BBC Home > BBC News > Technology

UK broadband 'not fit' for future

1 October 09 00:20 GMT

A study of the global state of broadband has put the UK 25th out of 66 countries in terms of the quality and reach of its networks.

The research for Cisco found that countries such as Latvia and Bulgaria were better prepared than the UK for next-generation net applications.

The UK was listed among countries whose broadband is "meeting needs for today".

South Korea and Japan continue to dominate the league table, largely due to their commitment to fast networks.

In South Korea, for example, the government has promised universal speeds of up to 1Gbps (gigabit per second) by 2012.

Despite not being ready for future applications, the UK was well placed to cope with today's network demands, the study found.

"It can be a bit misleading to look at the rankings. The important thing is whether the broadband quality of a country is good enough for today's needs and the UK falls well within this category," said Joanne Hughes, Cisco's communication manager.

She expects the UK to improve dramatically next year.

"We forecast the UK will improve because of things such as cable networks being upgraded and the Digital Britain report focusing on next generation access," she said.

The study was conducted jointly by Oxford University's Said Business School and Spain's University of Oviedo's Department of Applied Economics.

It found that the average download speed globally was 4.75Mbps (megabits per second), while average upload speed was 1.3Mbps.

Future demands

Researchers also worked out how fit countries were to cope with the demands of today's users based on a set of applications consumers are likely to use.

These included sharing photos, using video on Skype, watching YouTube and standard definition BBC iPlayer content.

It found that two-thirds of the 66 countries met the criteria for today's requirements.

But only nine countries, including Japan, Sweden and Latvia, were ready for future demands, such as watching high-definition video.

This is a big improvement on last year's study, which found only Japan was ready for the future.

Researchers estimated that countries would need an average download speed of 11.25Mbps and an upload speed of 5Mbps in order to be comfortably placed for future applications.

'Real speeds'

The research was based on 24 million speed tests done in 66 countries via speedtest.net.

The test focused on download speeds, upload speeds and latency - the delay that happens as information is routed around the net.

Using this measure alone, the UK was ranked 31st.

However, researchers combined these results with the broadband penetration in individual countries to create its broadband leadership index.

Under this measure, the UK was ranked 25th.

"Most studies are based just on broadband penetration or, if they look at speed they look at advertised speeds rather than real speeds," said Ms Hughes.

"We wanted to look at the issue of broadband quality which is vital as new applications come along," she added.

"We also looked at broadband penetration because there is no point having good quality networks if they are not widely available," she said.

Related BBC sites

*