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Broadband speeds across the UK
Tuesday 03 June 2008 07:26:40 by Andrew Ferguson

We all see the adverts promoting 16Mbps or faster broadband services and each one contains a warning about line length affecting the speeds you may get. What is not always clear from the adverts is that the region you live in can also make a difference.

The problem is not that ADSL is massively slower in areas like Northern Ireland and Wales, but that the broadband options offering speeds above 8Mbps are less likely to be available. The differences are illustrated if you look at the averages recorded across the 12 UK regions.

UK Region Download speed (Kbps) Upload speed (Kbps) Unique postcodes
London 4,460 507 600
North East 3,594 426 192
North West 3,393 418 689
East Midlands 3,275 407 346
South East 3,253 404 1,229
Yorkshire 3,204 391 405
West Midlands 3,193 382 457
East 3,090 394 639
Scotland 2,876 385 608
South West 2,869 370 667
Wales 2,587 360 295
Northern Ireland 2,258 343 133

The averages are based on over 138,000 speedtests from registered users of thinkbroadband.com and represent over 6,000 unique postcodes around the UK covering the period 1st January 2008 until 12th May 2008. The UK average download speed based on this data is 3,238Kbps.

With postcode information it is also possible to break the results down into Counties and the larger cities. Only those areas with results from more than 40 unique postcodes have been listed.

County/City Download speed (Kbps) County/City Download speed (Kbps)
Edinburgh City 4,413 Greater London 4,369
Glasgow City 4,141 Leeds 3,951
Birmingham 3,943 Surrey 3,751
Leicestershire 3,708 Hertfordshire 3,671
Staffordshire 3,622 Northamptonshire 3,618
Lancashire 3,568 West Sussex 3,547
Nottinghamshire 3,466 Durham 3,462
Sheffield 3,419 Hampshire 3,924
Cheshire 3,284 Buckinghamshire 3,252
Oxfordshire 3,129 East Sussex 3,079
Warwickshire 2,996 Essex 2,979
Bedfordshire 2,964 Derbyshire 2,960
Northumberland 2,943 Fife 2,926
Somerset 2,884 Dorset 2,812
Worcestershire 2,799 Cambridgeshire 2,766

Only the thirty fastest counties are listed, the Highlands of Scotland down in 43rd place had an average of 2,177Kbps, the worst of those with over 40 unique postcodes. There were slower results but not enough samples at different locations to make it representative. Northern Ireland wins the crown of slowest UK region. If one compares the speed profile from Wales with that of London, it is easy to see that differences in average speed are not just from a handful of people with 20Mbps connections but reflect the much wider availability of high speed options. Almost all telephone exchanges in areas like London have a wide variety of LLU operators compared to just under 25% of the exchanges in Wales.

 
Click images for larger version

In Wales there were a mere handful of results at 7Mbps or faster, whereas in London just under 20% of the tests recorded a speed of 7Mbps or faster. The turning point at 7Mbps reflects the switch from people on 20Mbps/10Mbps cable or ADSL2+ products to the the majority of people who still connect using ADSL which has a maximum download speed of around 7Mbps (maximum connection speed is 8,128Kbps, but actual useful data that can be transferred is around 7,000Kbps). With Virgin Media and some ASDL2+ providers charging less for slower speeds one cannot assume that only 20% of people in London have access to high speed broadband, only that the 20% is a baseline. For example, where Virgin Media cable services are available only something like 25% opt for the highest speed service. With the ADSL2+ providers many people, even if opting for the capped speed (lower price) packages many people may see a speed improvement compared to standard ADSL.

This data, while showing the digital divide does exist, shows that on average at this time the gulf is not insurmountable. With LLU coverage still increasing and BT Wholesale rolling out ADSL2+ products we may see this divide narrowing. The question is how wide are we going to allow the gulf to open up if fibre to the home or sub-loop unbundling is deployed in just parts of the UK, and does it matter? Other countries that are further down the road of true next-generation broadband services have clear gulfs in what speeds are available across their country. Perhaps the question needs to be asked whether broadband is just another service that we should consider when we move home, just like we do when balancing the time it takes to commute to work against the price we want to pay for our dream home. Or is broadband now a critical service that needs to be protected and enshrined within a Universal Service Obligation (USO)?

More coverage is available in the BBC news article.

Comments

Posted by scarymonkey over 8 years ago
Not really a surprise with the speeds there since urban areas have a higher density of properties around the exchanges compared to the rural ones as well.

I just wish all LLU providers who use ADSL2+ would put customers on it instead of insisting ADSL is the right option for those who sync below 8Mb as Sky do. At least then we could get the most out of the old local loop we still use.
Posted by chrisnolan over 8 years ago
The results are hardly surprising really - although the results are slightly better than I expected.

