Rural broadband divide widens header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

The difference between rural broadband speeds and those in urban areas has increased, according to a new report.

A study by telecommunications watchdog Ofcom found there is now a 16.5 Mbps gap between the average connection in large towns and cities and the typical service in the countryside. 

It said the average speed in urban areas in May was 25.6 Mbps, compared to 9.9 Mbps in rural locations. The typical suburban connection reached 17.9 Mbps. 

While each of these speeds is an increase on what was recorded by Ofcom in the same month last year - rural services are up from 5.9 Mbps - it still demonstrates there is a huge gulf between large cities and the countryside. 

Ofcom suggested this gap will continue to widen in the short-term, before decreasing "over time".

Dominic Baliszewski of broadbandchoices.co.uk told the Telegraph these findings demonstrate the UK is made up of broadband "haves and have nots".

"How can it be fair that residents in rural areas received an average 9.9Mb per second whilst their urban counterparts enjoy speeds that are almost three times as fast," he commented. 

"Households in non-fibre areas will need to make themselves heard if they are going to be included in the fibre revolution," Mr Baliszewski added. 

People who do stand to miss out on the introduction of fibre-based services should consider satellite broadband. This technology is readily available in rural areas and can provide connection speeds of up to 20 Mbps, which is well above the current average.

While it is encouraging that broadband speeds appear to be increasing, Ofcom's findings are noticeably different from the results of a survey carried out by technology company Akamai in July. 

It's State of the Internet Report claimed the average UK connection reaches 7.9 Mbps, while Ofcom's study suggests the figure is closer to 18 Mbps.

With such contrasting figures it is difficult to know just how fast the typical broadband service really is.

Posted by Craig Roberts