back to article Living in the middle of a big city? Your broadband may still be crap

Living in a city centre is no guarantee of nimble broadband speeds in Blighty, as download rates are a postcode lottery. A new study by uSwitch revealed that folks living in the Barbican area of London have internet connections as slow as 5.3Mbps, while users in Charlton in Greenwich are zipping along four times as fast with …


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  1. ecofeco Silver badge


    In America, that's considered a premium service and costs extra.

    1. LarsG

      This is a way ISP's encourage you to go on to more expensive tariffs, the promises rarely match reality.

    2. PhilipJ

      Re: 5mps?

      what ? you gotta be kidding.

      I pay 20 eur (that's $26 , or 17 GBP) per month for a tripple play package with a 100/10 mbit internet connection over FTTH. In a central european country where most people still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: 5mps?

        "I pay 20 eur (that's $26 , or 17 GBP) per month for a tripple play package with a 100/10 mbit internet connection over FTTH. In a central european country where most people still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."

        A yes, the famous "leapfrog" effect. An ancient, shit system finally gets upgraded so what do they use? Naturally, they use the best available, probably at least two or three generations ahead of the system being replaced. Ten years ago you'd probably have been lucky to get unmetered dial-up.

        A mate of mine used to work on the Saudi power generation/distribution systems. It's being upgraded now to the latest state of the art kit, but until recently much of the switching gear was the stuff we ripped out 20/30 years ago and sold on to them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 5mps?


      In my US home I get 18Mb/s as standard - here in the UK I get less than half the lowest speed mentioned in this article - 1Mb/s! Having said that, I do pay 50% more in the US.

      1. Elmer Phud

        Re: 5mps?

        "while users in Charlton in Greenwich are zipping along four times as fast with speeds of 22.46Mbps."

        while in Norf Lundun I'm getting 37M through the wireless to my lappy -- not a clue what's coming in from the street.

        Was thinking of running a bit of CAT5 to my neighbour 5 houses away - poor sods are on Virgin and suffer for it. (it can't always be the router, can it?)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm in central(ish) London and getting 5mbps on a good day, down to ~2mbps at peak times. My local exchange is enabled for FTTC, but it's not available at my address, and attempts to move to a better ISP (Be Internet) failed since they we're out of capacity at the exchange.

    1. donk1

      Re: E14

      Funny I gave up 2 BE lines in E14 when I moved out of Poplar, that was almost 2 years agoand then exchange was ful then!


      1. keithpeter Silver badge

        B9 - Re: E14

        "However, she does point out that some of the discrepancies come from the devices and routers used to get online, and how they're positioned around the house or flat."

        2.4 Mbits/s here near the Blues ground in sunny Birmingham. Netgear adsl modem out of main BT socket into homeplug, to homeplug upstairs on same mains spur, to PC, no wifi. According to BT, no plans for this postcode.

        I don't download BluRay anything. Debian DVDs just trickle in overnight. The misses would like smoother YouTube or iPlayer though.

        The Tramp: that is what BT think of us obviously.

  3. Danny 14 Silver badge

    Problem in cities are collapsed ducting. If the ducting has collapsed or is blocked then BT moves on to the next one. PP to dig up the road to clear blocked ducts simply wont happen anytime soon so dont hold your breath.

  4. JS Greenwood
    Paris Hilton

    5.3Mb the highest I've ever seen. The other night it dipped to a new all-time-low of 512Kb for a couple of excrutiating hours.

    Middle of the Pennines? Orkney? Underwater in the North Sea?

    No. Canary Wharf. The ultra-modern financial hub of our country, replete with data centres, etc.

    Dodgy old re-conned/untouched house/apartment, then?

    No. New build swanky apartments.

    Small JPEG of Paris, as trying to download video isn't going to happen...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 5.3Mb

      from a broadband perspective Canary Wharf is the middle of nowhere. It serves less than 400 residential subs so BT Wholesale are the only provider in the exchange and have no incentive to upgrade to 21C.

