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Virgin Media UK Maintains Lead in Netflix’s Broadband ISP Speed Index

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 (10:00 am) - Score 1,091

Netflix, the popular Internet movie and TV streaming provider, has just published their latest April 2015 ISP Speed Index update for the United Kingdom and revealed that Virgin Media is still holding the top spot with a score of 3.74Mbps (Megabits per second). But take with the usual pinch of salt.

As usual it’s crucial to reflect that Netflix’s Speed Index can be a little misleading without the proper context. The index is simply a measure of “prime time” Netflix streaming performance per ISP and as such it should never be taken as a table that reflects the actual capability of your broadband connection, as should be obvious by the results.

Indeed the results can be influenced by various different factors, such as whether or not most people are streaming in SD (Standard Definition), HD (High Definition) or 4K (ULTRA HD) video quality. The dynamic nature of different video codecs (bitrates vary as the video stream changes), slow WiFi networks and an ISPs Traffic Management measures can also all play a part.

Netflix’s Recommended Internet Download Speeds
* 0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
* 1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
* 3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for SD quality
* 5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality
* 25 Megabits per second – Recommended for Ultra HD quality

Netflix tends to charge a little more for their higher quality video streams (plus there’s not a lot of 4K content or users yet), which means that most people go for their default SD or HD options and as such you’d thus expect the results to be largely reflective of this and the natural movement of any associated streaming traffic.

Netflix’s UK ISP Speed Index – April 2015 (Aug 2014 Comparison)
1. Virgin Media – 3.79Mbps (3.42Mbps)
2. BT – 3.49Mbps (3.01Mbps)
3. TalkTalk – 3.19Mbps (2.72Mbps)
4. Sky Broadband – 3.15Mbps (2.79Mbps)
5. EE – 3.01Mbps (2.70Mbps)

As a result of all this it’s not surprising to find that the average performance isn’t dramatically different between ISPs and doesn’t change much over time, with most of the improvements likely to stem from a gradual rise in the number of higher quality streams rather than people using faster connections; though there will be a little bit of the later.

But as usual what we’re really missing here is a bit more detail, such as the ability to see performance separated by stream quality and the impact on performance during different times of the day. Likewise Netflix is popular enough that it should be able to offer a bigger selection of ISPs, although sadly they still continue to focus on only the largest players.

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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.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Bob says:

    “Netflix tends to charge a little more for their higher quality video streams, which means that most people go for their default SD or HD options”

    People go for the SD and HD because they don’t have 4k TV’s or there’s hardly any 4k content, not because it costs £2 more.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Yeah that too, although I wouldn’t exclude price as the main factor. We Brits can sometimes be quite a careful bunch with our money. I have a 4K TV but even if Netflix had plenty of content I’d still be happy to pay for HD, quality seems fine.

    2. MikeW says:

      The relative market for Blu-ray vs plain DVD shows how slow the UK is to warm up to even HD content, even when HDTV technology is nearly a decade old. The amount of shelf-space in supermarket tells you the market sizes.

      Mark’s right that price is the issue – we’re too much of a bunch of tightwads.

      4k TV’s will become widespread because the manufacturers can do such resolution improvements cheaply, compared to quality improvements such as upgrading to OLED technology. But I bet it is more than (another) decade before people pump decent content, in quantity, into them.

  2. adslmax Real says:

    I cancel netflix. Because these are rubbish outdated films. Nothing like this year up to date films!

  3. TTT says:

    and once again, Virgin’s excellent download result mask the fact that their upload speed is effectively unusable.

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