Why do broadband speeds tend to be quoted as 11, 35 or 64Mbps?

Standard broadband speeds tend to be clustered around a few key numbers, but there are good reasons for this consistency among rival ISPs

Sunday, 7 February, 2021

At BroadbandDeals, we’re proud of the range of broadband packages listed on our website.

At the time this article was published, we had over 500 separate broadband deals from almost 20 different ISPs.

There’s huge diversity in terms of monthly costs, additional services and incentives, yet there’s less choice in terms of average download speeds achievable with that package.

You’ll notice lots of average speeds quoted at either 10 or 11Mbps. There’s a large grouping around 35Mbps, and numerous packages averaging between 63 and 67Mbps.

This pattern continues with faster connections, but it’s most noticeable at speeds below 100Mbps, considering the sheer number of ISPs offering broadband at this level.

So why are these standard broadband speeds so ubiquitous?

Below, we consider three of the most commonly quoted standard broadband speeds in price comparison guides like ours.

11Mbps

In the 1990s, most UK internet connections were made along phone lines through a modem, at 56Kbps.

The introduction of home broadband services allowed those same phone lines to transmit data much faster, using Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line technology, known as ADSL.

This allows data to travel as fast as our antiquated copper phone lines will allow – around 11Mbps.

Sadly, copper is a pretty poor conductor of digital data. It was never intended to carry anything other than voice data, and ADSL speeds are hobbled by this technology.

35Mbps

In many instances, data is piped from a distant server along ultrafast fibre-optic cables to your home’s nearest telephone exchange.

Here, it’s switched from a generic fibre optic cable to your dedicated ADSL phone line for the final leg of its journey. This is a connection known as Fibre to the Cabinet, or FTTC.

The sheer speed at which data is transmitted to the exchange accelerates its delivery to your home, achieving average download speeds of around 35Mbps – three times faster than ADSL.

65Mbps

If your home is around 600 metres from the nearest street cabinet (covering around 70 per cent of UK households), speeds will drop to around 35Mbps by the time data reaches you.

However, if your home is only 200 metres from the nearest cabinet (covering just 20 per cent of UK households), you can double that performance to around 65Mbps.

Because data has less distance to travel along those sluggish copper phone lines, it can arrive more promptly and deliver a superior user experience.

Indeed, performance continues to increase as distance drops. Around one in twenty UK homes is 100 metres from an exchange, enjoying FTTC download speeds of 100Mbps.

There can also be other complicating factors, including the physical hardware in your local exchange, and how the lines are managed.

However, standard broadband speeds are unlikely to vary significantly, irrespective of which ISP you choose.

Neil Cumins author picture

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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!