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Ofcom 2023 Study Finds Average UK Broadband ISP Speeds Hit 69.4Mbps

Thursday, Sep 14th, 2023 (11:10 am) - Score 1,384
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Ofcom’s 2023 report into UK fixed line home broadband ISP performance – the last one it plans to publish – has today revealed that the average (median) download speed has risen from 59.4Mbps last year to 69.4Mbps now (uploads went from 10.7Mbps to 18.4Mbps). But the gap between rural and urban areas remains.

The regulator’s study is based off data gathered during March 2023 via both custom modified routers from SamKnows and ISP supplied routers (CPE) with the company’s software embedded – both install inside customers homes. This method of testing, which is conducted at router level during idle periods of usage, is extremely accurate, not least because it removes the negative impact of things like local network congestion and slow WiFi.

NOTE: The small sample size largely restricts the regulator to focusing on only the biggest ISPs.

However, it’s important to remember that speed testing like this should never be directly equated to network availability. At present fixed line “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) networks are available to almost 98% of the United Kingdom, while “gigabit-capable” (1000Mbps+) networks cover over 76% – using a mix of full fibre FTTP and Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) lines – or 53% when you only look at FTTP (here).

Customers on slower copper-based ADSL2+ (up to 20-24Mbps) and FTTC (up to 40-80Mbps) lines will naturally drag the overall speed scores down in reports like this, which is important because FTTC remains highly popular (15.6 million active lines), even in locations where gigabit-capable connections are now available. Take note that ADSL is still used by 2-3 million lines, albeit mostly in areas where there are few alternatives.

Nevertheless, the take-up of faster connections is rising, but some people – even when it’s available – will always be discouraged from upgrading by issues of cost (faster services are sometimes more expensive), lack of awareness about availability, exit fees, fear of switching and so forth.

Average UK Median Download Speeds (Upload)
➤ 2023 = 69.4Mbps (18.4Mbps)
➤ 2022 = 59.4Mbps (10.7Mbps)
➤ 2021 = 50.4Mbps (9.8Mbps)
➤ 2020 = 50Mbps (9.8Mbps)
➤ 2019 = 42.1Mbps (9.3Mbps)
➤ 2018 = 37Mbps (6Mbps)
➤ 2017 = 36Mbps (5Mbps)

Ofcom’s report also gives a split of real-world average speeds by different connection technologies (see below), which for once also includes 1Gbps FTTP (full fibre) lines. On this point we should remind readers that all sorts of things can affect performance, while connections that use copper wire (FTTC, G.fast, ADSL) are negatively impacted by signal attenuation over distance.

Likewise, ISPs can also suffer from network congestion, traffic management, service faults and poor home wiring, all of which can also have an impact upon these results. Finally, take note that “fixed superfast product take-up” – as depicted below – reflects the percentage of UK consumers that have adopted a package with download speeds of 30Mbps or greater.

In addition, the reason why gigabit ‘cable’ (Virgin Media) speeds (downloads, at least) seem to be higher than similar ‘FTTP’ tiers below is largely down to how Virgin sets its profile speeds faster than their advertised rates. Put another way, it’s NOT the case that FTTP, as a technology, is slower than cable.


Sadly, there are still some parts of the UK where even so-called “superfast” connections have yet to reach (e.g. remote rural and digitally disadvantaged urban pockets). On the flip side, we continue to see a rapid commercial roll-out of gigabit-capable networks in urban areas, which are growing at a faster pace than sparse rural locations because it’s significantly harder to make an economic case for investing in remote areas.

In other words, there’s still a clear disparity of performance between urban and rural areas, which largely reflects the huge influx of commercial FTTP builds in cities and towns. On this point, Ofcom’s limited data only really considers the two most common rural broadband technologies (i.e. FTTC and ADSL) – copper ADSL lines tend to be much longer and less reliable in rural locations than urban ones.

Ofcom’s report notes that, during the 8-10pm peak-time period, there was a 26% difference between average urban (70.3Mbps) and rural (56Mbps) download speeds, which compares with 62.1 Mbps (urban) and 39.4Mbps (rural) last year. This was less than the 22.7Mbit/s (58% difference) in March 2022.


Anybody who finds themselves suffering sub-10Mbps speeds should perhaps consider the new Universal Service Obligation (USO), which sets a minimum download of at least 10Mbps for all and is available “upon request” (i.e. not an automatic upgrade). One caveat though is that BT (EE) are predominantly handing out 4G devices to tackle this, which won’t work for everybody, but you can complain if it doesn’t deliver and FTTP may be an option (this is often too expensive to deploy under the USO). In short, the USO won’t solve the problem for everybody in the final 1% of premises.

