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Tough luck, bumpkins! Blighty broadband speed gap misery worsens

Cities hit 26.4Mbit/s average, countryside stuck in 9.9Mbps gear

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Speedy broadband networks in cities continue to infuriate country bumpkins who are running out of patience with their painfully slow internet connections.

Sadly, the gap between broadband speeds for urban dwellers and people living in the sticks is set to widen.

Communications watchdog Ofcom said today the UK's average fixed-line residential broadband speed climbed to 14.7Mbit/s in May - up an impressive 64 per cent on the same month a year earlier.

But while some might applaud the bump in faster connections, others will bitterly moan about remaining in the slow lane. That's because Ofcom's research also revealed a big divide in speed depending on where Brits live.

It found that broadband speeds in urban areas (at an average of 26.4Mbit/s) were increasing at a faster clip than elsewhere in the country (the average speed in rural areas is 9.9Mbps although small towns enjoyed 17.9Mbps).

Ofcom said the gap between average download speeds in urban and rural areas had widened from 9.5Mbit/s in May 2011 to 16.5Mbps in May this year. The regulator explained:

This is due to the lower availability of superfast broadband services in rural areas compared to urban areas, and because ADSL broadband speeds are also generally slower in rural areas because the average line between the home and the nearest telephone exchange needs to be longer.

While the gap between average urban and rural speeds is likely to widen in the short term, Ofcom expects that it will begin to decline over time, as the availability of superfast broadband increases in rural areas.

Ofcom noted that the government was spending millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to improve broadband access in harder-to-reach parts of Blighty.

Whitehall, which will fail in its ambition to bring superfast broadband speeds to 90 per cent of the UK by 2015, is now saying that 95 per cent of the country will be getter better, speedier coverage by 2017.

The watchdog's research - which was based on 14 internet connection packages provided by Britain's seven biggest telcos and pulled in 736 million separate test results picked up from 2,218 homes during May this year - also found that 19 per cent of residential broadband connections were superfast. That's compared with 14 per cent in November last year.

Ofcom said:

The move to higher speeds is partly down to Virgin Media’s network upgrade to double the speeds of most of its cable broadband customers. As a result, the average speed on cable has nearly doubled over the last year from 18.0Mbit/s to 34.9Mbit/s.

Consumers are also choosing to migrate to faster fibre packages. BT reported that it had 1.3 million fibre broadband connections at the end of March 2013, up from around 550,000 a year earlier.4 In May 2013, the average fibre-based connection speed was 43.6Mbit/s, up by over a third (38 per cent) over the year.

As of May this year, the regulator said 86 per cent of UK fixed-line home broadband customers were on packages with advertised speeds above "up to" 10Mbit/s. The research can be viewed here. ®

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