The UK's Average Broadband Speed has Increased, But Our Global Ranking has Slipped

By Tom Pritchard on at

We've known for a while that the UK has far from the best broadband speeds in the world, but it seems like what little traction we had in the league tables is slipping. According to the latest global speed rankings, we've dropped four places in the past year. Now we're 35th.

This news comes courtesy of Cable.co.uk who compiled data collected by M-Lab: a partnership between New America's Open Technology Institute, Google Open Source Research, Princeton University's PlanetLab, and others. It's the result of 168 million speed tests in 200 countries over the past year, running up to 19th May 2018.

This is only the second year these tests have been running, with Singapore coming in first place both times thanks to an average speed of 60.39Mbps. In contrast, Yemen was again in last place with a 0.31Mbps average. The UK's average speed was 18.57Mbps, and while this caused it to drop four places it's still an improvement from last year's 16.51Mbps. Similarly, while the UK is in the bottom third of EU member states, its broadband speeds still come ahead of major world countries, including Ireland, Russia, Italy, Canada, and Australia. Unfortunately that still means we're behind the likes of France, the USA, all of Scandinavia, and Japan, to name a few.

So why the decrease in ranking when our average speed increased? Well it's all thanks to the fact average global broadband speed rose by 9.10Mbps in the 12 months up to 29th May, following a 7.4Mbps increase in the preceding 12 months. That's a year-on-year increase of 23 per cent, for all the data nerds reading this. 36 of the top 50 best-performing countries were based in Europe, with nine in Asia, two in North America, two in South America, and one in Africa.

By contrast 25 of the worst performing countries were in Africa, 12 the Middle East, 10 in Asia, and three in South America. 136 countries also failed to meet the 10Mbps threshold Ofcom has declared the minimum speed necessary to handle the needs of a family or small business.

Speaking of the UK Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable, said:

"It’s been very interesting looking at the data for a second year running, not least because we have three times as much of it this time around. It is, however, somewhat sad to see the UK not faring better.

"A number of other countries have leapfrogged us since last year, including France and Madagascar. Compared to many other countries both in and out of Europe the UK has simply come too late to a full fibre (FTTP) solution. Despite plans to roll out FTTP to UK homes across the next decade or so, the UK is likely to fall further behind while we wait."

So who do we blame for this? BT and Openreach? Ofcom? The government? Whoever is in charge of this sort of thing should take note. Britain is falling behind, and we need to keep up with the rest of Europe. Whether that means improving connections, making faster connections more affordable, or something I haven't thought of. We were six places above France last year, and now we're 12 places below. This can not stand.

You can download a full set of the speed data or check out Cable.co.uk's interactive map right here.