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The 2016-H1 Top 10 UK Fastest National Home Broadband and Mobile ISPs

Saturday, June 18th, 2016 (1:12 am) - Score 8,057
internet download and upload speed arrows

The first half of 2016 has seen average broadband speeds rise as consumers increasingly switch to faster services, with Virgin Media delivering the fastest average broadband download speeds and Zen Internet coming top for uploads. Meanwhile EE remains the king for Mobile Broadband.

It’s important to start by noting that the availability of both Openreach’s (BT) FTTC dominated “fibre broadband” network and Virgin’s ultrafast cable (DOCSIS) platform have continued to expand their reach since our last update at the end of 2015, which tends to fuel a gradually upward impact upon the results.

Similarly we’ve also seen plenty of general network expansion work from other operators, such as the on-going work being done by smaller pure fibre optic Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P) style broadband ISPs like Gigaclear and Hyperoptic.

The reach of faster 4G (LTE) based Mobile Broadband connectivity has also improved at a rapid pace since the end of last year and around 95% of the population are now within reach of at least one of the four primary networks, which has helped their performance and coverage is continuing to improve.

The UK Fastest Broadband Providers (H1 2016)

The following report uses May 2016 data from Thinkbroadband‘s database and only includes independent providers with a wide national availability. This is primarily because smaller altnet ISPs aren’t available to the vast majority of premises and others didn’t produce enough data to be included, but we do mention some of them separately below the tables (where there’s enough data).

It’s also crucial to note that ISPs which have a greater proportion of so-called “superfast” (24Mbps+) connections, such as Virgin, will usually score higher because their performance can easily outweigh the results from customers on slower connectivity methods / package tiers. Virgin’s entry-level tier is 50Mbps, so they will always pull ahead.

In comparison the slowest 4-5 ISPs all have a higher proportion of subscribers on slow sub-2Mbps (ADSL) lines, which suppresses their standing and this is another reason 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 below represents the speeds experienced by the fastest 10% of customers on each ISP.

Top 10 Fastest UK National Home Broadband ISPs – Average Speeds

No. Operator 2016 H1 Result (Top 10%) 2015 Result (Top 10%) Change
1. Virgin Media 51.4Mbps (105.2Mbps) 49.8Mbps (105.2Mbps) +3.21%
2. AAISP 31.8Mbps (70.2Mbps) 29.8Mbps (71.2Mbps) +6.71%
3. Zen Internet 25.9Mbps (66.7Mbps) 23.8Mbps (64.6Mbps) +8.82%
4. IDNet 25.4Mbps (65.1Mbps) 19.6Mbps (61.8Mbps) +29.59%
5. Vodafone 24.5Mbps (49.6Mbps) no data no data
6. BT 22.1Mbps (46.7Mbps) 19.2Mbps (40.8Mbps) +15.1%
7. Plusnet 18.3Mbps (42.6Mbps) 16.1Mbps (38.1Mbps) +13.66%
8. TalkTalk 13.4Mbps (34Mbps) 12.4Mbps (33.4Mbps) +8.06%
9. EE 12.4Mbps (34.4Mbps) 10.5Mbps (30.1Mbps) +18.1%
10. Sky Broadband 12.2Mbps (29.7Mbps) 12.2Mbps (30Mbps) 0%

Average Upload Speed

No. Operator 2016 H1 Result 2015 Result Change
1. Zen Internet 7.4Mbps 6.3Mbps +17.46%
2. AAISP 8.7Mbps 6Mbps +45%
3. Vodafone 6.7Mbps no data no data
4. Virgin Media 6.2Mbps 5.8Mbps +6.9%
5. IDNet 6.1Mbps 5.3Mbps +15.09%
6. BT 5.5Mbps 4.8Mbps +14.58%
7. Plusnet 4.1Mbps 3.9Mbps +5.13%
8. EE 2.8Mbps 2.2Mbps +27.27%
9. Sky Broadband 2.6Mbps 2.7Mbps 3.7%
10. TalkTalk 1.8Mbps 1.6Mbps +12.5%

Overall the broad increases are about what we’d expect to see given the on-going roll-out of faster networks around the country, although we were surprised to note that Sky Broadband has remained almost static since the end of 2015. We should note that Sky continues to receive some of the fewest complaints among the big boys, although they remain tight lipped about their FTTC numbers.

We also expected to see a bigger improvement from Virgin Media, particularly given last year’s semi-optional speed boost that has now been rolled out (here), although perhaps the fact that their most popular entry-level package has remained at 50Mbps, instead of adopting the 70Mbps profile by default, is part of the reason.

At this point it’s important to turn our attention to alternative network providers, most of which only have a comparatively small level of coverage / sample data and so don’t appear above. Never the less it’s these providers that often deliver some of the fastest home broadband speeds in the country and that’s thanks in no small part to their ultrafast pure fibre optic (FTTH/P) infrastructure.

As an example, the fastest ISP of all is still urban focused provider Hyperoptic, which delivered an average download speed of 116.7Mbps (335.3Mbps for the top 10%) and an upload rate of 100.9Mbps. Similarly Gigaclear’s rural network produced downloads of 92.3Mbps (202.5Mbps for the top 10%) and uploads of 119.7Mbps.

NOTE: Claranet SOHO has popped up in the data and we’ll wait to see if they hold their position during future studies before including them into the Top 10.

