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Average UK broadband speeds rise to 9 meg due to package upgrades
Wednesday 15 August 2012 13:48:14 by John Hunt

UK residential broadband average speeds have increased by 1.4 meg to 9.0 meg according to speed research conducted by Ofcom. The increased speeds recorded in May 2012 show an 18% increase on the 7.6 meg recorded in November 2011, the majority of this being either consumers choosing faster packages, or ISPs migrating users on to faster speed broadband.

The maximum speed measured rose on average 1.8 meg to 10.0 meg and the peak-period average speed, which is measured between 8pm and 10pm rose by 1.4 meg also to 8.8 meg, keeping just 0.2 meg behind the average speed.

Speeds have risen in all categories that Ofcom segregate data into as can be seen in the graph below.

Ofcom average broadband speed comparison

Average actual broadband speeds: November/December 2010 - May 2012 (Source: Ofcom)

For users on connection speeds between 2 meg and 10 meg, the average speed rose by 0.3 meg to 5.6 meg. The increase here was put down to a migration of users from ADSL to ADSL2+ products as BT upgrades its network, bumping these users out of this category. This has left a larger proportion of users on the 10 meg Virgin Media cable product, which clocks in with a more steady average speed (9.6 meg) which has pulled the average up slightly. The faster range above 10 meg but below 30 meg (the speed above which broadband is classified as superfast) also saw a small increase of 0.3 meg to 7.3 meg. Users in this category saw a similar effect, with consumers upgrading to superfast services faster than Virgin 20 meg customers were migrated to the Virgin 60 meg products.

With users migrating to faster speeds, over two thirds of UK residential broadband now have an advertised speed which is sold as being over 'up to 10 meg'. The number of people on superfast broadband connections (those with a speed faster than 30 meg) has risen from 5% to 8% and the average speed within the category has also risen marginally (by 0.3 meg). This small rise might have been expected to be higher considering that BT Openreach have increased the baseline speed of their fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) products to 80 meg from 40 meg, and Virgin are running a speed doubling programme to boost end user speeds. These will take time to filter through to end users already on these services however and can be expected to have more of an effect in the next Ofcom speed report. An issue with BT homehubs also adversely affected some results as some users saw broadband speeds running at only 1 meg. With these results excluded, the superfast broadband category would be 36.9 meg, however Ofcom left these in the data, providing an accurate representation of what users experienced.

Time of day variations commonly affect broadband products and it affects some more than others. Comparing data to Ofcom's last speed report shows that whilst the average speed of all connections is faster even at peak times (8pm - 10pm on weekdays), on the faster broadband products the average speed is actually lower. Comparison of all speed categories is not possible as product speeds and categories have changed as providers adjust the services they offer.

Nov 2011
May 2012
24hr avg
Nov 2011
24hr avg
May 2012
Nov 2011
May 2012
All connections 8.2 10.0 7.6 9.0 7.4 8.8
Up to 30 meg
31.9 33.1 31.0 30.1 30.8 29.4
Up to 38/40 meg
37.3 33.4 36.0 29.9 35.8 29.5
Variation in download speed by time of day, measured in Mbps. Peak is between 8pm and 10pm on weekdays. Source: Ofcom

The trend here is that the faster broadband services are actually performing slower than in the previous six months. Ofcom looked at the FTTC speeds generally falling (including the 80 meg products within the average) and suggested that this was likely to be due to the BT Homehub bug and also could be due to users on longer lines being connected to BT's fibre cabinets pulling down the average. With the percentage change in the number of users moving on to 'superfast' products being quite low (only a 3% increase) and as the change also affects Virgin users, it could be indicative that with more people upgrading to faster products generally (including the lower speed rise in users moving from ADSL to ADSL2+) they are hitting more congestion within the ISPs networks.

In terms of ISP speeds, Virgin came out top as they offer a higher headline speed product of up to 100 meg compared with BT's 76 meg. Ofcom data in this category provides 95% confidence in the data, meaning that they are 95% certain the average speed lies within the range specified. In ADSL2+ products, O2/BE came out with the highest maximum and average speeds - with a range of 9.1 meg - 10.9 meg. Sky clocked in the lowest 24hr average at 7 meg - 8.5 meg. Virgin users on their 100 meg product achieved an average within the range 85.7 meg to 90 meg.

