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Actual broadband speeds around the world
Tuesday 04 December 2007 14:12:23 by Andrew Ferguson

It is not uncommon to hear users complaining they are not receiving the full benefit of an 'up to 8 meg' broadband service. The 'up to' phrase actually hides a whole raft of technical and economic language and while some providers may use the phrase to hide behind and claim almost any speed is acceptable some are more up front about expectations from services.

BBC News Online has taken a brief look at a number of countries around the world and compares headline speeds with what speed tests show as averages for each country. It is worth noting that our speed test is based in the UK so readers from overseas may wish to consider a tester local to them if comparing results.

  • United Kingdom: Around 3Mbps (Mega bits per second) as the average download speed.
  • France: An impressive 44Mbps from the advertising, but 4.6Mbps actual download speed. Considering that France has some 10,000+ telephone exchanges giving people shorter loop lengths one would expect a lot better from xDSL and additionally fibre-based services are available.
  • Germany: Advertising average of 9Mbps, falling to 4.8Mbps in reality. Germany already has VDSL rolled out which offers the chance of much higher speed connections on short telephone lines.
  • Sweden: Advertised average of 21Mbps and real download speed average of 7.4Mbps. It appears that while fibre is available cheaply the problem is availability.
  • United States: Average advertised speed of 8Mbps, but a download average of 4.6Mbps. Again this is a country with a growing roll-out of fibre to the home connections.
  • Japan: A staggering 93Mbps advertised figure, but falls to 10.6Mbps when actually testing the throughput possible.
  • South Korea: The country held up as a broadband nirvana, manages 43Mbps in advertising, but falls to 3.6Mbps when actually measuring the speed.

The United Kingdom does not come out well in this comparison, but it does raise an interesting question of how broadband is advertised in other countries and what does the consumer make of the fact they seem to not get what it says on the tin? The evidence suggests the advertising is not very different abroad. Are users prepared to accept that for the amount they pay they cannot expect to get maximum speeds except occasionally?

Why do we need faster broadband? is a question asked on BBC News Online and is one that perhaps need answering. The example given is online gaming which really needs a low latency network with consistent throughput rather than a 100Mbps connection that slows to a crawl with congestion. If we blindly equate higher connection speeds with the network running better it is likely that we will always be disappointed. Increasing the speed we connect to a provider's network is of little use if the network behind it is not scaled to cope with lots more people having faster connections. The problem with ADSL for gamers is very often the upstream speeds, which is why ADSL2+ Annex M which offers up to 2Mbps upstream speeds is used by Be and may appear as ADSL2+ is rolled out by BT Wholesale. Cable broadband often only provides a decent upstream rate on its most expensive package, and even then a large game patch and same gaming in an evening can get both upstream and downstream speeds throttled for a few hours.

The killer app in France seems to be video over broadband links, but with the cable network and take-up of satellite TV in the UK this is largely already catered for. So our killer app is perhaps still to appear and needs to be popular and generate income for those running the networks. Social networking and services like YouTube while very popular offer nothing back to the network provider and YouTube video streaming should work on a good 0.5Mbps connection anyway.

A survey carried out by UK Online has found that small businesses value reliability of a broadband connection more than its speed. It is quite obvious that it is not only businesses, but increasingly ordinary consumers who are also frustrated with problems which will develop in the ever faster headline download speed race with very little attention being given to factors such as quality of service, support and upstream speed.


Posted by csimon over 9 years ago
Well I get exactly what I bought. "Up to" 0.5Mbps! ;-) The BBC has invited comments for someone at the BB stakeholder group I think. As always I've made a point that maybe mega-speeds are not yet needed however since FTTC for the whole UK is estimated at a third of that of FTTH perhaps they could concentrate on getting a decent minimum service via FTTC to those places currently being ignored as this will surely be a fraction of the total cost. They always talk about huge costs for the "whole UK" as justification for not doing it. They've not done the "whole UK" before so why mention it now?
Posted by csimon over 9 years ago
Advertising, again, is the key issue. With Max, there shouldn't be any emphasis on the speed. Products should be priced according to contention, or by how much your speed drops at peak times, or by bandwidth. Then people would be under no illusions. Maximum speed depends on the capability of the phone line, but that shouldn't be part of the product's selling points, it's got nothing to do with it.
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago

Just because there is an average speed of advertised rates (and how is that worked out, per company or per connection?) doesnt mean that all lines are tested, and also that they are even testing them when they can get a higher speed.