The Government are also investing £5bn via Project Gigabit to ensure that “gigabit-capable” (1Gbps+) broadband services reach at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025, before hopefully achieving “nationwide” coverage (c. 99%) by around 2030 (here). The funding for this is mainly focused on the hardest to reach “final 20%” of premises (i.e. rural and semi-rural areas), but the benefits will clearly take a long time to deliver.

Performance by ISP

Ofcom’s study also includes a brief breakdown of performance by specific broadband ISPs, which produces some interesting results for the biggest providers, but is only available in full detail via their restrictive interactive reports. However, they do provide a general summary.


We also get some indication of connection latency between different packages and technologies, which measures the responsiveness of networks – the delay (milliseconds) between a connection requesting an action and that action taking place. For example, fast-paced multiplayer video games often desire latency times below around 80ms for smooth play.

As expected, the slowest latency times come from ADSL lines on around 24ms, which is fine, but there’s also no escaping just how quick full fibre (FTTP) services can be (generally below 8ms). Meanwhile, Virgin Media’s HFC dominated network remains slightly worse than FTTC lines.


Resolving Speed Problems

Broadband speeds do sometimes fall well below initial estimates for your line and in those situations it helps to be aware of Ofcom’s Voluntary Code of Practice for Broadband Speeds, which requires member ISPs to provide reliable estimates of connection performance during the order process and to also help resolve problems when they arise.

At present the regulator’s speed code is only supported by BT, EE, Plusnet, NOW TV (NOW Broadband), TalkTalk, Utility Warehouse, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media and Zen Internet. Sadly, Vodafone remains notable for their absence.

The code (details) essentially provides customers with more information during sign-up and strengthens the right-to-exit when speeds fall below the guaranteed minimum level. Providers are now given one month to resolve the problem and if they fail then customers can walk away, penalty-free (the right to exit also applies to contracts that include phone and TV services purchased with broadband in a bundle).

Take note that this code also includes Cable (e.g. Virgin Media) and FTTP providers, although the minimum guaranteed speed level for such ISPs is measured differently because these services aren’t affected by the same performance issues as other technologies. Instead, the minimum guaranteed download speed will be at least 50% of the advertised speed of the package, rather than 10% for other connection types.

NOTE: Many smaller ISPs find that the costs involved with adapting to Ofcom’s code are too high (i.e. most won’t sign-up).

Finally, and much as previously reported (here), this is the last time that Ofcom plans to publish their annual speeds report. The regulator claims that this is because it’s no longer needed as the market has changed (we’d disagree – it’s still useful), although we suspect the desire to save money and resources – ahead of the regulator taking on responsibility for regulating internet content (Online Safety Bill) – probably plays a role too.

Ofcom Fixed Home Broadband Speeds Report 2023

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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9 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

    The really poor naming of these services is a real fail on government/industries part. I have a superfast fiber service (30Mb!) that is not superfast nor really fiber. Is it no wonder the average consumer is confused and not upgrading?

    1. Avatar photo PoweredByVeg says:

      I have Unlimited Fibre 2 with Zen which gives me a massive 38Mb for a cool £36. Almost £1 per Mb.

    2. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      @Cheesemp, I thought there was something not too long ago that started to try and correct the confusion, sure it hasn’t been finished nor adopted yet however in theory that should help. Altnets typically already describe the difference between ADSL, fttc and fttp/ftth. It’s really just about how long it takes the older customers to then realise “oh, so this fttc service was never pure fibre all along. That explains a lot”

    3. Avatar photo Tom says:

      I think BT also markets 11 Mbps ADSL as “fast”.

  2. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

    Nothing fibre about it. The way the government and OFCOM do nothing about this shows just how many shares in BT the people at the top have in the company.

  3. Avatar photo james smith says:

    no mention of 5g that decimates fixed line?

  4. Avatar photo Tom says:

    The Ookla report is also good and more up to date, it shows median fixed broadband speeds for the UK at 77 Mbps down and 22 Mbps up at 13 ms latency, this is for August 2023. Abysmal numbers, 61st in the world. In the US the average is 210 Mbps down.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Indeed. Now compare pricing in the USA versus here, how much richer they are than us, and how much of the USA has no choice but to pay those prices.

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