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Average UK broadband speeds hit double figures for first time

12Mbps in November 2012 a new record, says Ofcom

2015 broadband targets for the UK

The average broadband speed in the UK has hit a record 12Mbps (megabits per second), the first time it’s reached double figures since telecoms regulator Ofcom started measuring in November 2008.

Based on measurements made in November 2012, the average speed in the UK increased by 3Mbps from May to November to hit the new 12Mbps milestone. 

It’s the single largest six month increase since Ofcom began measuring speeds in 2008, when the average was a paltry 3.6Mbps. 

Ofcom attributes the latest figures to the increasing uptake of superfast broadband services, such as Virgin Media’s cable network and BT Infinity, fuelled by demand for interruption-free use of bandwidth heavy services like YouTube, BBC iPlayer and Netflix. Speeds for superfast connections increased 25% in the same period to 44.6Mbps.

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Virgin Media vs. BT Infinity

Ofcom’s latest measurements also shed light on the continuing battle between Virgin Media and BT Infinity to offer the fastest broadband in the UK, a battle Virgin Media is winning at present:

  • Out of the 12 ISP included in the report, Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 100Mbps was the fastest. Average top speeds were 92.6Mbps over a 24 hour period.
  • BT Infinity’s ‘up to’ 78Mbps service was actually only marginally faster than Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 60Mbps offering, averaging 63.3Mbps, versus 59Mbps from Virgin.

BT beats Virgin at peak hour speeds

However, BT Infinity appears to hold the upper hand during peak times (8pm to 10pm on weekdays). During these times, only 35% of Virgin Media’s customers on the ‘up to’ 30Mbps service achieved speeds of 90% or more of the maximum possible. By contrast, 91% of BT Infinity customers on the ‘up to’ 38Mbps package achieved speeds close to the maximum available.

Such differences are caused by congestion and, more often than not, by traffic management policies applied by ISPs to ease the congestion. Read more about broadband throttling on Which? Conversation.

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