One quarter of UK homes now have superfast broadband

Broadband speed

One in four homes in the UK now have superfast broadband, according to the latest figures from industry watchdog Ofcom.

Instances of superfast broadband, defined by the regulator as being upwards of 30Mbps, have grown from five per cent in November 2011 to 25 per cent in November last year. The average speed of these superfast connections has also risen, reaching 47Mbps in November 2013 - a rise of 47 per cent comapred with May 2010.

Overall, average broadband speeds (including those with ADSL broadband) reached 17.8Mbps. Ofcom said this was almost five times faster that five years ago when the regulator first started publishing such data.

There is more work needed to deliver wider availability of broadband and superfast broadband, particularly in rural communities

While growth in average speeds showed that investments in broadband was paying dividends for most, the UK picture was somewhat "uneven" according to Ofcom.

"A significant number of households especially those in rural areas, can experience considerably slower speeds," the regulator said.

The average download speed in urban areas is 31.9Mbps (representing a 21 per cent increase since May 2013), the average suburban download speed is 21.8Mbps, and the average speed in rural areas is 11.3Mbps (a 22 per cent increase since May 2013).

One key reason for the slower speeds in rural areas is the limited availability of superfast broadband services. In addition, broadband speeds over ADSL, a technology that uses the copper wire telephone network, are generally slower in rural areas because of the longer distances to the telephone exchange.

"The growth in superfast broadband and the rise in average speeds is testament to the investment in the sector. But the benefits are not shared evenly across the UK," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.

"There is more work needed to deliver wider availability of broadband and superfast broadband, particularly in rural communities but also in some locations within cities to enable wider access to fast internet."

Improving speeds in rural areas is a priority for the government, which has committed funding to ensure superfast broadband is more widely available across the UK. It has reported it is on course to reach 90 per cent superfast coverage by early 2016 and recently announced an extra 250 million investment to extend superfast coverage to 95 per cent of premises by 2017.

Ofcom's research also looked at packages from seven of the UK's largest ISPs and the speeds they achieved.

Of the ISP packages included in the report, Virgin Media's up to' 120Mbps service, which delivers broadband via cable, achieved the fastest download speeds over a 24 hour period, averaging 114.9Mbps. This was followed by up to' 76Mbps fibre packages (which include BT, Plusnet, TalkTalk, Sky and EE), which delivered average download speeds of 64.8Mbps.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.