London is seen as the powerhouse of the UK economy but there are distinct concerns over the patchy nature of superfast broadband coverage in the capital and the impact this can have on the ability to do business, with ISPReview highlighting a recent Westminster council meeting on the subject.
Our speed test with its reams of data provide an interesting insight into how speeds vary across the various parts of London.
Westminster actually fares fairly well if you rely on the mean download speed, and as our tester focuses on the main UK broadband providers it will be excluding the University and other large institutions thus provide a fair idea of how things are for the average SME who cannot afford an uncontended Gigabit leased line.
The mean speed is not the sole measure and thus we have published a less exciting table with the core results (ordered by median download speed)
|Authority Name||Lower Quartile Download (Mbps)||Median Download (Mbps)||Mean Download (Mbps)||Upper Quartile Download (Mbps)||Lower Quartile Upload (Mbps)||Median Upload (Mbps)||Mean Upload (Mbps)||Upper Quartile Upload(Mbps)|
|Kingston upon Thames London Boro||8.8||20.9||28.5||36||0.9||2.1||5.6||6.7|
|Merton London Boro||7.7||20.4||33.3||42.7||0.8||1.9||7.7||7.1|
|Sutton London Boro||7.7||20.1||28.3||38.7||0.7||1.8||4.5||6|
|Enfield London Boro||7||19.4||29.5||43.4||0.7||2.2||5.1||7|
|Bromley London Boro||6.7||19.3||29.8||40.9||0.8||1.9||4.5||6.3|
|Harrow London Boro||6.5||19.1||29.6||38.1||0.8||2.6||6.3||8.6|
|Greenwich London Boro||5.8||18.1||35||38.4||0.8||2.1||10||8.4|
|Hounslow London Boro||6.2||17.9||32.4||47.1||0.7||2.8||6.3||8.9|
|Camden London Boro||8.2||16.7||32.9||43||0.8||2.4||13.5||6.9|
|Barking and Dagenham London Boro||5.9||16.4||28.2||38.4||0.7||2.2||5||6.2|
|Richmond upon Thames London Boro||6.8||15.8||28.5||40.8||0.8||1.9||5.2||8|
|Redbridge London Boro||7.1||15.5||25.9||34.2||0.8||2.3||4.2||5.8|
|Hackney London Boro||6.5||15.4||22.4||35||0.8||1.4||5||7.9|
|Havering London Boro||4.7||15||25.3||37||0.7||2||4.9||6.8|
|Waltham Forest London Boro||6.6||14.9||27.2||42.1||0.8||1.9||4.8||6|
|Barnet London Boro||6.8||14.3||22.9||33.7||0.8||1.4||5.2||7.9|
|Croydon London Boro||5.1||14.2||27.1||37||0.7||1.6||4.7||5.8|
|Ealing London Boro||5.9||13.7||22.5||31.4||0.7||1.5||4.7||6.9|
|Lambeth London Boro||6.5||13.4||23.8||33.6||0.7||1.5||6.6||6.7|
|Brent London Boro||5||13.2||22.2||32.2||0.7||1.7||4||6.3|
|Hillingdon London Boro||5||13.1||26||36.9||0.7||1.8||4.4||6.9|
|City and County of the City of London (NOTE: small sample size)||6.8||13||35||31.1||0.9||4.4||27.6||24.9|
|Newham London Boro||5.2||13||26.9||34.3||0.7||1.6||11.2||8.5|
|Bexley London Boro||5.4||12.8||22.5||26.3||0.7||1||4.8||5.7|
|Hammersmith and Fulham London Boro||5.9||12.8||22.6||30.9||0.6||1||7||7.5|
|Southwark London Boro||5.7||12.8||29.2||35.2||0.7||1.1||14.1||9|
|City of Westminster London Boro||6.9||12.4||28.5||33.2||0.7||1||13.6||8.9|
|Haringey London Boro||5.7||12.3||21.5||30.6||0.7||1.4||3.8||5.8|
|Wandsworth London Boro||6||12.3||24.2||36.7||0.7||1.3||4.8||6.1|
|Islington London Boro||6.4||11.9||24.7||31||0.8||1.7||7.4||6.7|
|Kensington and Chelsea London Boro||4.9||11.9||22||27||0.7||1||5.7||5.5|
|Lewisham London Boro||5.2||11.6||23.2||35||0.7||1.1||5||6.2|
|Tower Hamlets London Boro||5.9||11.1||30.2||27.5||0.7||0.9||14.5||8.9|
Of course without coverage of superfast broadband options an area cannot get high speeds, and Greater London missed out on the BDUK funding because across the whole area the coverage was in excess of 90% at the time when the money was split out. The on-going debates over areas like Shoreditch and now Westminster are much more about the cost of superfast broadband, since dark fibre and FTTP options are widely available in London, but the cost of installation and ongoing monthly fees are far to high for many SME’s unless even with the £3,000 SuperConnected Cities voucher scheme. Those businesses in the 19% of Waltham Forest and 8% of Lewisham where native FTTP is available via the Openreach network have it easy of course.
The speed test data is interesting because Westminster in terms of mean speeds (what many sites only publish) is in the middle of the pack, but when looking at the median figures it is towards the bottom of the table. This appears to reflect the pattern that roughly some 65% of households have a superfast option via the Openreach or Virgin Media networks, compared to Kingston which has a superfast coverage level in the 98% to 99% region (high levels of both FTTC and cable).
Tower Hamlets at the bottom has slightly better coverage than Westminster, but oddly the areas such as Lewisham, Kensington, Islington, Wandsworth and Haringey all have superfast coverage above the 90% mark. Suggesting that take-up is a major factor, we don’t have data to hand, but would guess that if levels of renting is higher in these areas this may account for the slower speeds, since fixed line broadband with its 12 to 24 month contracts can be problematic and in shared accommodation people may be tied to what a landlord already has installed.
If there is a message, landlords and councils need to become better at ensuring that both business and residential access to superfast broadband is easier to achieve for both business and residential use. Also more work and analysis needs to be done why take-up of faster services seems to vary so much across the London Boroughs, there are distinct signs that socio-economic factors and not just availability are major factors.
One unfortunate observation is the old adage of build it and they will come has not been played out yet to the extent some would hope, since there is no obvious indication that even though consumer grade FTTP is available in reasonably large amounts in several London Boroughs and firms like Hyperoptic have many thousands buying their service. We know that those who can get FTTP/FTTB love it, but when it comes to parting with money, people are opting for the lower speed products to save money which means that the incentive for the incumbent Openreach to install more FTTP in commercial areas is missing, i.e. there is little to no extra revenue for the extra outlay that FTTP requires compared to FTTC.