I think that the time for a USO is now, but the likely hood is minimal at best. When you've got people like myself who live on a estate not 5 mins walk to a major town (Maidstone) who get 480Kbps (at 1dB SNR), BT will fight any move for a USO.
Posted by jepsonclough over 8 years ago
I live just 17 miles from Manchester yet few people here get better than 500k. The speed issue is critical here, especially since many people work from home. I'm pleased that your report (and the BBC's one) finally mentions the rural broadband problem but, unfortunately, publishing information by region or even City / County does not give a true idea of the speeds rural users are getting. Given that you have data by postcode, would it not be possible to analyse those postcodes by, say, ACORN classification to give a useful picture of what the urban / rural disparity really is?
Posted by zyborg47 over 8 years ago
this is why I have said before that BT should focus on the old cables and not ADSL2+, what is the use of having up to 24Mbit when a majority of people can't even get up to 8Mbit?

Posted by danman7_200 over 8 years ago
Zyborg, very good point. ADSL2+ is money down the drain, with the majority of users not benefiting. Any techonolgy that is rolled out using copper is a stop gap til we get FTTH but then it'll be the rural users who will be last to get it, if ever. But then, people live in towns and cities for the extra facilities. Public transport, services, shops and maybe soon broadband!
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
There is no chance Ofcom would impose a burden on BT which would prevent it making profits as a commercial company. As such, any USO obligations are likely to result in everyone paying more to subsidise the areas which cost more to provide connectivity to. There is perhaps a question of whether these days broadband is a necessity, and thus whether there should be more subsidies by central government.
Posted by seajays over 8 years ago
It's not just length of line that's a problem for speeds. I invariably sync at around 7Mbps, however I very rarely get anything over 3Mbps actual download speed with the various speed checkers, and more usually it is between 1-2Mbps at peak times of the day. This, according to BT, is simply down to 'contention' (or 'the internet') and there's nothing they can do.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
Line length for DSL technologies is normally the biggest factor, but local issues like exchange congestion, congestion at the ISP end and or a high error rate on the ADSL line can reduce actual speeds.

Tweaking the computer so its optimal for your current broadband speeds can also be important.
Posted by tcrooks3843 over 8 years ago
I fear that the BBC attempt to survey broadband speeds nationwide will likely prove to be very contentious. In my own case the BBC speedtest provided results varying from 1.9 to 3.9 Mbps, whereas downloading the 10MB Quicktime file, accomplished in 14 secs suggest a speed of around 7Mbps. The Thinkbroadband test suggests a similar speed across many tests over many months.

Incoherent data isn't likely to help matters improve but does allow for a lot of 'shouting' to take place!
Posted by bosie over 8 years ago
An interesting report Andrew. I agree with some of comments on here that BT's 'investment' in ADSL 2+ deployment is not worth while given the quality of existing infrastructure. As for price increases, if that's what it takes, I also think there's plenty of room for that but not with the products we have now - capped, shaped etc - people will not pay for that.
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
"what is the use of having up to 24Mbit when a majority of people can't even get up to 8Mbit" - ADSL2+ has the potential to benefit any line with either more speed or more range as well as other enhancements. It's a natural progression like 802.11g followed 802.11b etc.

I've never thought the fact that something doesn't benefit everyone as a reason not to do it - we should turn the mains gas off and stop subsidising railways on that basis.
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
A USO need not be a threat to BT - levy 50p/month on *every* broadband connection for 2 or 3 years and use it to fund a broadband USO.

Do I detect a sudden loss of interest ?
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
a good checker is at speedtest.net: http://www.speedtest.net/result/279244946.png

dont be put off buy the S l o w display, just let it 'do its stuff' - much more reliable than some 'simple' ones!

And you can choose different places in the world to re-check..
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
ADSL2+guys: post your speed.....
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
This is no surprise, it's all about the location of exchanges set up 100 years ago and the distance from them.
Posted by car-killer over 8 years ago
im having a pig of a time with tiscali i have been doing my own test and found this

You are connected to the Crawley telephone exchange

You are approximately 2,936 metres from the exchange (straight line distance)

this has told me that the line will run upto 2.9 mbps my speed test speed test result: 115.8 Kb and thats from a 8mbps service

Posted by adagio over 8 years ago
Is speed everything? I live 3.5km from the exchange atcf. Since these crows don't fly over water the line line is likely to be longer. 62db attn and 6.8db NM. I read these forums, drool at others' speeds and feel hard done by. Then I think what would I do with 8Mbps that I can't do now? Not much! What do these rural businesses want the additional speed for. Real-time video? Hardly!
Posted by adagio over 8 years ago
Sorry! Forgot to say that my IP profile is 2mbps and the connection rock solid. Now the latter is important.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
The need for speed becomes more of an issue as people progress to multiple PC households.

This is particularly an issue for a business, which uses the internet a lot and has multiple staff.