a large % of people use tests when their line isn't performing as expected. A significant amount don't test their line often.
A more better survey would be how many can connect at the advertised speed and how many see a gap between sync and their best & worst speed. Might take more work though.
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago
also flawed because gives lower speeds than several other servers, indeed pinging 10x slower than servers in europe even though it's only 120 miles away.

oh well...its news...kind of.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
The trouble with this is and ill use france as an example the 44Mb rate may be advertised but how many that are getting that average rate of 4.6Mb are connected to a service that claims 44Mb (Not many i bet). If the figures were broke down more into averages people get from a plain old ADSL, ADSL2+ and FIBRE based connections it would had been more useful. Either way the UK came out bottom, id also doubt that 3Mb is the average speed for users here ive seen other reports even mentioned on here that say its more like 2Mb.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
If it shows anything at all its what ive always said, this country is behind in technology terms from its main telecom provider.
Posted by Balb0wa over 9 years ago
we have snails running the country
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago

2.03Mbps as we recorded between Oct 06 and Jan 07, but Talk Talk should have improved, and VM has its 20Mbps now and other providers have been doing more upgrades to rate adaptive. So an increase of 1Mbps or close to that is not impossible. source of the advertised speeds.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
lots of recent news article questioning the need for fiber and trying to points across as to why we should not upgrade the local loop I hope this site isnt becoming a mouth peice for ofcom/BT. There is no real need for 50mbit+ connections the need is to get people of unreliable adsl lines that do less then a few meg.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
reference to csimon 1st post very good point I strongly agree with, I reckon they keep mentioning the whole of the uk because 15billions is a nice high number and as you said they now trying to give a reason to NOT do it. FTTC in selected areas would quite easily be under 5 billion and improve things considerably.
Posted by Rroff over 9 years ago
Yeah gotta love the 8Mbit (actually upto 0.5Mbit for most of the day) broadband from BT... I'd be much happier to see a reasonable speed 2-4Mbit 24x7, than "higher" speeds that will no doubt again be throttled to 0.5Mbit most of the day.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
why did the article leave out the advertised rates in the uk? is it because its above 10mbit with the glut of llu providers as well as cable offering 20meg so that would make our 3mbit achieved rate even poorer in comparison.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
achieved rates as % of advertised rates assuming uk at 20mbit.
uk 15%
germany 53%
france 11%
sweden 40%
usa 60%
japan 14%
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
UK rate - because it was mentioned recently, and perhaps falsely assumed people would remember.

As for mouth piece, for that to work would I have not needed to talk to Ofcom/BT about this - which has simply not happened. Nice conspiracy idea.

What the items have done is get people making comments and expressing opinions that hopefully bring the next-gen rollout into the open a bit more.
Posted by eurobear over 9 years ago
A couple of articles recently, when talking about Broadband speed, keep saying do we really need it and hold up gaming as a reason.
While I agree that reliable stable connections would be nice (which I have at about 5.5 to 6Mbps thanks to BT), I'd also like to be able to use things like the BBC iPlayer and Channel 4 4OD. Currently downloading a 1 hour programme is taking near 1/2 an hour. As VOD grows, which I feel it will in it's various forms we'll need speed more than ever.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"2.03Mbps as we recorded between Oct 06 and Jan 07, but Talk Talk should have improved, and VM has its 20Mbps now and other providers have been doing more upgrades to rate adaptive. So an increase of 1Mbps or close to that is not impossible."
Im more inclined to believe the results here that broke things down on a provider basis, as for talk talk and virgin, the word improve is not in their vocabulary, spin and gloss is though. The day virgin provide a solid 20Mb to everyone and the day talk talk meet their promises will be the day i turn in my grave.
Posted by csimon over 9 years ago
BTW 0.5Mbs is not good enough for YouTube, trust me! Only the lowest quality videos will work without stuttering, and that goes for video streaming in general. I would estimate that around 60% of videos on YouTube play back fautlessly.
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
The calculation of these averages needs to be defined. If I offered an 8M ADSL and a 100 fibre service would the average be 54M, even if the fibre only served one block of flats ?
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago
on the flipside...speedtests aren't throttled...what about port throttling on p2p ports?

its not a good survey.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
I can assure people that some ISP's do throttle speedtests and it can vary from week to week as to which ports are throttled.

