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UK offering relatively poor value for broadband services

Low absolute pricing is among the region’s best, but lower average speeds compared with much of Europe makes the UK one of the continent’s laggards when it comes to broadband value for money

With access to high-speed broadband now essential for people working from home, a survey from Cable.co.uk has revealed that the UK is still very much in Europe’s slow lane for high-speed, high-value connectivity.

The broadband pricing comparison firm’s study investigated 3,288 fixed-line broadband deals in 211 countries between 29 October 2020 and 9 December 2020. It found fundamentally that for the first time since it began taking measurements and assessments of the various global packages, broadband prices had not fallen, which has been the traditional case to date.

Cable.co.uk said it did not know whether this was related to the Covid-19 pandemic and other destabilising global events – issues it has also researched.

However, it did note that it had seen what it called a “substantial” number of countries upgrading their infrastructure in the past 12 months, with available speeds of 1Gbps becoming increasingly common. As in previous years, however, the countries with slow, patchy broadband infrastructure that supply only a fraction of their population tended to be the most expensive, and their growth in terms of available speeds is either slow or non-existent.

Looking at specific ratings in specific countries, the study found that the UK was fourth-cheapest of 29 countries studied in Western Europe and 67th in the world, with an average package price of $34.78. However, because of lower average speeds compared to much of Europe, it fared far worse in terms of value for money, coming 25th of 29 countries in Western Europe and 93rd in the world, with a cost per 1Mbps of bandwidth, per month, of $1.06.

As a benchmark, the study rated Ukraine as offering the world’s cheapest fixed-line broadband, with an average monthly cost of $6.41 per month.

“The UK does well in terms of the absolute average cost of a package, but it’s what you get for your money where the UK is falling further and further behind most of Europe,” said Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk. “1Mbps of bandwidth in the UK will cost you on average $1.06 per month, compared to $0.12 in Sweden and Malta, and $0.13 in Andorra, Portugal and Jersey.

“This comes as no surprise when you consider that, apart from Virgin Media, which owns its own network, and some very small local providers, the speeds available to UK households have not significantly changed for the majority of the UK population in the last five to six years. Prices, meanwhile, have risen steadily.”

In other findings, the study said the US was one of the most expensive developed Western nations in 131st place overall, with an average package cost of $59.99 per month – a 20% increase on prices measured at the end of 2019. Within Western Europe, France was the cheapest country, with an average package price of $32.16 per month, followed by Italy ($32.73) and Portugal ($ 33.31).

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