/ Technology

Why are we lagging behind worldwide broadband speeds?

Network cable on map

You’d hope Britain’s broadband speed would stand up well in an international league, but compared to the rest of the world our broadband is not much faster than an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping.

As we reported only a few days ago, us Brits aren’t getting the broadband speed we’ve paid for. But now, to add to the pain, it seems the speeds we do get are lagging behind the rest of the world. A new report by Akamai puts the UK’s average speed in a sorry 27th place.

Surely some UK cities made the cut? Actually, no they didn’t – you won’t find one UK city in Akamai’s top 100 list. Sure, 12 cities in Europe cut the mustard, but these were in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands – none were on our shores.

If you want the best, you’ll have to move to Japan – 61 of their cities made the top 100, with a respectable 14 from North America. Woe is the UK and its ancient copper wire network.

Surprisingly the report found that Britain’s average broadband speed was just 3.8 megabits per second – slower than Ofcom’s recently reported 5.3Mbps. If we take Akamai’s speed and compare it to the average advertised ‘up to’ speed of 11.5Mbps, our internet service providers are only bestowing us with 30% of what we’re promised! Thanks guys.

South Korea comes top of the world, with a 12Mbps connection, Hong Kong’s in second place, closely followed by Japan. Even Romania and Latvia have faster connections than the UK, coming in fourth and fifth respectively.

Even though we’re languishing behind on the worldwide speed stakes, what’s most important is that everybody gets access to a decent connection. A good 2Mbps is good enough for most of us – it’s just a shame this rural rollout won’t be completed for another five years. Time to jump on a plane to Latvia?


I don’t really care – My broadband speed is around 9 Mbs.on my paid for 10 Mbs line Virgin is good.

I’m sure you’ll find it is entirely due to BT not renewing their cables fast enough – as virtually all ISP use BT cable – Not too certain about Sky Network..

The only time my line is slow is when I share BT’s trans Atlantic cable.to connect to the USA.

Frank says:
9 August 2010

Agreed. Virgin Media in general has many problems, but you reliably get their advertised internet speed. Not so with any BT-based ISP.

Sabine Price says:
5 August 2010

I can’t tell whether it’s my broadband speed that is slow or my computer is the asthmatic ant! How can I tell? I am also with Virgin.

I have been with Tiscali for years..now Talk Talk have tied me in with their BT approved take over so i have to get BT to reinstale my line before I can switch to Sky…I have been told Virgin is very good. Is it easy to switch to VIRGIN MEDIA ???

Well – provided you use Microsoft software (spit!). Virgin Media is easy to switch to through their supplied software – though you have to be in a Vigin Media Area. London was the first area to have fibre optic cable – which is now run by Virgin.

I had to manually install my WWW connections which wasn’t difficult for me – but I’ve been using computers since the 1950’s. There were no help files.for anything BUT Microsoft (spit!) on Virgin

In fact my only problem has been re-connecting to the UserGroups network after the ISP system changed to Virgin Media from NTL. And that was simply because Virgin completely misled me as to default settings EVERY time I used their helpline..

After a couple of years of non connection to User Groups – I decided to try from scratch and use logic and experience – Lo and behold! User Group Connection!

Virgin is fast and reliable – recommend it!!

The UK has a major problem with large infrastructure projects. As well as broadband networks, you could ask the same question about high speed rail, why London has five airports when similarly-sized capital cities normally have one or two, why it took so long to rebuild Wembley stadium, failure to develop wind power on a scale that makes the most of its potential…

OK, I live in a village on the North Downs but it is only 17 miles from the centre of London and my Broadband speed is only about 1.8Mbps out of a maximum 8Mbps advertised by the ISP. However, I wonder why everybody blames the ISPs, it’s the BT line that causes the problem. Everybody in this village is similarly affected and BT "has no plans" to improve the line.

I think that everything is planned for urban dwellers. I live in a village. We don’t have the luxury of cable. We have to cope with the old generation exchange which only gives 8Mb if you live next to the exchange. During the evening my speed drops to 500Kb. My fastest at my distance is around 5Mb. During the evening forget BBC iPlayer. There are no published plans to upgrade our exchange! We don’t live in a town! Why in rural areas are we still charged the same fees as town dwellers?

I’m on Virgin and find it pretty good it’s speed is also pretty good it’s only gone down twice in all the 18 months ive had it and those times were during the summer when the weather was really warm and the modem got too hot. So i can recommend Virgin. I have previously tried others and wasn’t impressed.

It all started with BT not liking the idea of cable. At the time BT was a government unit and not at all happy with the idea that other companies might lay cable and offer telephone services. So the original cable licensing was very restrictive. So much so that there was little interest in the licence as it was not clear you could make money on the limited TV possible on an analogue cable. So while other countries buried miles of the stuff all over any urban or suburban area, the UK has very little cable in the ground. Huge sections of London aren’t even cabled. Of course now all that cable in Sweden or Korea or wherever is capable of carrying >100mb traffic and the UK is pushing ADSL are hard as it will go but that’s only about 20mb in the first 1000m, dropping sharply after that. Lesson, listen carefully to the vested interests and do the opposite.