Average broadband speeds in the United Kingdom have risen by 18% in a year. The average downstream rate has passed 50 megabits per second. The average upstream rate has also increased by 15%. Average download and upload rates have doubled in five years. Faster broadband means that more people could potentially stream ultra-high-definition video, but that still excludes more than half of homes in rural areas, with a third receiving less than 10 Mbps.

The annual UK Home Broadband Performance report from the communications regulator Ofcom compares how different broadband packages perform, using data from monitors installed on broadband routers. It is based on an opt-in panel of nearly 5,000 residential broadband users in the United Kingdom.

Average downstream rates were reported as 54.2 Mbps in November 2018, compared to 46.2 Mbps the previous year and 22.8 Mbps in 2014. That said, 16% of connections were reported to deliver less than 10 Mbps.

Average upstream rates also rose, up to 7.2 Mbps from 6.2 Mbps the previous year and 2.9 Mbps in 2014.

Source: Ofcom / Sam Knows.

The research for Ofcom reported that 58% of connections had an average downstream rate of 30 Mbps or more in peak time between 8-10pm. In rural areas it was only 44% and 33% had an average peak time rate of 10 Mbps or less.

Of those with connections advertised at 30 Mbps or more, the average downstream actually received was 78.0 Mbps, up from 71.2 Mbps the previous year.

Customers with the top tier Virgin Media cable service could receive download rates over 360 Mbps. Those with the BT 300 Mbps full fibre service could receive that rate as advertised, although upstream averaged at less than 50 Mbps.

While those with high-speed cable or fibre services could generally stream ultra-high-definition videos reliably, only 14% of those with ADSL2+ telco connections could do so in peak time.

Ofcom reports that broadband services of 30 Mbps or higher are available to 95% of homes and offices in the United Kingdom. Full fibre connections are only available to 7% of premises.

However, the Ofcom research suggests that 16% of those surveyed did not receive an average speed above 10Mbps, which it considers necessary for full participation in a digital society. In rural regions this rose to 32% of those on the survey panel.

The research also found that there were an average of 0.5 network disconnections of 30 seconds or longer per day. Even some of the high rate cable and fibre services had an average of 0.7 disconnections per day, meaning the network temporarily drops around five times a week. That is a problem if you are relying on broadband for telecommunications or television services.

The Ofcom UK Home Broadband Performance report contains further information about the performance of fixed-line broadband services delivered to residential consumers in the United Kingdom.