Does good superfast coverage always mean good broadband speeds?
Just a few days now until its time to look at the monthly analysis of the broadband speeds for well over sixty service providers and with the quarter coming to an end too we will have a new set of results to add to our broadband speeds and coverage site.
To mark the addition of a new table that will allow people to compare all the UK councils in a single table we have looked at the relationship between broadband coverage levels and the speeds people are recording using our speed test.
The link between broadband speeds people are recording on average across the UK council areas is an important one for several reasons and most importantly with public money being spent to improve superfast coverage areas in many areas councils will be key to see an observable difference. Another big factor is to verify where the announced take-up figures for superfast broadband is at all reflected in what the public is recording in speed tests.
The graph for superfast shows a fairly set pattern of speeds increasing until you hit the 90% mark where local authorities become more more spread out in terms of what we saw from our crowd based observations in Q1 2017. To see if this was due to the influence of ultrafast broadband coverage we have produced the same plot but ordered by ultrafast coverage on the x-axis.
The ultrafast plot does appear to show that the median download speed for a local council area is linked to the level of ultrafast coverage.
The difference between the mean and median measures particularly for the slowest council areas needs a mention and this is due to the fact that with the take-up levels of superfast broadband those who have upgraded to a superfast (or ultrafast) option are skewing the results and this can also be seen the quartile (25%) figures. Once the Q2 2017 results are available we will be switching to displaying the 20th and 80th percentile figures for both provider speeds and speeds in the different parts of the UK. This is due to the expected changes in how broadband speeds will be advertised.
The Shetland Islands who have the slowest median download speeds only started to see take-up for FTTC/VDSL2 based services take off in Q1/Q2 2015 and as take-up increases the mean is likely to increase substantionally since in Q1 those with ADSL recorded a median of 4.1 Mbps compared to those on FTTC seeing 29.2 Mbps, eventually as take-up and coverage of FTTC increases substantion the median will also rise.
It is important that campaigners, lobbyists and policy makers understand that observed speeds will always lag behind the availability of faster broadband, this can be minimised to some extent by good local promotion of the better options that are available to people, but due to the nature of broadband contracts there will always be some lag. A key part is how the speed data is trending over time and our tracking goes all the way back to 2009, well ahead of the BDUK process delivering anything and also before the commercial superfast rollouts had delivered anything significant.