Ofcom’s Home Broadband Performance Report has revealed how broadband speeds changed before and after the COVID-19 lockdown measures came in – when there was a surge in broadband use. Download and upload speeds fell only by 2% and 1% respectively.
Demands on the broadband network have been driven in part by home working and by school closures, leading to a rise in people using streaming and educational services. Some providers have reported an increase in weekday daytime traffic of between 35 and 60% since the coronavirus restrictions came in.
As children and adults look for ways to entertain themselves indoors, Netflix download speeds fell by 3% in the lockdown period compared to pre-lockdown – indicating that people rushed to catch-up with their favourite shows in their free time. But data use from increased screen time was offset by Netflix reducing the streaming quality of its content.
The responsiveness (latency) of broadband networks – the delay between a connection requesting an action and that action taking place – also remained stable. The 2% increase in delay measured would have had little effect on performance for most people.
The report also reveals that broadband speeds in rural areas are catching up to those in towns and cities. The proportion of rural lines receiving at least superfast broadband (30 Mbit/s and above) during peak times continues to increase – from 44% in 2018 to 56% in 2019 – while the proportion not receiving a decent connection (10 Mbit/s and above) at peak times fell from 33% to 22%.
But broadband speeds in rural areas still lag behind those in urban areas. Urban peak-time speeds reached 75 Mbit/s, almost double the rural average of 39 Mbit/s in 2019.
Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Group Director for Strategy and Research, said:
“Broadband in the UK has really been put to the test by the pandemic, so it’s encouraging that speeds have largely held up. This has helped people to keep working, learning and staying connected with friends and family.”