Back in February we reported that UK broadband users were enjoying 22% faster Internet than the previous year, with the average speed as of November 2011 hitting 7.6Mbps compared to only 6.2Mbps in 2010. Now, however, Ofcom, the UK regulatory body for the broadcasting and telecommunications industries, reports that this figure has jumped to 9Mbps.

Network upgrades

The key difference this time around is that the hike in speed has been put down to network upgrades by ISPs, whereas before the jump was due to customers actively seeking better broadband packages that offered more bang for their buck.

Ofcom’s latest research covers fixed-line residential broadband speeds. They reveal that in May this year, the average actual UK speed was 9Mbps, which is 2.5 times faster than the average 3.6Mbps speed clocked when Ofcom first started its speed research, way back in November 2008.

Its research now includes some new ‘superfast’ packages too, for example Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 60Mbps service and BT’s Infinity 2 ‘up to’ 76Mbps service.

The proportion of so-called ‘superfast’ broadband connections (an advertised speed of ‘up to’ 30Mbps or above) have increased in recent times. By May 2012, 8% of residential broadband connections were ‘superfast’, compared with 5% six months previously and 2% in May 2011.

Indeed, these two BT and Virgin Media services alone have contributed to the rise in average speeds. But as with its previous report, Ofcom notes that it’s still seeing a continuing trend of consumers shifting to faster services too.

Screenshot 17 520x260 UK broadband users now enjoy average speeds of 9Mbps at home due to ISP network upgrades, says Ofcom

That said, Ofcom stresses that much of the improved speeds are due to ISPs network upgrades, which have required no action on the consumers’ part.

BT’s upgrade of its copper ADSL network, for example, saw many customers moved from ADSL1 technology to the faster ADSL2+, while FTTC service upgrades have seen an ‘up to’ 76Mbps offering launched alongside its existing ‘up to’ 38Mbps. Similarly, in February this year, Virgin Media started to double the speeds of most of its broadband connections, increasing the top speed of its fastest package to ‘up to’ 120Mbps. In theory, this should improve the Internet connections of four million people.

Looking at the data on a more granular level, in May 2012 more than two-thirds of UK broadband users (68%) were signed up to packages with advertised speeds above ‘up to’ 10Mbps, an increase from 48% in May last year.

Of the different types of broadband technologies, Ofcom found that cable broadband connections generated the greatest increases in average speed in the six months to May 2012 – up by 3.6Mbps (26%) to 17.9Mbps. On the other hand, average speeds delivered by ADSL broadband – Internet via copper wires – increased by 10%, from 5.3Mbps to 5.9Mbps.

Of the 12 ISP packages included in the report, Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 100Mbps service was the fastest, with Ofcom’s findings revealing an average actual speed of 88.3Mbps over a 24 hour period.

Screenshot 22 520x277 UK broadband users now enjoy average speeds of 9Mbps at home due to ISP network upgrades, says Ofcom

You can read the full Ofcom report here.