One-third of UK broadband connections are now classed as superfast – up to 30Mbps and higher – compared with a quarter just over a year ago, according to research released by communications regulator Ofcom.
In its latest poll of national broadband infrastructure, Ofcom found that growing take-up of cable and fibre services capable of delivering 30Mbps and above meant average speed had increased by one-fifth between May and November 2014, hitting 22.8Mbps.
Ofcom said this was the biggest absolute rise in broadband speeds it had ever recorded.
It also found that connections receiving speeds of up to 30Mbps and higher were, on average, actually hitting speeds of 50.4Mbps.
This was largely down to a major speed upgrade programme undertaken by Virgin Media on its hybrid fibre coaxial cable network, which pushed average cable broadband speeds to over 54Mbps.
Meanwhile, the average speed of a fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) connection was again substantially lower at 41.6Mbps, and the average speed of an ADSL connection – still the most common type of residential broadband – was 7.3Mbps.
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Among suppliers, Virgin Media achieved the fastest download speeds, averaging 132.6Mbps over its 152Mbps service, while BT hit around 60Mbps on its up to 76Mbps services. At peak times, Sky was found to be the least contended network, while EE and Virgin Media came in for criticism.
Plusnet was found to be the most suitable broadband supplier for consumers looking for fast upload speeds, hitting 17Mbps on its up to 76Mbps package.
Ofcom’s data was sourced from broadband comparison outfit SamKnows.
No change in rural areas
Ofcom found that average download speeds in urban areas were up 21% in the six months to November 2014, again attributable to Virgin Media’s upgrade programme.
But it said that as faster cable and fibre services were typically less likely to be available in rural areas, there was no statistically significant change in average speed in either suburban or rural areas, even considering the impact of BDUK, which is currently passing 40,000 premises a week.
Ofcom’s latest figures reflect the period immediately before the launch of the ongoing £8m DCMS-sponsored advertising campaign for superfast broadband.
“It is encouraging to see continued investment in infrastructure from broadband providers, supported by government funding to bring faster broadband to harder-to-reach areas,” said acting Ofcom chief executive Steve Unger.
“By providing the best possible information, Ofcom can help people understand the broadband services available to them and what they can do to get the most from their broadband.”