Superfast broadband speeds rise, but rural areas still considerably slower, says Ofcom

Internet infrastructure

Superfast broadband speeds rise, but rural areas still considerably slower, says Ofcom

Caroline Baldwin

Superfast broadband connections in the UK – offering speeds of 30Mbps or more – rose from 5% in November 2011 to 25% in November 2013, according to Ofcom.

Additionally, the average superfast connection speed reached 47Mbps by November 2013 – an increase of 47%, or 15.1Mbps, since May 2010.

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The Ofcom report revealed that 17.8Mbps is the average fixed-line residential broadband speed in the UK – almost five times faster than it was five years ago, up from 3.6Mbps in November 2008.

Meanwhile, both urban and suburban download speeds rose by over 20%, to 31.9Mbps and 21.8Mbps respectively.

But the growth in average speeds is not evenly spread across the UK. The Ofcom research claimed a significant number of households, especially those in rural areas, experience considerably slower speeds.

The research stated that average speeds in rural areas increased from 9.9Mbps to 11.3Mbps between May and November 2013.

“The sizes of the rural samples from which these averages were taken, however, are not large enough for the change to be deemed statistically significant,” the report stated.

“The growth in superfast broadband and the rise in average speeds is testament to the investment in the sector. But the benefits are not shared evenly across the UK,” said Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards. 

“There is more work needed to deliver wider availability of broadband and superfast broadband, particularly in rural communities but also in some locations within cities, to enable wider access to fast internet,” he said.

The report stated that one of the key reasons for slower speeds in rural areas it the limited availability of superfast broadband services, as well as broadband speeds over ADSL being generally slower in rural areas because of the longer distances to the telephone exchange.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey commented: “Ofcom’s report confirms the remarkable transformation of UK Broadband currently underway. The UK has the best superfast coverage of all five leading European economies, and the news that average speeds continue to rise is tremendous news for homes and businesses alike. We are working hard to close the digital divide between urban and rural locations and are investing £790m to ensure that 95% of the UK will have access to superfast speeds by 2017.”

Earlier this year, the government said it would be providing a further £250m towards the roll-out of superfast broadband in rural areas, with councils expected to match the funds to support local projects.

The existing investment into BDUK has caused controversy, since the vast majority of it has gone to BT, the only company to win bids to support council-backed broadband implementations.

But local authorities will be able to choose whether to use the new money to add to their existing contracts with BT or to fund additional projects that could involve different suppliers.


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