back to article Frenchies, Germans wave fat pipes at embarrassed Brits

UK homes are less likely to have superfast broadband than anywhere else in the world except China. Ofcom's annual international communications report reveals that 0.2 per cent of UK homes have superfast broadband - the same as China. By comparison France has 1.1 per cent of homes linked up, Germany 2.0 per cent and Italy 1.4 …


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  1. The BigYin

    Not surprised

    This is the nation that basically shuts down when some white stuff falls from the sky.

    Snow tyres...I should set up a business importing snow tyres and then lobby government to make them mandatory (as in Germany et al). Saving the nation and my wallet!

    1. Mark C 2

      @The BigYin

      I agree with you to a certain extent but Germany does get 'proper' snow and therefore warrants rules to make snow tyres mandatory.

      We, on the other hand, get the odd light dusting so are in the 'dither' zone. That's why we sold our snow ploughs in the 70s.

      Mine's the one that says 'Alpha Industries Arctic Parka' on the label.

      1. foo_bar_baz

        "Snow" tyres

        Aren't just for snow. The rubber is a different compound that grips better than (what we call) summer tyres in cold and icy conditions.

        1. StooMonster

          With a dash of reality

          The quarter of drivers on the road with no insurance are unlikely to spend money on snow tyres if they are mandatory or not; one could be out on the road with expensive snow types only to be hit by a sliding and out of control 1.1 Corsa with a bean-can for an exhaust and a numberplate written in script font.

    2. Dazed and Confused

      Snow tyres?

      We've sold out.

      OK, I've been meaning to buy a set for the Misses' car since last winter (if the weather is that bad we'll live with 1 usable car), but I never quite got around to it. Called up the friendly local tyre outlet last Friday and there was bugger all choice seems everyone has finally woken up to the idea.

      Having used them, I'm a convert.

      I'll join you in lobbying for them to be mandated.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Snow Tyres not widely available...

        From a relative who manages the local branch of a nationwide tyre/exhaust chain:

        The problem with the situation at the moment is that we're the end of a very long list of countries when it comes to snow tyre supplies. Each Spring, the manufacturers try to estimate how many sets of tyres they're likely to need the following Winter. They then manufacture that many tyres and first supply them to nations where winter tyre fitting IS mandatory. Any that are left over are then sold first-come-first-served to all remaining nations, which means we get left with a small number for the most widely used wheel sizes. If you have a particularly unpopular size of rim, good luck with finding any at all (perhaps through a main dealer at a very high premium with a long wait). Once all the limited winter tyre stocks are sold, that's it - no more available until the next batch are manufactured in Spring next year.

        If you are lucky enough to get a set, only use them until the temperature returns to around 8 degrees C consistently. Above that they'll wear out quickly. If you use them sparingly like this they should last you a few years and on a two wheel drive car you can switch the front/back around when the driving wheels start to show wear to prolong them even further.

        1. Chris Parsons

          Thank you

          What an informative post, thank you. Having just got back from Germany and using snow tyres, I would also go for mandatory fitting. I believe they have done this in Holland, which is in a similar situation to our own.

        2. The BigYin
          Thumb Up


          "we get left with a small number for the most widely used wheel sizes. If you have a particularly unpopular size of rim, good luck with finding any at all"

          Not an issue. Buy cheapo rims that fit the car, fit a standard sized snow tyre (some care is needed on size matching, check with the manufacturer, tyre company or decent mechanic). You won't want to use your alloys in winter anyhoo, have you seen what salt does? Come winter, 20 mins with a jack and yer done. Simples.

          One more thing...learn how to drive in snow/ice as in, go take friggin' lessons. The theory on how to control a car in slippy condisiton and how skids work "Oh, you just turn into the skid. La de dah." is all well and good, but being able to actually do it is much more important. So, what's yer Chrimbo present? A day on the skid pan. It's wicked fun!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re @AC

            I'd agree about the cheapo rims, but you know, some people have to have their stupid alloys anyway LOL.

