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Average UK broadband speeds up a fifth in 12 months

Research from telecoms regulator Ofcom suggests efforts to encourage consumers to switch to faster broadband services are paying off

UK households are receiving faster and more reliable internet services, according to telecoms industry regulator Ofcom, which has published research showing that average broadband speeds increased by almost 20% in the past year.

Ofcom’s latest data was compiled by its research partner SamKnows from 4,918 residential broadband users who volunteered to have monitors installed on their home routers. It appears to show that, for the first time, the average download speed in the UK is now over 50Mbps, up 18% in 12 months to 54.2Mbps.

The fastest speeds recorded during the course of the research were found on Virgin Media’s Vivid 350 package – a hybrid cable-fibre service – with average peak download speeds of 360.2Mbps, while BT’s 300Mbps full-fibre package technically delivered more than promised, with average peak download speeds of 300.6Mbps.

Meanwhile, upload speeds, which are becoming more important as more people switch to home working regimes or share large data files, such as videos, were up 15% to 7.2Mbps on average. The fastest average peak uploads were again on BT’s full-fibre service, which recorded 48.8Mbps.

True to form, full-fibre, or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) packages performed better than copper-based packages by every measure, with copper services considerably more likely to suffer from peak-time slowdowns.

The jump in average speeds likely reflects a combination of two factors, namely the gathering pace of the UK’s full-fibre broadband roll-out, and high-profile efforts by a number of bodies, including Ofcom, to encourage users to switch to faster services.

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Yih-Choung Teh, strategy and research group director at Ofcom, said: “Broadband comes in lots of flavours these days: copper, superfast, cable and full fibre. Which kind you choose can really affect your online experience,” said Yih-Choung Teh, director of Ofcom’s Strategy and Research Group.

“So we’re encouraging people to visit our dedicated Boost Your Broadband website to find out how they could get faster broadband – for the same or less than they pay now.”

Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at comparison site, said that while there had been material improvements in download speeds the represented a step in the right direction, there was still more that needed to be done.

“While the UK’s broadband infrastructure clearly continues to improve, the sector can still do better in communicating this. Although 95% of homes and offices can access superfast services, there remain many who are unaware they can do so,” he said.

“More concerning is that many of these customers may be paying more than they could do if they changed to a faster service. Falling out of contract, which is still far too easy to do as we await the implementation of end-of-contract notifications, means higher monthly bills for inferior broadband.

Neudegg also noted a marked difference in service performance between urban and rural areas, and warned that the UK’s full-fibre roll-out was in danger of exacerbating the UK’s digital divide by focusing on competitive urban areas to the detriment of rural ones.

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