How do UK broadband speeds compare with other nations?

How do UK broadband speeds compare with other nations?

Thursday, 25 April, 2019

In today’s always-on society, rapid broadband connections are increasingly regarded as essential, rather than a luxury.

We all want to have the fastest service possible, reducing latency and ensuring streaming services perform without buffering or stuttering.

Like a finely-honed supercar, the best internet connections should be faster than we’ll ever need.

Unfortunately, domestic connections are often hindered by national infrastructure.

It’s easy to assume UK broadband speeds are on par with other nations, but some countries offer connectivity which puts them head and shoulders above us.

They’re not the countries you might expect to claim the chequered flag, either…

Middle of the road

To continue the motor racing analogy, UK broadband speeds certainly aren’t worthy of a podium position.

In a global broadband review conducted earlier this year, our infrastructure was ranked as the 27th fastest out of 54 surveyed nations.

UK residents reported average download speeds of 55Mbps, with uploads clocking in at 12.72Mbps.

Putting these numbers into context, a one hour high definition Netflix programme would typically download in 54 seconds.

Current UK broadband speeds might seem impressive to anyone who remembers dial-up modems, or BT’s short-lived Midband service.

Visitors from other nations may not be so complimentary, especially if they’ve come from a country where full fibre connectivity is normal rather than exceptional…

In the fast lane

You might have expected Japan (a nation that knows a thing or two about speed) to top the global broadband charts.

In fact, Singapore blew them out of the water.

This island city-state registered median download speeds of 185.25Mbps – that Netflix programme mentioned above would download in just 16 seconds.

Remarkably, Singapore’s uploads were even faster, at 192.08Mbps.

That’s 15 times faster than the UK’s upload average, and worth considering before signing up to a cloud storage service like Dropbox or OneDrive.

In fairness, Singapore was a statistical anomaly.

Only Iceland’s performance came close, registering 153.3 and 155.46Mbps for downloads and uploads respectively.

The third fastest nation was South Korea – 114.31Mbps down and 90.2 up.

Nine countries recorded typical download speeds above100Mbps, including Luxembourg and Hungary.

That puts the UK’s disappointing performance into sharp focus, as does the fact Chile and Poland achieved comparable results.

On the information hard shoulder

At least things could have been worse.

Despite paying over twice as much for broadband services as we do, Bahrain residents would have to wait two minutes and 44 seconds for that Netflix programme to complete.

Cyprus achieved the lowest average upload speed of any nation surveyed with a paltry 5.45Mbps, while Brunei’s download figure of 15.15Mbps was the worst recorded.

Australia’s upload times marginally eclipsed ours, yet their download figure was a disappointing 32.96Mbps.

Other countries slower than the UK included Italy, Austria and the United Arab Emirates – despite the latter’s monthly broadband typically costing almost four times more than ours.

(Unlike the UAE, healthy competition among British broadband providers helps to keep prices competitive.)

There’s also reason to believe our underwhelming performance might be addressed by ongoing infrastructure investment.

Hyperoptic, KCOM and CityFibre are creating Fibre to the Premises networks in urban areas, while Virgin Media continue to roll out ultrafast 300Mbps FTTP services.

Two thirds of new homes built in Britain each year are sold with FTTP pre-installed and awaiting connection.

While other nations are also improving their broadband infrastructure, it’s to be hoped the UK’s performance in 2020 will see us move closer to the top of the grid than the bottom.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is an expert tech writer. He's written hundreds of guides on all things broadband!

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