Whilst upload speeds are important to some users, Ofcom only give these some cursory analysis and do not provide an average upload speed. O2/BE came out top in the ADSL2+ range of products with an average maximum upload speed of 1.1 meg (significantly faster than other ISPs packages). BT and Orange recorded 0.9 meg. BT's fastest 76 meg FTTC package, recorded an average over the 24hour period of 15.6 meg. Virgin's results were hard to compare due to upload speed upgrades coming later than the download upgrades meaning some slower packages actually had higher upload speeds than the faster products!

The full Ofcom report can be found here.


Posted by camieabz over 5 years ago
Interesting that the 2Meg to 10Meg, and 10Meg to 30 Meg rose only slightly. My own upgrade from ADSL to ADSL2+ resulted in a 92% increase in speed. Can we assume that for every good increase there are several bad or zero increases?

Might a poll on ADSL to ADSL2/2+ percentage increases be revealing?

Posted by Borisvon over 5 years ago
if my speed went upto 2 meg that would be 125% speed increase so surely that would upset the averages and im sure im not alone in this.
Posted by PhilCoates over 5 years ago

I can assure you that you are not.

A 125% speed increase in my case would still be zero.
Posted by broughtondon over 5 years ago
Until BT do put in fibre as they've promised to MK Council but won't say when...I'm keeping the champagne in the fridge....and so I'll keep with 1.2mbps...
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
So Virgin are still ahead in speeds but even more ahead with contention and jitter, latency etc :)
Posted by Borisvon over 5 years ago
i just hope the same thing doesnt happen with bt like what happened with ntl where funds dried up and cabeling stopped.
Posted by paulby over 5 years ago
Would be nice to get 2 meg let alone "super fast". Our exchange has FTTC available but our cabinet hasn't been upgraded (not commercially viable apparently) so looks like we're stuck with 1.5 meg on a good day!
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
Camieabz - going from 'up to' 8Mb to ADSL2+ and up to 20Mb would cause a change in category from the 2-10 to 10-30, so that's not really an issue for the stats.

That those bands rose at all is more surprising. It does show quite nicely though that nearly all of the increase in average speeds is due to increased >30Mb uptake.
Posted by jamesvincentuk over 5 years ago
Well BT hasn't bothered to make any effort is speeding things up here in Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan just outside Cardiff. 3 is much faster and is always making the effort to improve.
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
It's nothing personal, pretty much anywhere there's new build be it Wales, London, Leeds, Birmingham, etc, there are awful speeds with no plans to upgrade.
Posted by dragon2611 over 5 years ago
@camieabz, The speeds at ADSL2+ tail off as the line get's longer, infact on some long lines ADSL1 can actually be quicker.

If you have a fairly short line and synced at or Close to the maximum your speed could increase considerably but if you have a long line it won't make much difference you might get a few hundred kbps extra if anything.
Posted by barrattd over 5 years ago
i live in Poole my ISP is O2, I used to get 6.7Mb according to the seed tester, however it now runs at over 11Mb
Posted by otester over 5 years ago
Be more interesting to see an average based on what people can actually get at their property.
Posted by Mince1978 over 5 years ago
Posted by michaels_perry over 5 years ago
The average should be shown separately for ADSL and for Cable/fibre as separate figures. That the 'total' agregated average has risen is entirely due to more having access to fast connections and paying extra for it. Those of us where there is no such option are stuck on slowband and many, like us, have basic ADSL or dial-up and no prospect of ADSL2+ in sight.
Posted by amapm over 5 years ago
More Ofcom BULL! My connection speed has dropped from 2Mb/s to 1.4Mb/s over the last 2 years. Bitter & Twisted
Posted by Kaufhof over 5 years ago
Same here. I do not believe these averages represent speeds actually received on average.

Posted by otester over 5 years ago
To all those complaining, if you're with BT then you deserve all you get.
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