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

Published 14|03|13

Overview of UK broadband speeds

The average fixed broadband download speed was 12.0Mbit/s in November 2012

1.1 Our research finds that in November 2012 the average actual download speed of a UK fixed broadband connection was 12.0Mbit/s (Figure 1.1). The average actual speed of connections with a headline speed of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s or higher was 44.6Mbit/s in November 2012, more than ten times the 4.4Mbit/s average for connections with advertised speeds above ‘up to’ 2Mbit/s and up to and including 10Mbit/s. The average speed for connections with a headline speed above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s and less than 30Mbit/s was 8.1Mbit/s during the period.

1.2 Our measurement units are connected to panellists’ routers using an Ethernet cable in order that the measured test results accurately reflect the performance of their connections. Where consumers use WiFi (or other technologies such as to powerline) to connect devices to their router, it is possible that the actual speeds received will be lower than those delivered over an Ethernet connection as a result of the limitations of these technologies. This is particularly true for higher-speed broadband connections, where the speeds delivered may be higher than the maximum bandwidth that the in-home network technology is capable of supporting. In addition, the speeds recorded by our measurement units may be affected by the traffic management policies applied by ISPs.

Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in November 2012
Panel Base: 1,291
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 November 2012; (3) Data collected from multi-thread download speed tests; (4) The above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s and less than ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s category includes ADSL2+ connections which are not marketed using a connection speed.

1.3 Average actual fixed broadband speeds continued to increase in the second half of 2012, and the 12.0Mbit/s average speed recorded in November 2012 was 3.1Mbit/s (34%) higher than the 9.0Mbit/s average recorded in May 2012, and 8.4Mbit/s (234%) faster than the 3.6Mbit/s average in November 2008. (-9-) Average actual speeds recorded in November 2012 were higher than those in May 2012 for all of the connection categories shown in Figure 1.2 below, except ‘up to’ 2Mbit/s and up to and including 10Mbit/s, where average speeds fell from 5.6Mbit/s to 4.4Mbit/s.

1.4 The fall in the average speed recorded for this category is likely to be for two main reasons. First, Virgin Media’s ‘double speeds’ upgrade programme means that its ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s cable customers are being upgraded onto ‘up to’ 20Mbit/s or 30Mbit/s services (depending, among other things, on the CPE that they have). ‘Up to’ 10Mbit/s cable customers typically have much higher average speeds that the ADSL1 connections which make up the majority of the other services included in this category (in November 2012 the average speed of an ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s cable connection was 9.5Mbit/s compared to 3.0Mbit/s (-10-) for an ADSL1 connection). Therefore a fall in the proportion of these connections that are ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s cable connections will result in a fall in average actual download speeds.

1.5 Second, as BT’s upgrade of its ADSL network to offer ADSL2+ nears completion, the ADSL1 connections which are included in this category are likely to be found in more rural areas, where the average length of the line from the BT local exchange to the end users’ premises is likely to be longer and average speeds therefore lower. (-11-)

1.6 For connections with a headline speed above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s and less than ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s, average speeds increased from 7.3Mbit/s to 8.1Mbit/s in the six months to November 2012. The main reason for this was that the proportion of these connections which were ‘up to’ 20Mbit/s Virgin Media cable connections increased over the period as a result of Virgin Media’s ‘double speed’ upgrades (in November 2012 the average speed of ‘up to’ 20Mbit/s cable connections was 19.1Mbit/s compared to 6.9Mbit/s for the ADSL2+ connections which make up the majority of the rest of the connections included this category).

1.7 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 November 2012; from 35.8Mbit/s to 44.6Mbit/s. During this period the proportion of retail FTTC connections with a headline speed higher than 40Mbit/s increased as take-up of ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s FTTC services grew, while Virgin Media continued to upgrade its existing customer base onto higher-speed services, meaning that a higher proportion of superfast connections were provided using cable modems, and the percentage of superfast cable connections with a headline speed of 60Mbit/s or higher more than doubled.

1.8 This change in the mix of superfast services was the key driver behind the increase in average actual recorded download speeds for superfast connections over the period.

Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members
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 November 2012; (3) Data collected from single-thread download speed tests prior to November/December 2010 and multi-thread download speed tests for November/December 2010 onwards; (4) The above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s and less than ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s category includes ADSL2+ connections which are not marketed using a connection speed.

