A broadband speed report by UK analyst thinkbroadband.com claims the countryside still lags some way behind urban areas — contrary to a recent Ofcom report hailing the end of a geographical digital divide in the UK for internet access.
Fat-pipe speeds rarely live up to the theoretical maximums advertised by ISPs, so the fastest UK region in the thinkbroadband survey — London — achieved an average download rate of 4.5Mbps. But that was almost double the rate in Northern Ireland (2.3Mbps), the region with the slowest average download speed.
The next most sluggish after Northern Ireland was Wales (2.6Mbps), then the South West and Scotland (both with 2.9Mbps), according to the data. Fastest after London were: the North East (3.6Mbps), the North West (3.4Mbps) and the East Midlands (3.3Mbps), suggesting that there is a rural/urban split based on ADSL speed.
The advice website said broadband headline speeds in excess of 8Mbps are, therefore, less likely to be available in rural areas, adding that almost all telephone exchanges in areas such as London have a wide variety of LLU (local loop unbundling) operators, compared to under a quarter of the exchanges in Wales.
Thinkbroadband found that only a handful of speed tests achieved 7Mbps or faster in Wales, whereas in London just under 20 percent of the tests achieved that download rate.
LLU has been key to achieving faster broadband speeds in the short term as BT's own next-gen ADSL technology — ADSL2+ (which promises a theoretical maximum of 24Mbps) — has taken longer to arrive.
Posting a recent reader comment on ZDNet.co.uk sister site silicon.com about the rural/urban broadband divide, management consultant Dan Zamoyski said: "As a rural market-town dweller in Derbyshire, we are still waiting for the unbundling to take place at our exchange so we can get a non-BT speed of more than 2.2Mbps. Sadly, the urban/rural divide certainly still does exist!"
London doesn't have everything its own way, however. Thinkbroadband also broke speeds down by individual cities in the various regions.
The fastest city for broadband downloads is Edinburgh (4.41Mbps), with Greater London in second place (4.37Mbps) and Glasgow in third (4.14Mbps). The Highlands of Scotland came bottom, with an average of 2.18Mbps, although only regions with speed tests from more than 40 unique postcodes were included in the ranking.
The average download speed in the UK is 3.2Mbps, according to thinkbroadband.