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Report names Hull as slowest city for broadband

A report by broadband comparison site uSwitch.com claims that Hull has some of the slowest average broadband speeds in the UK

The city of Hull in East Yorkshire receives the slowest average urban broadband speed in the country, clocking in at just 12.5Mbps over the six months to February 2016, according to a report compiled by consumer services comparison website uSwitch.com.

Hull is served by local incumbent KCOM, previously known as Kingston Communications, and not BT.

This quirk of the UK communications market dates back to the beginning of the Post Office’s telecoms monopoly in the early 20th century. Therefore, other internet service providers (ISPs) are thin on the ground in the city, and other network owners – such as BT Openreach and Virgin Media – are non-existent.

Ewan Taylor-Gibson, broadband expert at uSwitch.com, commented: “Hull’s broadband infrastructure is unique. It’s the only place in the UK that doesn’t have Openreach lines. Instead, independent telecoms supplier KCOM provides the broadband service.

“Although KCOM is currently rolling out ultrafast-capable, fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections in Hull, actual speed tests taken by broadband users would suggest this hasn’t reached enough homes yet to make an impact on the average,” said Taylor-Gibson.

A KCOM spokeswoman disputed the accuracy of the statistics, and said uSwitch’s quoted figures were based only on tests a small proportion of its customers had carried out on the uSwitch website. KCOM believes the true average speed on its network to be around 24Mbps.

“USwitch has got one thing right: Hull’s broadband infrastructure is unique. Unlike other providers, we’re rolling out ultrafast fibre directly to people’s homes. In Hull and East Yorkshire that means speeds of 250Mbps are already available to consumers,” she said.

“In fact, we’re connecting the equivalent of a new customer to ultrafast broadband every 30 minutes. Our approach means we’ll be able to meet the needs of customers now and in the future.”

Lightstream lights up

By KCOM’s measures, its Lightstream ultrafast broadband product is now available to a third of its customers, compared with around 2% of homes across the UK as a whole. It is currently ramping up its roll-out with a target of 75% coverage for Lightstream.

“Our focus over the coming months is on taking Lightstream to areas where current speeds are below average. At the same time we’re investing in our standard broadband to increase its capacity and improve the service we give to customers who can’t yet get Lightstream,” the KCOM spokeswoman said.

“Our aim is to make Hull the best connected city in the UK,” she added.

Bad news for other cities

The report also contained bad news for residents of Milton Keynes, where speeds averaged 17.1Mbps, and Aberdeen, where speeds averaged 15.7Mbps.

The government claims 90% of premises in the UK can now access superfast broadband, which it defines as delivering speeds of 24Mbps and above.

But KCOM said only half of the 42 cities it surveyed enjoyed average speeds that met that criteria, among them London, which averaged 22.4Mbps, and Edinburgh, which averaged 21.1Mbps.

Strong performers included Middlesbrough, which received an average speed of 34.5Mbps; Belfast, at 34.3Mbps; and Brighton, at 33.8Mbps.

USwitch claimed that three in 10 users in urban locations were receiving speeds of less than 5Mbps, while only one in 10 could receive 50Mbps.

A shot in the arm

Steve Holford, chief customer officer at FTTP ISP Hyperoptic, said the uSwitch report showed a lot more work needed to be done to upgrade city networks.

“For our cities to retain their leadership as powerhouses of the UK digital economy, there needs to be a fundamental shift in urban broadband strategies, with the roll out of FTTP taking centre stage,” said Holford.

“Our cities deserve better. Fibre all the way will give these types of league tables a much needed shot in the arm.”

The past two months have seen a flurry of activity among FTTP providers after Ofcom backed the delivery technology in its market review. It has set the stage for a showdown with Openreach, which maintains that fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) and G.fast technology are the best options for the UK.

Virgin Media recently announced plans to extend FTTP services delivering speeds of 200Mbps and above to a million households as part of its Project Lightning network build.

Meanwhile, TalkTalk is currently conducting tests of its very own FTTP network – built with help from fibre backhaul specialists CityFibre – in York, and has plans to pilot networks in other cities soon.

Read more about broadband roll-out

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