'Tiny' proportion of UK users accessing super-fast broadband

"Super fast" broadband is only as common as the old-style "dial up" connections, with only a tiny percentage of UK users able to access it.

According to a Nielsen survey, only three per cent of UK end-users can access 'super fast' broadband speeds of over 8Mb, the same number that can access dial-up connections of no faster than 128Kb.

The majority of Britons (52 per cent) make do with broadband speeds of 512Kb to 2Mb, with one third on speeds between 2Mb and 8Mb.

"I'm not greatly surprised. I don't think we have a good high speed infrastructure for broadband," said Quocirca principle analyst Rob Bamforth.

"Clearly there have been changes, with local area bundling happening in the last few years with a number of providers, and the reenergising of core networks," he said.

Bamforth said the UK just has further to go. "We're poor at investing in infrastructure. Whether its train lines, airport baggage facilities or anything that requires something big, broad and pervasive, we're not good at it because a lot of business like to cherry pick," he said.

He added: "In order to build a decent infrastructure you need more than that. You need a different model for investing in order to get maximum reach, and we've been poor at that."

It was claimed that ISPs were aggressively marketing 'super fast' broadband as standard even though a tiny percentage of end-users were actually able to get it.

The survey concluded that maximum speed is really dependent on the distance you were from the local phone exchange and the quality of its technology.

"The [connection speed] figures are meaningless, but the manufacturers seem to think that it is the best way to differentiate themselves from each other," said Bamford.

Another aspect of the survey was that it clearly showed that users on the faster speed were on average online longer than those on slower connections. Statistics showed that those on over 8Mb speeds averaged 22 per cent more time online than on dial-up speeds.