      No idea why you'd get throttled down to 512kbps. With <400 subs the STM-1 DSLAM uplink is highly unlikely to be congested. Perhaps there were problems at your retail ISP?

      But yes, the spotty, and to some extent arbitrary, availability of decent broadband is a right PITA.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: 5.3Mb

        Canary Wharf is also really bad because it is the docklands. The cables wind around the docks, so you can have extreme cable length for a relatively short "crows distance" to the exchange.

  5. envmod


    I've lived in various bits of SW London (Tooting, Balham, Wimbledon) for the last 7 odd years and have never achieved more than 7mbps from either NTL (when they used to still be called that), 02, BT or Virgin.

    I think all this 20meg stuff is a myth. nobody really gets that and if they say they do they're fibbing.

    1. Drem

      Re: NODNOL

      Oddly, I've lived both in Wandsworth and Mitcham (so either side of your locations) and have always had fantasic speeds, 15meg in Wandsworth, and 19meg in Mitcham.

    2. PabloPablovski

      Re: NODNOL

      Soz, dude. I'm in the outskirts of Glasgow and I reliably get ~22Mb/s on WBC - I love it when my Eth monitor showsa lofty 2,300kB/s on the d/l. Mind you, I live about a quarter mile from the exchange.

      Let me know what type of pr0n / MP3 / US TV series you like and I'll burn you some DVDs and pop them in the.. what was it called again?... yeah, the "post".

    3. donk1

      Re: NODNOL

      I am se of london and get 80mb down 4.89 mb up from my virgin media connection,

      Have not checked my other Fibre connection from BT yet...


  6. Pete4000uk


    I'm a bit slower than I was last time I checked. I'm currently just over 31mbps down and 10 up. Here in green Gloucestershire.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Brighton (Hove actually)

      73mbps down 16mbps up :)

  7. Josco

    Four Yorkshiremen

    Right... You think you have it tough! I live in a bloody expensive village between Leeds and Harrogate, our broadband is poor (2mb), Mobile signals are abysmal (Vodafone non existent since the mast was broken into over a month ago), we've no gas even though a massive mains runs just over 200 metres away and the electricity supply can be flaky in very wet weather.

    1. Locky

      Re: Four Yorkshiremen

      Don't talk to me about sophistication, I've bin to Leeds

      ... where I max out at 1.9Mb, normally 1.3

    2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: Four Yorkshiremen

      You think that's tough? Our internet is two cups on a piece of string. If you want to download anything you 'ave to get aunty mabel to go look it up in t'newspaper an then warble into t'cup for an hour and hope you don't get a lost packet.

      1. Locky

        Re: Four Yorkshiremen

        I used to dream of having two cups...

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Four Yorkshiremen

          > I used to dream of having two cups...

          You only have one cup? I hear there's a video on youtube about that...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    5 whole gig? I'm jealous!

    I live not even 5 miles from the Heart of "Silicon Valley". I'm right on the edge of San Jose proper. As the crow flies, less than 20 miles to everyone who's anyone of the Tech World.

    But the best I can get in the barrio is 2 gig service. even though I watched 'em lay the fiber cable a quarter mile away from my apartment. Sure the cable company promises something faster but neighbors who have it, aren't seeing the promised results most of the time. My DSL may be slower vs. their off-peak speeds but at least it's consistent :(

    Ten years ago, while less than a half mile from the biggest hospital/trauma center in the area, I could not even get DSL service at all. Eight years ago, on the South Side of town, same issue. had to go with some point-to-point wireless system with less-than-satisfactory latency.

    Meanwhile, the under-served lands of the outskirts of Tacoma, WA for example, are getting twice the speeds in their trailer parks than I can get here in the Land That (supposedly) Invented It All.

    Seems Podunkton, Everywhere gets better speeds these days. Sadly, the London example is not unique-regardless of the millions of dollars of both public and private money that has been thrown at the issue, on both sides of the pond.

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Re: 5 whole gig? I'm jealous!

      If you're getting 2 gig service as you say, you have nothing to complain about!

