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Ofcom records big improvement in UK broadband speeds

Ofcom’s seventh report on UK broadband speeds, published this week, reveals significant improvement on consumer residential speeds. Fixed average speeds of 9.0Mbit/s are now being reported - 2½ times faster than the average speed of 3.6Mbit/s recorded in November 2008, when Ofcom first began its speeds research. Customer uptake of superfast services is the main driving force behind increased performance, says the report,  but customers are also benefiting from ISPs’ network upgrades.

The new ‘superfast’ packages, referred to in the research include Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 60Mbit/s service and BT’s Infinity 2 ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s service. The study confirms that consumer migration to faster services is gathering momentum.

By May 2012, 8% of residential broadband connections were superfast (i.e. they have an advertised speed of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s or above), compared with 5% six months previously and 2% in May 2011.

Residential superfast broadband connections are also getting faster, with average speeds increasing from 35.5Mbit/s in November 2011 to 35.8Mbit/s in May 2012. 

Copper, cable and fibre performance

Of the different types of broadband technologies, Ofcom’s research found that cable broadband connections generated the greatest increases in average speed in the six months to May 2012 – up by 3.6Mbit/s (26%) to 17.9Mbit/s.

Whereas speeds recorded for fibre to the street cabinet (FTTC) connections fell by 12% (from 36.0MBit/s to 31.6Mbit/s) in the six months to May 2012. [4]

Network upgrades to meet the need for speed

BT’s upgrade of its copper ADSL network - – a technology that delivers broadband over copper wires – has seen many customers moved from ADSL1 technology to the faster ADSL2+.

Similarly, in February 2012, Virgin Media started to double the speeds of most of its broadband connections, increasing the top speed of its fastest package to ‘up to’ 120Mbit/s.

Comparisons between ISPs’ download speeds

Of the 12 ISP packages included in the report, Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 100Mbit/s service was the fastest, with the research revealing average actual speeds of 88.3Mbit/s over a 24 hour period.

Of the other superfast packages included in the research, the average download speed on BT Infinity’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s service was 58.5Mbit/s3, compared with Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 60Mbit/s at 55.9Mbit/s. BT’s ‘up to’ 38MBit/s package achieved speeds of 32.2Mbit/s3 whilst Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s service had average speeds of 30.1Mbit/s.

Also, during busy peak periods, a higher proportion of Virgin Media cable customers experienced speeds of less than 90% of their average maximum speed, compared to BT Infinity fibre customers.

However, a small sample size (<50) is noted 

Ofcom broadband speeds research

Ofcom is working to help consumers to understand the significant variations in the performance of ISP packages, when considered alongside other factors such as price.

IEd Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: 

“We are continuing to work with the advertising code-writing bodies and ISPs to ensure that speeds advertised reflect actual speeds experienced, to allow consumers the ability to make informed decisions when shopping around to find the most suitable package.”



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