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UK broadband connection speeds - the devil in the detail

On March 8th, Akamai released the Fourth Quarter 2016, State of the Internet / Connectivity Report, which gives a global view of internet connectivity trends as observed across the Akamai Intelligent Platform.  It is always an interesting read, and looking back over the report's history since its first publication in 2009, we can really see how much traffic trends and speeds have evolved.  The 'high broadband' category was then defined as speeds above 5Mbps, and had a global adoption rate of 16%.  According to the report's editor, David Belson, we are now seeing 15Mbps adoption rates at 25% worldwide!

Taking a step into the report to look at some of the data for the UK there are some interesting things happening.  Of course, it is important to give the caveat that all of the findings in the report, are based exclusively on traffic that the Akamai Intelligent Platform sees.

Starting with UK fixed broadband connection speeds, there are some great year-on-year improvements to be seen in terms of Average Connection speeds:

  •  Speeds above 10 Mbps were recorded for 57% of connections.  That is a year-on-year increase of 15%, placing the UK 11th in the European region
  • 39% were above 15 Mbps.  A 22% year on year increase and 10th place amongst European countries

These are great improvements.  But, looking at our lowest banding of speeds above 4 Mbps, you could be forgiven for thinking that 91% sounds impressive, but it puts the UK in 12th place in Europe for that banding! To give that figure some perspective the top 5 European countries achieved an average connection speed of 20.6 Mbps or higher, with the UK hitting 16.3 Mbps.  Whilst for the UK that was a 18% year on year increase, by comparison the top 5 European countries had average connection speeds 26%-45% higher in Q4 2016.

One other data point that caught my eye was that the UK holds the number 1 spot globally for mobile average connection speeds at 26.8 Mbps!  It will be interesting to see whether we hold that position in the future and how the figure will change.

So, what does all of this mean?  It's difficult to say, but perhaps there is a time on the horizon, where we will see mobile broadband speeds accelerate beyond those achieved by the average person's fixed connection.  Some people, and I know a few in this category already, may decide to ditch having a fixed line altogether, especially as many consumers only use them for their broadband connectivity anyway, preferring their mobile phone to be their "go to number."  The UK telecommunications space is an interesting one at the moment, with a number of announcements during Q4 which will impact the market: Ofcom released a proposal for achieving the government's Universal Service Obligation of 10 Mbps access by 2020.  It also required OpenReach to separate from parent company BT, as well as signalling the government's intention to support newer, fibre-based broadband providers.

It's a fascinating time for the UK market right now, but what is clear is that the traffic demands being placed on the web will not decline.  As for the consumer's insatiable demand for the highest quality video and user experiences?  That bar just keeps getting higher and higher.

You can download the Q4 2016 State of the Internet / Security report, here.

 

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