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UK broadband speeds plummet at 9pm as surfing brits strain services

Written by Ewan Taylor-Gibson

24 September 2014

  • UK broadband speeds are fastest at 5am but drop by over a fifth (21%) by 9pm

  • Manchester and Birmingham enjoy the fastest evening peak time surfing, while Aberdeen, Exeter and Hull experience the slowest

  • Exeter, Chester and Bath see the biggest drop offs between peak and off-peak hours, with speeds more than 50% slower in the evening

  • Of the UK’s 50 largest towns and cities, Glasgow residents see the most consistent broadband speeds between peak and off-peak times of day

  • More than half (52%) of broadband customers say they have considered leaving their provider due to speeds regularly slowing down

  • More than a quarter (26%) believe they have lost out financially due to their broadband slowing down – losing out on an average of £159 each.

Red-eye surfers enjoy considerably faster broadband speeds than those who follow the crowd and use the internet at peak times, according to new broadband speed test data from Uswitch.com, the price comparison and switching service. The data reveals the impact of traffic and times of day on broadband speeds in the UK’s largest towns and cities, and shows that the busy evening hours are usually the slowest time of the day to go online.

Across the UK, broadband download speeds are at their fastest at 5am, averaging 18.1 Mbps, but drop by over a fifth (21%) by 9pm – when most people want to go online – to 14.3 Mbps.

The study, based on more than three million consumer speed tests over the past 12 months, reveals that, of the cities with the biggest variations between 5am and 9pm speeds, Manchester (19.2 Mbps) and Birmingham (18.8 Mbps) enjoy the fastest evening peak time surfing, while Aberdeen (7.9 Mbps), Exeter (9.9 Mbps) and Hull (9.9 Mbps) experience the slowest.

The cities of Exeter, Chester and Bath have something other than their Roman roots in common. Out of the largest UK towns and cities, they allsee the biggest drop offs between peak and off-peak hours, with speeds more than 50% slower at 9pm that at 5am.

Of the UK’s most densely populated towns and cities, Glasgow residents see the most consistent broadband speeds between peak and off-peak times of day. There, average speeds at both 5am and 9pm are 15.4 Mbps.

The capital cities of London, Cardiff and Belfast show big discrepancies in peak and off-peak broadband speeds. London and Cardiff speeds drop by around a third between 5am and 9pm while Belfast fares slightly better, dropping by almost a fifth.

The findings are supported by consumer research by Uswitch.com. Almost seven in 10 (69%) Brits say they have noticed their broadband is slower than usual at certain times of the day, with more than half (53%) saying this happens between 8pm and 10pm.

People say this has affected their leisure time (45%), has prevented them from watching films, TV or listening to music (43%) and has stopped them from working (38%). More than a fifth (22%) say they have lost an online auction due to slow broadband, while 17% say they have missed out on the best online shopping deals during the sales. More than one in 10 (11%) say they have missed out on cheap flights or train tickets due to a slow connection.

Overall, more than a quarter (26%) of consumers believe they have lost out financially due to their broadband slowing down to the tune of £159 each – so it’s hardly surprising that this has caused more than half (52%) to consider leaving their current broadband provider.

The following table shows 30 UK towns and cities with the biggest changes in peak vs non-peak download speeds:

| | UK Towns/Cities | Ave broadband speed at 5am (Mbps) | Ave broadband speed at 9pm

(Mbps)

| % change in speed

5am to 9pm

| | 1 | Exeter | 21.2 | 9.9 | -53 | | 2 | Chester | 29.4 | 14.1 | -52 | | 3 | Bath | 25.4 | 12.5 | -51 | | 4 | Lincoln | 25.7 | 13.1 | -49 | | 5 | Lancaster | 20.1 | 10.6 | -47 | | 6 | Cambridge | 25.9 | 14.5 | -44 | | 7 | Northampton | 26.4 | 16.1 | -39 | | 8 | Newport | 19.8 | 12.2 | -38 | | 9 | Gloucester | 19.0 | 11.8 | -38 | | 10 | Plymouth | 20.3 | 13.1 | -35 | | 11 | Cardiff | 22.0 | 14.5 | -34 | | 12 | London | 24.1 | 16.1 | -33 | | 13 | Liverpool | 22.0 | 14.7 | -33 | | 14 | Leicester | 23.7 | 16.0 | -32 | | 15 | Aberdeen | 11.7 | 7.9 | -32 | | 16 | Stoke on Trent | 20.4 | 13.8 | -32 | | 17 | Birmingham | 27.2 | 18.8 | -31 | | 18 | Worcester | 15.4 | 10.8 | -30 | | 19 | Norwich | 17.8 | 12.5 | -30 | | 20 | Wolverhampton | 20.1 | 14.3 | -29 | | 21 | Preston | 21.8 | 15.6 | -28 | | 22 | Leeds | 22.5 | 16.2 | -28 | | 23 | Southampton | 20.8 | 15.1 | -27 | | 24 | Oxford | 19.3 | 14.3 | -26 | | 25 | Manchester | 25.8 | 19.2 | -26 | | 26 | Wakefield | 18.5 | 13.9 | -25 | | 27 | Hull | 12.5 | 9.9 | -21 | | 28 | Brighton | 19.8 | 15.8 | -20 | | 29 | Belfast | 19.0 | 15.3 | -19 | | 30 | Durham | 15.8 | 12.8 | -19 | | | UK | 18.1 | 14.3 | -21 |

