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Are rural ADSL connections slowing down?
Tuesday 10 March 2015 11:11:29 by Andrew Ferguson

It has been suggested various times that the most rural ADSL users in the UK are getting slower and slower, so we have analysed some six years of speed test results to come up with some evidence for or against this assertion.

We are specifically looking at those telephone exchanges that at the end of 2014 were still only offering an IPStream Max based connection (up to 8 Mbps) and have excluded any Sky or TalkTalk customers who are very likely to be ADSL2+ based. In theory the size of the TalkTalk LLU network normally means that 96% of UK households have that LLU operator running from their exchange and thus an ADSL2+ option.

Exchanges with up to 8 Mbps ADSL only compared to the rest of the UK
Click image for full size version

The graph shows no sign of an overall slowdown, in fact since 2011 the increasing take-up of IPStream Max (up to 8 Mbps) versus the older fixed speed 0.5, 1 and 2 Mbps products has made a significant difference. The difference between the two plots as things stand now will be down to the difference between ADSL2+ and ADSL. The median download speed in the very rural areas is 3.9 Mbps, with 25% recording speeds below 2.2 Mbps, the national picture has a slightly higher median at 4.2 Mbps, but the speed of the bottom quartile is the same at 2.2 Mbps. The size of the IPStream Max only footprint is believed to be around 10 to 15% of UK households.

As we were running this analysis we decided to also look at FTTC speeds, which may seem counter intuitive since we are looking at exchanges only offering up to 8 Mbps from BT Wholesale, but there are plenty of exchanges now where FTTC is available with only the old 20CN ADSL services from BT Wholesale. This is because the fibre cabinets in rural areas are often linked back to a larger telephone exchange which has the better 21CN WBC backhaul network already available.

Exchanges with up to 8 Mbps ADSL available and FTTC compared to the UK wide FTTC picture
Click image for full size version

No surprise to see the first FTTC connections arriving late in the rural areas and also ahead of the BDUK roll-outs, though since 2012 the availability of FTTC on those exchanges with only IPStream Max has increased dramatically. The steep wise in the national FTTC speeds in 2012/2013 when the up to 76 Mbps option was added is less obvious in the more rural areas.

Of course the fact that the statistics do not show a widespread slow down for ADSL based services does not mean some people are not seeing worse peak time congestion than they did a couple of years ago, simply that once you aggregate into a larger sample the experience of a handful is swamped.

Of course download speeds are not the full story, so we have also plotted what is happening on the upload speeds, interestingly while the mean speed on the IPStream Max exchanges is on the rise in the upload direction, the median is staying stuck at 0.4 Mbps, suggesting that there is a rising use of IPStream Max with its up to 832 Kbps upload by those who have discovered it and are chasing better upload speeds.

As always the major jump in upload speeds that FTTC brings is clearly visible and this makes a massive difference to how the modern internet with all its cloud based uploading from cameras and phones behaves.

Deeply rural exchange ADSL upload speeds versus ADSL/ADSL2+

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Average upload speeds for FTTC nationally and in the more rural areas

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Posted by dgmckenzie over 2 years ago
Well, on the Isle of Cumbrae speeds have dropped from approx. 6Mbps down below 2Mbps and even below 1Mbps and this is all the time, not just peak.

The new fibre laid this year will hopefully bring speeds back up, but that will be months away.
Posted by chilting over 2 years ago
I can see no evidence of a slow down when I look at my Think Broadband profile. I started recording my bonded line speeds on the West Chiltington exchange in 2011 and they stayed around 1.7Mbps on ADSL increasing to around 2.5Mbps on ADSL2. This is for two lines bonded. The biggest drop has been on FTTC staring on 9.5Mbps in July 2014 for the two lines dropping now by about 50%
Posted by Saurus over 2 years ago
Haven't seen any slowdown, it has remained at approx 6.5mbps down and 380kbps up since early mid 2000's. Hopeful they will honour their marker on the availability checker this year, as we had the Pink coming soon (6 months) this time last year, then in November they changed it to a Jade coloured "?" until about 3 weeks ago then back to pink coming soon, maybe it's just a way of stringing people along with the hope of "Jam tomorrow"?
Posted by brusuth over 2 years ago
Could it just be that webpages are being weighed down with higher quality graphics and imagery, videos now being uploaded at higher resolutions therefore leading to the impression General browsing has become slower when in reality the lines and congestion has not changed just the content has..
Posted by gerarda over 2 years ago
Do most people know the difference between ADSL and ADSL2 when reporting these drops?