            Having just spoken to my tyre-centre managing relative last night, he tells me that on Friday of last week he spoke to Michelin who had supplied the UK with a whopping great 9000 winter tyres split across the 15 most popular sizes (whoop-dee-doo!!!).

            He enquired about availability of some that his customers were asking for and got together all the prices. Unfortunately he only managed to get hold of most of those customers on Saturday (as most weren't answering their mobiles during work hours on Friday) so by the time the offices for Michelin had reopened on Monday morning there wasn't a single one of those tyres left in stock!

            So if you haven't got any yet, you're probably not going to get any until next Autumn at the soonest.

      2. Steve X

        snow tyres

        Couldn't agree more, they've got me home safely and comfortably on many an occasion.

        It's just a pity the pillock who slid into me on the way home tonight didn't have them on his car...

  2. Christoph

    "Anywhere else"?

    "UK homes are less likely to have superfast broadband than anywhere else in the world except China"

    Indeed? It's nice to know sub-Saharan Africa is doing so well now!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It has to be noted that China's 0.2% is a far bigger number of people than Britain's 0.2%

  4. Blue eyed boy
    Thumb Up

    How to improve the take-up in one easy lesson

    Drop the price

    1. Dazed and Confused

      Sod the price

      Just make it available to more than 0.2% of the population and you might get a bigger up take.

      It won't get plumbed into more areas of the UK unless the companies can see a return on their investment. The government can't fund it, they're damn near bankrupt, Tony and Gordon saw to that.

      Telecoms companies need to find the right price to attract enough punters while still being able to recoup their investment.

      If I could have fibre to my house I'd be a lot happier than living on the end of BT's use longest route first cabling policy which the country is currently suffering from. Our current infrastructure wasn't built to handle broadband at all. When the cabling was laid there was little incentive to limit line lengths apart from the cost of the copper. For voice is didn't make a blind bit of difference.

    2. Kubla Cant

      Never mind the price, feel the bandwidth

      It's not the price that limits uptake. It seems that you can't get fast broadband unless you live next door to the telephone exchange.

      The population density of France is about half that of the UK, so fast broadband is easier because nearly everybody lives close to an exchange. </irony>

      1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

        You Could Almost... the cost of pulling 3 miles of fiber to the cabinet by scrapping out the copper it replaces.

        As I mentioned before, from the cabinet, a little cleaning and bonding has allowed Century Tel to offer "cable TV' service on its copper.

        This is the type of project for which governments should coin (not borrow or tax away from workers) new money, since the infrastructure of the country is the true backing of money.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        @ Kubla Cant

        Ever thought that France's larger space and lesser, spread out, population means that there are not only likely to be fewer exchanges, but people further away from them? I'm four and a half KM from the exchange (and thus only get 2mb). I'd like fibre (twisted copper is too damn prone to picking up interference on that length, I can time my internet hiccups to the milking machines a kilometre down the line!), but that'll be some other time. For now, it's here and it works.

  5. Robert Ramsay

    So what *is* "superfast" broadband?

    That is my only question.

    1. Mark 65

      Is a valid point

      What constitutes it can make a massive difference and it would be interesting to know the threshold and whether it's download only or if upload counts.

      Also some geographically challenged countries like Australia are not as challenged as you first think. Certainly they're screwed when it comes to the upper end of the stats (getting 90, 95+% etc) onto something but to get a boost over the UK it is remarkably easy due to the concentration of the population in a few municipal centres. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth make up 50% of the population as at the 2006 census.

      Getting good superfast broadband availability then becomes much easy for the early part of the rollout hence having a better score than the UK. Also these centres are pretty well covered by Foxtel cable network giving availability of 17MB/1MB cable broadband (minimum speed) with up to 30/1 speeds. Price is not so good at the moment. It's come down to around GBP 44/month for a 50GB cap at present. Not sure how this compares.

