New research from uSwitch, which analysed data from 2.3 million anecdotal internet speed tests (carried out between 21st July 2012 and 20th January 2013), has concluded that consumers get the fastest broadband speeds if they go online at 4am (least busy period) and the slowest if they start surfing at 9pm.
Broadband remains a shared “Best Efforts” service, which means that ISPs typically share their local network capacity between multiple users and as a result service speeds can fall during busy periods when large numbers of people are all surfing at the same time. Often the less you pay for your service the more it’s likely to be shared.
Unsurprisingly the busiest periods for home broadband ISPs usually occur outside of working hours (i.e. in the evenings), when almost everybody is home and awake. It should be noted that this is the opposite for business ISPs where network congestion usually peaks during daytime working hours when most people are in the office.
The study claims that average internet download speeds can fall by as much as 60% during peak times in some parts of the UK. For example, Dudley’s (England) average speeds at 4am are 31.81Mbps (Megabits per second) and at 9pm this falls to 12.62Mbps. A table of the UK towns/cities with the biggest falls in speed can be found below (NOTE: New Table Uploaded – Previous table was incorrect).
Overall the average UK download speed at 4am, according to uSwitch’s data, comes in at a strong 14.83Mbps but this falls by 28% to reach an average of 10.72Mbps by 9pm. This is of course why we always say that it’s best to conduct any speed tests of your connection during both peak and off-peak periods, in order to equate for any natural fluctuations in local network congestion.
Similarly it’s usually best to leave any big downloads until the early hours (roughly midnight to 6am) because many ISPs offer “unlimited” usage during this cheaper period (check with your provider) and you will also benefit from the fastest speeds. Plenty of download managers also exist to help you out.
As usual you should take anecdotal statistics like this with a suitably huge pinch of salt, although there’s little denying that surfing during the early morning usually does deliver the best performance. It should however be noted that not all areas and ISP connections will suffer from the same issue.
ISPreview.co.uk advised uSwitch that its initial table appeared to be incorrect and a new one has now been uploaded above.