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Top 8 UK Fastest Broadband ISPs by Speed for 2012 and 2011 Compared

Thursday, Jan 3rd, 2013 (7:30 am) - Score 2,808

The latest summary of anecdotal consumer broadband ISP speed-test data for December 2012 reveals that the average download speed in the United Kingdom has surged from 7.578Mbps one year ago to 19.374Mbps now (up 156%). The average upload speed also jumped by 101% over the same period from 1.160Mbps to 2.327Mbps.

According to Broadband.co.uk, which collected the speed-test data, the fastest overall ISP for internet download speeds in both 2011 and 2012 continues to be Virgin Media. Indeed Virgin’s recent work to double its customers speeds has seen their average performance skyrocket by 161% from 14.242Mbps last year to 37.224Mbps now.

But the situation with Virgin’s upload performance is another matter. Virgin ended 2011 as the ISP with the fastest upload speeds (2.229Mbps), which has increased to 2.878Mbps now. However Virgin spent most of 2012 trading places with BT and Eclipse Internet, yet the latest results put PlusNet on top with an upload speed of 3.617Mbps, which pushes Virgin down to fourth.

It’s clear from these results that the country’s average broadband performance has seen a significant increase over the past 12 months, which coincides with the growing availability of superfast broadband (25Mbps+) services; both in terms of coverage and uptake (note: smaller numbers of superfast users can have a disproportionate effect due to the significantly higher speeds). Similarly Sky Broadband and EE (Orange UK) started 2012 without any superfast packages but have since launched related products; O2 (BE Broadband) is now left as the only major ISP without a similar solution.

Internet providers have also needed to spend money on upgrading their networks to handle the new services, which can sometimes deliver a small performance benefit to customer on standard broadband services (e.g. ADSL / ADSL2+). At the same time both BTWholesale based and unbundled (LLU) ISPs alike have continued to expand the reach of their ADSL2+ (20/24Mbps) services to cover most of the UK, which has replaced some slower ADSLMax (8Mbps) lines. All of this has helped to boost the country’s internet performance.

Top 8 UK ISPs – Download Speed (Change from 2011)
1. Virgin Media – 37.224Mbps (up from 14.242Mbps)
2. Eclipse Internet – 16.631Mbps (up from 10.591Mbps)
3. PlusNet – 15.835Mbps (up from 4.606Mbps)
4. BT – 15.764Mbps (up from 7.638Mbps)
5. Sky Broadband – 7.810Mbps (up from 4.244Mbps)
6. O2 / BE Broadband – 6.333Mbps (up from 5.673Mbps)
7. EE (Orange) – 5.772Mbps (up from 3.787Mbps)
8. TalkTalk (Tiscali) – 5.537Mbps (up from 4.651Mbps)

Top 8 UK ISPs – Upload Speed (Change from 2011)
1. PlusNet – 3.617Mbps (up from 0.449Mbps)
2. BT – 3.378Mbps (up from 1.303Mbps)
3. Eclipse Internet – 3.113Mbps (up from 1.883Mbps)
4. Virgin Media – 2.878Mbps (up from 2.229Mbps)
5. Sky Broadband – 1.215Mbps (up from 0.582Mbps)
6. EE (Orange) – 1.049Mbps (up from 0.563Mbps)
7. O2 / BE Broadband – 0.914Mbps (up from 0.893Mbps)
8. TalkTalk (Tiscali) – 0.670Mbps (up from 0.582Mbps)

It’s interesting to note that both O2 (BE Broadband) and TalkTalk have failed to improve their download performance much beyond the 2011 result, which is more of a surprise for TalkTalk because they’ve had a superfast broadband service since mid-2011. However TalkTalk hasn’t done a good job of advertising its FTTC package and only offers it as a “boost” to their existing service, which might be less attractive and more confusing to new customers. Quite why they still haven’t created a separate FTTC package for new customers remains a mystery.

As always we must recommend that readers take anecdotal data like this with a huge pinch of salt. Every home or business is different and performance can be affected by all sorts of issues, many of which are beyond the ISPs ability to control. We do not consider the above data to be a reliable barometer for individual users but it can be used to highlight other changes in the market. Sadly the table doesn’t include smaller ISPs because they don’t produce enough data for an effective comparison.

Readers should also check out Ofcom’s latest August 2012 Broadband ISP Speeds Study because it contains a lot of useful information about the country’s internet connectivity performance across different ISPs and technology types. It also includes other useful information in terms of Latency and Packet Loss performance.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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