G7 countries outgun UK in worldwide broadband speed test

Ofcom: You know, superfast broadband is available if you'd care to take it up


The UK is second worst in the G7 league of industrial nations – only pipping Italy (61st) in terms of broadband speed, according to a report published today by Cable.co.uk.

Canada (24th), France (19th), Germany (36th), Japan (13th) and the US (14th) all out-performed the UK (43rd), according to the numbers.

Countries ranking highest are those with a strong focus on pure fibre (FTTP) networks, with those countries dawdling too much on FTTC and ADSL solutions slipping further down year on year...

And despite the UK's ongoing commitment to rolling out fibre, Rocio Concha, director of Policy and Advocacy at consumer watchdog Which?, was unimpressed by the findings.

"The pandemic highlighted the importance of a good broadband connection, so the UK's position languishing behind much of Europe, the US, Canada and New Zealand for broadband speeds is concerning and should serve as a wake-up call.

"This is why, as a minimum, it is vital that the government's ambition for gigabit-capable broadband availability across 85 per cent of the UK by 2025 is realised and consumers are encouraged to take up these faster, more reliable connections where they are available."

Despite the stinging criticism, media watchdog Ofcom has warned people against jumping to conclusions.

A spokesperson for the UK regulator told us that comparisons like this "should be treated with caution."

"The speeds people actually get and the speeds people could get are not the same thing. Superfast broadband is available to the vast majority of UK homes, but millions of people are yet to take this up. Many customers might be surprised to learn they can upgrade to faster speeds, for no extra cost,” they said.

Indeed, when it comes to speed, all the G7 nations are whipped by smaller nations. According to Cable.co.uk, Jersey tops the list with means download speeds of 274.27Mbps, followed by Liechtenstein (211.26Mbps), Iceland (191.83Mbps), Andorra (164.66Mbps) and Gibraltar (151.34Mbps).

As Cable.co.uk notes, it's no coincidence that all are either very small or island nations (in Western Europe). "It is much easier to roll out FTTP full fibre broadband and 5G mobile internet to a smaller population and/or across a smaller area."

Other big hitters include the Netherlands in ninth spot (107.3Mbps), the US in 15th place (92.4Mbps), and France (85.96Mbps) a few places behind at number 19.

Germany (60.55Mbps) is ranked number 37 in the world, six ahead of 43rd placed UK (51.48Mbps), which only just nudged Ireland (51.41Mbps). Italy (61st) registered mean download speeds of 36.69Mbps.

Turkmenistan – with a recorded download rate of 0.50Mbps – was the worst ranking nation for broadband speeds.

"Europe absolutely dominates the leaderboard once again thanks to largely excellent infrastructure,” said Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk.

"In all cases, those countries ranking highest are those with a strong focus on pure fibre (FTTP) networks, with those countries dawdling too much on FTTC and ADSL solutions slipping further down year-on-year," he said, before adding, "much of Europe remains ahead of the UK in terms of FTTP rollout and uptake."

VMO2 – the 2021 "summer of love" child of Virgin Media and O2 – was quick to point out that it's doing its bit for UK Plc.

A Virgin Media O2 spokesperson said: "Our average download speed is 195Mbps – nearly four times faster than the UK average – meaning if Virgin Media O2 was a country it would be the third fastest on the planet. We are the largest gigabit broadband provider in the UK and will connect our entire network of more than 15 million homes to gigabit speeds by the end of the year."

In May, Openreach - the UK's largest broadband utility - promised to plumb its fibre directly into 25 million homes and business (FTTP) by the end of 2026, an increase of five million against its previous target.

The accelerated roll-out – including a revamped build rate of adding four million new premises a year compared to three million – was sweetened thanks to a Treasury-dangling tax break for full-fibre builds. BT's Openreach can rely on a super-deduction, introduced in the 2021 Budget, that allows it to claim 130 per cent capital allowances on its "qualifying" equipment investment. This translates to the org as a whole paying "minimal tax in the UK" over next few years, it said in May this year.

No one from Openreach was available to comment at the time of writing. ®

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