UK broadband speeds have taken a creditable leap in only six months, rising from an average of 7.6Mbps to 9Mbps this May, telecoms regulator Ofcom has reported in its latest survey.
Ofcom’s half-yearly survey of broadband performance is watched keenly for improvements – or the lack of them – and this one looks good on the face of it, despite regular moans that the country is falling behind by international measures.
The 9Mbps speed is a decent boost over the measly 3.6Mbps Ofcom found in November 2008. However, a closer look reveals some issues.
The figures add in the effect of high-speed broadband (up to 30Mbps or above) for the first time, which now accounts for 8 percent of the market, mostly in cities and large towns. Given that the same figure a year earlier was 2 percent, high-speed or superfast broadband is on the rise. Most high-speed broadband users get around 35Mbps.
Nevertheless, 68 percent of users remain stuck on broadband offering ‘up to’ 10mbps – often a lot less – which means that the UK has gone from a country of lousy broadband to one where the experience is merely mediocre.
"If the UK wants to compete in a global arena, the area that must be addressed is the Government mindset. As it stands, the UK fails to make the top 10 countries for broadband speeds and doesn’t even figure on FTTH [fibre to the home) leader-boards,” said Boris Ivanovic of Hyperoptic, a company trying to mega-fast broadband in excess of 1Gbps.
“As a nation, it’s very much a follower than a leader and that needs to change,” he said. ““In summary, the country’s broadband strategy needs to be far more ambitious.”
The growth in demand for high-speed broadband would depend on the economic situation, agreed Sebastien Lahtinen, co-founder of ISP analysis firm, thinkbroadband.
“At the end of last year, the government promised to deliver ‘the best broadband in Europe by 2015’, measured in terms of a mix of availability, speed, price and consumer choice,” he said.
“In the current climate, household budgets are tight and therefore increasing take-up of super-fast broadband services is going to be a challenge for service providers and content providers such as Netflix, whose services significantly benefit from faster speeds to deliver an optimum experience in a typical modern household with many simultaneous users."
The fastest high-speed broadband was Virgin's 100Mbps service which offers its customers an average of 80-87 Mbps through weekdays, Ofcom said.