UK households are benefiting from faster, more reliable internet as Ofcom research reveals average broadband speeds have jumped nearly 20 per cent in the last year.
Ofcom’s annual home broadband performance report compares how different broadband packages perform, using data from monitors installed on people’s broadband routers.
For the first time, the average download speeds people receive has passed the 50 Mbit/s mark – rising by 18 per cent in the last year to 54.2 Mbit/s. Upload speeds, which are increasingly important as more people look to work from home or share videos online, have also increased – up 15 per cent to 7.2 Mbit/s. Both download and upload speeds have more than doubled in the last five years.
The fastest speeds recorded in the research were from Virgin Media’s VIVID 350 cable package, with average peak time speeds hitting 360.2 Mbit/s. BT’s 300 Mbit/s full-fibre package was second fastest, with an average peak time speed of 300.6 Mbit/s. This package was top for average peak time upload speeds at 48.8 Mbit/s.
The research also looked at how different broadband packages affect people’s experience of streaming video content. People using superfast connections or faster were able to stream Netflix films or shows in ultra-high definition (UHD) without buffering in almost every case. But only one-in-10 homes with basic, copper broadband are able to stream their favourite shows in UHD.
Full-fibre packages, where fibre cables run all the way from the exchange to people’s homes, performed better than equivalent copper-based packages in almost every measure – including both download and upload speeds.
Older, copper-based broadband services are more likely to suffer a drop in speed during evenings when more people are getting online.
To help increase the availability of full fibre across the UK, Ofcom has introduced a package of measures to support investment in full fibre, and make it quicker and easier for companies to build their networks.
Yih-Choung Teh, Strategy and Research Group Director at Ofcom, said: “Broadband comes in lots of flavours these days: copper, superfast, cable and full fibre. Which kind you choose can really affect your online experience. So we’re encouraging people to visit our dedicated Boost Your Broadband website, to find out how they could get faster broadband, for the same or less than they pay now.”
Commenting on the report, Matt Powell, Editor at Broadband Genie, said: “For the first time the average home broadband speed has exceeded 50Mbps. But while this is a positive milestone it has to be noted that the increase in speed was smaller than the previous year; average speeds in 2018 were 18 per cent faster, compared to the 28 per cent increase recorded in 2017. Digging into the numbers further we can see there was even a slight drop in the average speed of FTTC broadband, which Ofcom attributes to a drop in the proportion of higher-tier (63-67Mb) fibre connections. Rural broadband continues to lag behind urban areas. 98 per cent of urban homes have access to superfast (30Mbps+), compared to 76 per cent in rural locations. Urban homes also enjoy 65 per cent higher download speeds for ADSL broadband, although there is much smaller difference when it comes to FTTC. When it is available fibre can deliver a reliable and significant improvement in performance for rural homes and businesses.”
He added: “However many of these homes and businesses in rural locations won’t have the option for a decent fixed line connection and may instead need to look at wire-free alternatives such as satellite or 4G. The forthcoming spectrum band auction will obligate some bidders to expand into rural areas in order to provide fast mobile internet, though access to a connection is not the whole story. Most of the country enjoys a huge choice of ISPs offering cheap unlimited broadband; if services such as 4G and satellite are going to be used to plug gaps in fixed-lined coverage they must also be affordable and deliver value for money for rural broadband users who may have no other options.”