Skip Navigation

Ofcom speed report indicates that UK average has risen to 7.6 Mbps
Thursday 02 February 2012 07:11:38 by Andrew Ferguson

The latest round of figures from the Ofcom speed research indicate that the UK average download speed is continuing to follow its growth trend. As of November 2011 it was 7.6 Mbps which compares favourably with the May 2011 figure of 6.8 Mbps.

This speed increase is not across the board on all products, but much of the ups and downs in averages are attributed to people migrating to faster cable broadband and fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) services in the last six months.

  • Average for up to 8/10 Mbps packages, rose from 5.1 Mbps to 5.3 Mbps
  • Average for up to 20/24 Mbps packages, fell from 7.4 Mbps to 7.0 Mbps
  • Average for above 24 Mbps packages, fell from 38.2 Mbps to 35.5 Mbps

At a cursory glance the above averages suggest things are getting worse, but the national average is very dependant on the spread of packages people are buying, which also shows how the availability of superfast services is changing the landscape. In the last six months packages sold between 10 Mbps and 24 Mbps have become the dominant market sector, but with the speed uplift programme from Virgin Media and continued FTTC and fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) roll-outs in six months time we can expect to see a new row with a growing percentage figure for products over 40 Mbps.

Package April 09 May 10 Nov 10 May 11 Nov 11
Less than 8 Mbps 30% 8% 4% 2% 1%
Between 8 Mbps and 10 Mbps 62% 68% 54% 51% 41%
Over up to 10 Mbps 8% n/a n/a n/a n/a
Between 10 Mbps and 24 Mbps n/a 24% 41% 45% 53%
Over 24 Mbps n/a n/a 1% 2% 5%
Source: Ofcom, based on data provided by the UK's largest ISPs by retail market share (representing 90% of the total market)

An area that broadband providers often shy away from, and even the new BCAP advertising rules do not take into account, is the difference between peak and off-peak performance. The following data from Ofcom attempts to inform the decision making process, though as ever there will be local factors that mean some people see much larger variations and some fair usage policies will also see some people having speeds cut a lot more than this table suggests.

  Nov/Dec 2010 Nov/Dec 2010 May 2011 May 2011 Nov 2011 Nov 2011
Package 24-hour 8-10pm weekdays 24-hour 8-10pm weekdays 24-hour 8-10pm weekdays
'up to' 8Mbps
4.1 - 4.8Mbps 3.8 - 4.4Mbps 4.0 - 4.3Mbps 3.4 - 4.0Mbps 4.0 - 5.0Mbps 3.9 - 4.8Mbps
'up to' 8Mbps *
3.4 - 4.4Mbps* 3.3 - 4.2Mbps 3.7 - 4.3Mbps 3.2 - 4.0Mbps 3.7 - 4.9Mbps 3.5 - 4.7Mbps
Virgin Media
'up to' 10Mbps
9.5 - 9.7Mbps 8.9 - 9.4Mbps 9.3 - 9.6Mbps 9.0 - 9.5Mbps 9.3 - 9.6Mbps 8.8 - 9.3Mbps
'up to' 20Mbps
5.9 - 8.7Mbps 6.8 - 8.5Mbps 7.3 - 8.9Mbps 7.3 - 9.1Mbps 7.8 - 9.7Mbps 7.6 - 9.5Mbps
'up to' 24Mbps *
- - 5.6 - 7.9Mbps 5.5 - 7.3Mbps 7.7 - 10.0Mbps 7.6 - 10.0Mbps
'up to' 20/24Mbps
9.9 - 11.6Mbps* 9.5 - 11.0Mbps* 9.6 - 11.7Mbps 10.0 - 11.5Mbps 8.8 - 10.7Mbps 8.6 - 10.5Mbps
'up to' 20
- - 6.0 - 8.2Mbps 6.6 - 7.6Mbps 6.3 - 8.1Mbps 5.7 - 7.4Mbps
'up to' 20Mbps
- - 6.7 - 8.9Mbps 6.6 - 8.4Mbps 7.2 - 9.3Mbps 6.3 - 7.9Mbps
'up to' 20Mbps
7.4 - 8.8Mbps 7.3 - 8.7Mbps 7.1 - 8.0Mbps 7.2 - 8.1Mbps 6.8 - 8.3Mbps 6.8 - 8.2Mbps
'up to' 24Mbps
7.7 - 9.3Mbps 7.5 - 9.0Mbps 7.7 - 8.6Mbps 7.0 - 8.5Mbps 7.2 - 8.8Mbps 7.1 - 8.7Mbps
'up to' 40Mbps
30.5 - 33.1Mbps 27.4 - 30.3Mbps 33.1 - 34.9Mbps 32.3 - 34.1Mbps 35.4 - 36.7Mbps 35.2 - 36.5Mbps
Virgin Media
'up to' 30Mbps
- - 30.7 - 31.3Mbps 30.1 - 30.9Mbps 30.6 - 31.4Mbps 30.4 - 31.2Mbps
Virgin Media
'up to' 50Mbps
43.9 - 47.2Mbps 43.1 - 46.6Mbps 47.7 - 49.0Mbps 46.3 - 48.4Mbps 47.4 - 48.8Mbps 46.8 - 48.5Mbps

