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The UK 2016 vs 2015 Top Fastest Mobile and Home Broadband ISPs

Posted Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 (1:18 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,670)
internet_speed_download_and_upload

As another year passes, we take a look back to see how much faster the national fixed line Home Broadband and Mobile (3G / 4G) providers have become for download and upload speed. Overall EE is the king of Mobile, while Hyperoptic are the fastest altnet and Virgin Media is the top national ISP.

It’s important to note that most of the major infrastructure providers (mobile and fixed line) are still in the process of expanding the availability of faster connectivity. The uptake of new services usually lags behind availability, but we are still seeing a general upward curve in performance as more consumers adopt the latest services.

At this time last year around 88% of UK premises (estimated) could order a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) capable fixed line connection (mostly catered for via Openreach and Virgin Media’s network) and this has now increased to roughly 91%+.

Similarly the coverage of 4G based Mobile Broadband had previously reached approximately 80-90% of the population at the end of 2015 and this has now increased to 92-98%, depending upon which operator you choose (EE has the best coverage because they benefited from a long head-start).

On top of that a lot of the new services have also become faster through upgrades. For example, EE and Vodafone have introduced faster Cat 6 and Cat 9 LTE-Advanced technology to parts of their 4G networks (example) and BT has introduced a new 52Mbps tier on their entry-level fixed line Infinity (FTTC) packages. Elsewhere Virgin has boosted some of its upload speeds (here).

We fully expect this trend to continue over the next few years as fixed line “superfast” connections aim for 97-98% coverage by 2019 and 4G mobile heads towards near universal reach. On top of that Openreach plans to begin the roll-out of 300Mbps+ capable G.fast technology in 2017 and Virgin’s cable network will continue to extend its reach towards the goal of 60-65% coverage by 2019.

The Fastest National Fixed Line Broadband ISPs (2016 vs 2015)

The following scores use data from Thinkbroadband‘s database and only include independent providers with strong national availability. Sadly smaller alternative network (altnet) ISPs tend not to produce much data and aren’t available to the vast majority of premises, but we do give them a separate table after the national ISPs.

On top of that it’s crucial to note that ISPs which have a greater proportion of “superfast” connections, such as Virgin, will usually score higher because their performance will outweigh the results from customers on slower connectivity methods or packages (e.g. Virgin’s entry-level tier is 50Mbps, so they tend to pull ahead).

By comparison the slowest 4-5 ISPs all have a higher proportion of subscribers on older and slower (ADSL2) lines, which suppresses their standing and this is why we recommend taking such results with a pinch of salt. In other words, just because an ISP returns a slower average (mean) speed doesn’t mean to say that this is the fault of the provider itself.

NOTE: The top 10% result, shown below in brackets, represents the speed experienced by the fastest 10% of customers on each ISP. Both the 2015 and 2016 results are based off data that was published during early December (Dec) of each year.

Average Download Speeds (Top 10)

No. Operator Dec 2016 (Top 10%) Dec 2015 (Top 10%) Change
1. Virgin Media 50.9Mbps (103.5Mbps) 49.8Mbps (105.2Mbps) +2.21%
2. AAISP 31.7Mbps (73.3Mbps) 29.8Mbps (71.2Mbps) +6.38%
3. Vodafone 28.9Mbps (55.1Mbps) no data no data
4. Zen Internet 26.7Mbps (65.1Mbps) 23.8Mbps (64.6Mbps) +12.18%
5. IDNet 24.5Mbps (67Mbps) 19.6Mbps (61.8Mbps) +25%
6. BT 24Mbps (51.3Mbps) 19.2Mbps (40.8Mbps) +25%
7. Plusnet 18.4Mbps (43.1Mbps) 16.1Mbps (38.1Mbps) +14.29%
8. TalkTalk 14.2Mbps (34.7Mbps) 12.4Mbps (33.4Mbps) +14.52%
9. EE 13.7Mbps (34.8Mbps) 10.5Mbps (30.1Mbps) +30.48%
10. Sky Broadband 13.3Mbps (31.9Mbps) 12.2Mbps (30Mbps) +9.02%

Average Upload Speeds (Top 10)

No. Operator Dec 2016 Result Dec 2015 Result Change
1. Vodafone 8.4Mbps no data no data
2. AAISP 7.5Mbps 6Mbps +25%
3. Zen Internet 7Mbps 6.3Mbps +11.11%
4. IDNet 6.5Mbps 5.3Mbps +22.64%
5. Virgin Media 6.3Mbps 5.8Mbps +8.62%
6. BT 5.7Mbps 4.8Mbps +18.75%
7. EE 3.4Mbps 2.2Mbps +54.55%
8. Plusnet 3.3Mbps 3.9Mbps 15.38%
9. Sky Broadband 3Mbps 2.7Mbps +11.11%
10. TalkTalk 1.9Mbps 1.6Mbps +18.75%

Overall the average download speed of the top 10 national providers was 24.63Mbps and the average upload speed hit 5.3Mbps. Sadly we cannot offer an accurate comparison of change with the Dec 2015 result because Vodafone wasn’t present in the data for that run, although we do estimate a general performance increase of around 10-11%.

It’s difficult to read too much into the 12 month change without also knowing the composition of each ISP’s subscriber base (i.e. what connections and packages was everybody on), but the broad performance increase is very much to be expected (see this article’s introduction).

Flip over to page 2 to see more analysis, as well as the fastest altnets and mobile operators.

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8 Responses
  1. Interesting stats! (Even with all the caveats.) What would be helpful would be like for like latency comparisons.

    • Speedtests like this aren’t the best measure for latency; Ofcom’s direct testing is arguably much more useful as you can rule out the impact of WiFi. But the regulator’s data sample is rather small.

      https://www.ofcom.org.uk/research-and-data/broadband-research/home-broadband-performance

      However latency can be affected by a lot of elements and so it’s difficult to create a truly reliable benchmark.

    • Dumb argument

      Latency differences/averages between most of the providers based on Ofcom data and other reports is small and less than a handfull of ms (milliseconds) difference between them all. All are typically under 20ms, which is more than fast enough for most people.

    • gpmgroup

      @Mark, thanks for posting the link appreciated.

      @Dumb_argument – Depends on how you use your time, if what you do is valuable the 20ms here and there quickly add up 🙂

      Even simple tasks like web browsing feel more responsive with lower latency. I hear the people behind 5G are aiming for 1ms latency! Is that even theoretically possible? Anyway, I guess they must think peoples’ time is valuable enough to make it worth getting the numbers down.

  2. John

    the tester never seems to work right for me so cant trust those stats sorry

  3. David Torrens

    I find it odd that the comparisons are not split up between the different types of connection. Surely one should try to see if it makes a difference which ISP one uses to connect to the world via , for example , the same Openreach FTTC box at the top of my street and on the same type of connection. I suspect that the differences are tiny for the same type of connection.
    What the tabes above would seem to be showing is average speeds of a mix of fibre and non fibre connections.

    • You can find some data on that via the source, TBB. We don’t however have such a split for all of the listed ISPs. We also need to keep the results consistent with the same methodology between the years. Future updates may contain more detail on this, depending upon how much data is available to use.

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