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UK average broadband speed hits 14.7Mbps but rural gap widens

Ofcom’s latest survey on the state of the UK’s broadband connection shows that the average speed had increased to 14.7Mbps. 

But while the average speeds enjoyed by UK customers continues to climb the report shows that the so-called digital divide has widened. 

City folk can expect to enjoy average download speeds of 26.4Mbps and those in the suburbs on average can expect 17.9Mbps downstream. Those in the sticks however are languishing on average download speeds of 9.9Mbps. While this is a big 141 per cent increase from rural speed data collected a year ago, the gap between town and country has increased. 

UK average broadband speed hits 14.7Mbps but rural gap widens

Ofcom’s report attributes this increasing divide to rollout of superfast broadband. Firstly, the next-gen services available from the likes of BT, Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk are generally only available in built up urban and suburban areas. Secondly, in areas where BT Openreach has rolled out FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) broadband, the copper last mile gets longer the further you move away from the city centres. 

As more rural communities start to get connected thanks to the BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) contracts, we should begin to see an uptick in rural speeds. But only the first few locations have really started to see the benefits of BDUK. Not all the contracts have been signed and thanks to the goalposts being moved, work won’t be completed until 2017. 

UK average broadband speed hits 14.7Mbps but rural gap widens

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, says: “We are yet to see the full effect of government measures to improve broadband availability in rural areas, which should also help to boost speeds. We also anticipate 4G mobile to have a positive effect on mobile broadband availability across the UK.” 

The Mobile Infrastructure Plan aims to improve mobile reception across the UK’s blackspots. EE’s latest 4G speed boost is promising top download speeds of 150Mbps and fixed-location 4G could help those in rural locations get a real 21st Century service. 

If local councils reveal where those in really remote communities are, we could see rural speeds increase faster if rural ISPs step up to plug the gap. 

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