    2. mhenriday

      Good question, Robert ;

      if one checks the full report, one will note on page 83 the following passage :


      Nevertheless, it should be recognised that high-speed alternatives, often at no great incremental cost, are available to many households in the US and to significant numbers of households in Italy, France and Germany. In the UK, Virgin Media cable provides a service, available to around 48% of UK households, offering headline speeds ‘up to’ 50Mbit/s for a monthly fee of around £8 a month higher than its 20Mbit/s service and £15.50 a month higher than its 10Mbit/s service. The only other nationally available ‘superfast’ service in the UK is BT Infinity, a fibre-to-the-cabinet service offering speeds of ‘up to’ 40Mbit/s, which should be available to 40% of UK households by the end of 2012; the price for the basic Infinity service is £6 a month more expensive than a basic DSL service.

      Thus, offerings of «[download» speeds of‘up to’ 40Mbit/s] would seem to be what the report means by «superfast» (love those «up to's»). As usual, everything depends on one's frame of reference....


  6. John Styles

    Oh noes, teh fast pr*n gap is opening up

    Once you can get reasonably OK video streaming, which I imagine most people on 'normal' broadband can, what exactly does one need anything faster for?

    1. lIsRT

      Some addresses have more than 1 male over the age of 10 living there.

      So that more than one person can watch video streaming at the same time.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      OK video streaming...

      please define!

      I have 2 1080p tv's in my house, and the missues wants to record something so I need 3 HD streams please. Now I would like to receive at least one (im not going to demand all three) of those HD streams at a decent bitrate, say comparible with renting a Bluray Disc, but streamed from say lovefilm, rather than the hardly-worth-the-effort bitrate used by freeview. So now how about my "Ok video streaming" bandwidth I recon somewhere around 18mbps should manage that.

      Now did someone say 3d?

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Did I miss something?

    What's "SuperFast Broadband" defined as?

    It's not in your article.

    It's not in the OfCom summary you link to.

    Their link to the "full document" just takes me to a bloody long list of articles.

    So what _is_ it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What's "SuperFast Broadband" defined as?

      The average speed in Britain of course.

      The ideal metric, a never ending challenge....

      1. StooMonster

        Official numbers

        OFCOM states that the average broadband speed in UK in 2010 is 5.2Mb/s

        Which although not great, is still better than the likes of USA which has average speed of 3.8Mb/s

  8. Dez666

    Why the need for superfast broadband?

    Genuine question - why is the necessity of superfast broadband?

    Isn't a 'solid' 2-4 Meg pipe big enough for the vast majority of people?

    Presuming no significant issues with contention / qos-filtering / etc, what uses do people currently actually have of their Internet connections that require a > 20Mb connection??*

    (* I can only think of streaming Higher-Def quality video in the future!)

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      A solid 2-4 Meg pipe...

      ... /is/ big enough for the vast majority of people. But what about the vast majority of _households - which hold more than one person? I'd like to be able to watch HD TV regardless of what my kids are doing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A solid

      A solid 2-4 mb pipe is good enough atm given our usage and services provided to us.

      There's HD streaming services as mentioned. Then there's the ability to play games from your not so great pc that are running on far more powerful machines elsewhere. The ability do deliver high speed downloads (Bluray quality HD movies and the likes) for rental etc.

      Lots of games at the moment that you get on things like steam are 10gig+

      You're defining need by what you already use, if you find you have more bandwidth you can do more things and people can provide new services (RIAA/MPAA etc obliging of course)

      Ease of access to more bandwidth at lower latency could spark a boom in services not only at the consumer level but at the business level too. Cheap 100mb pipes for all would change the intellectual development and distrobution networks of the country.

      One thing to note of course is that high penetration of superfast broadband doesn't == cheap broadband, web space and bandwidth usage in Japan in prohibitevly expensive.

