The UK has witnessed a significant surge in home broadband speeds, with cable-based services fueling this growth equally, if not surpassing, full fibre, according to a study by communications regulator, Ofcom. The data from March 2023 showed a 17% annual increase in the median average download speed, escalating from 10.1 Mbps to 69.4 Mbps.
While it may seem that full fibre uptake is leading this market transformation, surprisingly the report indicates the cable sector as the primary driver of acceleration in growth and speed. Citing an uptick in subscriptions to “higher-bandwidth services,” Ofcom communicates an interesting shift in the landscape of UK home broadband services.
Subscribers in the UK to superfast broadband, which offer advertised download speeds of 30 Mbps or more, reached 93% by March. This reflects a 2% yearly growth and an 8% increase in comparison to two years earlier. The median average download speed for a cable service offered at 1.13 Gbps clocked in 1.14 Gbps over a 24-hour duration, slightly decreasing during peak times. Simultaneously, full fibre packages advertised at 900 Mbps to 1 Gbps measured an average download speed of 919.8 Mbps. As expected, fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) offerings lag with lower speeds.
Delving deeper, we ascertain that Virgin Media’s 1.13 Gbps cable package accumulated the highest speed and BT’s 900 Mbps full fibre service followed closely with 925 Mbps, both over a 24-hour period. Average download speeds on cable broadband connections increased the most within a year to March, rising by 36% to 270.6 Mbps. Full fibre download speeds also grew but by a smaller margin of 1% to 149.2 Mbps.
In the upload bracket, Gigaclear’s 300 Mbps full fibre offering averaged a speed of 336.5 Mbps, leaving competitors far behind. BT’s 900 Mbps fibre package managed an average upload speed of 110 Mbps, followed by Sky’s 65.4 Mbps with its 500 Mbps service. Virgin Media’s 1.1 Gbps cable package offered an average speed of 52.2 Mbps.
However, Ofcom brought attention to a factor that could impact individuals’ choices. Full fibre lines displayed minimal disruptions from network congestion during peak periods. Indeed, this statement reinforces the significance of considering all aspects, including quality of service, when deciding on a broadband connection.
Overall, while cable services are marking their territory with increased speeds, the solid performance of full fibre connections, especially under heavy-traffic conditions, is worth considering. By leveraging technology and package alterations, people can considerably enhance their broadband performance. Still, in the same breath, Ofcom cautions subscribers on the minimal differences among similar services offered by providers using the same Openreach wholesale inputs. Virgin Media’s cable offers will seemingly be the only exception to this warning.