Broadband speeds in the UK have more than doubled over the past four years as a result of the roll-out of superfast networks.
A report published by Ofcom today (15 August 2012) claimed the average download speed reached 9Mbps in May 2012, up from 7.6Mbps last November and 3.6Mbps in 2008.
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Ofcom said it wasn’t just a case of more people taking advantage of superfast broadband speeds from the major ISPs, but overall improvements to networks to enable such connections were benefiting those on less extravagant contracts.
“While some consumers actively choose to upgrade to superfast broadband packages to achieve higher speeds, many are benefiting from improved speeds as a result of ISP’s network upgrades, at little or no additional cost to consumers,” read a statement from Ofcom.
Just 8% of broadband connections were deemed "superfast" (above 30Mbps) according to the report, up from 5% last November and 2% last May.
However, Ofcom said 68% of fixed-line residential broadband users were now subscribing to broadband packages of up to 10Mbps, up from 48% in May 2011.
“The noticeable overall improvement in speeds is, in particular, the result of ISPs upgrading their broadband networks,” Ofcom said.
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Ofcom pointed to upgrades by BT and Virgin Media, with the latter taking the title of fastest ISP, its 100Mbps offering an average 88.3Mbps. BT won the top spot for upload speeds, achieving an average of 15.6Mbps with its Infinity service.
However, Ofcom realised that, even with greater speeds and the benefits to customers, there remained work to be done when it came to ensuring advertised speeds were realistic compared to the connections users actually receive.
Earlier this year Ofcom worked with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) to bring rules into force whereby UK ISPs can only advertise "up to" broadband speeds if at least 10% of their customers were achieving those connections.
Ofcom claimed these guidelines had led to more ISPs advertising their packages with other benefits, such as price or security, rather than focusing on speed.
“Our research shows that the move to faster broadband services is gathering momentum,” said Ed Richards, CEO of Ofcom. “Consumers are benefiting from network upgrades and the launch of new, superfast packages, giving them faster speeds and greater choice.
“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.”