British fixed broadband is cheap … and, er, fairly nasty – global survey

Though you get what you pay for, mostly

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Brit consumers get a broadband bargain, but pay for it with poorer performance than other European countries.

The UK ranks fifth best for price out of 29 European countries surveyed for price comparison site Cable – but it lags behind Romania, Portugal and Bulgaria for average download speed.

Cable found the UK has fallen from 31st to 35th globally, and 26th of 29 European nations. The UK has what Cable calls a "healthy open marketplace" with "superfast" (>24Mbps according to the government, >30Mbps according to Ofcom) available to 96 per cent of homes. So do you get what you pay for? Generally, yes, but not always. The US remains an outlier. Although it rose from 21st to 20th in the download speed ranking, it is 120th (out of 200) for price.

It's cheaper pricier in America

US fixed-line broadband is "shockingly expensive compared to much of the world", noted Cable telco analyst Dan Howdle. "In fact, it costs seven times as much to get a broadband deal in the United States as it does to get one in Russia, and over 64 per cent more than it does in China. America's broadband duopoly simply cannot compete with healthier, multi-provider marketplaces." With 5G coming, the US incumbents don't have long left to sweat their assets.

(5G will begin to replace fixed-line broadband in Norway first, according to Telenor, which has vowed to phase out copper by 2025.)

Cable's global survey also found that fixed line internet isn't getting cheaper, although it is getting impressively faster in smaller emerging markets.

"Countries with slow, patchy broadband infrastructure that supplies only a fraction of the population tend to be the most expensive. Likewise, those with exceptional, often full-fibre (FTTH) infrastructure supplying the majority of the population tend to be the cheapest, if not in absolute terms, certainly on a cost-per-megabit basis," Howdle said.

Globally the price of fixed broadband has fallen 1.64 per cent since Q4 2017. But speeds have bumped up considerably. A year ago the average global broadband speed was 6.96Mbps, but this is now 9.1Mbps. Emerging economies have seen dramatic improvements: not just smaller nations such as Panama (up 36 places to 72) but also the mighty India, which saw the average download speed more than double in a year (to 5.19Mpbs, seeing India rise 31 places).


One caveat: the performance metric rather reflects what can be reliably measured, rather than what the internet is actually like to use – and it may actually flatter poor performance. Only download speed is measured, not latency or jitter. A test where a number of problems may occur finds itself excluded. Arguably, congestion should be a KPI too – particularly now that video consumption is via streams rather than downloads. Does anyone (other than gamers) actually download a 5GB file? See here for the methodology (PDF). ®


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