UK broadband speeds jump, rural areas still slow, says Ofcom

A new report from Ofcom indicates average British broadband speeds have increased, but rural areas are still suffering with slower speeds.

The UK's average broadband speed has increased, according to a new report by telecoms watchdog Ofcom, but there is still cause for concern over rural connections.

Ofcom has been busy perusing the data from 572 million speed tests from the 13 biggest internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK and concludes the average has increased from 6.2Mbps in May 2010 to a slightly better 7.6Mbps in November 2011. That doesn't seem like a massive acceleration to us but it's a step in the right direction.

Ofcom has been kicking up a fuss with ISPs of late , finally cracking down on those adverts that claim massive speeds but then don't offer enough gumption for an average YouTube video. It reckons the reason for this overall increase is that more customers are switching over to high-speed packages -- such as the ones offered by Virgin Media -- resulting in more than half of Britain now being on packages that advertise at least 10Mbps connections.

It's still not great news if you live out in the middle of nowhere though. Rural customers are still only achieving around 3.3Mbps, less than half the average rate. Country-dwellers tend to get the short straw when it comes to net speed as the further you live away from the exchange (where your connection comes from, essentially), the slower your speed will be.

Ofcom has been arguing with BT, among others, to make changes that will see faster and more affordable broadband coming to rural areas. It's part of the government's initiative to help businesses flourish outside of the towns and cities. The arrival of 4G will also lend a big help in getting remote farmers online, but it's still looking to be a way off yet.

Based on Ofcom's terms of speed advertising, and these new results, if you're on a package promising "up to" 8Mbps then you should be achieving around 6Mbps. Ofcom says your ISP should inform you of what speed you will be able to achieve and if you don't get that, you're allowed to opt out of your contract.

Good news if you're a Virgin Media customer though, as its "up to" 50Mbps package was found to have the best average speed of around 49Mbps. VM's executive director of broadband Jon James said, "It's good to see Britain's broadband speeds moving in the right direction." We couldn't agree more, JJ.

While these figures don't show a massive increase, it's heartening to see positive steps are being taken. With Virgin Media and BT investing heavily in faster fibre-optic technology, we're looking forward to seeing how these figures look next year.

About the author

Andrew is a senior editor at CNET and has always been fascinated by tech. When not getting up close and personal with the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.



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