According to Ofcom’s annual survey there has been a significant improvement in home broadband speeds but, they say rural areas are still lagging behind.
Ofcom found that the average fixed-line download speeds increased by 28% over the last 12 months to 46.2 megabits per second, while uploads increased by 44% to 6.2 Mbps. The main drivers for this, said Ofcom has been the increasing take-up of superfast fibre and cable broadband products.
And are we a nation of couch potatoes? Well, with the popularity of streamed TV and channels such as Netflix and Amazon Prime we now consume a mind-blowing 190 gigabytes of data a month.
93% of UK properties now had access to superfast services. But, Ofcom noted, 40% still subscribed to a copper-based ‘standard’ Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) package.
Country folk still miss out
While in urban areas 59% of connections delivered average speeds topping 30 Mbps over the peak time period, in rural areas it was just 23%. Likewise, Ofcom estimated that in urban areas just 17% of average speeds were under 10Mbps while rural areas saw 53% under 10Mbps.
Ofcom believes the major reason for this persistent discrepancy was less availability and reduced take-up of cable and fibre services in the countryside. For instance, while 95% of urban areas had superfast broadband available it was just 66% in rural regions.
They also pointed out that longer average copper line lengths in rural areas also meant lower speeds available.
England fast, Wales slow
Ofcom broke down its findings by country and found that England had the highest average download speeds at 47.8 Mbps while Wales was the slowest with 33.4Mbps. Scotland came second and Northern Ireland an honourable third.
Not what is says on the tin
According to Ofcom actual download speeds are typically lower than those advertised. Later this month, internet service providers will be obliged to quote average peak-time speeds in subsequent adverts and promotional materials, rather than the ‘up to’ figures universally used.
Switching all depends
Ofcom said that while consumers can receive better performance or higher speeds when upgrading by switching to a different ISP. It is unlikely they will experience a significant improvement when switching from one ASDL or FTTC package to another at the same advertised speed. As, Ofcom pointed out the services will be provided over the same copper line.
Ofcom highlighted that Virgin Media UK, the UK’s biggest cable provider delivered the fastest measured download speeds, averaging 193.6 Mbps over a 24-hour period. Virgin has now launched an even faster 300Mbps deal, but at the time Ofcom’s volunteers had not subscribed to this in any great numbers.
To get the figures for the survey, Ofcom installed speed-testing boxes in 4,700 volunteers’ houses for 12 months to November 2017.
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