Posted by tcrooks3843 over 9 years ago
It surely isn't that difficult to define 5-10 different classes of usage and offer BB services priced accordingly; basic browsing/email, gaming, VOD, hosting, media uploading, and so on. Couldn't the technical profile for each class be clearly defined so that it includes speed, contention, latency, reliability and so on. Then people can easily see what they are paying for?
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago that skews it even further then...speedtests being not as related to actual speed (for whatever use) as the article makes fuss over.

exposing that would be much more of an interesting survey.

it would be just better if ofcom/ASA forced the drop of the "upto 8" misleader, but then that might involve an informed decision making process.

Some say semantics, others say accurate description
Posted by tcrooks3843 over 9 years ago
In the UK the one thing that irritates is that ISPs just don't seem to care about the quality of service they deliver. My pa-in-law just moved from an Eclipse 2Mb service, which delivered around 0.5Mb in reality, to Sky's 2Mb service which is delivering around 1.8Mb and he is saving £10 per month. It leaves a bitter taste in his mouth when thinking about the do$h he handed over to Eclipse. And yes 0.5Mb is pathetic these days!
Posted by martinsaunders over 9 years ago
"In the UK the one thing that irritates is that ISPs just don't seem to care about the quality of service they deliver."

Don't you think it's a bit harsh to label the entire industry based on experience on one ISP?

Meanwhile, I suspect the difference between the UK and the rest of Europe in terms of actual throughput is likely to still be influenced by the number of lines which are still non-Max based. If we had a higher proportion of lines on rate-adaptive DSL I'd expect the throughput rates to be pretty well the same as France and Germany.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
martin well its not just 1 isp is it.
bt retail
plusnet (although now offer non shaped product)
talk talk
virgin media
entanet (although fairer system)
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
if a speedtest is throttled its probably more accurate than if it was unthrottled but stuff that really needs speed such as p2p is throttled as then at least the speedtest shows a level more closer to reality. People are slowly catching on to the dishonesty from isps, web browsing doesnt need much burst speed the apps that do need it are throttled. So its a misselling of a product.
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
So the entire planning of future speeds is going to be down to people who play games with each other?I myself used as having tried all the other ADSL speed tests this one seems to be the best. 6.43Mb and average 7.5mb. I had one test at 12.75mb!!!
All on an 8mb LLU connection.
I for one am very happy indeed. Using a digital stopwatch and IDM with 16 connections setting I can get a 100mb file in 75 seconds. I cannot seee why anyone would want so much more from an ISP?
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago
because thats not what a lot are getting

as to the "every ISP" comment. I think its better to point it at the entire industry and point out the rare examples, especially when the big companies account for the largest shares of the market and are the worst offenders of "up to 8mb", crippled either by ambiguous FUP's or lack of central bandwidth and transparency on port throttling.
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago
in fact...why doesnt thinkBB do a story by phoning each ISP and seeing what the stated FUP is, and posting that against the companies' profile here, thus making an informed choice as informed as it can be.

Might highlight a few aspects...
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
Problem with FUP arises with the ones that have no defined figures involved, many of the ones you can pin down and describe have featured in our news over time.

Alas those with undefined limits or variable depending on the traffic that day are very much a moveable feast.

The intention is to try and chase a couple for information in the New Year.
Posted by csimon over 9 years ago
> I can get a 100mb file in 75 seconds. I cannot
> seee why anyone would want so much more from an
> ISP?"

I would LOVE to get that sort of speed! But your ISP is not going to be able to help me.
Posted by csimon over 9 years ago
...see post 1 ^^^ up there.

They shouldn't be concentrating on mega-speeds - it's a smokescreen to avoid doing fibre as there's no demand for it, as you rightly point out. Where fibre is needed is in the places where there *are* no LLU providers and where people cannot get over 0.5Mbs, if they can get anything at all. Then perhaps those people will be able to sit back and sey they require nomore from their ISP.
Posted by whatever2 over 9 years ago
I think stating "undefined" next to "FUP" would be enough :) might show those who do define FUP by when, how, and by how much in a better light.
Posted by tcrooks3843 over 9 years ago reports on a J D Power survey on customer satisfaction with ISPs. One in 3 seem dissatisfied and perceptions about speed rank very high in this dissatisfaction.
For me this reinforces the need for classes of usage to be defined with a technical profile for each class as being the only way for Joe Public to be able to judge whether they are getting a fair deal.
Posted by updown over 7 years ago
Did anyone see how the tested, " It is worth noting that our speed test is based in the UK so readers from overseas may wish to consider a tester local to them if comparing results."
Well as far as i am concerned the test are null and void,how can you test a 40mbs line on a Bt 2mbs, 6mbs,10mbs, ??? i just want to know as if this is true all our worries are over :-)
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