UK fixed-line broadband performance, November 2014 - The performance of fixed-line broadband provided to UK residential consumers

Published 26|02|15

Overview of UK broadband speeds

1.1 The average UK residential fixed broadband speed reached 22.8Mbit/s in November 2014.

Our research found that the average actual speed for UK residential fixed-line broadband connections was 22.8Mbit/s in November 2014 (Figure 1.1). The average actual speed of broadband connections with a headline speed of 30Mbit/s or more was found to be 50.4Mbit/s, almost six times the average actual speed of those connections with headline speeds above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s and less than ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s (8.4Mbit/s). The average actual speed of connections above ‘up to’ 2Mbit/s and up to and including 10Mbit/s was 3.0Mbit/s.

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Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in November 2014
Panel Base: 1181
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 2014; (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.

1.2 Average broadband speeds increased by 22% in the six months to November 2014

Average actual residential fixed broadband speeds continued to increase in the six months to November 2014, up by 4.1Mbit/s (22%) to 22.8Mbit/s (Figure 1.2). In Mbit/s terms, this is the largest six-monthly increase recorded since Ofcom started to measure actual download speeds in 2008. This increase was largely due to consumers migrating onto faster services: connections with a headline speed of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s or higher accounted for 32% of residential fixed broadband connections in November 2014, up from 28% in May 2014, as shown in Figure 1.3. None of the changes in average speeds recorded for the “above ‘up to’ 2Mbit/s and ‘up to’ and including 10Mbit/s”, the “above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s and less than ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s” and the “’up to’ 30Mbit/s and higher” connection categories in the six months to November 2014 were statistically significant.

Sufficient sample sizes were not available among our panel for connections with headline speeds of ‘up to’ 2Mbit/s and less, because of the low market share of these connections, so the performance of these connections is not analysed in detail. They are, however, included in Figure 1.2 so that average actual speeds reflect all connections.

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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 2014; (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.

1.3 32% of UK residential broadband connections had a headline speed of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s or higher in November 2014

We consider the increased take-up of connections with a headline speed of ‘more than or equal to’ 30Mbit/s to be a major driver in the increase in average actual speeds across all UK fixed broadband connections over recent years. The proportion of residential fixed broadband connections that had a headline speed of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s and higher was 32% in November 2014, an increase of four percentage points since May 2014 and of nine percentage points since November 2013. The proportion of connections with headline speeds over ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s and less than ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s fell by two percentage points to 59% in the six months to November 2014, consistent with the decrease for these connections between May 2013 and May 2014, as consumers upgraded to faster connections.

The proportion of connections that were ‘up to’ and including 8Mbit/s to 10Mbit/s also dropped in the six months to November 2014, down by one percentage point to 9%, while connections with a headline speed of less than ‘up to’ 8Mbit/s accounted for less than 0.5% of all residential connections.

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Source: Ofcom, based on data provided by the UK’s 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.

1.4 The average download speed of cable broadband services increased by 26% in the six months to November 2014

Cable broadband services’ average speeds increased by 26%, bringing average speeds across the technology up to 54.4Mbit/s. This was largely due to the ‘opt-in’ speeds upgrade programme that Virgin Media launched in March 2014, which is expected to run until June 2015. The average actual speeds of ADSL and fibre broadband connections were 7.3Mbit/s and 41.6Mbit/s respectively in November 2014. Both of these figures were in line with those recorded in May 2014.

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Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in November 2014
Panel Base: 1181
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.

1.5 Urban actual download speeds experienced a 21% speed increase in the six months to November 2014

Average speeds in urban areas tend to exceed those in suburban and rural areas due to the higher availability of cable and fibre services, and because average line lengths are shorter in urban areas due to the higher population density. The longer line lengths between local exchanges and customers’ premises in rural areas result in signal degradation and lower actual ADSL speeds, while longer line lengths between the street cabinet and customer premises result in lower speeds over FTTC connections. Together, these factors resulted in urban areas having average actual speeds that were around three times those recorded in rural areas in November 2014.

The higher availability of cable and fibre in urban areas is due to the fact that initial network roll-out tends to be concentrated in areas where population density is higher, covering a higher number of premises for a given network investment and giving a larger potential customer base. In the six months to November 2014, average actual download speeds in urban areas increased by 21% (Figure 1.5)(-9-) , while average suburban and rural speeds did not experience a statistically significant change.(-10-)

In the previous report, the gap between urban and rural speeds was shown to be decreasing. This was not the case in November 2014, mainly due to Virgin Media’s upgrade programme increasing average cable connection speeds. Virgin Media’s cable network has significantly lower availability in rural areas than in urban areas, so any changes in cable connection speeds will affect average speeds in urban areas more than they do those in rural ones.

