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The Fastest 7 National UK Home and Mobile Broadband ISPs for Q4 2014

Saturday, December 27th, 2014 (1:03 am) - Score 2,155

ISPreview.co.uk takes a look back at how the top fastest and largest national Mobile Broadband (3G/4G) and Home Broadband providers have performed over the last quarter. Overall Virgin Media still tops the fixed line table with an average Internet download speed of 53.20Mbps (unchanged from Q3 2014), while Vodafone delivered the best mobile performance at 13.78Mbps.

Firstly, there have been a few changes since our last quarterly update in October 2014 (here), with Eclipse Internet being removed from the list because they’ve stopped selling domestic packages. On top of that we’ve decided to start tracking the quarterly performance of the four primary Mobile Broadband providers (note: T-Mobile and Orange are aggregated under parent ‘Everything Everywhere’).

Overall the performance of the largest national fixed line Home Broadband ISPs (including the impact of related business connections) during the final quarter of 2014 has remained more or less stable, largely because there haven’t been any major changes in the market since Virgin’s double-speed upgrade began at the start of this year (this added roughly 10-15Mbps to VM’s average download rate, mostly due to their dominant 30Mbps subscriber base being pushed to 50Mbps).

Meanwhile it’s interesting to note that the speeds for ISPs that offer ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) services, particularly BT which holds the lion’s share of related subscribers, have broadly tended to remain stable and that might be at least partly due to crosstalk interference becoming more of a problem (this can slow FTTC lines in busy areas). The future addition of Vectoring, which is designed to cancel out crosstalk, should have a positive impact (assuming BTOpenreach ever get around to deploying it).

The Fastest UK ISPs – Average Download Speed (Megabits per second)

1. Virgin Media – 53.20Mbps
2. BT – 25.61Mbps
3. Zen Internet – 24.22Mbps
4. PlusNet – 22.64Mbps
5. TalkTalk – 15.25Mbps
6. Sky Broadband – 13.59Mbps
7. EE – 13.52Mbps

Average Speed = 24Mbps

The Fastest UK ISPs – Average Upload Speed

1. BT – 7.64Mbps
2. Zen Internet – 7.47Mbps
3. PlusNet – 6.89Mbps
4. Virgin Media – 6.43Mbps
5. Sky Broadband – 3.79Mbps
6. EE (Orange) – 3.19Mbps
7. TalkTalk – 2.73Mbps

Average Speed = 5.45Mbps

At this point it’s important to mention the performance of smaller alternative network operators, which can often deliver significantly faster speeds by utilising true fibre optic (FTTH/P/B) style connectivity instead of the slow hybrid-fibre (FTTC / FTTN / DOCSIS) style solutions used on the majority of BTOpenreach and Virgin Media’s network. Sadly these have limited coverage but the difference in performance is considerable.

Sample of Altnet Fibre Optic ISP Performance

* Hyperoptic
December Figure: 117.74Mbps DL / 106.01Mbps UP
October Figure: 100.57Mbps DL / 96.00Mbps UP

* Gigaclear
December Figure: 139.48Mbps DL / 161.25Mbps UP
October Figure: 141.85Mbps DL / 205.50Mbps UP

* B4RN
December Figure: 269.45Mbps DL / 266.27Mbps UP
May Figure: 282.73Mbps DL / 222.71Mbps UP

NOTE: B4RN had no data for October, so we used the May 2014 figures.

The above ISPs offer top speeds of 1000Mbps, yet most consumers tend to take one of their more affordable but slower speed packages and this can impact the results (except on B4RN where 1Gbps is the default). Speedtesters are also generally less reliable when testing at the dizzy heights of 1Gbps. We should point out that B4RN rarely gets listed in the source data due to a lack of tests.

As mentioned earlier we’ve also decided to start keeping track of mobile operator performance and these results have been pasted below. It’s worth pointing out that none of the mobile operators separate their 3G and 4G networks by IP address range(s), which means that we can only reflect combined performance scores.

The Fastest Mobile Broadband Operators – Download Speed

1. Vodafone – 13.78Mbps
2. EE (T-Mobile & Orange) – 13.26Mbps
3. O2 – 10.69Mbps
4. Three UK – 9.12Mbps

Average Speed = 11.71Mbps

The Fastest Mobile Broadband Operators – Upload Speed

1. Vodafone – 6.46Mbps
2. EE (T-Mobile & Orange) – 6.32Mbps
3. O2 – 5.47Mbps
4. Three UK – 4.50Mbps

Average Speed = 5.68Mbps

Take note that EE’s 1800MHz based 4G network is currently available to most of the country, while Vodafone, Three UK and O2’s 4G platforms are all running about a year behind due to having to wait a bit longer for access to the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum bands (i.e. Ofcom’s auction delay). All of the primary mobile operators currently anticipate making 4G available to around 98% of the population by the end of 2015 or possibly a bit later.

Overall we’d say that Vodafone and EE are running ahead of the game because both have started to deploy the latest LTE-Advanced upgrades with Carrier Aggregation (here and here). This method is able to deliver significantly faster “true” 4G speeds by allowing operators to harness more than one band of spectrum at a time, although at present the coverage is mostly limited to London (Birmingham and Manchester are set to follow). Not to mention the limited end-user hardware support.

Otherwise it should be noted that all of this data is gathered using Ookla’s universal Speedtest.net service and we then calculate the average speeds from only the ISPs listed above (Ookla’s overall figures are sadly too skewed by business and niche ISPs for us to use). The results also reflect distribution over all of an ISPs different technologies, which means for example that providers with more “superfast” connections (e.g. FTTC) than slower ADSL lines will return a much better average (sadly the data doesn’t allow us to split out the result by connection type or time of day).

It’s also important to take average speeds like these with a big pinch of salt. Every home is different and performance can be affected by all sorts of issues, many of which are beyond the ISPs ability to control (e.g. slow wifi or poor home wiring), thus we do not consider the above data to be a reliable barometer for individual users but it can help to highlight general changes in the market.

Finally, Ookla’s data also attempts to reflect the fastest sustainable throughput performance by dropping a chunk of the slowest tests and a smaller slice of the fastest results for each ISP, which has its merits but also skews the results a bit.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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