UK broadband customers saw a fall in average download speed in the final three months of 2011, down to 4.9Mbps from 5.1Mbps in the previous quarter, according to a new report from Akamai.
The finding was part of a trend seen in regions around the world, the web content delivery company said in its fourth-quarter State of the Internet report, released on Monday.
"The global average connection speed saw an unusual, and fairly significant, decline in the fourth quarter of 2011, dropping to 2.3Mbps," Akamai said in the report. "It was reflected in declines in eight of the top 10 countries, as well as the US."
Ninety-three nations saw lower download rates, while 41 saw increases. The top two countries, South Korea and Japan, both saw rises in average downloads to 17.5Mbps and 9.1Mbps respectively. The only two European countries to increase average speed were Finland (5.9Mbps) and Sweden (5.5Mbps).
The Netherlands was the European country with the fastest average download speed, at 8.2Mbps, but this represented a fall of 3.2 percent. The UK's decline was 3.5 percent.
"The fourth quarter was not a good one for average connection speeds across Europe, as only two of the surveyed countries or regions saw higher speeds than in the prior quarter — quarterly losses were obviously more widespread across Europe than the Asia-Pacific region or the United States," the report's authors said.
Akamai said it could not explain the drop in download speeds, but did note that a number of factors, including peak network usage rates, could have been an influence.
"A survey released in November 2011 found that broadband ISP download speeds in the United Kingdom fell by an average of 35 percent during periods of peak usage (between 7-9pm), when most people go online; peak speeds were observed between 2-3am," Akamai said. "It may be the case that greater congestion at the last mile due to heavier usage occurred in the fourth quarter, driving down observed average connection speeds."
By and large, these long-term trends are heading in the right direction, pointing to ongoing growth in connection speeds and adoption rates over time.– Akamai
Akamai found that 91 percent of broadband connections in the UK had average speeds of faster than 2Mbps, whereas just 30 percent were faster than 5Mbps. This contrasts with Ofcom's report in February on the average broadband speed in the UK, which found the UK average rose 22 percent in the six months to November to 7.6Mbps.
The UK ranked 16th in Europe for average measured connection speed, and 14th for average peak connection speed. The UK failed to make a showing in the top 100 cities worldwide, which was dominated by the Asia-Pacific region.
While quarterly comparisons showed a downward trend for average speeds, the yearly trend was generally more positive, according to Akamai.
"By and large, these long-term trends are heading in the right direction, pointing to ongoing growth in connection speeds and adoption rates over time," the report said. "The yearly changes were significantly more positive, with 19 of the 21 surveyed countries ending 2011 with higher average connection speeds than at the end of 2010."
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