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The UK continues to lag behind many other European nations on broadband speeds, based upon the latest research from Akamai Technologies.

In its State of the Internet Q2 2012 report, the firm claimed the average UK consumer has access to download speeds of 5.7Mb.

This is slightly up on the 5.6Mb recorded in the first quarter of the year. Meanwhile, peak UK speeds were measured at 24.5Mb by the firm.

The latest data places the UK in 21st place in the global speed rankings, some way behind the long-time leader South Korea - a country that has invested heavily in fibre networks.

Consumers and businesses in the south-east Asian republic were able to download at an average rate of 14.2Mb in Q2 2012, Akamai claimed.

However, this figure is down slightly on the 15.7Mb speeds reported in the first three months of the year.

Neighbouring Japan continued to occupy second place in the chart (10.7Mb), followed by Hong Kong (8.9Mb) in third.

The fastest European countries were found to be Latvia (8.7Mb) and Switzerland (8.4Mb), followed by the Netherlands (8.0Mb), Czech Republic (7.2Mb), Denmark (6.7Mb) and Finland (6.6Mb).

However, it is worth noting that UK broadband speeds reported by Akamai have long been at odds with equivalent data published by Ofcom.

The media regulator recently claimed that average broadband speeds reached 9.0Mb in May 2012, up from 6.8Mb 12 months earlier.

Speaking in the spring, Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said the move to faster broadband services was "gathering momentum" in the UK.

"Consumers are benefitting from network upgrades and the launch of new superfast packages, giving them faster speeds and greater choice," he stated.

But even if the Ofcom data paints a truer picture of UK broadband speeds than the latest Akamai study, it is clear that improvements still need to be made.

The continuing rollout of fibre broadband services is gradually boosting web users' download capabilities, allowing them to access a wider range of online services.

But the government and internet service providers need to ensure wider access to super-fast broadband outside the major urban centres, in order to start competing with those at the top of the speed charts.

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