      1. frymaster

        2-4 meg WOULD be a better thing to aim for

        I know someone who gets sub-1-meg speeds he's so far from the exchange, and someone else who only gets dial-up.

        while it's nice to get faster internet, imo we should concentrate on getting a decent minimum before we spend money improving the speeds of those who already have decent broadband

    3. StooMonster

      High quality HD

      Streaming HD is only a couple of Mb/s -- IIRC Zune 1080p video is 5Mb/s -- because it's poor quality video; in comparison Sky quality HD is approximately 11Mb/s, BBC HD used to be 20MB/s on satellite but they dropped it to match FreeView HD bitrate, and Blu-ray is 40Mb/s

      So you don't need "higher-def" simply better HD to use more than 2-4 Mb/s

      As other posters pointed out, there might be more than one person in the household. e.g. I pay for a 50Mb/s pipe and quite often after school / early evening we might have multiple video streams on the go.

  9. mike 32

    They clearly didn't count South Africa...

    because we barely have *fast* broadband.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the definition of "superfast" broadband nowadays?

    And were they looking at the data rate as measured or the nominal "up to" speed quoted by the ISP?

  11. Charles 9


    If anyone has access to the chart, where does South Korea fit into the list? I figured it to be near the top as well.

  12. Daedalus

    Of course culture is irrelevant

    Didn't I hear that the Frogs and the Krauts are mostly domiciled in massive blocks of flats? Whereas John Bull likes to own his own home, thank you very much. It's easy to get superfast BB into massive blocks of flats, and even easier to run one fat pipe per block and then claim that everybody in the block gets the max rate.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre
      Dead Vulture

      irrelevant indeed

      Population density is much higher in the UK than in Germany or France. That is all.

      I submitted a20-lines-long "funny" answer based on the the same kind of stereotypes as yours to "explain" Japanese and Swede high scores but it was rejected for some reason (well, it sure was silly, and we all know that British humour can be anything but silly. Ni).

      Anyway, your argument is stupid, and even downright ostracist. Ni.

      French and German people live in single-family houses MUCH more than UK people do, because single-family houses are MUCH more affordable in France and Germany than they are in the UK. Ni

      I'm not allowed to say it it a humorous manner apparently, so you'll have to take it straight: You're a moron. Ni.





    2. multipharious

      Quit making excuses

      Your needle pipe needs justification? "It's just as good luv."

      Cheers from Munich!

    3. Trygve


      Amazingly enough, you hear all sorts of rubbish these days, most of which is complete bollocks. Even if you include the empty bits (cornwall, scotland etc) the UK has a higher population density than either France or Germany.

      Since a large chunk of the population is crammed into London at a greater population density than Hong Kong or Singapore, it should be easy to wire up the rows of cramped squalid cheek-by-jowl terraces and shoddy high-rise piggeries that house your trusty John Bulls, bumping up the national average considerably. Similarly, the Midlands, Manchester and Tees/Tyneside aren't exactly a collection of rural hamlets either.

      However, this is Britain, where large parts of the train system network have been shut down for two days due to the effect of snow on the top-contact third rail system, which has been obsolete for a hundred years.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down


        May not have its own exchange, but it may well have a concentrator parented off a local exchange. My village has. They only added the DSLAMs to it about 5 years ago, before that I had 2x64kbit/s ISDN. Now (at 4km from vikllage) I get 1Mbit/s ADSL.

        Oh yes, I live in France, the place where everyone apparerently has superfast broadband that's better than the UK :(

        Incidentally it snowed here Wednesday. No school buses, 33km of tailbacks around the nearby town, half the normal numbers of TGVs running. And this is the gateway to the alps.

        The grass isn't always greener elsewhere, folks. Don't believe what you read in the Daily Mail.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    UK Broadband is pretty crap

    Back in the UK I got broadband via BT wholesale through Freedom2Surf/Opal supposed 8mbps struggles to get over 1mbps and with bandwidth shaping drops to 56kbps if you have the audacity to try to run streaming video (You Tube, iPlayer etc).

    Now got a flat in Amsterdam, got the cheepo 5Mbps offering, consistently runs at about 4.9Mbps streaming runs flawlessly, no shaping, so yes broadband in the UK is appallingly bad.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      It's not just about fibre to the kerb

      If you've done any travelling at all in Germany or France you'll know that huge parts of the population do not live in blocks of flats in cities. And, to go really fas,t you've got to upgrade the wiring in the house All of a sudden, advantage UK.