A major factor hidden amongst national averages is that we all don't live in average locations, many people live in urban areas with lots of provider choice and others live in rural areas with a sole wholesale provider in the form of BT Wholesale. The speeds for the various broadband markets in the UK are:

  • Market 1 (single wholesale provider), 3.0 Mbps average
  • Market 2 (limited LLU choice), 5.4 Mbps average
  • Market 3 (multiple LLU and cable), 8.8 Mbps average

The variation in speeds is also carried through to the UK nations, England 7.8 Mbps, Scotland 7.2 Mbps, Wales 7 Mbps and Northern Ireland 6.7 Mbps. Though while it looks like Northern Ireland and Wales are the places to avoid for broadband, as with the rest of the UK, location in these areas is the key. Also, if you are getting well under the average and have neighbours getting better speeds, look at the package you are signed up to, and for those with ADSL/ADSL2+ whether the phone wiring in your property may be hindering your speed.

While the report focuses mainly on download speeds, as does the advertising industry, Ofcom does offer information on the other important metrics for a broadband connection, namely upstream speed, latency, packet loss, DNS resolution times, DNS failure rates and jitter (both upstream and downstream. The Ofcom report spends some 23 out of 80 pages covering these metrics, but we only have space for a small summary.

  1. Upstream Speeds: The ADSL packages manage just under 0.4 Mbps as expected, and ADSL2+ shows a variation between providers from 0.5 Mbps (Plusnet) to just over 1 Mbps (O2/Be). The Virgin Media 30 Mbps and 50 Mbps hit their respective upstream speeds of 3 Mbps and 5 Mbps, as does BT Infinity on its 2 Mbps upstream product, the 10 Mbps product only hits around the 9Mbps mark.
  2. Latency: ADSL and ADSL2+ products get similar results, with O2/Be and Orange giving an average around 20ms, the same as the Virgin Media 10 Mbps service. BT Infinity is a ms or two better than the 30/50 Mbps Virgin Media products at around 18ms, a good 7ms better than BT Total ADSL2+.
  3. Packet Loss: Packet loss performance showed a wider range of variance, with the Virgin Media 10 Mbps service performing worse than ADSL services, but better than Orange on ADSL2+, and roughly equal to Plusnet.
  4. DNS Resolution Time: The range is 20ms (BT Infinity) to the worst case of just under 40ms (Sky), Virgin Media is consistent across its products at the 30ms mark.
  5. DNS Failure Rate: This metric is particularly important, as a failed DNS lookup can result in elements of a webpage not displaying, or an initial page request not taking place. Most providers were similar with a range of 0.05% to 1%. Orange at peak times had a peak failure rate of between 2.2% and 3.9%.
  6. Upstream Jitter: Can create situations where small packets of data arrive out of order at a destination, thus causing problems for twitch reaction games. Most providers have a jitter of around 0.5ms to 1.5ms. On all the Virgin Media products the jitter rises to around 6ms.
  7. Downstream Jitter: This can affect gamers, and areas like video streaming. 0.5ms to 1ms is the normal range for the ADSL/ADSL2+ and Virgin Media 10 Mbps product. On the superfast services, both the range for Virgin Media and BT Infinity is 0.2ms to just under 0.5ms, so better than the standard packages.

"More and more people are choosing fibre optic broadband and making the most of superfast speeds. Virgin Media continues to deliver the UK's fastest broadband, over and above what we advertise according to Ofcom, and we're about to boost the speeds of millions of homes yet again with our doubling upgrade and the introduction of 120 Mbps. It's good to see Britain's broadband speeds moving in the right direction and the new advertising rules will, for the first time, force out competitors to be more honest about their 'up to 24 Mbps' claims. We hope they'll try to keep up."

Jon James, Executive Director of Broadband, Virgin Media

Jon James could be seen as throwing down the gauntlet particularly with the lower price point products that go head to head with the advertising claims the ADSL and ADSL2+ providers use. With the new BCAP guidelines any speeds mentioned in advertising have to be achievable by 10% or more of customers. Thus Virgin Media cable products with their fixed speed connections stand to win in simple comparison tables. The competition in the area of superfast services is much more of a head to head with the Openreach FTTC products represented by BT Infinity in the Ofcom testing standing up well in terms of speed and they are shortly to boost speeds.

