Domestic broadband users have enjoyed largely stable speeds despite a surge in the number of people working from home, streaming during the daytime and taking part in online lessons as a result of the lockdown, according to Ofcom.
The regulator says despite providers seeing weekday daytime use soar by between 35 and 60% since the lockdown came into effect, download and upload speeds fell only by 2% and 1% respectively.
Netflix download speeds fell by 3% in the lockdown period compared to pre-lockdown, though the demand from this increased screen time was offset by the service reducing programme quality.
Latency has also remained stable with just a 2% increased rise which Ofcom says “would have had little effect on performance for most people.”
The report also reveals that broadband speeds in rural areas are catching up to those in towns and cities.
The proportion of rural lines receiving at least superfast broadband (30 Mbit/s and above) during peak times continues to increase – from 44% in 2018 to 56% in 2019 – while the proportion not receiving a decent connection (10 Mbit/s and above) at peak times fell from 33% to 22%.
But broadband speeds in rural areas still lag behind those in urban areas. Urban peak-time speeds reached 75 Mbit/s, almost double the rural average of 39 Mbit/s in 2019.
Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Group Director for Strategy and Research, said: “Broadband in the UK has really been put to the test by the pandemic, so it’s encouraging that speeds have largely held up.
“This has helped people to keep working, learning and staying connected with friends and family.”
Responding to the report a spokesperson for Openreach, which maintains the network used by most UK ISPs including BT, Sky and TalkTalk, said: “It’s true, our network’s coped well during the pandemic.
“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.”
On the subject of improving connectivity, they added: “We’re also continuing to invest in reaching the small minority of homes that can’t order a decent broadband service today, so it’s good to see that gap closing.
“There’s more to do though, and last week we upped our target to build ultrafast, ultrareliable Full Fibre broadband to 20 million premises by the mid-to-late 2020s – assuming we get the right investment conditions.”