Britain is a broadband laggard with an average speed ranking it 31st in the world trailing most of Europe, Thailand and New Zealand.
A new report has found that across the UK the average broadband download speed is 16.5Mbps, at which it takes about an hour to download a lengthy Hollywood film such as Lord of the Rings or an entire TV box set.
The average speed in the UK is less than a third that of Singapore, which tops the global league table measuring broadband in 189 countries, where it takes an average of 18 minutes to download a 7.5Gb film.
The UK falls well short of the average speeds enjoyed by European countries including Germany (18.8Mbps), Spain (19.6Mbps), Sweden (40Mbps) and Hungary (23Mbps). Outside Europe, the UK is bettered by nations including the US (20Mbps), Canada (18Mbps) and New Zealand (16.6Mbps).
The report found that overall the UK lags behind 19 European countries, 17 of them in the European Union.
"These results offer us a fresh perspective on where we sit in the broadband world,” says Dan Howdle, consumer and telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, which produced the report. "Relatively speaking, we are near the top of the table. However, many of those ahead of us, some a long way ahead, are our neighbours both in the European Union and wider Europe. Is it good enough to lag behind 20 other European countries in terms of broadband speed?”
Major European countries that fared worse than the UK include France, which ranked 37th, and Italy at 46th.
Ofcom has set a goal of delivering a minimum of 10Mb broadband to all UK households. This is the minimum speed the media regulator deems necessary to cope with a typical family’s internet needs such as streaming Netflix, downloading a film on Sky and browsing the internet.
Last month, a group of 57 MPs published a report calling on Ofcom to make broadband providers such as BT and Sky compensate customers who do not get the connection speeds they are promised.
Ofcom reckons that the average UK broadband download speed theoretically achievable – although not necessarily the speeds experienced by home internet users – reached 36Mbps in November last year.
Howdle said Cable.co.uk’s report shows an emergence of a broadband "first world” and "third world” with many less developed countries such as Somalia, Congo, Gabon and Malawi appearing at the bottom of the list.
Twenty of the top 30 fastest-performing countries are in Europe, and 17 of the slowest-performing 30 countries are located in Africa.
However, many countries and regions, such as Africa, are expected to bypass broadband via cable and move straight to mobile internet technology.
The report, which examined global data from 63m speed tests over the course of a year, was put together by open internet measurement firm M-Lab, a consortium of partners including New America’s Open Technology Institute, Google Open Source Research and Princeton University’s Planet Lab.
Last month, BT made an offer to the government to roll out broadband to the last 1.4m homes in the UK without it. They are mostly in locations where it is uneconomical for broadband providers to extend their services, such as parts of rural Wales, Cornwall, Yorkshire and Scotland.
Global broadband average speed league table
1. Singapore 55Mbps
2. Sweden 40Mbps
3. Taiwan 34.4Mbps
4. Denmark 33.5Mbps
5. Netherlands 33.5Mbps
6. Latvia 30.3Mbps
7. Norway 29Mbps
8. Belgium 27.3Mbps
9. Hong Kong 27Mbps
10. Switzerland 26.9Mbps
31. United Kingdom 16.5Mbps