Source: Uswitch.com

Breaking it down by countries in the UK, Wales fares the worst. Speeds between 5am and 9pm drop by almost half (48%). Scotland sees the smallest drop off between peak and off-peak hours – a difference of 17%. The table below shows the difference in speeds at 5am and 9pm, broken down by country:

| | Ave broadband speed at 5am (Mbps) | Ave broadband speed at 9pm

(Mbps)

| % change in speed 5am vs 9pm | | UK | 18.1 | 14.3 | -21 | | England | 18.0 | 14.7 | -18 | | Scotland | 14.2 | 11.8 | -17 | | Wales | 22.5 | 11.6 | -48 | | Northern Ireland | 19.0 | 15.3 | -19 |

Source: Uswitch.com

Ewan Taylor-Gibson, broadband expert at Uswitch.com, says: “You might not be a morning type but your broadband is – no coffee required. It won’t come as a surprise that your internet is bright eyed and bushy tailed in the early hours when it’s not groaning under the weight of evening demand. What will surprise many people is by how much speeds drop.

“Given that most of us want to use our home broadband in the evening, it may be concerning to find out that the speed advertised when we sign up won’t necessarily be the speed we get at peak hours.

“Dragging yourself out of bed at red-eye o’clock just to download a film is not a practical option but, at the very least, it’s worth running an online speed test at home to check that you are getting the best possible service available in your area. If you think you could do better, consider shopping around for a new deal. People may also find that speedier fibre broadband is worth investing in – particularly for households with multiple connected devices. Just 44% of people think they can get fibre broadband – but in actual fact it’s now available to almost three quarters of the population.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Charlotte Nunes

Phone: 020 7148 4664

Email: charlotte.nunes@uswitch.com

Twitter: @uSwitchPR

Notes to editors

1.Based on more than 3.1million speed tests conducted through the Uswitch.com website during 12 month period 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014. All speeds quoted are average broadband download speeds in Mbps (megabits per second). Data collected includes speeds from both ADSL and fibre optic connections. Tests were conducted on www.uswitch.com/broadband/speedtest. See tables above for figures for the 30 UK towns and cities with the biggest drop offs in speed. 2.Based on the results of an online survey of 1,631 people via Uswitch.com’s consumer opinion panel in August 2014. Consumers were asked: ‘have you considered switching broadband provider due your internet regularly slowing down?’ – 51.6% said yes, 48.4% said no 3.Consumers were asked: ‘do you think you have lost money due to your broadband slowing down?’ – 26.8% said yes, 73.2% said no 4.Consumers were asked: ‘how much money have you lost out on?’ The mean response was £159.32 5.Consumers were asked: ‘do you notice your broadband is slower than usual at certain times of the day?’ – 68.6% said yes, 31.4% said no 6.Consumers were asked: ‘at what times do you notice your broadband slowing down (tick all that apply) – 5.9% said 06.00-08.00, 19.7% said 08.00-10.00, 17.4% said 10.00-12.00, 14.7% said 12.00-14.00, 17.9% said 14.00-16.00, 46% said 16.00-18.00, 72.9% said 18.00-20.00, 55.3% said 20.00-22.00, 21.9% said 22.00-00.00, 3.9% said 00.00-02.00, 2.1% said 02.00-04.00, 1.7% said 04.00-06.00 7.Consumers were asked: ‘in the past, how has your broadband slowing down affected you? (tick all that apply) – 44.8% ‘stopped me from working’, 43.2% ‘stopped me from watching films, TV & music’, 37.8% ‘stopped me from working’, 37.7% ‘stopped me from connecting with friends and family’, 22.4% ‘lost an online auction’, 16.6% ‘missed out on the best shopping deals during sales’, 11% ‘missed out on cheap flights or train tickets’, 9.5% ‘prevented my children from doing their homework’, 9% ‘missed out on event tickets’, 15.2% none of the above, 2.4% ‘affected my health e.g. stopped me booking a hospital appointment’ 8.Consumers were asked: ‘is superfast broadband available in your area yet?’ – 44% said yes, 25.1% said no, 30.9% said I don’t know. According to Ofcom, 73% of UK premises could receive superfast broadband.

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