Peak vs Off Peak Performance

One other area that should be considered, before we move on to examine mobile operators, is the impact upon broadband performance between busy peak (6pm to midnight) and off-peak (7am to 3pm) times of day.

Peak times occur when most people are at home and all sucking bandwidth from their connections, which on a home broadband service can create challenges because the capacity must be shared between many users. Sadly there’s not enough data on this to produce a more extensive list and so we only cover the big ISPs below.

Generally speaking most ISPs cope with peak usage quite well, but others do suffer a more noticeable hit. Below we only show the difference for download rates because uploads seemed to follow a very similar trend (i.e. ISPs that suffered a dip in peak time download performance also experienced the same for uploads). The ISPs are ordered by peak time performance.

No. Operator Avg. Down (Peak)
Avg. Down (Off Peak)
Change from Off Peak
1. Virgin Media 46.1Mbps 54.1Mbps 14.79%
2. BT 21.6Mbps 22.2Mbps 2.26%
3. Plusnet 17.5Mbps 19Mbps 7.89%
4. TalkTalk 13.6Mbps 14Mbps 2.86%
5. EE 12.6Mbps 13.3Mbps 5.26%
6. Sky Broadband 12.1Mbps 13.2Mbps 8.33%

Mobile Operators

Meanwhile Mobile Broadband (3G and 4G) performance among the four primary operators has continued to improve at a sharper pace and that’s largely thanks to the impact of faster 4G, which is being rapidly deployed across the UK.

In this field EE benefits from having had a head-start and so it’s no surprise to find that their superior 4G coverage is giving them a lead, but the others are slowly catching up. The operator’s recent win of a major Government Emergency Services Network contract and their related commitment to increase 4G landmass coverage to 95% of the UK by 2020 (99.8% population coverage) also looks set to keep them above their rivals for a little while longer.

The Fastest Mobile Operators – Download Speed

No. Operator 2016 H1 Result 2015 Result Change
1. EE 21.6Mbps 18.3Mbps +18.03%
2. Vodafone 17.6Mbps 14.3Mbps +23.08%
3. Three UK 13.6Mbps 11.4Mbps +19.3%
4. O2 12.8Mbps 12Mbps +6.67%

The Fastest Mobile Operators – Upload Speed

No. Operator 2016 H1 Result 2015 Result Change
1. EE 4.4Mbps 4.2Mbps +4.76%
2. Vodafone 3.7Mbps 3.1Mbps +19.35%
3. Three UK 3.6Mbps 3.1Mbps +16.13%
4. O2 3.1Mbps 2.6Mbps +19.23%

Disclaimer: It’s always important to take average speeds like those mentioned above 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 provider’s ability to control (e.g. slow wi-fi 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.

Readers can conduct a test of their Internet connection performance via our Speedtest Page, which will also contain a simplified summary of the above data.

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Mark Jackson
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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8 Responses
  1. Avatar J Haseltine

    EE only have limited mobile broadband. Up to the end of last year I was a caravanner – it was rare to get a useable signal for my mobile wifi. This year I have been at a hotel on the Isle of Wight – 2g only. Then at a hotel at Nantwich, where the EE coverage checker shows 4g – no signal.
    I think that the claim of being the bst should be withdrawn.

    • It’s proven with a considerably wider sample than two locations in your experience. If it were an illegitimate claim I’m pretty sure the other mobile operators would’ve put the complaints in.

  2. Avatar Evan Crissall

    We’re on the road quite a bit too and EE does seem pretty flaky; and unreliable even where you’d expect a good signal like motorway service stations.

    EE’s pie-eyed claims of performance and coverage have gotten a lot worse lately. In fact since BT took them over controversially.

    Of course, goes with the territory for BT – making foot-loose and fancy-free promises with little risk of reproval from Oftel or the ASA.

    Look at BT and its fanciful promises over broadband coverage, and its claims about its HomeHub and its incredible wifi performance! Plus ça change.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Different name , same troll. You so enhance this site, you really do

    • Avatar Ignition

      Right. The absolute first thing BT did with EE was intentionally degrade the service. Much the same as ntl intentionally degraded the Telewest service the moment they merged.

      Seems legit despite that both were in the case of Telewest and will in the case of EE be run independently for a while as far as the engineering side goes.

      Consolidation happens first in common areas. BT didn’t run mobile masts so can’t really consolidate EE’s RF engineers into their group, only backhaul which doesn’t impact on signal and will have contracts to run.

    • Avatar Ignition

      Incidentally Oftel haven’t existed for a decade and the ASA regularly slap BT’s wrists. Unfortunately all they can do is tell them not to repeat the ads.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @Even Crissall: Please ignore this so-called ‘FibreFred’, he constantly violates the ISPReview forum rules. As regards EE: They used to have a better service in our area a year ago, I wouldn’t use them for new contracts any more. Unfortunately, with only 3 other remaining providers left there won’t be much of a choice.

  3. Avatar Karl

    I have not used EE directly but have a family member which uses Post Office Mobile which is a EE virtual Operator and they have much better signal than when they were with Tesco Mobile who use O2.

    Previously in their back garden with Tesco Mobile they had no signal at all, through the rest of the house was fine (no 4G though). With Post Office Mobile they get a solid consistent signal both in the garden and the rest of the house, along with faster speeds with regards to data.

    They are quite sad that Post Office Mobile is closing down at the beginning of August this year and are looking for another reasonably priced virtual EE operator.

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