Broadband in the UK officially sucks, lagging behind most of Europe and South East Asia

Britain’s broadband is poor. That’s not a flippant statement about my own home broadband: it’s the finding from a new report looking into the average broadband download speed in the UK. Reported to be as low as 16.5Mbits/sec, that makes us 31st fastest in the world, trailing behind most of Europe, parts of east Asia and New Zealand.

Broadband in the UK officially sucks, lagging behind most of Europe and South East Asia

We’ve also slipped from being the 14th fastest in Europe in 2011 to 20th.

You might think 16.5Mbits/sec is fine for day-to-day use, seeing as that sits at just a bit faster than your average 4G speed, but that equates to almost an hour to download a film that’s around two hours long. It’s also unusably slow to stream 4K or run a family household’s internet usage reliably – despite Ofcom’s beliefs that 10Mbits/sec broadband will suffice. It certainly doesn’t make the UK future-proof enough for the plans outlined in this year’s Digital Economy Act.

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At 16.5Mbits/sec, the average UK broadband speed is less than a third as fast as Singapore’s. It should come as no surprise that the technologically advanced nation is steaming ahead in terms of connectivity, but it’s still hard to imagine having average broadband speeds capable of downloading a 7.5GB film in less than 20 minutes.

In Europe, Sweden leads the way with 40Mbits/sec speeds, and Britain sits behind the likes of Germany (18.8Mbits/sec), Spain (19.6Mbits/sec) and Hungary (23Mbits/sec). For those of you who revel in British mistakes, 17 of the 19 European nations Britain lags behind are all members of the EU.

Outside of Europe, Britain also lags behind New Zealand (16.6Mbits/sec), Canada (18Mbits/sec) and the US (20Mbits/sec) – a country known for its notoriously bad broadband infrastructure.

One solace for proud Brits is that Britain’s broadband is better than both France and Italy, who ranked 37th and 46th respectively.

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“These results offer us a fresh perspective on where we sit in the broadband world,” says Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at, which produced the report. “Relatively speaking, we are near the top of the table. However, many of those ahead of us – some a long way ahead – are our neighbours both in the European Union and wider Europe. Is it good enough to lag behind 20 other European countries in terms of broadband speed?”

The report examined global data from 63 million speed tests over a one-year period. put together the report with M-Lab, an open-source internet-measurement company, along with a selection of partners including New America’s Open Technology Institute, Google Open Source and Princeton University’s Planet Lab. You can see the full list of rankings here.

Last November, Ofcom stated that the average download speed in the UK reached 36Mbits/sec, but’s report suggests otherwise.

uSwitch’s broadband expert Ewan Taylor-Gibson believes that more needs to be done to not just improve infrastructure, but also communicate what’s available to users in the UK.

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“In order to improve the state of play across the nation, there needs to be a concerted effort not just to invest but to make sure consumers are aware of what superfast services are available and what a notable difference these services can make,” he said. “As it stands, 90% of premises should be able to access superfast broadband – but only 57% of broadband users believe they can access superfast in their area.

“In order to make sure we have a broadband network that works for everyone, not only does the UK need to keep investing, but providers need to be clearer about what’s on offer – particularly when it comes to speeds.”

If the government wants to achieve its goal of 95% of the UK having superfast broadband by the end of 2017, it can’t keep offering inferior speeds. With Britain setting sail from the EU to go it alone, we can’t be in a situation where we’re already on the back foot in one of the most important areas of modern infrastructure.

If you want to find the best broadband provider for you, our sister publication Expert Reviews has put together a guide on the best broadband in Britain.

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