We all know that the less contention or number of users on a broadband line, the faster it runs, because you have the connection more to yourself.
Hence why surfing in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep will get you the best download speeds. Conversely, the peak time of early to mid evening is when everyone is online checking Facebook, streaming YouTube or indulging in a quick multiplayer deathmatch.
Rather than guessing at the speed difference, uSwitch.com has taken some two million broadband speed tests from across the country along with their respective times, and worked out the exact difference between peak and off-peak performance. So what is it?
The UK’s broadband, on average, is 35% slower in the designated peak time of 7 to 9pm than it is at between the fastest off-peak period, between 2 and 3am in the morning.
The average download speed in the evening was measured at 6.2Mbps, whereas in the small hours of the morning it increased to 9.6Mbps.
However, there are some significant regional variations across the UK when it comes to the average drop in speed.
Some areas see their speeds drop by more like a factor of two-thirds when it comes to peak and off-peak differences.
Weston-Super-Mare flies along at an average of 9.5Mbps by night, but in the evening that slows massively to 3.4Mbps. That’s a 64% decrease, and Evesham has a similar tale of surfing woe with an even bigger reduction of 69%, with its incredibly quick 15.5Mbps dwindling to 4.9Mbps when the soaps are on.
Uswitch.com’s plotted graph of daily broadband averages shows the fastest times are between midnight and 6am. From 6am throughout the day it’s a gradual downward slope in speed, with a bigger dip starting at 6pm and going through to 9pm, after which speeds slowly start to rise.
The firm notes that the evening performance levels go some way to helping explain why many customers feel lied to when it comes to advertised headline speeds for broadband. Not only are real world figures often considerably lower, but they’re a lot lower still at peak times.
Ernest Doku, the tech guru at Uswitch, commented: “This research may help to shed some light on why many bewildered consumers, who believe they’ve signed up to a certain broadband speed, never actually feel like their connection is fast enough.”
“The problem of slower broadband speeds has been exacerbated by changes in the way people use the internet, with far more people downloading music and watching TV programmes online, inevitably putting more strain on the network.”
The roll out of super-fast broadband should help to tackle that media hungry bandwidth demand, of course, as it progresses across the UK. Although take-up has so far been lukewarm, at least if Ofcom is to be believed.