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UK slips down broadband speed league table

Although average broadband speeds in the UK have improved in the past year, other countries are moving faster, according to new data from comparison site Cable.co.uk

The increasing pace of broadband network roll-outs around the world has seen the UK slip four places from 31st to 35th in terms of the average broadband speeds available, and it is now outpaced by most other European Union (EU) member states, advanced Asian economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and even African outlier Madagascar, according to new research from broadband comparison service Cable.co.uk.

This is the second year that Cable, together with partner M-Lab, a collaboration between New America’s Open Technology Institute, Google Open Source Research, and Princeton University’s PlanetLab, have produced data on average broadband speeds around the world.

While the average speed available to UK users improved from 16.5Mbps to 18.6Mbps according to Cable’s methodology, other countries are also rapidly improving their services.

First-placed Singapore, which also came in first in 2017, went from 55.1Mbps to 60.4Mbps, for example, while European leader Sweden went from 40.1Mbps to 46Mbps.

Accounting for other movements in the charts (Macao dropped behind the UK), a total of five countries leapfrogged the UK – these were Andorra (12.1Mbps to 27.1Mbps), France (13.4Mbps to 24.2Mbps), Luxembourg (15.5Mbps to 35.1Mbps), Poland (14.9Mbps to 19.7Mbps), and curiously, Madagascar (3.5Mbps to 24.9Mbps).

The global average speed rose from 7.4Mbps in the 12 months to 10 May 2017 to 9.10Mbps in the 12 months to 29 May 2019, up 23% year-on-year.

The data show the five fastest countries – Singapore, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Romania – have broadband speeds nearly 90 times faster than the five slowest – Guinea, Somalia, Turkmenistan, East Timor and Yemen.

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The slowest speeds were without exception found in less economically developed states, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa, although it is important to note that many countries have invested more heavily in mobile services than fixed.

“With average broadband speeds rising by 23% in just one year it would be easy to assume an overall positive global picture. However, a closer look reveals the acceleration is concentrated towards the top end: the faster countries are improving more quickly, with those towards the bottom end of the table verging on stagnation,” said Cable consumer telecoms analyst Dan Howdle.

“Europe, the United States and thriving economic centres in the Asia-Pacific region (Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong) are leading the world when it comes to the provision of fast, reliable broadband, which suggests a relationship between available bandwidth and economic health.

“We should also be conscious of those that are being left further and further behind,” he said.

Turning to the UK specifically, Howdle suggested that the UK has “simply come too late” to full-fibre (or FTTP) broadband. Making full-fibre more widely available – as many UK players, including names such as CityFibre, Hyperoptic and Openreach, are now doing at scale – would doubtlessly improve the UK’s position, although Howdle pointed out that the UK was likely to full further behind while the roll-out gathers pace.

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

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