A year or two ago it was why do you need broadband, you can do everything using dial-up. Websites grow fatter, we use more online photo backup services etc

Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
ADSL2+ here. Sync at 12.5Mb, throughput 11.5Mb at any time of the day (apart from the BBC tester which gave results between 3Mb and 8.5Mb).

www.BeThere.co.uk

But Think the next phase of investment ought to be in the backhaul to try address the contention issues. I think that a USO guaranteeing everyone 2Mb 95% of the time would be a good move - but people have to be prepared to subsidise it some way.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
Unfortenatly adsl2+ for someone like BT is something that is good value, cheap to deploy (dont get confused with 21CN) and the impact on its marketing is huge tripled headline speeds. As far as they concerned the fact only a small minority will get over 8mbit and a extreme minority will only get above 20mbit is irrelevant. Its all bean counters at BT. I can also verify at least 3 areas in my city are too far from a exchange.
Posted by _TRIaXOR_ over 8 years ago
just tried thier speed tester which give me 9.2Mb within a split second.. far too quick for an accurate result, every other speedtester (even TB's) give 13.2+ Mb *shrug*
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
in comment to seb, I read everytime I visit this site about keeping rural broadband, which is already effectively subsidised by city dwellers on BTw services, so bearing that in mind I dont see a problem of a higher base price (very badly needed) to fund investment in a poor local loop infrastructure. It needs either more exchanges or some kind of FTTC to shorten copper lengths.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
to herdwick real life experiences show adsl2+ to mostly only benefit the shortest lines, whilst adsl2 without the + is better for longer lines.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
to andrew if speed is so critical why are BT not doing anything to improve it on 75% of lines?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
All i can say is if those are average speeds here ADSL2+ from BT is a bigger waste of time than i originally thought.... {Hugs my 16+Mb LLU line, points, laughs and then runs away}
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
chrysalis - why should they? Where's the incentives when they can instead focus on things like switching to 21CN and offloading a lot of their admin onto ISP's, cutting their costs?
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
Carpetburn - what's your distance from the exchange? We are all stuck with copper until fibre or wireless comes along.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Its about 800 metres straight line distance and around 1500-2000 metres cable length. I am more than happy with my connection averages around the 16Mb mark, with about 7db noise margin and can easily be pushed to higher. I wouldnt go back to expensive BT based services even their ADSL2+ if they paid me. The only time id ever have BT for my internet is if that was the only option left for me, id even take the shocking Virgin cable first. Before i went to LLU i had an old 1Mb IPSTREAM based product, BT told me the most i could expect with ADSL MAX was 6Mb.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Didnt take much of a decision to go to LLU with no stuuuupid profiling system and no stupid throttles or caps. It was a pretty accurate estimate of what speed i would get also with there guesstimate being 15Mb... Just a tad more accurate than BT and there rather to be blunt dumb 6Mb guess for a line of my quality. I am looking forward to a couple of years from now though and seeing what speed BT think my house with their ADSL2+ should get, that should be a laugh.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
"id even take the shocking Virgin cable first"

*stops reading anything carpet posts ever again*
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
OK for CB with 1500m length, pity he does not want to contribute to the debate about the way forward.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"OK for CB with 1500m length, pity he does not want to contribute to the debate about the way forward."

You asked me in another news story what i would do to make services better and i answered, be a bit stupid to repeat that here. Especially as you didnt ask in this thread.

@dawn_falcon yep lol i know they are bad but that would be a last resort thing, hopefully ill never have to touch them or BT for broadband ever again.
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
CB - please tell us.
Posted by OpenAccess over 8 years ago
My Experience is very similar to CB. I'm a bit further from the Exchange but still get 1.5MB/s down and 1MB/s up ADSL2+ is very sensative to the poor line quality and much more to poor internal phone wireing. MY speed is now consistantly in this region.
http://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest/results/id/121300336135245510290.html
Posted by twamito over 8 years ago
I live in Oxford and consistently get download speeds of 5Kbps, plus a first class reliable service. The only minor problem is the technical knowledge of the support staff which is generally abominable - those gents in Calcutta again. Thankfully, you rarely need to phone them.
My ISP is Madasafish.
Posted by twamito over 8 years ago
Correction to above - download speed is consistently 5,000 Kbps - NOT 5 Kbps
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) is the solution for the UK.
Posted by bubblo7 over 8 years ago
To: Car-killer. I too had a terrible time with Tiscali. They started good (5-7mbps) and then descended to the depths (0.5mbps) My complaint was that they blamed everyone else. I just migrated to Entanet based on results and comments here. Wait and see (Now at 2.5mbps)
Posted by browolf over 8 years ago
In the NW, I had my copper changed a while ago now i get speeds of around 8mbps!
Posted by Caribou over 8 years ago
Here in Cumbria CA11 area, the best speed I can get is 1.9Mbps using ASDL Talk Talk Broadband.

Caribou.
Posted by donran over 8 years ago
I have BT Yahoo broadband and I live in Watford, but I cannot get any greater speeds than (485 Kb/s download, 425 Kb/s upload).Shouldn't the price of broadband (current charge £15.99/month)be cut down according to what BT can deliver to their customers.If I was living in a rural area I would accept the above price.
Posted by harryhound1 over 8 years ago
Following advice from people on a forum like this, I snipped the two spare wires on my old telephone extensions wiring.
This gave me at least an extra 1000 Kbps.
(I'm nominally with MAAF - now part of BT.
BT has been no use to me what so ever, even leading me up the garden path with reference to a DACS (line sharing gizmo) and auxiliary equipment fitted to the line.
I just wonder how many other numpties there are out there who could get a half decent speed with a few simple "tuning" improvements.
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