UK vs The World… how does our broadband shape up?

Comparing domestic and global broadband speeds demonstrates how the UK’s internet infrastructure is performing.

Tuesday, 2 August, 2022

Although the internet is stateless, it functions very differently from one nation to the next.

Some countries have firewalls to block foreign content, while others have invested heavily in full fibre infrastructure as part of a technology-driven society.

Many African nations skipped the dial-up-to-home-broadband cycle, moving straight onto 3G and 4G internet carried across mobile networks.

First-world nations are attempting to improve online connectivity by investing in fibre cabling networks, though progress is dependent on many disparate factors.

Indeed, it’s fascinating to see how domestic and global broadband speeds compare.

Slow progress

A landmark report published in Which? back in 2018 suggested the UK had the world’s 35th fastest average broadband speeds.

The same survey was rerun during 2021, drawing on data from 207 countries.

After extensive analysis, its findings were published a couple of weeks ago, revealing that the UK is now ranked…34th.

Admittedly, average UK connection speeds have climbed from 18.57Mbps to 22.37 in that time.

Yet our international standing hasn’t improved because other nations have achieved similar improvements throughout their own telecommunications infrastructure.

It’s worth noting that the definition of ‘nations’ is rather loose in this instance.

Taiwan finished top of the league table, yet it isn’t recognised as an independent country by the United Nations because of its dubious relationship with China.

Similarly, Jersey finished third. It might have its own parliament and legal system, but Jersey remains part of the British Isles, if not the United Kingdom.

D’ya wanna go faster?

There’s less ambiguity about Singapore’s continuing presence near the top of this global league table, as a renowned investor in cutting-edge broadband infrastructure.

It’s also notable that 18 EU members achieved higher average speeds than the UK, along with six other non-EU European nations.

The Republic of Ireland has managed to overtake us in the last four years, despite having a more scattered rural population than the UK.

In our defence, Western Europe has considerably higher connection speeds than anywhere else in the world.

On average, figures are twice as fast as Eastern European nations, three times those recorded across Asia, and almost 20Mbps faster than North American broadband connections.

Even so, it’s still disappointing that most of the EU outperformed us on the basic metric of line speeds.

So what have we learned?

Any comparison of domestic and global broadband speeds is generalised by nature, and doesn’t take regional variations into account.

For instance, every resident of Hull has access to full fibre broadband, thanks to an historic anomaly and a dedicated regional ISP.

Cabling the Scottish Highlands is a different challenge to central Manchester, and many homes in Carlisle have gigabit broadband while some surrounding villages struggle with speeds of a few Mbps.

Even so, UK-based ISPs need to invest more heavily in infrastructure and high-speed cabling over the coming years, to improve both our national network and our international standing.

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!