Extensive Ofcom study reveals average UK broadband download speed

UK broadband customers who enjoy bandwidth-hungry applications such as watching movies and TV shows online now have a better idea about the download speeds they can expect thanks to a newly released study of the nine largest ISPs by UK government communications industry regulator Ofcom.

Ofcom, working with technical partner SamKnows and market research agency GfK, took some 60 million service performance readings in more than 1600 homes between November 2008 and April 2009.

The study revealed significant differences in download speeds offered by providers depending on the broadband technology in use and ISP capacity. It also showed that UK broadband consumers measured actually received an average download speed of 4.1Mb/s as opposed to the average “up to” speed of 7.1Mb/s promoted by the ISPs.

However, despite this difference, the majority of broadband customers surveyed about their attitudes regarding the level of their service expressed satisfaction, but 26 percent said the speed they received was not what they expected when they signed up.

The research found:

• Download speeds received varied widely. Nine percent of those sampled who were customers of services promoted as 8Mb/s packages received actual average speeds greater than 6M/s. About 20 percent received, on average, less than 2Mb/s.

• Urban dwellers fared better than rural customers when it came to download speeds. The average speed delivered to urban consumers was 4.6Mb/s, compared with an average of 3.3Mb/s delivered to rural consumers.

• All customers experienced a 20 percent slowdown in actual speeds during peak evening hours (8p.m.-10p.m.).

Ofcom’s research found that consumers on “up to” 8Mb/s packages whose broadband service is delivered via ADSL2+ received faster speeds than those who use the more common first-generation ADSL1. However, ISPs using ADSL1 who invest in network capacity are able to deliver speeds as good as ADSL2+ operators. Cable customers received significantly faster speeds than both ADSL technologies.