Faster broadband searches surge as outages hit during lockdown

Mike Wright
·3 min read
Uswitch said it had seen searches shift from cheap to fast broadband packages - PA
Uswitch said it had seen searches shift from cheap to fast broadband packages - PA

Internet users are attempting to change to faster providers in surging numbers amid outages caused while people are working from home during the lockdown.

Uswitch, the broadband comparison site, said it had seen a 10 percent rise in people searching for faster suppliers since coronavirus restrictions came in.

The development comes as over 40,000 Virgin customers were hit by an outage this week, leaving people struggling to hold work meetings online. 

Yesterday, a Government advisor also urged ministers to consider increasing the £5 billion announced in the budget to upgrade rural broadband and look to improve the overall network to make working from home more attractive to people after the pandemic. 

Uswitch said in recent weeks it had seen a surge in customers looking for faster broadband speeds over cheaper packages, as millions worked home via video conferencing apps and tried to keep children educated through live streams.

Rory Stoves, a spokesman for Uswitch, said the company usually saw a 50-50 split between searches for cheap broadband deals and fast, but that searches had become weighted 40 percent to 60 percent in favour of speed during the lockdown.

He added: “The most interesting change in trend we’ve seen is the bias towards faster products in recent weeks. With customers looking to upgrade their broadband to cater for the increase in home usage. This is something which I understand is mirrored across the whole industry.”

Earlier this month Uswitch research revealed that the UK ranked just 34th out of 207 countries for downspeeds, behind Singapore, Sweden and Luxembourg.

The report found that to download a large file such as a 53GB video game on an average UK 10bps connection would take 11 hours and 47 minutes, compared to around 90 mins in Taiwan, which had the fastest speeds.

The findings come as users suffered the most serious internet outage of the lockdown on Monday evening when Virgin’s services went down leaving around 43,000 people without internet at its peak.

The company, which has around 5.3 million customers, said the failure was not due to do with increased lockdown usage but a technical fault. 

A spokesman for the company said: The problem was fixed in the early hours of Tuesday morning. We believe the issue to have been caused by a technical fault within our core network. 

“It resulted in intermittent connectivity issues where broadband would drop for a minute or so every hour or two and then restore.”

Following the outage, Andrew Glover, chair of the Internet Service Providers Association said recent outages were not due to high demand but ‘intermittent broadband issues”.

He added: “Despite a significant increase in broadband usage in households during the lockdown, UK networks have proved to be resilient and continue to provide vital support for the public and businesses through this difficult period.”

However, the outage follows numerous complaints on social media from people saying their broadband packages are struggling to keep up with the demands of lockdown usage.

Chris Stark, the government’s advisor on climate change, said yesterday that ministers should look to invest more in broadband infrastructure after the coronavirus crisis to encourage people to keep working from home where possible.

The Government has already pledged £5 billion to get gigabit capable broadband to the hardest-to-reach rural regions of the UK by 2025.

Mr Stark, who heads the advisory Climate Change Committee, said reducing how often people felt they had to commute to do their jobs would help the Government reach its target for net-zero emissions by 2050.

“I definitely feel they should put more emphasis on that broadband priority and if that means spending more money then that seems like a good conclusion,” Mr Stark told the Telegraph.

"It just seems to me so clear now coming out this crisis that that should rise up the Government's priority list."