AVERAGE broadband speeds in the UK have climbed into double figures for the first time, and have risen by a third in just six months, according to research published by communications regulator Ofcom.
Figures released yesterday showed that connections hit on average 12 megabits per second (Mbps) in November 2012, up from 9Mbps in May and more than three times the speeds available in 2008.
The rise has been triggered by the increasing availability of superfast fibre optic networks as Virgin Media and BT expand their networks. BT is making fibre available at a rate of 100,000 homes per week, and between the two companies’ networks, superfast broadband covers around two-thirds of the population.
“Our research shows that UK consumers are adopting faster broadband packages to cater for their increasing use of bandwidth-heavy services such as video streaming,” Ofcom’s chief executive Ed Richards said. “The increase in the average number of connected devices in UK homes is also driving the need for speed.” The regulator said more than one in ten people now use superfast connections.
The government has made the rollout of superfast broadband a priority, and former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt promised last year that the UK would have the fastest broadband in Europe by 2015.
Despite this, the country still lags behind many countries in terms of coverage – falling behind the likes of the Netherlands where fibre coverage is near to universal.
Ofcom’s research also revealed that broadband speeds are often far below their advertised maximum speeds. Non-fibre broadband connections, which are advertised as reaching speeds of up to 16Mbps, tend to reach slightly more than half that at peak times and rarely tend to beat 12Mbps, although superfast connections tend to be much closer to advertised rates.