The proportion of UK residential fixed-line broadband connections that were superfast more than doubled in the year to November 2012

1.9 More than three-quarters (77%) of UK residential broadband connections had an advertised speed above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s in November 2012, a 19 percentage point increase compared to a year previously (Figure 1.3). 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 consumer.

1.10 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 that offer both types of service. This, coupled with increasing demand for higher-speed connections as consumers use more bandwidth-hungry services, and the rising number of connected devices per household, meant that the proportion of residential fixed broadband connections that were superfast more than doubled, from 5% to 13%, in the year to November 2012; the rate at which consumers migrated onto superfast services accelerated during the latter half of this period.

Source: Ofcom, based on data provided by the UKs largest ISPs by retail market share (representing over 90% of the total market) Note: The above up to 10Mbit/s and less than up to 30Mbit/s category includes ADSL2+ connections which are not marketed using a connection speed.

Average cable broadband speeds increased by 58% in the six months to November 2012

1.11 The average download speed of a UK residential cable broadband connection increased by 10.4Mbit/s (58%) to 28.3Mbit/s in the six months to November 2012 (Figure 1.4). This was largely a result of Virgin Media’s ongoing speed upgrade programme which is due to be completed by the end of June 2013 (although upgrades to its 120Mbit/s services will continue until the end of the year). Over the same six-month period the average speed of a residential ADSL connection also increased, albeit by just 0.2Mbit/s (3%) to 6.0Mbit/s, partly as a result of ADSL1 customers being upgraded onto faster ADSL2+ services.

1.12 Having fallen in the six months to May 2012, the average actual speeds recorded for FTTx panellists increased by 9.4Mbit/s (30%) to 41.0Mbit/s in the six months to November 2012. This increase was primarily the result of the proportion of residential FTTC connections (which make up over 99% of residential FTTx connections) that were marketed as ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s (rather than ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s) having increased during the period.

Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in November 2012 Panel Base: 1,291 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) Data collected from multi-thread download speed tests.

Average download speeds fell during peak times, but for some services more than for others

1.13 Average download speeds often fall during busy periods, when a larger number of connections are being used, as a result of capacity constraints (contention) on ISPs’ networks (Figure 1.5). While the average maximum speed (typically recorded during the ‘off-peak’ hours of 12am to 6am) in November 2012 was 13.0Mbit/s, it was 11.8Mbit/s during the peak weekday hours of 8pm to 10pm (when speeds are usually lowest); 90% of the maximum speed and 98% of the 12.0Mbit/s average speed recorded across the 24-hour period.

1.14 The relative performance of UK residential broadband connections varied by connection type during the weekday 8pm to 10pm peak period in November 2012, with average peak-time speeds as a proportion of average maximum speeds ranging from 85% for ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s and ‘up to’ 100Mbit/s cable connections to 94% for ‘up to 38Mbit/s and ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s FTTC connections.

Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in November 2012. Panel Base: 1,291 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 November 2012; (3) Data collected from multi-thread download speed tests.

The average actual upload speed of a UK residential fixed broadband connection was 1.4Mbit/s in November 2012

1.15 While broadband advertising tends to focus on download speeds (which are important for most consumer applications), upload speeds matter to those looking to share large files, use real-time two-way video communications and for some online gaming. We therefore also consider upload speeds in our fixed broadband performance research, which shows that the average actual upload speed of a UK fixed broadband connection was 1.4Mbit/s in November 2012, 0.3Mbit/s (30%) higher that the 1.1Mbit/s average recorded in May 2012.

Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in November 2012. Panel Base: 1,291 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) Data collected from multi-thread speed tests.

Footnotes:

  9.- The average speeds recorded before November/December 2010 were measured using single-thread rather than multi-thread speed tests (see the glossary of terms in Annex 4 for more details).

  10.- This figure excludes an uplift which was applied to the May 2012 figures to allow for the fact that average ADSL1 line lengths had increased as a result of ADSL1 users being migrated onto ADSL2+ services.

  11.- For ADSL broadband, the maximum line speed available is constrained by the length of the copper wire connection between the premises and the local telephone exchange, with speeds slowing down due to increased signal loss as the length of the line increases.

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