  9. Snake Silver badge

    But this is issue is what cloud providers, and their most vocal adherents, consistently miss. With questionable connectivity speeds even within the same geographic area, dodgy reliability and questionable ISP and provider security, how is the public - and business, especially - supposed to get all excited about cloud services?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear

    I'd be happy to pay a small subsidy on my 'bumpkin broadband' to help out unfortunate Canary Wharf residents, and other townies. My barnyard animals and myself enjoy a very pleasant 15 -17mbps in a medium sized village in the wilds of the west country.

  11. Fat Jez

    I suspect the areas that are showing higher average speeds are being skewed by people using Virgin Media. It would be interesting to see how the averages compare across areas if it were just ADSL being compared.

  12. IHateWearingATie


    Luxury! I have to got to telephone exchange to pick up my own packets, one one. I'd have killed for 2Mb.

    Coat for the obvious python parody.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slow interwebs

    The reason Castle Vale is slow is probably due to all the cables being nicked (kidding....sort of).

    I'm in Worcestershire and I just did a few tests from different sites and got 10m down 1m up (I even ran the tests again at the same time and they added up to 10m so nothing fishy going on). I have basic VM - probably nothing out of the ordinary.

    There does seem (from the comments) to be a sweet spot though for people who have access to a decent infrastructure (close to a city or in a large town) but who don't have to contend with big business (i.e. not in city centres) or lots of people downloading pron or playing poker online (e.g. Castle Vale - just kidding again....).

  14. Mr_Pitiful

    30 Meters from Exchange.....

    Super fast broadband over copper

    never less than 60MBits

    Only had 12 - 20 hours outage in 8 years!

  15. Mayhem

    Superfast Virgin fiber

    Allegedly 100Mbit. On a Wednesday morning, sure, I get around 55-60Mbit.

    11pm on a Sunday night? Consistently more like 5Mbit. And don't get me started on what happens if it rains, when the latency shoots up through the roof. Best speed measured during peak hours is 22MBit, worst just over 2Mbit. Methinks there might be some severe contention going on somewhere.

    And that is in West Hampstead, a fairly affluent part of London.

  16. sandholme

    What are these things called megabits, according to my system it only needs to be measured in kilobits, and not many of those. I think our volume knob doesn't go up to 1 let alone 11.

  17. Nick Everitt

    It's not just big city's where these speed differences exist, its virtually everywhere throughout the UK.

    I live on the Warwick Gates estate on the outskirts of Leamington Spa and was struggling along on 3Mbps before BT rolled out FTTC in the area but even after that there are houses less than 100 yards from me on the same estate (but connected to a different street cabinet) that are getting connection speeds of 1 to 3Mbps rather than the 76Mbps that I now enjoy on FTTC..

    6 Street cabinets on the estate, all on very long links and in some cases TPONs back to the exchange in Leamington but for whatever reason BT only rolled out FTTC to 4 of the 6 cabinets on the estate leaving 393 homes still on very poor connections.

    I waited for FTTC and followed its progress for so long I would have been gutted if we had lived one street over and connected to a cabinet that got missed out on the upgrade so I am sure there are plenty of others in this same position that were less fortunate, not just people that live in city centres.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Living in the UK? Your broadband will still be crap.


    1. Elmer Phud

      I'm well happy - almost smug and in the U.K.

  19. jonathanb Silver badge

    On ADSL, I get 4975k down, 1576 up. On 3G, I get 6219k down, 2301k up. Both on O2.

  20. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

    45Mbs down via Infinity2+copper - small terrace in small town...

    Always get 45-43Mbs - still arguing with BT that I SHOULD be getting better (apparently from the BT Wholesale tester I only lose ~2MBS from the cabinet to the house - copper get into house via a f****ng pole as well).

    1892 Terrace in outskirts of S Manchester. S'pose I can't complain but as it's 45Mbs exchange->cabinet shurely they can do better (i.e. can I have closer to the 'up to 80Mbs' that I pay for)?

    BT say as it's [service] within the tolerance for guaranteed minimum service (50Mbs) they won't do anything ("go away and be grateful")...............

