Average UK broadband speeds increase to 80Mb

13 May 2021   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Analysis from regulator Ofcom shows average download speeds increased by 25% over the course of a year.

Upload speeds increased even more dramatically, rising by 54% up to an average of 21.6Mb in tests conducted in November 2020.

Ofcom also released details of individual package tests that show Virgin Media's cable network struggles with disconnections compared to BT's full fibre network.

In addition, the regulator has removed individual copper broadband packages from its interim interactive report as it focuses on superfast connections or higher.

broadband speed test
Credit: Art Alex/Shutterstock.com

Speed increases

The average speed of UK home broadband connections has now reached 80.2Mb, up by 25% from 64.0Mb in the previous report.

While this has been rising steadily in recent years, the 18Mb increase is a large jump and suggests that more customers are opting for ultrafast broadband connections.

Ofcom say 78% of customers are now signed up to superfast broadband packages of 30Mb or more, while 5% of customers have ultrafast broadband packages with advertised download speeds of 300Mb or more.

There has also been a marked increase in average upload speeds between the previous test data in November 2019 and this data collated in November 2020.

Customers now typically experience upload speeds of 21.6Mbs, a huge increase of 54% compared to the 34.0Mb recorded the previous year.

Again, Ofcom attribute this to an increase in the take-up of services with very high upload speeds such as those offering symmetrical downloads and uploads.

When searching for a new broadband deal with the free Choose checker tool, remember to filter by ultrafast connections of more than 100Mb to find out if there are any in your postcode area.

Package tests

Ofcom looked at a range of broadband packages from major suppliers to see how panellists experience services in the real world.

One interesting statistic from those tests is that despite being the UK's fastest provider, customers on Virgin Media's 108Mb and 213Mb packages are more likely to experience daily disconnections than other superfast or ultrafast packages.

In terms of speeds, we see the usual pattern of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) connections falling slightly short of delivering their advertised speeds for superfast lines between 59Mb and 67Mb.

Slower superfast packages from BT, EE, Plusnet and TalkTalk continue to deliver speeds similar to those advertised, although BT's 50Mb package continues to show wide fluctuations in average speeds.

Copper broadband

It's unclear whether Ofcom's decision to put ADSL2+ connections together without breaking them down into provider-specific detail is a permanent decision, but the combined number of panellists of copper broadband connections (103) was less than the number for most individual superfast packages.

In addition, Ofcom say only 8% of homes now have average speeds of less than 10Mb, so it makes sense for them to focus their reporting efforts elsewhere.

As Openreach continue their roll out of fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband, BT and the other ISPs using old copper lines are preparing to transition customers away from copper.

We've already seen TalkTalk deliberately raise their copper broadband prices above the prices of their fibre deals in a bid to encourage more customers to take up superfast connections.

Yet data from Ofcom's Connected Nations update also published this week shows 2% of households still can't receive decent broadband of 10Mb or more.

This figure is remaining stubbornly stagnant despite the universal service obligation (USO) that compels BT to provide connections to those customers.

Since it takes a while for a USO request to become a home broadband connection, perhaps this isn't too much of a surprise, yet it's worth noting Ofcom are currently investigating BT's compliance with the USO and are expected to issue preliminary findings this month.

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