How does broadband availability and speeds vary across the UK? Ofcom data shows that almost 19 in 20 premises in the UK now have access to superfast download speeds, and just over half of lines are now receiving speeds above 30 Mbps.
Our latest interactive dashboard allows you to browse this data for constituencies and local areas. You can compare your area with the national average and download full data and maps for each area in the UK.
Here we look at the local picture – which constituencies have seen the biggest improvement in connectivity since 2017, and which towns and villages in each of the four UK nations have the best and worst broadband?
Improvements in broadband availability since 2017
Access to ‘superfast broadband’ – download speeds of at least 30 Mbps – rose from 91.1% of premises in May 2017 to 94.0% in September 2018.
Meanwhile, 98.0% of premises can now receive speeds of at least 10 Mbps – which Ofcom regards as the minimum required for ‘decent broadband’ – up from 96.6% in September 2018. The availability of speeds of at least 10 Mbps is part of the UK Government’s Universal Service Obligation.
The tables below show which UK constituencies had the largest increase in availability on both measures between 2017 and 2018. In both cases, Hull East had the biggest improvements. Several constituencies in South Yorkshire also feature, with 19% of premises in Penistone & Stocksbridge and 14% in Don Valley newly receiving superfast coverage in 2018.
In addition to these areas, several constituencies in Wales and Scotland had a substantial improvement in the availability of 10 Mbps in 2018. In Na h-Eileanan an Iar, the Western Isles of Scotland, 11% of premises received new coverage of 10 Mbps speeds in 2018.
Saffron Walden in Essex, which previously had the worst superfast availability in the wider south east of England, also saw big improvements in both categories in 2018.
These figures only measure coverage and availability of faster speeds. Many premises which are capable of receiving superfast broadband are not currently doing so – in order to receive them, consumers often need to subscribe to particular packages from their provider.
Highs and lows across the UK
The tables below look at which parts of the UK’s four nations are hot-spots and not-spots for high quality broadband coverage and speeds. We have used small areas – covering a few towns, villages, or suburbs – to give a detailed picture.
The highest average download speeds are mostly found in rural areas – in some cases these are covered by specific projects to deliver ultrafast broadband such as B4RN in Lancashire.
The average download speed doesn’t always give the full picture of broadband quality in an area. If a minority of premises in an area are receiving astronomically high speeds, this can distort the average. For instance, 4.3% of lines in Kellet & Lune Valley are receiving speeds under 2 Mbps, which is well above the UK average of 1.8%. Similarly, despite the average download speed being 169 Mbps in Long Buckby East & Ravensthorpe, less than half of lines in this area are receiving speeds over 30 Mbps.
Because of this, it can be useful to look at other measures – such as the percentage of lines that are receiving slow broadband. The table below shows areas where lines are receiving speeds under 2 Mbps – five times slower than Ofcom’s standard for ‘decent broadband’. Three of the ten areas are in Essex, with a further two in Kent and South Yorkshire. Note that faster speeds may be available to some of these premises – these figures measure only speeds actually being received.
Speeds vs availability
While speeds actually being received are one measure of line quality, they are also partially dependent on consumer decisions. Average speeds may appear to be low in areas where superfast broadband is available but consumers are unwilling or unable to take up a superfast service. Similarly, average speeds may appear high in areas where more people are willing or able to subscribe to superfast services. So it’s useful to look at measures of coverage and availability too – areas in which high quality broadband isn’t available even for those who want it.
The tables below show the areas with the most premises unable to receive ‘decent broadband’ (10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speed) and the areas with the lowest superfast availability. Hull features in both lists. Two Central London areas area among those with the lowest superfast availability.
The tables below show which parts of Scotland have the highest and lowest average download speeds. The areas used for Scotland are Census Intermediate Zones. Unlike England, the areas with the highest download speeds are in urban areas, with North and South Lanarkshire dominating the highest-speed list.
Below we can see which areas of Scotland have the highest proportion of lines receiving speeds below 2 Mbps – five times lower than Ofcom’s standard for ‘decent broadband’. The two areas at the top of this list are both on the Scottish mainland in Highland and Midlothian – in contrast to the three other ‘not-spot’ lists, which are topped by areas in Shetland.
The tables below show the areas with the most premises unable to receive ‘decent broadband’ and the areas with the lowest superfast availability. Orkney & Shetland feature at the top of both of these lists.
Like Scotland, the areas with the highest average download speeds in Wales are all in urban areas in Cardiff, Swansea and Port Talbot. Sennybridge & Talybont-on-Usk, covering part of the Brecon Beacons, has the lowest average download speed and features in each of the upcoming ‘not-spot’ lists.
These two tables below show which parts of Wales have the highest and lowest average download speeds. The areas shown are census MSOAs.
Below we can see which areas of Wales have the highest proportion of lines receiving speeds below 2 Mbps – five times lower than Ofcom’s standard for ‘decent broadband’.
Gronant, Ffynnongroyw & Trelawnyd on the North Wales Coast is the only Flintshire area to feature in any of the ‘not-spot’ lists, with 14% of premises receiving under 2 Mbps.
The tables below show the areas with the most premises unable to receive ‘decent broadband’ and the areas with the lowest superfast availability. Areas in Carmarthenshire and Powys make up over half of these lists.
All of the areas with the highest download speeds in Northern Ireland in 2018 are in the Belfast area. The tables below show which parts of Northern Ireland have the highest and lowest average download speeds. The areas shown are wards and can be viewed on this map.
Here we can also see which areas of Northern Ireland have the highest proportion of lines receiving speeds below 2 Mbps – five times lower than Ofcom’s standard for ‘decent broadband’. Four of the ten areas receiving these slowest speeds are in Fermanagh and Omagh.
There are two areas where more than half of premises can’t receive decent broadband – Shilvodan in Antrim & Newtonabbey and Fairy Water in Fermanagh and Omagh. These two areas also have the lowest superfast availability in Northern Ireland.
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About the author: Carl Baker is a Senior Library Clerk specialising in Social and General Statistics.