Average UK broadband speed hits 12Mbits/sec

Average UK broadband speeds hit double figures for the first time

Stewart Mitchell
14 Mar 2013

The average UK broadband connection download speed has hit 12Mbit/sec, breaking into double figures for the first time, according to regulator Ofcom.

Official figures show that in the six months to November 2012, average speeds jumped from 9Mbits/sec to 12Mbits/sec – a 30% increase.

At the heart of the increases is the move towards higher speed services on both ADSL and fibre. "77% of UK fixed-line residential broadband users were on packages with advertised speeds above 'up to' 10Mbits/sec, up from 58% a year earlier," Ofcom said.

The average was also bumped up by an increase in subscribers moving to superfast connections, defined by Ofcom as those with an advertised speed of 'up to' 30Mbits/sec or faster. The regulator's research shows that by November 2012, "13% of residential broadband connections were superfast, more than doubling from 5% in November 2011".

The increase reflects Virgin's moves to push customers onto faster bundles, and BT's continuing rollout and marketing of its fibre services.

According to Ofcom, the fastest downloads were delivered through Virgin Media's up to 100Mbits/sec service, which recorded average actual speeds of 92.6Mbits/sec over a 24-hour period.

The average download speed on BT Infinity’s up to 76Mbit/sec fibre-to-the-home service was 63.3Mbits/sec, compared with Virgin Media’s up to 60Mbits/sec at 59.0Mbits/sec.

BT’s up to 38Mbit/sec fibre-to-the-premises package achieved speeds of 34.2Mbits/sec while Virgin Media’s up to 30Mbit/sec service had average speeds of 28.7Mbit/sec.

Peak time slowdown

However, the improving average speeds masked figures that highlight that at peak times certain networks struggle to meet their advertised speeds, with Virgin singled out for special mention by Ofcom.

According to the regulator, between 8pm to 10pm customers on the network saw a significant slowdown due to contention, with only one in three actually getting speeds anywhere near those advertised.

“The proportion of panellists who, on average, received more than 90% of their maximum speeds at peak times ranged from 35% for Virgin Media’s 'up to' 30Mbits/sec service to 91% for BT's 'up to' 38Mbits/sec service," Ofcom said.

"The findings suggest that, while there was relatively little congestion in BT’s fibre network in November 2012, levels of contention were higher in Virgin Media’s cable network."

Slowest connections get slower

While the report makes good reading for the majority of consumers served by decent connections in areas equipped for fibre and ADSL2+, the average speeds for connections in the categories for "up to 2Mbits/sec" and "up to 10Mbits/sec" actually fell, from 5.6Mbit/sec to 4.4Mbit/sec.

Although part of this can be attributed to Virgin Media customers on old 10Mbits/sec packages seeing speeds doubled and moving out of the lower speed bracket, it does highlight the plight of people outside the footprint of Virgin and BT's fibre.

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