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UK internet speeds are lower than most of Europe, study finds

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The UK is “tumbling” down the broadband speed rankings and has dropped 13 places in the last year to sit at number 47, according to research by Cable.co.uk.

Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Baltics dominate the table for the fastest speeds, while the UK is languishing as one of the slowest countries for internet on the continent with average speeds of just 37.82Mbps.

The top five countries in order are: Liechtenstein, Jersey, Andorra, Gibraltar and Luxembourg, all known for having small populations and small geographical areas.

But further down the list (yet still way ahead of the UK), are countries that are much poorer than the UK including Hungary at 10, Slovenia at 25 and Portugal one place above at 46.

The data was gathered by M-Lab, an open-source project with contributors from civil society organisations, educational institutions, and private sector companies.

Last year, the five fastest countries had download speeds around 125 times faster than the five slowest.

That gap is widening. This year the top five are 276 times faster than the five slowest. Liechtenstein tops the table at 229.98Mbps, compared to last place South Sudan, which is 394 times slower at just 0.58Mbps.

As seen in the league table, downloading an HD movie of 5GB in size would take 2m 58s at the average speed experienced in table-topper Liechtenstein, while it would take 19h 31m in last-placed South Sudan.

Commenting on the UK, Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, said: “Countries and territories with a heavier reliance on or ongoing investment in pure fibre (FTTP) networks, or are upgrading to fibre or LTE from even more aged technologies, continue to see their averages rise.

“Those that are somewhat late to that particular party, however, the UK being a case in point when it comes to pure fibre networks, have slipped back as others have risen faster.

“While around 60 per cent of the UK has access to the Virgin Media network and can get speeds of up to 516Mbps, and there is limited availability of smaller networks such as Hyperoptic offering gigabit speeds, the Openreach network remains the anchor that keeps average speeds in the UK comparatively low.

“Entry-level fibre packages and ‘fast’ fibre packages on Openreach have been set at around 30-35Mbps and 60-70Mbps respectively for more than five years now with no significant changes beyond how those speeds are advertised.

“As shown by the domination of smaller countries and regions at the top of the table – Liechtenstein, Jersey, Andorra, Gibraltar – it is obviously far easier to upgrade a country or territory to full fibre the smaller it happens to be. However, the UK still finds itself a long way behind many nations of equal or greater size. Ultimately, the UK, specifically Openreach, is comparatively late in its rollout of pure fibre networks, which is causing the UK to stagnate, while other nations gain ground.”

The Conservative Party has pledged to rollout full fibre broadband to all homes and offices in the UK by 2025, although in September MPs said the plan did not take into account the vast digital divide between urban and rural areas.

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