A new study from the National Grid and telecoms industry group, NPG, finds that UK broadband speeds fell in the third quarter of 2018, but the fall is due to the introduction of fibre-to-the-node, rather than a reduction in overall speeds.
The NPG report, which is based on data collected from over 10,000 households across the UK in the three months to the end of April, found that average speeds fell by 1.7Mbps, and peak speeds dropped by 4.5Mbps.
Average UK speeds peaked in the fourth quarter of last year at 4.8Mbps, which the study found was down from the 5.7 Mbps average that was achieved in the previous quarter.
The report found that there was no evidence that the rollout of fibre to the node (FTTN) had slowed down overall speed levels, with some of the greatest falls occurring in areas where FTTN is being deployed.
The report notes that UK speed drops have been due to two factors: the introduction and subsequent roll-out of fibre in many areas, and the introduction, and subsequent rollout, of broadband to rural areas.
The rollout of FTTN in areas with little or no fibre has led to a drop in the average UK speed, the report said.
However, this has resulted in a fall in average speeds in the rural areas where the rollout was slowest.
Average speeds in rural areas fell by 8.5% in the first quarter of 2019, but fell by an additional 5.1% in Q2 2019, the study said.
However, the UK still recorded an average of 4.3Mbps in the second quarter of this year, which was down 0.9% from the second half of last season.
This is because of the introduction in the middle of this quarter of fibre deployment to rural communities in England, Wales and Scotland, the NPG said.FTTN technology has been rolled out to almost 2 million households in the UK and the Npg said that these have helped to boost speeds in these areas, but that the uptake has slowed down in some areas.NPG said that fibre to rural broadband was a “key factor” in the fall in UK broadband, with the rollout in these regions leading to a reduction of average speeds, but also caused slower speeds in some rural areas, such as in Devon and Cornwall, and areas that have had less FTTN coverage.FTN technologies are designed to improve broadband speeds by connecting fibre to an underlying network, which offers higher speeds.
The introduction of FTN in these rural areas has meant that average UK speeds have fallen by 1Mbps in rural households, according to the NPA.NPA’s deputy general secretary, John Leech, said that FTN technology was being rolled out more quickly than planned in many rural areas because of poor infrastructure, and also because of lack of demand from customers.”FTN is not a panacea for rural areas,” he said.
“The rollout in rural communities has been slower than expected, with only a quarter of rural households now connected to fibre-based broadband, and many more still reliant on copper lines for broadband.”NPG found that the majority of rural homes are still experiencing slower speeds than the UK average.
“In rural areas that are still relying on copper-based speeds, many are having to wait until they can get access to fibre, and that will affect the speeds that people can expect from FTN services.”
Leech said that although the introduction was slow, the rollout had resulted in slower speeds for rural people.
He said that many rural people who were previously reliant on FTN were now being offered fibre to a home, and they were “coping with the uncertainty”.
“There are areas where fibre-powered services are being delivered at rates lower than the average, and those areas are also the areas where rural residents are being hit hardest by the rollout,” he added.
Leech added that it was important that people were aware of the rollout, and what they could do to improve their speed.
“NPG will continue to provide advice to rural residents and customers on the best ways to ensure that their broadband speeds are the highest available in rural parts of the UK,” he concluded.
The National Grid said that the introduction into rural areas of FTNs had not been able to keep up with the growth in demand.
The company said that while FTN was being used to improve speeds in many locations, the introduction to FTN into rural and urban areas was not providing the speeds necessary to deliver fibre to all rural households.
“Despite FTN being deployed more quickly in rural and rural areas than in other parts of Britain, we have been unable to keep pace with the growing demand for broadband services and have been relying on older copper-only broadband to deliver broadband to those who are not using FTN,” it said.