The launch of the FTTC product from Sky in April 2012 will also help push the UK averages ever higher, and while for the next twelve months most Market 1 and Market 2 areas will see the digital divide extend, once the various superfast broadband schemes start to deliver, this divide will start to diminish. The digital divide will never vanish, as there will always be varying speeds across the country, the key thing is to minimise the size of the gap without stifling commercial competition like we have seen between BT and Virgin Media to wear the UK speed crown. Though we should never forget while the big providers battle over the crown, there are new small entrants already offering 1 Gbps though with coverage levels that mean they will not register on any Ofcom testing.

We welcome reaction from broadband providers, feel free to email, we will feature the interesting responses later today.


Posted by Borisvon over 5 years ago
Still being on sub 2 meg i must be in the 1% of the country!!
I think those results are grossly inflated!
Posted by Frank22 over 5 years ago
These results are not credible. Perhaps only 1% is clever enough to go for a cheap package when they know the connection speed is slow. I bet many people are on a more expensive package than they need to when they realise their speed is low.
I am based next to Gatwick airport and, together with all the supporting industry surrounding it, are located in a slow spot. Many other areas around here are slow too.
Posted by alex85 over 5 years ago
>On all the Virgin Media products the jitter rises to around 6ms

it does indeed, very strange, but why is it downstream jitter is normal and upstream jitter is so high all of a sudden??
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
Upstream on DOCSIS has always been an issue, and the most obvious will be congestion due to people running torrents and seeding.

On Gatwick, check for VM cable and FTTC options as there is coverage, but less on the London Road that goes around the SE corner of airport.
Posted by Frank22 over 5 years ago
Thanks Andrew
The entire Manor Royal Industrial Estate is slow (South of Airport).
VM is not getting near our place, but how did you find out that FTTC is not in our area? We cannot get any info out of providers or BT other than that we can only get standard broadband!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
I used and you can see speedtest results, if over 24Mbps and good upstream and its not Virgin Media cable, then most likely a FTTC product.

Otherwise dont talk to suppliers but use the wholesale checker at

The Gatwick exchange looks a lost cause, as only market one.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Well all I can say is a well deserved in your face Carpetburn/Deduction, you argued for a long time saying FTTC would only run at 15-20Mbps and look at it 35-36 just as I said it would be.

Its nice to say I told you so ;o)
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Jittery Virgin as well , so not just isolated areas on average their Jitter is worse than anyone else despite them advertising 50Mbps as for gamers....
Posted by amforbes over 5 years ago
I'm sick of being left to rot on 1mb while I hear of people boasting of speeds up 50 Mbps, surely enough has been done for cities and work should now be done to reduce slow spots (more like dead stop!) in rural areas.
Posted by WWWombat over 5 years ago
In this case you can't get over the economies of scale, and the advantages of distance, both of which work to the advantage of smelly, over-crowded densely-packed cities.

Whatever technology comes along that is beneficial and cost-effective to a rural householder is going to be more beneficial and more cost-effective for the provider to install to the city-dwellers first.

Work is being done for the rural areas (check out BDUK) but it will only work if there is a majority of people willing to subsidise it (through taxes), and they will only be willing to do so if they already have access.
Posted by michaels_perry over 5 years ago
I do wish the general media would learn to separate out DSL results from the fibre/coax figures. They all just quote the average of all so DSL users feel underwhelmed and cable/FTTx users feel almost satisfied. But the overall average is skewed by not comapring like withg like. Good to see the differences between Market 1, 2 and 3 figures. It is the 1 and 2 areas that are most in need to attention but they tend to be rural areas and lose out by lower demand/profit opportunities.
Posted by michaels_perry over 5 years ago
I also note the claim by Virgin about delivering broadband speeds. He should look at his own company's advertising which in personal experience is confusing to say the least (a letter claiming to supply 'up to 30 Mbps' and an accompanying leaflet claiming to offer 'up to 50 Mbps' - can't be both!). And what about Virgin's DSL customers? No mention oif them - again. Poor service in my view and you can't even email them these days!
Posted by LT38 over 5 years ago
would love to know where these figures for VM are pulled from i mean since november of 2010 ive not had the speed ive been paying for 30mb and im lucky if i get 15mb and thats on a good day. over subsccription and high utilisation result in jitter above 50 all the time with the higest ive recorded so far being 785 and pings above 100 and thats not to mention the regular packetloss. This isnt a peak time issue either and with the majority of plymouth suffering now its pathetic VM certainly isnt for those of us that like to game online be it pc or xbox
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.