  21. Disgruntled of TW

    So where are all the BT Infinity 2 "fibre" (it's not - it's COPPER) folk with "up to" 80 Mbps?

    1. donk1


      Welling - where i get Virgin Media 100MB AND BT up to 80 MB.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      AC cause no one like a smart ass

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: here

        > AC cause no one like a smart ass

        not to mention the fact you live in/near Milton Keynes.....

  22. mickey mouse the fith


    "Signing up to a fibre service is a sure fire way of speeding up your broadband – and almost two thirds of the country now has this option."

    This has got to be a fib, there are still massive holes in the fibre coverage, theres no way 2/3rds of the uk is fibred up. I wonder if they mean 2/3rds of the population?

    There is certainly nothing fibre related anywhere near my abode, not even in the bigger towns.

    Im sitting on a nice 12mb connection out in the wilds of Devon, it never really fluctuates either, which is nice.

    No 3g coverage for miles though and 2g is pretty useless outside the nearest town.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At this point

    I'd love to see Virgin offered money to add to its network. Expand for the first time in years, and really give BT a reason to pick up its game.

    What motivation does BT have for improving services?

    For what it's worth, 8 meg, about 100 yards from the exchange. Small village in Shropshire, so I expect to see speed improvements by 2020 if I'm lucky.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: At this point

      100 yards geographically or cable length -- I've done diagnostics on similar and found the property was built long after the main cables went in the street.

      100 yards from exchange - 2.5km cable length.

      (though it didn't help with two modems off a splitter)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So true

    Why Barbican and itse environs is crap is easily explained. BT sold the Wood Street and Moorgate exchange sites and got $$$$$$$$$$ for them, as you can imagine. From what I can tell, the Wood Street lines were extended down to Baynard House. It appears Moorgate was re-terminated to Clerkenwell. At a site just E of Smithfield market my line length showed as >3Km.

    As an aside, some people on Moorgate exchange lost ADSL for weeks thanks to this move.

    Now, in a sensible world, having got all that money from flogging off the sites, BT would have invested in the infrastructure to provide decent service. No chance. After all, it's the City so everyone will pay megabucks for gigabit fibre, won't they ?

    Now, in Southwark, we're 620m as the crow flies from the exchange, but 36dB attenuation (that's a line length of 2.6Km). And that's across every line (and close to what the speed checker tells me) so it's not a fault. No Virgin Media, and even worse no chance of FTTC as they are, unbelievably, EO lines.

    I was hopeful of the Hyperoptic guys, but they are looking at the big developments (000s of users per link), not surprisingly.

  25. Christian Berger

    The technology is rather relevant there

    I mean if you are on broadband cable, there's very little your ISP can do. It's a shared medium that's near impossible to upgrade.

    If you are on some sort of DSL (ADSL, VDSL, SDSL) there are some problems with crosstalk, but on the whole you have one dedicated line per customer. There should be no bottlenecks there unless your ISP is _really_ cheap. Once you are at a central office, bandwidth is essentially free. There's lots of fibre and you can easily replace your equipment.

    Home fibre connections are different. There it depends on whether you have a dedicated pair of fibres to the central office, or you have a "tap" on a large ring. The first is future proof but a bit more expensive, while the second is near impossible to upgrade since you need to replace _all_ equipment in the ring at the same time. In Germany we have that under the name OPAL and areas which have it are called the OPAL-Ghetto since you can only get ISDN there, no decent Internet.

    1. Mike Pellatt

      Re: The technology is rather relevant there

      "Once you are at a central office, bandwidth is essentially free"

      I suggest you look at BT wholesale bandwidth charges to ISPs if you believe that.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The 3 most south western counties of Wales suffer with sub 24 meg services (mostly a lot below the headline 24 Mbps advertised) and thats despite BDUK funding being prioritized for areas with Enterprise zones. Turns out the Labour assembly decided to reward Labour voting areas with BDUK funded FTTC first - that of course includes the Business Ministers own small constituency located on the outskirts of Swansea - just one of a few enablements close to major urban centres- while the more remote large towns are told tough, suck it up and wait.

