National average fixed download speed reaches 12Mbps

National average fixed download speed reaches 12Mbps

Last week saw the release of Ofcom’s bi-annual UK fixed-line broadband performance from November 2012, which gave latest figures on residential speeds across ISPs. Much of the recent coverage (including in the Telegraph, BBC and Cable) has focused on the surge in speeds over time, with the main headlines being that the average fixed download speed was 12.0Mbps. This figure was 34% higher than the 9.0Mbps from six months prior, and a whopping 234% faster than the 3.6 Mbps average in November 2008.

Ofcom identify ‘the change in the mix of superfast services’ as the key driver behind the increase in average recorded download speeds, as users increasingly use bandwidth-demanding services including video streaming. The following graph from the report provides an overview of the average speeds across different brackets:

One area of particular interest is the decreasing average speeds of those in the bracket between ‘up to 2Mbps’ and ‘up to 10Mbits/sec’, from 5.6Mbit/sec to 4.4Mbit/sec in the six month period from May to November 2012. Although this decrease is an anomaly compared to the other speed brackets, it can in part, say Ofcom, be explained by the movement of upgraded Virgin Media customers to a higher bracket and the fact that the remaining speeds at this level are more likely to be found in rural areas (where the average length from the local exchange to the end user is likely to be longer).

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Ofcom report that 77% of consumers are on packages offering more than ‘up to 10Mbps’, and 13% are on ‘superfast’ packages of 30Mbps and above. We still, however, hear an increasing number of concerns of ‘digital ghettos’ including commentators such as Dominic Baliszewski from broadbandchoices.co.uk who commented that increasing speeds were unlikely to affect those struggling on much slower speeds in the countryside.

The next performance review is due out in summer 2013, and will be based on speeds from May 2013. Should we expect to see more of a decrease in the ‘up to 2Mbps’ to ‘up to 10Mbits/sec’ bracket as more users move up to superfast services? If speeds increase by the same amount in the subsequent 6 months, should we expect average speeds of greater than 16 Mbps? Or does the final 10% naturally put a limit of how high we can expect average speeds to go in line with current plans? We’d be keen to hear your predictions, so do leave us a comment below.

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