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UK broadband speeds rise but rural communities are left behind

James Temperton
15 Apr 2014
Image courtesy Flickr user Jlhopgood
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Average download speeds continue to rise in rural and urban areas, but experts argue that superfast connections are skewing the figures

Britain's broadband boom continues, but speeds in rural areas are still far slower than in cities and towns.

The average broadband speed in the UK is now 17.8Mbps, almost five times higher than it was five years ago. The number of superfast connections, those promising speeds of 30Mbps or more, has risen to 25 per cent, with average speeds on high-speed broadband now up to 47Mbps.

Figures come from Ofcom's latest report into the state of broadband in the UK, with all data correct as of November 2013. The numbers also revealed stark differences between speeds in urban and rural communities.

Average urban download speeds now stand at 31.9Mbps but in rural areas that figure drops to 11.3Mbps. Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards "more work" was needed to deliver superfast broadband to rural communities.

Despite vast differences between rural and urban areas, speeds have continued to rise across the board. Urban download speeds were up 21 per cent since May 2013, with suburban speeds up 22 per cent to 21.8Mbps. Rural speeds increased by around 12 per cent, although Ofcom said it didn't have enough data to make the rural numbers statistically accurate.

The regulator said that sluggish broadband speeds in the countryside were mostly down to a lack of superfast broadband availability. It also noted that broadband speeds over ADSL are generally much slower in rural areas because of longer distances to telephone exchanges. ADSL connections account for 69 per cent of the UK's residential broadband connections.

Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at Broadband Choices argued that Ofcom's figures were misleading:

"In reality, the 69 per cent of households still on ADSL may struggle to get anywhere near 10Mb, let alone 17Mb," he said.

"An 'average' rural broadband speed of 11Mb will be dismissed as fantasy by many customers in remote areas who are struggling just to get 2Mb, if they are lucky enough to have broadband at all."

Faster broadband has been promised to rural communities for some time, with the Government's much-criticised superfast broadband roll-out expected to be completed by 2017. By then, it is hoped that 95 per cent of UK premises will have access to superfast broadband connections with speeds of 30Mbps or higher.

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