    Meanwhile Cornwall have really sorted thing out. Maybe we should be asking the Kernow boys to come show Cardiff bay how it should be done.

  27. Joe Montana


    Barbican is right in the city, they expect most users in the area to be business users who will buy leased lines rather than adsl.

  28. Gradivus

    Why me?

    I can see my telephone exchange from my kitchen window.

    I can, just about, read the registration numbers on the OpenReach vans.

    The exchange is enabled and is providing fibre access to most of the region.

    But not me

    I must have offended them in some way

    1. Mike Pellatt

      Re: Why me?

      It's because you're too close to the exchange. It's a well-hidden fact, but if your line is connected directly into the exchange without going via a street cabinet (known as an "exchange-only", or EO line) then VDSL (the modulation technique used over the short bit of copper from the fibre termination to your property) is not possible.

      It's theoretically possible to put the kit that would be in the big cabinet linked to the street cabinet directly into the exchange, but here are potential interference issues that mean this isn't approved.

      Last time I looked, there was some waffling from BT about what they proposed to do about such subscribers (it's a surprisingly large number) but nothing concrete.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't really complain about the speeds I get, just outside the centre of Leeds. 75 Mb/s down, 15 up isn't too bad.

  30. AndrueC Silver badge

    Certainly it's pretty good in some rural towns:

    But a lot of people are doing tests with wifi and that's generally a bad idea. The above is using a wired connection even though it's a laptop. If I did a wifi test it'd be about 30Mb/s.

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. tempemeaty

    Yup, 5mbps is about it at the moment

    I worked for two major telecoms, one in the US and the other in Canada. They had their own internal numbers on what the average speed for their own customers connections were and the numbers sited here match up with them. The US telecom showed average users speed was 5mbps and the Canadian had numbers showing their users had an average of 6mbps. Remarkably the Canadian was about three years ahead of the US on getting on with massive infrastructure upgrades and move to optical lines with fiber to the prem(home) while today that US one is just getting on with fiber to the node with some limited fiber to the prem. Still these new networks being new have issues that older networks have long ago dealt with and worked out. It may be some time yet still before we see anything better than 5mbps speeds if this is true in any of our countries. It's precisely this point I have long wished web masters understood when they splash their companies websites with a profusion of Flash and Java that cause them to load on most broadband connections painfully slow.

  33. itzman
    Paris Hilton

    copper, length , decibels.

    I live on the outskirts of a village which doesn't even have 21CN.

    After some issues, and a lot of fresh coffee and cakes, the Openreach engineer re-made every joint and ,manually selected the best possible pair back to the exchange. Didn't solve the problem - that got escalated to someone and they did 'something in the exchange' But now I connect over 6Mbps on a good day.

    My nearest neighbour (can't actually say next door, because there is no next door) gets 1.5Mbps.

    One location out in the sticks, we were unable to sustain broadband OF ANY SORT, whilst the next door house was on a decent 4Mbps or so The reason? The premises in question was part of an estate where the lord of the manor or whatever he was had got the phone installed some time shortly after the Flood, by means of getting lines laid from an exchange 5 miles way. The village attached to his estate not having its own exchange till years later.

    Would BT lay a 100 yards of copper to connect to the new exchange?


    Its not even postcode lottery. It is just totally random - where the wires run and of what quality they are.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      >It is just totally random - where the wires run and of what quality they are.


      A tree fell outside our house onto the telephone line. Telstra came and replaced 15m of cable and I gained 1mb/s.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only it would make facebook faster....

  35. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge int he US

    Well, here in the US, my parents get 1.5mbps for $35 a month. And that's the best price available, the $20 promos from phone or cable co require like $50+ of bundles services which they don't want. Suffice it to say, wireless solutions are not affordably priced here in the US either.

    Surprisingly, I found since h.264 is so efficient that videos stream fine over a 1.5mbps connection. The big problem is those areas where there's nothing (but costly wireless) available. There's indeed areas in town that were not put on a remote DSLAM, but the line to the central office is too long for DSL. (So that brings them down to having cable, if they can get it.)

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