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The average broadband speed in the UK has is now up to 9Mbps faster, a 150% increase in speeds since 2008, as more people make the switch to super-fast services, says Ofcom.

The figures from the communications industry regulator suggest a rise in speeds from last May’s average of 6.8Mbps. It indicated that 8% of UK homes now have super-fast broadband, defined as speeds of up to 30Mbps or higher.

Ofcom says this is not only because people are upgrading their packages but also many people are benefiting from faster speeds because ISPs have been upgrading networks to provide the superfast premium speeds “at little or no additional cost to consumers”.

The government wants the UK to be the fastest country in Europe by 2015.

Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive, said: “Our research shows that the move to faster broadband services is gathering momentum. Consumers are benefiting from network upgrades and the launch of new super-fast packages, giving them faster speeds and greater choice.”

Infrastructure investment

Free network upgrades are helping push up speeds, the report found.  Many of BT’s customers have been moved to the faster ADSL2+ technology, while rival Virgin Media started to double the speeds of most of its broadband connections in February, increasing the top speed of its fastest package to “up to” 120Mbps.

The report said that in May 2012, over two-thirds of UK fixed-line residential broadband users (68%) were on packages with advertised speeds above ‘up to’ 10Mbps, an increase from 48% in May 2011.

In the same time period  8% of residential broadband connections were super-fast, compared with 5% six months previously and 2% in May 2011.

Actual speeds

As for individual ISPs’ performances, Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 100Mbit/s download speed package came out on top, with its average actual speeds hovering around 88.3Mbit/s over a 24-hour period.  The average download speed on BT Infinity’s “up to” 76Mbps service was 58.5Mbps. However, at the busiest parts of the day, BT Infinity’s fibre customers enjoyed better speeds relative to their usual average than on Virgin Media’s cable network.

Ofcom has also spearheaded the campaign to make advertisements for broadband less misleading. All of the UK’s major ISPs are now signed up to a voluntary code of practice which requires them to give more accurate estimates of a prospective customer’s expected maximum speed in the form of a range.  They have also agreed that, where possible, they would resolve customers’ speed-related problems. Users whose speed remains significantly below the estimated range have the ability to leave their provider within three months of the start of their contract without penalty.

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