Looking deeper into rural broadband speeds
The Local Government Association has upped the ante in it broadband campaign now looking at getting speeds in broadband advertising changed1 and to eradicate ‘up to’ and replace it with an average speed. Part of the campaign highlights that remote rural areas can suffer more congestion at peak times and thus lower speeds, but this is based on Ofcom research from 2014 and while we for those who pick the wrong provider on an IPStream only exchange this may still be the case there are many now who can get something better. Critically for those on rural exchanges it is important to check what options are available as while LLU expansion has been stagnant for a couple of years, the WBC IP network is from BT Wholesale can offer better peak time performance and has a much better DLM system than the old IPStream services.
“Councils are working hard to ensure everyone has good quality internet access. Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents and can help them cut household bills, shop online for cheaper goods, stay in touch with distant relatives, access their bank accounts and even run their own businesses. As central and local government services increasingly become digital by default’, more people will need to have faster and more reliable speeds.
The headline up to’ download speed, which can be advertised legally, is misleading and does not reflect the reality of broadband service received across the country. Broadband users deserve greater honesty and openness about the download and upload speeds they are likely to receive depending on their location.”
Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board
While Ofcom concentrates on monitoring a few thousand broadband connections and modelling those to get a national picture and is expanding the footprint of its monitoring boxes to more rural areas, our years of speed test data mean we can actually give a good idea of the picture in rural areas and as our results are showing user experience it covers issues such as congestion and people on older slower services being stuck with slow old Wi-Fi routers.
NOTE: The figures above include England, Wales and Scotland, the ONS definitions for Northern Ireland do not easily align and thus are dealt with separately. When we publish UK wide data obviously Northern Ireland does feature and coverage and speed data is on our coverage and speed tracker2
The relationship between higher levels of superfast coverage and average speeds is clear to see, but also highlights the danger that even when advertising uses average speeds due to the high speeds and large proportion of the population in urban areas, a UK wide average speed is still not going to mean too much to those in rural areas. The drop in speeds between Q2/2015 and Q3/2016 in some areas is a reflection of the changing demographics of how people use the Internet, i.e. more tests (as is day to day use) are on tablets and mobiles and complaints of low speeds from Virgin Media users are on a rise, plus as some people cut back on utilities spending people may be downgrading from the fastest services to one that is a bit cheaper but still adequate for their needs.
The speed profiles showing the speeds people are using is not the full story, as when we split out the different technologies you can see that while VDSL2 is often berated over its distance limitations for those ordering and using the service there is not a massive difference between the different parts of Great Britain.
Area FTTH Average
Q2/2016 Cable Average
Q2/2016 FTTC Average
Q2/2016 ADSL/ADSL2+ Average
Q2/2016 Down Upload Down Upload Down Upload Down Upload GB Urban
70.8% premises 82.2 Mbps 39.8 Mbps 48 Mbps 5.9 Mbps 29.9 Mbps 7.4 Mbps 7.1 Mbps 0.6 Mbps GB Town and Fringe
9.2% premises 62.4 Mbps 20 Mbps 50.5 Mbps 6.3 Mbps 29.8 Mbps 7.4 Mbps 7.6 Mbps 0.6 Mbps GB Village
6.1% premises 58.5 Mbps 30.7 Mbps 47.4 Mbps 7.8 Mbps 28 Mbps 6.9 Mbps 5.2 Mbps 0.6 Mbps GB Urban
3.9% premises 109.9 Mbps 55.8 Mbps 46.4 Mbps 5.9 Mbps 29.4 Mbps 7.4 Mbps 7.9 Mbps 0.6 Mbps GB Town and Fringe
3.2% premises 87.4 Mbps 15.9 Mbps 52.1 Mbps 6.6 Mbps 29.5 Mbps 7.1 Mbps 7.8 Mbps 0.6 Mbps GB Hamlet
2.7% premises 56.7 Mbps 24.3 Mbps 41.4 Mbps 6.1 Mbps 27 Mbps 6.7 Mbps 4.7 Mbps 0.5 Mbps GB Village
1.5% premises 57.5 Mbps 16.3 Mbps 47.4 Mbps 6.5 Mbps 28.4 Mbps 6.8 Mbps 6.5 Mbps 0.5 Mbps GB Hamlet
0.7% premises 54.2 Mbps 15.9 Mbps n/a n/a 28 Mbps 6.7 Mbps 4.7 Mbps 0.5 Mbps
At the end of the day the most important thing is what speeds a provider gives a user as part of the ordering process which is a key component the voluntary speeds code of practice.
Admittedly some providers slip in language that can include the word guarantee when in fact on a best efforts consumer service you cannot guarantee speeds and they don’t all use the same criteria for ranges quoted.