      The problem with such poor service in the UK is neither technical or geographic: it is quite simply a lack of investment in an economy fixated on a quick profit.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE whats it for?

    The new version of Skype allows for group video calling, i.e. having all the family on a video conference to save having to visit them at christmas.

  15. Adam Trickett

    I wouldn't mind fast, let alone superfast

    I live less than 1km for my local BT exchange. When it's up I can get an average of 5Mbps on a good day to some places on the Internet, less to popular places like the BBC. I have no option for 24Mbps ADSL2+ and to get BT Infinity we have to beg BT for it (Race to Infinity).

    For a G7 nation that is supposed to be building a low-carbon, knowledge workforce our overall home broadband capacity is dreadful. At the rate we are going, China, Korea and other high tech economies will simply leave us rusting in the dust of our own debts and complacency...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't panic!

    The government are re-defining superfast to below the average users speed. We'll be top of the list at this rate.

  17. gef05

    Maybe yes, maybe no

    "Ofcom does note that if plans for deployment of superfast broadband to two-thirds of the population by 2015 will put the UK near the top of the world rankings."

    All depends on all the other countries and their plans for extending broadband.

  18. Alexander Vollmer

    Does this count as high speed?

  19. Gavin Park Weir


    OK so everyone has 10 or 100mb to their home and starts to use it. The local exchange is going to need to be in 1gb to 10gb range. Local backbone in the 40 -100gb range (currently just about available) and national backbone into new and as yet undeveloped 1tb+.

    The cost of this equipment is astronomical even when you consider the numbers of users involved.

    Getting this kind of change wrong will bankrupt a company and its not easy to see what the actual revenue from these services is going to be.

  20. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Perhaps if ISP's delivered what they *promised* that would be a start.

    You know

    20mbs for more than 5 secs a day at 3am (and forget that if you start to stream YouTube or some other site)

    And WTF is this "traffic shaping"?

    ISP's. Every time you "Traffic shape" you weaken your case for being "Just a dumb pipe" and make the UK government think how much easier it would for *you* to be recording all those users traffic details, scanning those 250 million websites to put an age certificate on them and helping Big Film and Big Music chase people for copyright violation instead of them getting off their fat asses and doing it themselves.

    Stop f*8king selling bandwidth you do *not* have.

    Britains. You get the Internet you deserve. Do something about it or get used to it.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Other than that, I agree with everything you said.

  21. JaitcH

    Even InterNet service in Tuktoyaktuk & Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada faster than UK

    The northern coast of Canada, separated from the sunny south by thousands of kilometres of cold permafrost gets better service than Britain. The answer is competition.

    If the UK government really wanted to roll high-speed InterNet out they would force BT to drop all restrictive practices with respect to BT facilities.

    In Saigon the local government authorities got a little ticked off with all the sidewalk and roadway desecration by the local carriers that they made all of the almost 10 landline service carriers share common facilities.

    The single fibre-optic cable now serves all my communications needs from any carrier, including two cable TV outfits. At least the competing carriers have their own server facilities, as opposed to buying an allocation from the largest supplier, and all ISP's have at least 6 international IP feeds which have really helped things along.

    Note. Requesting IP TV requires they open up the IP pipe to get sufficient bandwidth which often improves the speed of the InterNet carrier signal!

  22. carlos_c

    ahh well

    Wow I qualify as a 1% er - have virgin 50 mb service...the best download test done gave me 23 mbs - not bad

  23. Gareth

    Weird study metrics

    Are the UK and China really below Somalia, North Korea, etc? Or is there some "...amongst some countries" footnote that is missing either from this report or Ofcom? Same with "super fast broadband" - is that "anything above modem speed", or "anything above 10MBit"?

    UK needs more competition in fixed telecoms - we lead in mobile because there's plenty of providers and networks to choose from. Fixed is still dominated by that old dinosaur BT who are still confused at why people aren't happy with paying 10p/min to make voice calls over 30 year old copper...

