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Broadband coverage and speeds: local statistics, 2017

Published Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Constituency data on broadband speeds, superfast broadband coverage, availability of full fibre services, and lines that can't get decent broadband.

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Ofcom releases annual data on broadband connectivity and speeds for fixed lines at postcode level as part of its Connected Nations report. We have analysed this data to produce estimates of connectivity in the UK's constituencies and wards. 

You can download a data file at the bottom of this page featuring full data for each constituency and ward in the UK. For more information on the UK Government's proposed Universal Service Obligation, see our briefing paper.

 

AVERAGE DOWNLOAD SPEEDS

According to our analysis of Ofcom's data, the average download speed for fixed broadband lines in the UK was 44.6 Mbps in May 2017 - up from 37.8 Mbps in 2016. However, there is a wide range of speeds being received across the country. For those with superfast lines (over 30 Mbps), the average download speed is 77.3 Mbps. But for those without superfast lines, the average is 11.8 Mbps - 74% lower than the overall average. Meanwhile 2.3% of lines are receiving speeds under 2 Mbps, 24% of lines are receiving speeds under 10 Mbps, and 49% are receieving superfast speeds (over 30 Mbps).

Speeds also vary in different parts of the UK. The table below shows the ten constituencies with the highest speeds. Note that York has the highest take-up of 'ultrafast' lines (those capable of delivering speeds over 300 Mbps) in the UK, which helps to explain why its two constituencies rank highest here. The lowest average speeds are found in Ross, Skye & Lochaber (19.1 Mbps), Orkney & Shetland (19.3 Mbps), Arfon (20 Mbps), and the Cities of London and Westminster (20 Mbps).

FASTEST AVERAGE DOWNLOAD SPEEDS	Mbps York Outer	128.9 York Central	82.4 Great Grimsby	72.8 West Dunbartonshire	71.4 Gillingham and Rainham	69.3 Redcar	68.6 Lincoln	68.3 Stockton North	67.7 Bristol South	67.7 Aldershot	67.5

The average download speed being received in a constituency depends on a number of different factors. Higher superfast availability can lead to higher average speeds. However, speeds are also dependent on take-up of superfast services - some consumers choose not to subscribe to superfast packages, which may result in lower averages in some areas. 49% of lines are receiving superfast speeds, compared with availability of 91%.

Differences in average speeds don't just depend on superfast availability and takeup. For example, Ilford South and Sleaford constituencies have approximately the same percentage of lines receiving superfast speeds - but the average download speed in Ilford South is 53 Mbps, 36% higher than the 39 Mbps average in Sleaford. Other factors, such as the distance between the premises and the cabinet, can have an effect.

 

LINES UNABLE TO RECEIVE 'DECENT' SPEEDS

In May 2017 around 3% of premises couldn't receive 'decent' download speeds - defined by Ofcom as 10 Mbps. The inability to receive 10 Mbps is an eligibility criterion for the planned Universal Service Obligation

In the majority of constituencies, less than 2% of lines were unable to receive 10 Mbps. However, there are parts of the UK where the figure was much higher. The table below shows our estimate of the ten constituencies with the highest proportion of lines unable to receive decent download speeds.

			 	HIGHEST % UNABLE TO RECEIVE DECENT SPEEDS (10 Mbps)		 	Kingston upon Hull East	33%	 	Orkney and Shetland	25%	 	Ross, Skye and Lochaber	25%	 	Na h-Eileanan an Iar	20%	 	Ceredigion	18%	 	Montgomeryshire	18%	 	Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross	18%	 	Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk	17%	 	Argyll and Bute	17%	 	Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale	16%

The example map below shows an example of how, even in areas with generally good connectivity, there were still some postcodes where all lines are unable to receive 10 Mbps.

Postcodes unable to receive decent speeds

 

SUPERFAST BROADBAND AND FULL FIBRE AVAILABILITY

Ofcom defines 'superfast' speeds as over 30 Mbps, in contrast to the UK Government's definition of 24 Mbps. On Ofcom's definition, around 91.4% of premises in the UK had a line capable of delivering superfast download speeds in May 2017. This is up from 88.0% in 2016.

In 255 of 650 UK constituencies, superfast availability was above 95% of premises. 57 constituencies had availability below 80%. The table below shows the ten constituencies with the lowest estimated availability in 2017.

LOWEST SUPERFAST AVAILABILITY	 Kingston upon Hull East	34% Kingston upon Hull North	54% Ross, Skye and Lochaber	61% Orkney and Shetland	61% Na h-Eileanan an Iar	63% Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle	65% Saffron Walden	66% Penistone and Stocksbridge	66% Ceredigion	67% Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross	67%

Around 2% of premises could recieve fibre direct to the property in May 2017. Also known as "full fibre", this technology can deliver ultrafast speeds in excess of 300 Mbps. 35 of 650 constituencies had full fibre availability over 10%, with the highest being 64% in Hull West & Hessle. Two-thirds of constituencies had less than 1% availability of full-fibre services.

 

URBAN AND RURAL

As one would expect, urban areas have better connectivity on average than rural areas. The table below shows our analysis of Ofcom's data at LSOA level in England and Wales. Urban areas had superfast availability of 95% in May 2017, compared with 66% for rural villages. Average download speeds in villages & hamlets are were just over half those in urban areas. 

Measure	Urban	Rural Town	Rural Villlage Superfast available	95%	89%	66% Receiving under 2 Mbps	1.6%	2.8%	8.1% Receiving under 10 Mbps	22%	22%	47% Receiving over 30 Mbps	52%	41%	31% Unable to receive 10 Mbps	1.3%	2.9%	16.9% Average speed Mbps	48.6	32.2	25.5

The urban/rural pattern is not quite so simple as it may seem above. City centres, especially in large cities, often have poorer connectivity than surrounding suburban areas. The example map below shows Manchester. Orange areas in the city centre are receiving slower average speeds, and purple areas in the suburbs are receiving higher average speeds.

Manchester is not unusual in this regard - the same effect can also be seen in London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and Glasgow, among other places.

City centres lower speeds 

This map shows which parts of the UK couldn't receive superfast broadband as of May 2017. A PDF version is available to download below.

Which areas of the UK can't receive superfast broadband?

 

Comparing figures from other sources

Aside from Ofcom, other sources also produce estimates of broadband coverage and speeds in the UK. Because different sources use different methods, and often cover different time periods, you should exercise caution in comparing the data presented here with other sources. When comparing with other sources, apparent differences in coverage levels in a particular location might be evidence of an change in coverage over time, but in some cases the difference may be better explained by differing methods of data gathering or estimation.

Note that some sources use the lower 24 Mbps measure of superfast broadband, rather than the 30 Mbps used by Ofcom, which can lead to apparent differences in local areas.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8200

Author: Carl Baker

Topics: Information technology, Internet and cybercrime, Telecommunications

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