1.5 Average download speeds for fixed broadband connections in urban, suburban and rural areas: May 2011 to November 2014

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Source: SamKnows
Panel Base: 2011; urban 999, suburban 382, rural 323; 2012 urban 1099, suburban 391, rural 294; and 2013 May urban 1362, suburban 448, rural 365; 2013 November urban 746, suburban 292; rural 271; 2014 May urban 1280, suburban 503, rural 370; 2014 November urban 1092, suburban 413, rural 337

1.6 Rural ADSL connections tend to be affected by contention more than those in urban areas

The low availability of cable broadband services in rural areas means that ADSL and fibre broadband services are more prevalent in these areas. Our research shows that rural ADSL and fibre connections provided lower average download speeds than those in urban areas in November 2014. Rural ADSL connections had an average actual download speed of 4.3Mbit/s over a 24-hour period, compared to 8.7Mbit/s for urban connections. For fibre connections, urban consumers achieved a 24-hour average actual download speed of 44.5Mbit/s, compared to 33.3Mbit/s for rural consumers.

Contention (slower speed due to high usage volumes) affects rural consumers more, on average, than urban consumers: rural ADSL connections received an average of 88% of their maximum speed during the 8pm to 10pm weekday peak period, compared to 92% for urban ADSL connections. This is not the case for fibre packages; rural fibre connections received an average of 95% of their maximum speed at peak-times, compared to 94% for urban connections.

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Source: SamKnows, November 2014
Panel Base: Urban fibre 130, rural fibre 23. urban ADSL 477, rural ADSL 155.

1.7 The extent to which download speeds are affected by peak-time network contention varies by technology

Download speeds typically vary by time of day and tend to fall during peak times, when a larger number of connections are being used, as a result of capacity constraints (contention) on the networks of internet service providers (ISPs) (Figure 1.7). For all the connection categories analysed, average actual speeds during the 8pm to 10pm weekday peak-time period were lower than both the actual average maximum speed and the 24-hour actual average speed. In November 2014 the actual average speed across all connections was 22.0Mbit/s during the 8pm to 10pm weekday peak-time period, which was 88% of the 24.9Mbit/s average maximum speed and 96% of the 22.8Mbit/s 24-hour average.

Cable connections with headline speeds of ‘up to’ 152Mbit/s experienced the largest proportional drop in peak-time average speeds in November 2014, when compared to both average maximum speeds and average 24-hour actual speeds. At peak time these connections had an average speed of 119.8Mbit/s, 75% of the average maximum speed (159.3Mbit/s) and 90% of the 24-hour average (132.6Mbit/s). ‘Up to’ 100Mbit/s cable connections were less affected by contention, receiving 86% of average maximum speed, and 94% of the 24-hour average speed during peak times. ‘Up to’ 50Mbit/s cable services were less affected in peak-time periods, providing 96% of the average maximum speed and 99% of the 24-hour average.(-11-)

FTTC connections were also less affected by peak-time contention than ‘up to’ 100Mbit/s and ‘up to’ 152Mbit/s cable connections, with levels of slowdown at peak times being similar to those of ‘up to’ 50Mbit/s cable services in November 2014. The peak-time download speeds on ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s and ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s FTTC connections were 32.5Mbit/s and 59.5Mbit/s respectively, 95% of the maximum average speed and 99% of the 24-hour average in both cases.

ADSL2+ connections with headline speeds of above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s, or without a headline speed, achieved an average peak-time speed of 7.9Mbit/s in November 2014; this was 92% of the average maximum speed for these connections and 99% of the 24-hour average speed. ADSL1 connections experienced higher levels of variation in average download speeds by time of day, receiving an average of 3.0Mbit/s at peak times, equivalent to 97% of the 3.1Mbit/s 24-hour average speed and 86% of the 3.5Mbit/s average maximum speed.

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Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in November 2014.
Panel Base: 1181
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 have been factored in, in proportion to share of all connections in November 2014; (3) Data collected from multi-thread download speed tests.

1.8 The average actual upload speed of a UK residential fixed-line broadband connection was 2.9Mbit/s in November 2014

Although broadband advertising tends to focus on download speeds, upload speeds are important for a subset of the population, such as those sharing large files and using real-time two-way video communications. Our research shows that average actual upload speeds increased by 0.5Mbit/s (22%) to 2.9Mbit/s in the six months to November 2014.

The only connection category which experienced an increase in its average actual upload speed in the six months to November 2014 was ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s and higher packages, for which the average upload speed increased by 0.2Mbit/s to 6.7Mbit/s, less than the 0.5Mbit/s increase across all connections. Therefore, the increase in average upload speeds recorded across all connections during this period was largely due to consumers migrating onto faster services, including those with headline speeds of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s and higher.

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Source: SamKnows measurement data for all panel members with a connection in November 2014.
Panel Base: 1181

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.-See Section 2, Presentation of results for an explanation on the use of confidence intervals in the charts.

 10.-Statistically significant to the 95% level of confidence used in this report.

 11.As Virgin Media’s cable services’ maximum speeds are higher than their headline speeds, the proportions of headline speeds that consumers receive at peak times are higher than the figures given above. For Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 50Mbit/s, 100Mbit/s and 152Mbit/s services the proportions of headline speeds recorded at peak times in November 2014 were 104%, 91% and 79% respectively.

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