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Broadband speeds for UK consumers lag well behind much of the rest of the world, a survey of global broadband connections has shown.

In a new investigation conducted on behalf of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), it was revealed that the connection speed experienced by the average UK broadband user ranks below 30 other developed countries.

Moreover, a number of the countries ranking higher than the UK have had to overcome significant geographical obstacles that do not exist in the UK.

For instance, the average speed of a connection in the US is 5.1MB - placing it 29th in the list. This is despite the fact that the size of the US and the existence of expansive, largely rural states make provision of broadband in some parts of the country not cost-effective.

Meanwhile, other countries where broadband is faster than in the UK include Sweden and the Netherlands, where consumers enjoy average speeds of 12.8Mb and 11Mb respectively. However, even these pale when compared to South Korean broadband providers who were found to be supplying the average customer with a 20.4Mb super fast broadband service.

The figures are likely to revive criticism that the provisions recommended by the Digital Britain report were insufficient to ensure that the UK remains competitive economically. Released in June after extensive consultation, the study set a benchmark of delivering a connection of 2Mb to every Briton by 2012.

Critics claim that this is not fast enough to support the development of next-generation broadband services, such as HD and on-demand TV, and will prove especially disadvantageous to the UK media and creative companies.

However, UK speeds look likely to improve significantly in the near future. BT recently announced that it had completed the initial stage of an upgrade to its network which will provide millions of customers with a 20Mb service. This will be achieved partly through the installation of ADSL2+ technology. Speeds will also be boosted by the free distribution of its BT Broadband Accelerator which limits line interference.

Virgin Media is also leading the charge for improved broadband through its fibre optic broadband network and has been offering a 50Mb premium product since late last year. This is set to drop in price from £50 per month to just £30 as of September – potentially bringing super-fast broadband connections within reach of millions of new customers.

Jessica McArdle, marketing manager at Top 10 Broadband, said: "Position 31 is no place for the UK to be coming in broadband speeds, let's hope that BT's 20Mb line upgrades and Virgin Media's 50Mb packages push us up a few rungs of the ladder."

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