Martin Lewis explains how to reduce the cost of broadband plans
Living in the digital age requires a constant and ever-faster connection to the Internet, whether for communication, work or entertainment. However, download speeds in the UK are much slower than many international peers, including major economies such as the US and France, but also Brazil, Vietnam and Hungary. This is mainly due to the late deployment of full-fiber broadband across the country, which is accelerating late but quickly.
By the end of the year, more than 80% of UK households are expected to subscribe to at least one subscription video-on-demand service, such as Netflix, Disney+ or Amazon Prime Video.
Traditional and pay TV broadcasters are also increasingly relying on broadband to deliver services, for example via BBC iPlayer and Sky Q.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity more than ever, forcing millions of people to work or learn remotely. In spring 2022, 38% of adults in Britain said they had worked from home at some point in the previous seven days, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Video conferencing, uploading and downloading documents, and using shared digital workspace platforms all require a fast, secure, and reliable internet connection, without which productivity lags.
UK came 55th in latest median internet speed rankings, study finds
Since the pandemic, video conferencing technology has become commonplace in schools and businesses
In the UK, the median download speed – the most representative measure of overall internet speed – was 66.22 megabits per second (Mbps), according to the August 2022 Speedtest Global Index.
However, according to The latest report on domestic broadband performance from Ofcomthe actual median broadband speed recorded by a sample of consumers was only 59.5 Mbps.
Although this represents a 61% increase in less than four years from the 37 Mbps recorded in November 2018, this figure puts the UK far behind its international peers.
The Speedtest Global Index ranking places the UK 55th in the world, just behind St. Vincent and the Grenadines (69.54 Mbps) and ahead of Paraguay (63.51 Mbps). Looking at the actual speed recorded by Ofcom, the UK drops to 59th place, just behind Latvia (61.62 Mbps).
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In August, Singapore topped the charts, with a median fixed broadband speed of 219.01 Mbps, nearly four times faster than the UK.
This is followed by Chile (211.43 Mbps), Thailand (188.75 Mbps), Hong Kong (179.53 Mbps), China (178.73 Mbps) and the United States (167.36 Mbps). The UK recorded the second slowest download speed in the G7 behind Italy (48.78 Mbps).
The average speed of the 27 EU member states was 79.67 Mbps, 34% faster than the actual speed in the UK. The UK was slower than 17 countries in the bloc, including Spain (131.55 Mbps), Romania (123.31 Mbps) and Poland (91.24 Mbps).
For UK households, this means that typical online tasks such as streaming or downloading movies take much longer than for those in Europe. According to cable.co.uk, in France it only takes five minutes and 41 seconds to download a 5GB movie – compared to nine minutes and 28 seconds in the UK.
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Connection speeds in the UK are lower than many Western countries due to the country’s relatively poor coverage of next-generation Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) broadband.
At the start of 2022, Ofcom reported that 8.2 million households in the UK, 28% of all householdshad full fiber broadband.
This figure is well below the average of 57% across Europe’s 39 countries – with the UK ranking 36th for full fiber coverage in the FTTH Council Europe annual rankings for 2022.
The performance advantage of full fiber is obvious. Ofcom’s Home Broadband report shows that for connections over traditional copper telephone lines, the median true broadband download speed was just 12.6 Mbps.
Consumers with full fiber connections reached 141.8 Mbps, more than ten times faster.
The data also reveals a significant contrast in connection speed depending on the location of a home in the UK, particularly whether the area is rural or urban.
Last year, price comparison website Uswitch found that residents of Wistaston Road in Crewe, Cheshire were experiencing the slowest broadband speed in the UK – just 0.25Mbps.
That’s 3,567 times slower than the fastest average broadband speed of 882.03 Mbps reported in the UK by Haul Fryn in Birchgrove, Swansea.
The magnitude of the digital divide reflects the geographic deployment of full fiber broadband, but also reveals the heightened technical challenges of connecting rural and isolated areas as opposed to urban centers.
According to the Ofcom report, the median connection speed over a phone line in urban areas was 15.6 Mbps, just under three times higher than the 5.7 Mbps in rural areas. The gap between urban and rural connection speeds is significantly reduced with full fiber, further underscoring its importance.
Movie download speeds vary wildly depending on the performance of a home’s internet connection
Instead of focusing exclusively on supporting full fiber, the government has set itself the goal of providing gigabit-capable broadband – enabling connection speeds of at least 1,000 Mbps – which can also be achieved by the high-speed cable or potentially 5G networks.
As the data published by Think Broadband at the end of August, seven out of ten UK properties currently have gigabit broadband capacity, the government is aiming for 80 per cent national coverage by 2025, with £5bn dedicated exclusively to Gigabit Project tackling the remaining 20% of least accessible housing by 2030.
During his final week in office, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “From Sherbourne to Stirling, super-fast broadband is leveling towns and villages across the country.
“In just three years, we’ve increased gigabit broadband coverage from 7% of homes to 70%, and I’m proud that today more than 20 million homes, businesses and organizations can access fast and reliable internet, unlocking their potential, creating opportunity and driving growth across the country.
According to the FTTH Council Europe, the UK also recorded the second highest increase in the number of full fiber connections in Europe between 2020 and 2021, adding 3.4 million homes to the network, suggesting that the catch-up is already well engaged. .