broadband fibre optic cables

UK broadband networks hold up under lockdown strain

The average speed of UK broadband connections has declined by just two per cent since the start of the lockdown, easing fears that networks could have been overloaded by the crisis.

The analysis from Ofcom showed the UK’s internet infrastructure largely maintained a good service despite an increase in video calls, home working, online lessons and TV streaming.

Soon after the lockdown began, concerns were raised about the ability of ISP’s to maintain a good service, the European Commission even asked the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime to lower their content to standard definition in order to reduce the burden on infrastructure.

At the end of March, Broadband usage surged to near peak levels, although still not beating the last Christmas period which has the highest concurrent usage on record.

Ofcom’s Home Broadband Performance Report found that some broadband providers have reported an increase  up between 35 and 60 per cent in weekday daytime traffic since lockdown began.

The report also shows broadband speeds in rural areas are catching up to those in towns and cities.

The proportion of rural lines receiving at least superfast broadband during peak times continues to increase – from 44 per cent in 2018 to 56 per cent in 2019 – while the proportion not receiving a decent connection at peak times fell from 33 to 22 per cent.

However, broadband speeds in rural areas still lag behind those in urban areas. Urban peak-time speeds reached almost double those in rural areas during 2019.

“Broadband in the UK has really been put to the test by the pandemic, so it’s encouraging that speeds have largely held up,” said Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director for strategy and research.

“This has helped people to keep working, learning and staying connected with friends and family.”

Openreach reacted, saying: “It’s true, our network’s coped well during the pandemic.

“Despite the extra demand, in the last 30 days alone we’ve seen an increase in overall traffic volume across our network – particularly during daytime hours – and this wouldn’t have been possible without the skill and commitment of our people.”

With people mostly getting their internet from home broadband connections, recent analysis showed that mobile users in the UK are sitting on a combined 165m gigabytes of unused data from their mobile contracts. 

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles