How does UK broadband speed compare globally in 2021?

Our sluggish home broadband is often lamented, but the UK actually offers comparatively okay-ish average speeds.

Monday, 22 November, 2021

It’s hard to get a sense of how other countries manage their telecommunications infrastructure unless you live there for a while.

Hotels, shopping centres and airports tend to provide the only WiFi tourists get to experience, generating a rather misleading impression of how efficient their broadband networks are.

As a result, global surveys provide the best indication of how domestic broadband speeds compare to other nations.

The results for 2021 are (rather belatedly) in, and it’s not as bad as you might expect…

43rd among equals

The headline statistic is that the UK ranked 43rd out of 224 surveyed nations for ISP-provided broadband speed.

Any country holding its own ISO 3166 Country Code was eligible for inclusion.

(It’s worth pointing out the UN only recognises 193 sovereign states, but we’ll set aside arguments about whether the 50 inhabitants of the Pitcairn Islands qualify as a separate country.)

We’ll also ignore the 25 states, dependent territories and nations who didn’t generate enough data to be included in M-Lab’s survey – the Falkland Islands, Antarctica, North Korea and so forth.

Ranking in the top 50 out of 224 contributing countries isn’t such a bad achievement, considering how we’ve become used to complaining about slow home internet.

And while some nations delivered surprising home broadband speeds, there were common trends on show.

Small islands with compact, condensed populations tended to perform especially well, with Jersey and Gibraltar in the top five.

Tiny states like Monaco and Luxembourg also achieved top ten finishes, all recording average download speeds of over 100Mbps.

Oddly, Singapore (which has topped similar surveys in the past) finished in 11th place with a speed of 97.61Mbps.

How did the UK compare?

Our average speed of 51.48Mbps isn’t especially impressive, lagging behind Barbados (55.92), Germany (60.55) and Canada (79.96).

The UK was literally and metaphorically sandwiched between Ireland and the Isle of Man, just below Thailand but marginally above Switzerland, Croatia and Denmark.

Many wealthy countries performed surprisingly poorly, with Italy, Australia and the UAE lagging behind us.

It’s less of a surprise to see developing nations like Brazil (68th) , India (80th) and Turkey (124th) lower down the list.

By the time you get to El Salvador in 131st place, average download speeds were less than 10Mbps.

The bottom 90 places in M-Lab’s table are mostly filled with Pacific island states or African countries, though the former Soviet state of Turkmenistan finished dead last at just 0.5Mbps.

How were the results collected?

Any global survey can only ever claim to be representative, given the sheer number of people involved, but research firm M-Lab have certainly done their homework.

They conducted 1.166 billion speed tests from 250 million unique IP addresses, which is an undeniably large sample frame.

Nations were ranked by the average (mean) ISP download speed, rather than the median figure used by the likes of Ofcom.

Check your speed to see how you compare to the average. If you’re lagging behind, now could be the perfect time to upgrade, with plenty of competitive broadband deals to choose from (including some very tasty black friday offers!).

Check your postcode to see what’s available in your area!

Neil Cumins author picture


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!