According to a study by the UK’s communications watchdog Ofcom, significant positive improvements have been made to the nation’s internet services recently.
The study was conducted over the course of 2017 and drew data 5,000 properties across the UK, throughout all four nations and a spread of rural and urban locales. The single fastest service for downloads was Virgin Media’s “up to 200Mbps” package, which averaged 193.5Mbps over a 24-hour period.
The average download speed across the nation improved by 28% over the course of 2017 to a figure (in November 2017) of 26.3Mbps (Megabits per second), while upload speeds improved even more markedly, up 6.2Mbps, or 44%. The rapid improvement in the past year or two has been attributed to the increasing use of streaming services such as Netflix and the corresponding requirement of service providers to keep up with the necessary demand so as to not lose customers. Another reason may well have been the crackdown on underperforming companies in early 2017 – Virgin Media was forced to apologise after a BBC investigation found that they were drastically failing to supply the connections advertised, with some households receiving internet speeds only 3% as fast as promised. Ofcom found that Virgin Media’s broadband speeds jumped significantly in summer 2017 after the May investigation, demonstrating the positive effects that going after underperforming providers can have.
Ofcom broke the data down by the four Home Nations – England averaged the fastest download speed, at 47.8Mbps, followed by Scotland with 43.6Mbps, Northern Ireland with 39.2Mpbs, and Wales lagging behind with download speeds averaging only 33.4Mbps.
However, there are still some areas of concern. Rural consumers are often still under-served, with only 23% of connections surpassing 30Mbps, and 53% under 10Mbps, in comparison with 59% and 17% respectively for urban connections. According to Ofcom, the reason for this discrepancy is the lack of availability of cable and fibre services outside major urban areas. The regulator has also brought in new regulation governing the advertising of broadband services. For instance, adverts can no longer advertise ‘up to’ broadband speeds, instead being required to quote average peak-time download speeds, so as not to mislead consumers. Ofcom also pointed out the discrepancy between households for which superfast fibre connections are available (93%) and the number that actually use them instead of traditional copper wiring (60%).
The outlook for broadband speeds over the course of 2018 looks positive, with Virgin Media’s 300Mbps service due to be rolled out, alongside improvements to BT’s Infinity 2 service.