Each year, research firm M-Lab and Cable.co.uk team up to survey the average broadband download speeds across the globe. In 2019, they gathered data from over 276 million speed tests worldwide (up on 163 million in 2018) in 207 countries, revealing that the average global download speed was 11.03Mbps, which represents an increase of 20.56% on the previous year.
We’ve compiled this helpful guide to help clear up any questions you might have about internet download speeds, and why they differ so much from country to country. Note that this research is based on download speed via broadband and does not include mobile download speeds, which are often slower.
Which country has the fastest internet download speeds?
The data from M-Lab and Cable.co.uk shows that the country with the highest average broadband download speed was Taiwan. Coming in at 85.02Mbps, that’s a whopping increase of 202.62% on last year.
However, survey data from Ookla published in June 2019 suggests that it’s actually Singapore that has the highest internet speeds, coming in at 153.85 Mbps. The language for this study is unclear, however, and it could be that this is the highest possible available speed, but not the average speed across the country.
We will continue to focus on the data from M-Lab and Cable.co.uk for the duration of this guide.
What is the UK’s average broadband speed?
The data suggests the UK has an average download speed of only 22.37Mbps, giving it a ranking of 34/207. While this represents an increase on last year (from 35th), it is still a way off the 54.2Mbps recorded by Ofcom and 61.75Mbps recorded by Ookla in the same year. This is because each of these research bodies use different methodologies.
The UK comes ranks behind two thirds of its EU neighbours, who, unlike the UK, are all way ahead in deploying full fibre connection to homes (FTTP) and “ultrafast broadband” coverage.
Why do some countries have much faster broadband than others?
As with anything, some countries have better access to the funding and infrastructure needed to ensure fast download speeds. Generally speaking though, the larger and less “developed” a nation is, the slower the internet access tends to be.
The biggest teller is economic necessity. Taiwan, for example, has a thriving digital economy and relies heavily on the internet for its business. Coupled with being a relatively small country, this translates into very widespread access to good internet speeds.
This works both ways. For countries such as Chad, a very remote and very big country whose primary industry is agriculture, it is very difficult to build the necessary infrastructure.
How reliable is this data?
It’s important to take this data with a pinch of salt, as quite clearly indicated by the wide discrepancies between researchers. The report from M-Lab and Cable.co.uk is quite extensive however, with 276 million speed tests administered worldwide. Generally speaking, more data means more reliable results.
Having said that, these studies do not directly reflect the availability of faster connections for inhabitants of these countries. Each have their own local infrastructural challenges to contend with. Poor home connection, local network congestion and slow home WiFi might affect the performance of these tests.
On top of that, just like with product reviews, people are more likely to measure their speed if something is already wrong. This can create a negative bias in the data.
What does that mean for broadband speeds in the UK?
Present estimates state that fixed superfast broadband - fibre cables providing average download speeds of 24Mbps - is available to almost 96% of UK premises. The government hopes this rises to 98% by the end of the year. Around 55-60% can access ultrafast broadband, which brings in speeds of around 100+Mbps.
In reality, many people cannot afford to upgrade or are unaware that they can. Around 33% of UK households use copper ADSL lines, which are much slower than fibre.
The UK Government claim they want to achieve nationwide coverage of fibre broadband by 2033, but this is a very long time to wait.
How do I find cheap, fast internet in the UK?
The good news is you don’t have to move to Taiwan to get fast internet. If you don’t already have fibre broadband, you can check with your provider to see if you’re eligible, or if there are plans to bring fibre broadband to your area in the near future.
If you’re able to, then check out our broadband comparison tool. It’ll let you choose from the best broadband providers in the UK to find the deal that’s right for you.