Cable broadband speed overtakes fibre in UK?

Average download speeds by ISP package

Average download speeds by ISP package

The average broadband speed delivered by cable services is now faster than that of fibre, according to Ofcom research.

In the six months to May 2014, the average speed delivered by cable broadband reached 43.3Mbit/s, overtaking the average speed for fibre connections for the first time (42.0Mbit/s).

Ofcom’s eleventh report measures actual residential broadband speeds in the UK. It is intended to help consumers understand the performance of different broadband technologies and internet service providers’ packages, and make more informed purchasing decisions.

Ofcom has also today published new information to help consumers understand their options when choosing a new broadband service or get the most from their existing broadband.

Key findings from Ofcom’s research show that, between November 2013 and May 2014:

  • the average actual UK broadband speed increased by 5% (0.9Mbit/s) to 18.7Mbit/s;
  • take-up of superfast services (those with a headline speed of 30Mbit/s and above) increased from 24% to 28% of connections, while average superfast speeds remained stable at 47Mbit/s;
  • the extent to which speeds were maintained during peak evening times varied significantly between broadband packages, ranging from 76% to 96% of maximum speeds.  

Average speed by technology

The average speed delivered via cable broadband connections increased by 3.1Mbit/s (8%) to 43.3Mbit/s in the six months to May 2014. This was mainly due to cable customers upgrading to faster services.

Over the same period, average speeds for fibre connections decreased by 0.9Mbit/s (2%) to 42.0Mbit/s. In the UK, the majority of fibre connections are either up to’ 38Mbit/s or ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s. In the six months to May 2014, the mix of these fibre packages changed, with the proportion of the lower speed ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s fibre connections increasing slightly. This, coupled with small decreases in the average speeds recorded for both ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s and ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s connections, resulted in an overall reduction in the average speed for fibre services.

Average speeds for ADSL connections – the most common type of broadband – increased by 0.7Mbit/s (10%) to 7.4Mbit/s during the six months to May 2014. This is potentially a result of broadband infrastructure improvements related to fibre roll-out, such as capacity upgrades, which are also benefitting ADSL connections.

Fastest download and upload speeds by provider

Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 152Mbit/s cable service, which launched in February 2014, achieved the fastest download speed over a 24 hour period, averaging 141.9Mbit/s.

This was followed by BT’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s fibre package, which delivered an average download speed of 62.0Mbit/s.

Ofcom’s research also examines upload speeds, which are particularly important to those consumers wishing to share large files or use real-time video communications. The research found that Plusnet’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s package delivered the fastest upload speeds at 17.1Mbit/s on average.


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