Lockdown: Ofcom says internet speeds functioning as normal despite major Virgin Media and other broadband outages

Download speeds have fallen only slightly despite increased demand, research finds

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 13 May 2020 16:31
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This May 26, 2014 photo shows an ethernet connector
This May 26, 2014 photo shows an ethernet connector

Internet speeds are still running largely as normal despite the increased pressure of lockdown, according to research from regulator Ofcom.

Download speeds have only dropped by an average of 2 per cent, according to the research, even with the extra load.

That is despite some high-profile outages, including Virgin Media problems that took the internet offline for users across the country.

Networks have been under increased strain with more people across the country working from home, children using online platforms to carry on school work, and greater gaming and streaming as a source of entertainment.

The communications regulator measured broadband performance for 3,481 users at the beginning and end of March, to compare results before and after lockdown started.

Despite a spike in usage, data suggests the average download speed remained stable, dropping only 2%, although some networks suffered the effects of increased use more than others.

Ofcom's report said Virgin Media's network generally suffered a greater decline in performance - at one point dropping by almost 10% compared with March 1.

However, it noted that the company's higher speeds mean few customers' user experience would be impacted.

Netflix download speeds fell by 3% in the lockdown period compared with pre-lockdown, indicating many turned to the streaming platform with their extra free time, but this was offset by the site's decision to reduce video quality.

Latency - the time taken between an action request and that action taking place - also withstood the pressure, with only a 2% increase in delay, which Ofcom said would also have had little effect on performance for most people.

Elsewhere, upload speeds saw an even smaller decline, at just 1%.

"Broadband in the UK has really been put to the test by the pandemic, so it's encouraging that speeds have largely held up," said Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom's group director for strategy and research.

"This has helped people to keep working, learning and staying connected with friends and family."

Openreach reacted, saying: "It's true, our network's coped well during the pandemic.

"Despite the extra demand, in the last 30 days alone we've seen an increase in overall traffic volume across our network - particularly during daytime hours - and this wouldn't have been possible without the skill and commitment of our people."

Additional reporting by Press Association

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