Cable broadband now faster than fibre, claims Ofcom

A report on UK broadband speeds reveals that cable broadband connections are now faster than fibre

Average broadband speeds delivered over cable connections have exceeded those of fibre connections for the first time, according to Ofcom.

A report by the regulator and broadband comparison site Samknows said cable broadband subscribers are now averaging speeds of 43.3Mbps, versus 42Mbps over fibre.

The report on the state of the UK’s broadband infrastructure is intended to help consumers understand the performance of different broadband technology and make better decisions when selecting an ISP.

The regulator said the switch was largely due to customers of cable operators switching to faster services, while take-up of lower-end 38Mpbs fibre increased in the six month period up to May 2014 – with take-up of 76Mbps fibre remaining unchanged.

Virgin Media topped the table of providers, averaging 141.9Mbps on its ‘up to’ 152Mbps product over a 24-hour period, followed by BT’s ‘up to’ 72Mbps service, which delivered an average of 62Mbps. Upload speeds were best on Plusnet’s ‘up to’ 76Mbps package, which delivered an average of 17.1Mbps.

Most UK consumers are still on ADSL connections, which now average 7.4Mbps, up 0.7Mbps over the six month period. Ofcom suggested this increase might be down to the impact of capacity upgrades as more fibre infrastructure is rolled out.

Average actual UK broadband speeds grew 5%, said Ofcom, to 18.7Mbps, and take-up of superfast services – defined by the report as those with headline speeds of 30Mbps or more – grew from 24% to 28% of connections.

Peak connection speeds varied from 76% to 96% of maximum speeds depending on selected packages. EE experienced the greatest degradation on its ‘up to’ 38Mbps service, and Sky the least on the same package.

BDUK pick up reduces rural, urban gap

Although the government’s BDUK scheme continues to be a bone of contention, Ofcom and Samknows found that as the roll-out ramps up across the UK, rural customers experienced a bigger increase in average speeds – up 20% to 13.6Mbps – than urban and suburban areas – up 5% to 33.4Mbps and 22.9Mbps.

Ofcom said the recorded increases in urban, suburban and rural areas, and the reduction in the gap between average speeds were not significant enough to form confident conclusions, but the data does suggest broadband in rural areas is starting to improve.

Digital economy minister, Ed Vaizey, said Ofcom’s findings were expected, adding that the BDUK programme had so far taken access to superfast to more than a million new homes and businesses.

“This has been instrumental in average speeds increasing by more than three and a half times since May 2010,” said Vaizey.

There are 44 active BDUK projects in the UK, hitting an average of 40,000 new properties a week, according to the government.

However, Ofcom said the increase in rural speeds was likely to be driven by a small proportion of rural panellists and early adopters taking advantage of other superfast services, and not those provided by BT under BDUK.

Outgoing Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, said the report showed there was still work to be done to ensure more widespread distribution of high-speed and reliable broadband in the UK, even though more and more consumers are benefiting from improvements to the country’s infrastructure.

“It’s important for us to provide consumers with the best possible information so they can understand the broadband options available to them, how different packages perform and what they can do to get the most from their services,” he said.

The full report can be downloaded from Ofcom’s website.

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

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