UK has cheap broadband, average penetration, OECD finds

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UK has cheap broadband, average penetration, OECD finds

Ian Grant

The UK is comfortably among the mid-table countries for broadband penetration and average advertised speeds, a report from theOECD has found.

However, the OECD threshold for measuring broadband was a low 256kbps download speed and excluded mobile phone technology, which is the fastest-growing broadband sector.

Taking figures up to June 2009, the UK was fifth in terms of total broadband subscribers at 17.7 million. Others in the top five were the US (81.1 million), Japan (30.9 million), Germany (24.0 million) and France (18.7 million).

In terms of penetration, the UK slipped to 13, at 28.9 subscribers per 100 population. The top five were Netherlands (38.1%), Denmark (37%), Norway (34.5%), Switzerland (33.8%) and Korea (32.8%).

The UK was still a top 10 contender in terms of the proportion of households with access to a broadband service, coming in ninth with 61.5%. The leaders were Korea (94.3%), Iceland (83.2%), Denmark (74.1%), Norway (73.0%) and Sweden (70.7%).

The UK was the fourth-cheapest country for broadband subscriptions, with average monthly subscriptions costing $30.63. Greece was the cheapest at $30.06, followed by Japan ($30.46), Finland ($30.61), the UK, and Italy ($31.25).

The OECD uncovered a massive range in prices asked for data traffic. Japan had the widest range, from $0.10 to $86.00 per megabit/second. UK prices ranged from $1.16 to $13.16, one of the narrowest spreads in the OECD. However, 11 countries have cheaper broadband than the UK, but of those, only Korea has a lower top price per megabit at $4.48.

The UK was 15th in terms of average advertised download speeds at 10.7Mbps. The top five were Japan (92.8Mbps), Korea (80.8Mbps), France (51Mbps), Finland (19.2Mbps) and Netherlands (18.2Mbps).

As UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom found, advertised speeds are often half or less than actual speeds experienced by consumers.

The OECD also showed how much fibre improved performance. DSL (broadband over copper telephone wires) averaged 9.6Mbps downloads and just 699kbps uploads. Wireless systems offered on average 1.0Mbps downloads and 712kbps uploads. Cable TV systems were faster at 14.8Mbps downloads and 1.2Mbps uploads, but fibre, whether to the home or to the cabinet, averaged 65.3Mbps downloads and 34.2Mbps uploads.

Almost 80% of wireless operators applied caps on how much data subscribers could run, dropping to just 8% of fibre network operators.


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