  24. heyrick Silver badge

    Don't bother quoting the future, please.

    "Ofcom does note that if plans for deployment of superfast broadband to two-thirds of the population by 2015 will put the UK near the top of the world rankings."

    Until the economic cockup, France was initiating plans to roll out 100mbit to *everybody* (haha, yeah, I'll believe that when I see it). In typical French fashion, this was to be dealt with in a region-by-region basis, no doubt ensuring epic amounts of chaotic paperwork. Our region went by the name of, wait for it... Bretagne 2.0. Yeah, like SO original. <sigh> Well, it has been shoved to the back burner because of the financial situation... between you and me, I think a bean counter looked at the costs and shat himself - how would you give somebody like *me* (at 2mbit) a hundred without basically rewiring the entire country to fibre?

    Anyway. Plans for deployment of "superfast" broadband are nothing to yell about. Because everybody else has them too.

  25. heyrick Silver badge

    Smartphones and apps

    My phone is a Nokia 6230i. Ancient, but it runs J2ME. I have installed OperaMini (better than the internal 'effort') and Sideralis (star chart).

    Would this be considered a "smartphone"? (if not, why not?) These are apps, right?

    I'm just wondering where the line is drawn, because I bet many would think of the iPhone and similar.

  26. Allan George Dyer

    So what is superfast broadband?

    Here in China* I've got 8M/640K, and rival ISPs offering me 50M/100M/130M. I haven't switched because:

    a) I'm not sure I need that speed


    b) The pricing plans are bundled with TV and fixed-line phone, and multi-year contracts making it so complex I can't figure out whether I'd be paying more, or less, or get the services I actually want in among all the junk I don't want.

    * OK, Hong Kong, it's part of China, you know?

  27. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse
    Thumb Down

    Oh dear...

    Seriously, super-duper fast broadband? What are you going to do with it anyway that you can't already do? It's like buying a Ferrari - sure, the kudos is great, but if you can only drive 70mph where is the benefit apart from the pointless bragging?

    I'm not surprised that it is rampant in Japan, a country where nobody goes out and that is addicted, and I mean ADDICTED - to the internet and tech.

  28. Francis Fish

    How many times to we have to pay BT for their copper?

    Original argument back in the day was BT needed to be compensated for the vast swathe of copper in the ground that they had inherited from the days before nationalisation.

    OK. But how many times?

    Bt/Virgin/et. al all far too expensive, mostly because of BT.

  29. RightPaddock

    Mythical Challenge tor the Aussies

    >> Also languishing at the bottom, although arguably with a tougher geographic challenge, are the Aussies with 0.4 per cent

    Australia is a highly urbanised country, more so than the UK, Germany, France, indeed the only European countries that are more urbanised are Belgium & Luxembourg.

    The vast majority of us live in coastal cities within a 2-4 kilometres of an exchange. In urban areas the telecoms ducts are underground, with a junction box by the front gate! Major population centres are interconnected via multiple high speed fibre trunks and multiple undersea cables come ashore on the east, north & west costs. The multi-terabit PPC-1 link being built across the Pacific will double the intercontinental internet capacity.

    So just where is the challenge to do better than 0.4%. Our government is planning to do it, for a about $40 billion bucks.


  30. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Superfast until you get home to use it...

    It doesn't matter how fast they try and make it, it will make ZERO difference whatsoever to actual speeds unless they stop with the heavy handed traffic shaping and peak/off peak limits.

    I'm with BT and less than 800 yards from my exchange. From around 5pm until 11pm I get, at most, 150kbps. Weekends, it's not even worth bothering. But, on the handful of occasions I've had to work from home, I've had no problem hitting 8 to 10 mbps. More than enough to get work done and have the BBC iPlayer playing things I rarely watch.

    If I'm paying for an 8mb/s connection, I'd like to be able to hit those speeds when I actually use it (around 6-10pm). I don't care what speed I get during the day, I'm not there to use it.

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