Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy

UK broadband speeds hit new heights

Network upgrades increase average speed to 9Mbps

Ofcom’s latest national broadband speed test shows average speeds have more than doubled in the last five years. In May 2012 the average UK speed was 9Mbps compared to the 3.6Mbps recorded in November 2008. 

The rise in speeds has been put down to launches of ‘superfast’ packages – fibre services that advertise speeds of 30Mbps or more – as well as improved speeds as a result of providers upgrading their networks. The number of customers on superfast services has quadrupled since last year and now make up 8% of all residential connections. 

Find out which providers are the most highly rated by their customers, including ratings on connection speed and reliability, in our broadband provider reviews.

 Average UK broadband speeds May 2012 

Which internet providers are the fastest?

The fastest superfast package in Ofcom’s report is Virgin Media’s up to 100Mb service, which had average speeds of 88Mbps. BT’s up to 76Mbps Infinity package offered average speeds of 58.5Mbps. BT’s up to 38Mbps version achieved average speeds of 32.2Mbps, just pipping Virgin Media’s up to 30Mbps service and its 30.1Mbps average speed. 

Traffic management during peak periods does appear to come into play, though. Ofcom reports that, during busy periods, a higher proportion of Virgin Media cable customers experienced speeds of less than 90% of their average maximum speed, compared to those on BT’s Infinity service. 

Not everyone lives in an area where they can get superfast broadband, and even if you do, if you have to pay more to get it, you may not want to. Standard ADSL broadband packages – delivered over copper phone lines – simply aren’t as fast as fibre connections with an average speed of 5.9Mbps. Speeds have still increased by 10% in the last six months though, according to today’s report.  

Changes to the way speed claims are advertised

When Ofcom released its last speed results in February 2012, it calculated the average speed achieved by 10% of customers for each type of package. This followed new guidance from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) after its review of the use of ‘up to’ speed claims used in broadband advertising. Part of the guidance states that advertised speed claims should be achievable to at least 10% of the providers customers.

Six months on, broadband providers have indeed changed the way speeds on their broadband services are advertised. Many packages previously advertised as up to 20Mbps or 24Mbps are now labelled at a more realistic up to14 to16 Mbps. It’s still worth remembering that this advertised speed is still only achieved by one in 10 customers, though. Other providers, such as TalkTalk, no longer advertise on the basis of speed, saying instead they’ll offer ‘the fastest broadband speed your phone line can handle’.

More on this…

  • How to switch broadband provider – step-by-step advice on how to make a move
  • Fixed means Fixed campaign – find out about our latest mobile campaign and pledge your support
  • Security software reviews- keep your PC secure while online with our top free recommendations
Back to top