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UK fixed-line broadband performance, May 2012 - The performance of fixed-line broadband delivered to UK residential consumers

Published 15|08|12

Overview of UK broadband speeds

UK broadband speeds continue to increase as superfast take-up grows

1.1 Our research found that UK fixed-line residential broadband speeds continued to increase during the first half of 2012, and in May 2012 the average actual download speed was 9.0Mbit/s (-1-), a 1.4Mbit/s (19%) increase on the 7.6Mbit/s average recorded six months previously in November 2011, and 5.4Mbit/s (149%) faster than the 3.6Mbit/s average recorded in November 2008 (-2-) (Figure 1.1).

Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in May 2012
Panel Base: 1,105
Notes: (1) Data have been weighted by ISP package and LLU/non-LLU connections, rural/urban, geographic market classification and distance from exchange to ensure that they are representative of UK residential broadband consumers as a whole; (2) As sufficient sample sizes were not available for consumers on packages of 'up to' 2Mbit/s or less, data collected for these packages in April 2009 has been factored in, in proportion to share of all connections in May 2012; (3) Data collected from multi-thread download speed tests.

1.2 Average actual speeds recorded in May 2012 were higher than those in November 2011 for all of the connection categories shown below in Figure 1.2. For connections with a headline speed above 'up to' 2Mbit/s and up to and including 'up to' 10Mbit/s, average speeds increased from 5.3Mbit/s to 5.6Mbit/s in the six months to May 2012, while the average speed recorded for above 'up to' 10Mbit/s and less than 'up to' 30Mbit/s connections increased from 7.0Mbit/s to 7.3Mbit/s over the same period.

1.3 The average speeds recorded for superfast connections (i.e. those with an advertised speed of 'up to' 30Mbit/s or more) also increased in the six months to May 2012, up from 35.5Mbit/s to 35.8Mbit/s, despite a router issue encountered by a number of BT FTTC panellists. (-3-)

1.4 The main driver behind average actual speed increases continues to be consumers moving onto higher-speed packages, either by choosing to switch to a faster service or by being migrated onto one by their ISP as part of wider service upgrades. For example:

  • BT is currently upgrading its ADSL network from ADSL1 to ADSL2+ (which is now frequently advertised as offering speeds of 'up to' 16Mbit/s) and is moving its customer base, and those connections which it provides to other ISPs on a wholesale basis, onto the faster service.
  • In February 2012 Virgin Media started an 18-month programme to double the speeds of most of its broadband connections, thereby increasing the download speed of its fastest package to 'up to' 120Mbit/s.

Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in May 2012
Panel Base: 1,105
Notes: (1) Data have been weighted by ISP package and LLU/non-LLU connections, rural/urban, geographic market classification and distance from exchange to ensure that they are representative of UK residential broadband consumers as a whole; (2) As sufficient sample sizes were not available for consumers on packages of 'up to' 2Mbit/s or less, data collected for these packages in April 2009 has been factored in, in proportion to share of all connections in May 2012; (3) Data collected from multi-thread download speed tests.

Eight per cent of UK residential fixed-line broadband connections were classed as being superfast in May 2012

1.5 The continued migration of UK residential broadband customers onto higher-speed packages meant that over two-thirds of all UK residential connections (68%) had a headline speed above 'up to' 10Mbit/s in May 2012, a 20 percentage point increase on the 48% figure recorded a year previously (Figure 1.3).

1.6 This migration to higher-speed packages is a key driver behind increasing average actual UK broadband speeds, and in many cases these upgrades are made at little or no additional cost to the customer. While most local loop unbundling (LLU)-based ADSL services have already been upgraded to use ADSL2+, BT is in the process of upgrading its ADSL1 network, and in April 2012 raised the maximum speeds offered over its entire FTTC network to 'up to' 76Mbit/s. Additionally, Virgin Media is currently in the process of doubling the speed of most of its cable broadband connections.

1.7 The difference between the monthly rental fees for ISPs lowest-cost superfast services and their lowest-cost current generation services (which have headline speeds below 'up to' 30Mbit/s) is often relatively small, with the price differential ranging from 5 to 10 a month for most ISPs which offer both types of service. This, coupled with increasing demand for higher-speed connections as consumers use more bandwidth-hungry services and the number of connected devices per household increases, resulted in the proportion of residential fixed broadband connections that were superfast increasing from 5% to 8% in the six months to May 2012.

Source: Ofcom, based on data provided by the UKs largest ISPs by retail market share (representing over 90% of the total market)

Summary of average download speeds of all ISP packages

1.8 Figure 1.4 summarises the average maximum, 24-hour and weekday peak period download speeds achieved by all of the ISP packages included in our research in May 2012.  It shows the 95% confidence interval around the mean. This is not necessarily the average speed achieved across all UK customers using each package, but we can say to a 95% level of confidence that that the average speed of these packages falls somewhere in the stated range.

Figure 1.4          Summary of average download speed by ISP package: May 2012 (-4-)

Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in May 2012.
*Caution: Small sample size (<50)
Panel Base:1,357
Notes: (1) Includes only ADSL customers within 5km of the exchange and in Geographic Markets 2 and 3 and in the Kingston-upon-Hull area for Karoo; (2) Includes on-net customers only for LLU operators (3) Data for ADSL operators have been weighted to ISP regional coverage of LLU lines and distance from exchange; data for Virgin Medias cable service have been weighted to regional coverage only; (4) Data collected from multi-thread download speed tests; (5) The range shown represents a 95% confidence interval around the mean.

Footnotes:

A number of BT Infinity panellists measurement units reported anomalous results during the May 2012 reporting month, and for 22 out of a total of 239 BT up to 38Mbit/s and up to 76Mbit/s connections the downstream speeds recorded fell to less than 1Mbit/s at certain times. For more information on these issues please refer to page 5 of the report.

  1.- The average UK residential actual broadband speed in May 2012 was 9.1Mbit/s when the data from those BT FTTC panellists whose measurement units reported anomalous results is excluded from the analysis.

  2.- The average speed recorded in October/November 2008 was measured using single-thread rather than multi-thread speed tests (see the glossary of terms in Annex 4 for more details).

  3.- The average actual speed of UK residential superfast broadband connections in May 2012 was 36.9Mbit/s when the data from those BT FTTC panellists whose measurement units reported anomalous results is excluded from the analysis.

  4.- Excluding the results from those BT FTTC panellists whose measurement units reported anomalous results in May 2012, the average maximum, 24-hour and weekday peak period download speeds achieved by these packages were as follows:

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UK Fixed Broadband Map 2011

The UK's first interactive map showing accurate information on broadband take-up, speeds and availability has been produced by Ofcom, using data provided by communications providers.

UK Fixed Broadband Map 2011