UK broadband speeds: Hot-spots and not-spots

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.

Two tables showing the largest increase in superfast availability in England. Kingston Upon Hull East had the largest increase of 92% in 2018, from 34% in 2017. The second table shows the largest increase in availability of 10 Mbps. Kingston upon Hull East is also the highest, with 95% increase in 2018, from 67% in 2017.
Click to view.

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.

England

The areas of England with the highest and lowest average download speeds in 2018 are shown below. The areas are census MSOAs (middle layer super output areas) and can be viewed on this map.

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.

Two tables showing the highest and lowest average download speeds in England in 2018. Kellet & Lune Valley in Lancaster is top with 473 Mbps. Bransholme East in Hull had the lowest with 9.7 Mbps.
Click to view.

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.

A table showing lines receiving speeds under 2Mbps in England in 2018. East Tilbury in Thurrock, Essex is at the top with 22% and Willen & Downhead Park in Milton Keynes is at the bottom with 14%.
Click to view.

A map showing areas where lines are receiving under 2Mbps on the South Kent Coast.
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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.

Two tables showing areas unable to receive 'decent broadband' in England in 2018 and areas with the lowest superfast availability. Boulevard and St Andrew's Quay in Hull had the highest percentage of premises unable to receive decent broadband (56%) and Bransholme East in Hull had the lowest percentage of superfast availability (0.5%).
Click to view.

A map showing areas where premises can't receive 'decent broadband' in North Essex.
Click to view.

Scotland

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.

Two tables showing the highest and lowest average download speeds in Scotland in 2018. Abronhill North in North Lanarkshire has the highest average of 91 Mbps and North and East Isles in the Shetland Islands has the lowest average with 11.2 Mbps.
Click to view.

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.

A table showing areas in Scotland with lines receiving speeds under 2 Mbps in 2018. Caithness North East, in Highland is at the top with 24%.
Click to view.

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.

Two tables showing areas unable to receive 'decent broadband' in Scotland in 2018 and areas with the lowest superfast availability in 2018. North and East Isles in the Shetland Islands has the highest percentage of premises unable to receive 'decent broadband' with 81% and had the lowest superfast availability with 15%.
Click to view.

Wales

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.

Two tables showing the highest average download speeds in Wales in 2018 and the lowest average download speeds in Wales 2018. Cathays North in Cardiff had the highest average download speech with 87 Mbps and Sennybridge and Talybont-on-Usk in Powys had the lowest with 16.2 Mbps.
Click to view.

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.

A table showing the lines receiving speeds under 2 Mbps in Wales in 2018. Sennybridge and Talybont-on-Usk in Powys had the highest number of premises with 19%.
Click to view.

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.

Two tables showing ares in Wales unable to receive 'decent broadband' in 2018 and those with the lowest superfast availability in 2018. Sennybridge and Talybont-on-Usk in Powys had the highest number of premises unable to receive decent broadband with 35% and Rhaglan and Llantilio Crossenny in Monmouthshire had the lowest superfast availability with 48%.
Click to view.

Northern Ireland

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.

Two tables showing the highest and lowest average download speeds in Northern Ireland. Collin Glen in Lisburn and Castlereagh had the highest average with 79 Mbps and Lissan in Mid Ulster had the lowest with 13.0 Mbps.
Click to view.

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.

A table showing the lines receiving speeds under 2 Mbps in Northern Ireland in 2018. Fairy Water in Fermanagh and Omagh was the highest with 28%,
Click to view.

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.

Two tables showing areas unable to receive 'decent broadband' and the lowest superfast availability in Northern Ireland in 2018. Shivodan in Antrim and Newtownabbey had the highest percentage of residences unable to receive decent broadband - 56% and the lowest superfast availability with 26%.
Click to view.

Find out more

Carl Baker is a Senior Library Clerk specialising in Social and General Statistics. 

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