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Urban broadband speeds three times higher than rural

Ofcom releases statistics on average broadband speeds in the UK and finds the gap in experience between town and country dwellers remains as wide as ever

The disparity between average broadband speeds available in the UK’s rural areas and towns and cities remains as wide as ever, according to statistics from telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Ofcom research conducted in November 2015 found average download speeds in urban areas came in at 50.5Mbps, almost four times higher than those in rural areas, which hit only 13.7Mbps.

Predictably, the main reasons for this were the lower availability of fibre-based and cable-based broadband services in rural areas, and a prevalence of slower asymmetric digital subsriber lines (ADSL) still in use, along with slower fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) speeds where available.

As a result of this, Ofcom said the proportion of fixed broadband connections receiving an average actual speed of 10Mbps or higher in November 2015 was 69% in urban areas, but 25% in rural ones. However, this statistic is greatly affected by the availability of products offering more than 10Mbps, and the service that users ultimately choose to take up.

Ofcom worked with broadband research and testing specialists SamKnows to come up with its latest figures, gathering data from a residential panel of 2,000 volunteers running tests on various metrics.

Overall average speeds had risen to 28.9Mbps in November 2015, up 27% compared with November 2014, with 61% of fixed connections obtaining an average speed of 10Mbps or higher, and 38% obtaining average speeds of 30Mbps, up 27% and 13% respectively.

The average speed of products deemed superfast was 56.8Mbps, up 13% year-on-year, mostly due to cable users migrating onto better packages.

Average upload speeds were 3.7Mbps, a 28% increase on the end of 2014.

Cable still top

Thanks to the severely limited roll-out of ultrafast fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) products, cable broadband services – essentially meaning those provided by Virgin Media – emerged as those delivering the highest average download speeds at 73.6Mbps, compared with 41.2Mbps on an FTTC connection and 7.8Mbps on ADSL. However, it should be noted that Ofcom and SamKnows did not test FTTP services.

Due to this, Virgin Media’s 100Mbps and 200Mbps broadband packages recorded the fastest average speeds by provider, with the 200Mbps service clocking in at 174Mbps.

Ofcom said that because all of the ASDL and FTTC packages surveyed – with the exception of KCOM’s – were running over BT copper lines, it was very unlikely that the majority of consumers would see a substantial increase in the performance of their service if they were to switch.

Read more about broadband speed

Ofcom’s latest figures again diverged from those provided by other broadband market watchers. Recent figures from Akamai, released in its latest quarterly State of the Internet report, claimed UK broadband subscribers were getting average speeds of around half of what Ofcom suggested.

However, when considering the two, it is important to be aware that Akamai bases its figures on traffic traversing its own content delivery network. This means it does not measure all global internet traffic or necessarily reflect an accurate picture of the sort of speeds users can expect.

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