The UK's average broadband speed is 7.6Mbps, says Ofcom.
According to the regulator's sixth UK Broadband Speeds report, which features the results of numerous speed tests conducted in partnership with SamKnows, the UK's average net connection speed is 22 percent faster than in May last year when it was 6.8Mbps compared to November. Furthermore, for the first time more than half (58 percent) of UK residential broadband connections had a headline, or advertised speed of above 10Mbps in November 2011, compared to 48 percent six months earlier.
The regulator said the increase was mainly as a result of consumers moving onto higher speed packages. However, Ofcom highlighted that 42 percent of Brits would be able to achieve speed of above 10Mbps for little or no extra cost if they switched provider.
"It is encouraging that speeds are increasing and that consumers have a real choice of broadband service. There is a real opportunity for consumers to look at the packages and deals in their area in order to receive the best value, speeds and performance available to them," said Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards.
This is Ofcom's first report since the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) issued new guidelines designed to clamp down on the use of 'unlimited' and 'up to' in broadband advertising, in September this year. Under the guidelines, which will come into force in April this year, any maximum speed claims used in broadband advertising must be based on actual experience of users and ISPs must be able to demonstrate these speeds can be achieved by at least 10 percent of its customers.
Ofcom said, based on the current research, under these guidelines the maximum speed for 'up to' 8Mbps broadband packages would be 6Mbps, while those advertised as offering 'up to' 20 and 24Mbps should be sold as offering 14Mbps.
Ofcom maintains that fibre-based and cable broadband technologies are still the fastest. The regulator said Virgin Media's 'up to' 50Mbps service has the highest average download speeds of 49Mbps of all the 13 providers offering fibre and copper services, surveyed. Meanwhile, BT Infinity – the provider's fibre-based service – offers an average download speed of 36Mbps, which is 2Mbps up on those offered in May last year. The service also achieved the highest average upload speeds of 8.8Mbps. Ofcom said none of other ISP packages saw significant changes from six months ago.
"We can look forward to further increases in UK broadband speeds over the next few years. Most households in the UK can now access superfast broadband services, and these services are set to get faster still as Virgin Media aims to double the speeds of most of its cable services and BT aims to double the speed of its fibre-to-the-cabinet service from 40Mbps to 80Mbps."
However, Ernest Doku, technology expert at uSwitch.com, said the data failed to highlight , the gaping divide between speeds in urban and rural areas
"Although internet providers are investing millions of pounds in bringing the UK's broadband infrastructure into the 21st Century, the reality is that many parts of Britain, and especially rural areas, are still operating in the broadband dark ages and are digitally isolated due to sluggish speeds and patchy coverage," said Doku.
"Continued investment in the broadband infrastructure is vital if the UK is to remain a major player on the world economic stage, and if – as the Government envisages – Britain is to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, it is also crucial that this investment is spread fairly across the country."