Home » Help » Why is UK Broadband lagging behind?

Why is UK Broadband lagging behind?

Why is UK Broadband lagging behind?

Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

The UK has played a leading role in the development of computing and the internet.

From the ZX Spectrum to the World Wide Web, our contribution to the digital revolution has been surpassed only by America – a nation with five times our population.

However, while our software development firms and technology innovations continue to lead the world, the same can’t be said for our broadband infrastructure.

In fact, UK broadband speeds are disappointing compared to many developed nations – and even a few developing ones.

So how bad is our internet infrastructure?

UK broadband speeds in context

From June 2017 to May 2018, the UK’s mean download speed was 18.57Mbps, with an average 5GB file download taking 36 minutes and 46 seconds to complete.

That places us 35th in the world.

Not only do the likes of Germany and America outperform UK broadband speeds, supposedly ‘minnow’ nations like Madagascar, Andorra and Taiwan do as well.

Residents of Romania enjoy broadband speeds more than twice as fast as ours, despite overthrowing Communist rule less than 30 years ago.

Even Romania only ranks fifth in M-Lab’s definitive survey of mean national broadband speeds, behind the Scandinavian nations of Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

And while some cite issues extending the UK’s broadband infrastructure to remote regions and lightly-populated islands, similar challenges haven’t held Singapore back.

This island nation tops the global charts, achieving a mean download speed of 60.39Mbps.

In Singapore, that 5GB file would be downloaded in just over 11 minutes.

Is there any good news?

Although UK broadband speeds are disappointing, we do enjoy faster connections than many developed nations.

Our 18.57Mbps speeds compare favourably to Italy (15.10), Australia (11.69), the UAE (4.35) and Argentina (3.18).

Armenia was Europe’s worst-performing nation, with mean speeds of 3.94Mbps.

Even this trumped Yemen, which recorded just 0.31Mbps.

What’s causing the UK’s poor performance?

In a year when four nations (including France) overtook us in M-Lab’s overall rankings, the UK’s broadband infrastructure has to take a great deal of blame.

Line speeds are improving, but nowhere near as rapidly as in other countries.

Many observers point the finger at Openreach, who claim the cost of introducing fibre-to-the-premises broadband across the country is unjustifiable.

That means we have ultrafast fibre cables extending to our local telephone exchanges, with inefficient and outdated copper wires completing the data connection to our homes.

Fibre-to-the-cabinet delivery throttles achievable line speeds, and even Openreach have admitted there is “more to do” in response to sustained criticism.

Companies like Virgin Media and Cityfibre are rolling out their own Fibre to the Premises services, with no dilution of achievable speeds.

However, with limited availability for these (predominantly urban) services, millions of UK residents look set to end this decade stuck in the information superhighway’s slow lane.

Neil Cumins author picture

By:

Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!

News What's the story?

Keep up with the latest developments in UK broadband.

The biggest malware threats of 2020…so far

It’s been a year few of us will forget in a hurry, and we're only halfway through.

The biggest malware threats of 2020…so farThe biggest malware threats of 2020…so far Read more

Instagram could become the main news source for young people.

Reuters finds changes in the way younger users consume the news.

Read more

BT launches second line service

BT launches second broadband home line service for the new crop of home workers.

Read more

Best broadband areas for online gaming in the UK.

Read more

Help Learn with us

Make the most of the internet with our broadband library.

How to check if your broadband is down

It might seem obvious that an outage has occurred, but there are easy ways to check if your broadband is down, or whether the problem is more localised

How to check if your broadband is downHow to check if your broadband is down Read more

A guide to Big Tech alternatives.

It seems like we’re reliant on a small group of companies, are there alternatives?

Read more

Quick tips for boosting home broadband speed

Boosting speed can transform activities like streaming, gaming and accessing cloud storage

Read more

What’s the difference between hardware, firmware and software?

Read more