109 Saint Lucia 15.02
110 Mongolia 14.94
111 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 14.32
112 Georgia 13.83
113 Chile 13.76
114 Northern Mariana Islands 13.15
115 Colombia 13.13
116 Saint Kitts and Nevis 12.96
117 Dominica 12.41
118 Saint Barthélemy 12.25
119 Haiti 12.12
120 Republic of the Congo 12.07
121 Seychelles 12.04
122 Dominican Republic 11.87
123 American Samoa 11.76
124 Turkey 11.58
125 Peru 11.35
126 Kenya 11.27
127 French Guiana 10.99
128 Burkina Faso 10.73
129 Morocco 10.33
130 Ecuador 10.25
131 El Salvador 9.95
132 Sri Lanka 9.95
133 Guatemala 9.85
134 Nicaragua 9.75
135 Indonesia 9.58
136 Cote D’Ivoire 9.54
137 Fiji 9.40
138 Guyana 9.26
139 Ghana 9.23
140 Anguilla 9.00
141 Antigua and Barbuda 8.69
142 Nigeria 8.68
143 Argentina 8.68
144 United Republic of Tanzania 8.60
145 Mauritius 8.53
146 Uganda 8.52
147 Cambodia 8.49
148 Lesotho 8.46
149 Cape Verde 7.94
150 Zimbabwe 7.92
151 Mayotte 7.70
152 French Polynesia 7.67
153 Tunisia 7.46
154 Maldives 7.45
155 Kyrgyzstan 7.44
156 Suriname 7.44
157 Bolivia 7.36
158 Mozambique 7.17
159 Honduras 7.17
160 Iran 7.05
161 Senegal 7.02
162 Egypt 6.94
163 Nepal 6.84
164 Samoa 6.80
165 Marshall Islands 6.71
166 Uzbekistan 6.64
167 Azerbaijan 6.63
168 Bhutan 6.44
169 Rwanda 6.29
170 Sint Maarten 6.15
171 Lao People’s Democratic Republic 5.91
172 Angola 5.88
173 Kazakhstan 5.83
174 Lebanon 5.67
175 Iraq 5.58
176 Zambia 5.48
177 Solomon Islands 5.33
178 Liberia 5.23
179 Papua New Guinea 5.10
180 Gabon 4.99
181 Malawi 4.96
182 Palau 4.84
183 Mali 4.72
184 Myanmar 4.58
185 Namibia 4.42
186 Comoros 3.99
187 Eswatini 3.73
188 Libya 3.73
189 Botswana 3.65
190 Palestine 3.65
191 DR Congo 3.63
192 Togo 3.54
193 Niger 3.23
194 Algeria 3.08
195 Cameroon 3.04
196 Cuba 2.92
197 Bangladesh 2.90
198 Vanuatu 2.90
199 Pakistan 2.82
200 Burundi 2.82
201 Venezuela 2.62
202 Benin 2.59
203 Mauritania 2.54
204 São Tomé and Príncipe 2.43
205 Eritrea 2.41
206 Guinea 2.39
207 Chad 2.39
208 Sierra Leone 2.19
209 China 2.06
210 Gambia 2.04
211 Tajikistan 1.82
212 Sudan 1.80
213 Syrian Arab Republic 1.67
214 Federated States of Micronesia 1.63
215 Somalia 1.59
216 Djibouti 1.46
217 Afghanistan 1.41
218 South Sudan 1.40
219 Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste 1.33
220 Equatorial Guinea 1.30
221 Guinea-Bissau 1.24
222 Ethiopia 1.20
223 Yemen 0.68
224 Turkmenistan 0.50

We should add that countries where fewer than 100 measurements could be taken during the sample period were excluded from the study, which includes Norfolk Island, Antarctica, U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, Niue, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, North Korea, Cocos [Keeling] Islands, French Southern Territories, Montserrat, Falkland Islands, Tuvalu, Bouvet Island, Tonga, Nauru, Christmas Island, Tokelau, Western Sahara, Cook Islands, British Indian Ocean Territory, Central African Republic, Wallis and Futuna, and Kiribati.

Just for the record, the limited data that was supplied for the Falkland Islands, which is fed by satellite connectivity, revealed an average speed of 14.42Mbps.

Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. NGA for all says:

    Having gone down the FTTC route including FTTC_Cure, unless you start constraining FTTC it will be difficult to orchestrate a big take-up of FTTP by those already on 30-80Mbps services. Demand for FTTP is proven where it has been deployed first.

    I am not sure why £5bn keeps been referenced alongside 2025 as Treasury has only committed £1.1bn, which has a 9 month and counting delay. £5bn public expenditure and achieving 85% are not related. It is just useless propaganda.

    Rural should be measured separately where the UK should be significantly up the rankings.

    1. M says:

      No other country separates their rural communities from this data, why should the UK? We don’t have an abnormal number of people living outside of cities (based on https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL.IN.ZS?most_recent_value_desc=true)

    2. NGA for all says:

      Fair question. The magic of the market is supposed to fix urban, some Government involvement is expected in rural. If you measure and report on both, you can stand a better chance of understanding of what might be needed.

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