My speed dropped from 0.7Mbps to 0.5Mbps when our cabinet was FTTC enabled but as the connection was ADSL2 that effect wont show in your figures
Posted by timmay over 2 years ago
Probably down to averages because those close to the cabinet are switching to FTTC and those that are too far from the cabinet are stuck on slower ADSL.

I've seen ADSL speeds rise on my dad's ADSL connection since FTTC was enabled. I put this down to reduced noise on the ADSL frequencies as others have switched to FTTC. They don't even have to be on the same cabinet... it's all a bundle of wires at the exchange.

My dad's ADSL has gone from ~1.5Mbps to ~2.2Mbps since FTTC was enabled (at the exchange).
Posted by Blackmamba over 2 years ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
I hope the customers are updating their lines on Thinkbroadband maps and registering their ISP each month/week as this will give a better result for Andrews Staff.
Posted by Lochnagar over 2 years ago
We were getting download speeds between 0.3 and 0.5 Mbps until October 2014. Then Open Reach switched our two lines to a new route, 4 km from the street cabinet instead of 6 km. The speeds improved to 1.0 to 1.5, with an upload speed on one line down to 0.01 or 0.02 Mbps. In February 2015 download dropped to between 0.25 and 0.5, and now we can only get broadband on one line, at 0.25. There is no broadband on the other line.
Posted by Lochnagar over 2 years ago
Other people in our village have complained too, and I think Open Reach just switch those who complain the most to the "less poor" lines, whilst moving others back to the worst ones.
BDUK administrators say there is no money for the "Not-spots" because their terms of reference oblige them to spend their funds on providing Superfast Broadband to communities where it is feasible. They plan to spend 1.37% of their funds on a pilot study in 2016 to examine means of bringing Superfast to the last 5%.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
@lochnagar on ADSL/ADSL2+ the upload is using a set of frequencies that will travel a LOT further than the downstream. So if uploads are really 10 Kbps or 20 Kbps then something is wrong with the line beyond line length.

What are the connection statistics, i.e. sync attenuation and noise margin for both downstream and upstream
Posted by gerarda over 2 years ago
@Lochnager Are the BDUK administrators saying they have no funds to meet the USC, given that you are below the 2Mpbs criterion?
Posted by ahockings over 2 years ago
My line is really long (7.2Km) and if anything my Plusnet ADSL2 has got faster recently.
Used to be 1.5Mbps but now about 1.7.
I'm to far from my activated FTTC cab (5.2Km) so I thought that perhaps the VDSL lines further back but bundled with mine might cause more interference but it seems not! Perhaps what Timmay said a few posts back??
Very important to get the right router though. On my line ADSL2+ is very unreliable and much slower. My old Netgear DG834 allows me to force just ADSL2 and that works a treat!
Posted by Blackmamba over 2 years ago
Hi Ahockings
I think your findings are correct because as the other cable pairs are off loaded to the Exchange to FTTC they are using differant frequencies so your service should improve. I think you may get a better speed if you were with a differant ISP.
Posted by Blackmamba over 2 years ago
Hi Chil
Have you noticed that three Cabs have been opened at Rudgwick in the last week and a few customers are in Surrey and have been advised to order.
Posted by Lynka over 2 years ago
I'm with TalkTalk in Dunoon, Argyll Used to have speeds of 5 to 6Mbps, but over the past couple of years its become an average of 0.73Mbps.. Have messaged TalkTalk twice in recent months and they don't even respond. I'll be changing ISP shortly!
Posted by Middlefield over 2 years ago
In our rural Somerset location one issue seems to be congestion on the connection between the exchange and Internet backbone rather than the link between the exchange and subscriber.
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