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H1-2017 – The Top 10 Fastest National UK Home Broadband and Mobile ISPs

Monday, June 26th, 2017 (1:03 am) - Score 30,620
internet download and upload speed arrows

The first half of 2017 has seen another rise in average fixed line broadband download speeds to 28.21Mbps, albeit mostly fuelled by the on-going migration of consumers from older ADSL lines and on to newer “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services. Meanwhile EE is still king for Mobile Broadband.

Since the end of last year there have been a number of key developments in the industry and some of these will impact the latest results. Firstly, faster cable (DOCSIS) and “fibre” based (FTTC/H/P) broadband lines have expanded to cover an estimated 93% of UK premises and more than half of all subscribers now take such a service (i.e. older / slower ADSL lines are in decline).

On top of that Virgin has once again boosted their top consumer broadband speeds to 300Mbps and the operator’s entry-level package has also been lifted to 100Mbps (this change is very recent and so won’t have much of an impact upon today’s results), which is the point that many people consider to be the start of the “ultrafast” generation of Internet access technologies.

Elsewhere Openreach has begun to ramp up their roll-out of ultrafast FTTP broadband to 2 million premises by 2020 (there’s also talk of them possibly doing 10 million by around 2025) and they’ve largely completed the deployment of their G.fast pilot to over 100,000 premises (speeds of up to 330Mbps). Neither of these have reached mass market coverage and so won’t be having a big impact on the results below.

Finally, 4G (Mobile Broadband) network coverage has continued to increase, albeit not quite as rapidly as in previous years because the population coverage is finally reaching maturity (98%). Mobile operators have also continued to upgrade their 4G+ performance, which in several UK cities can now deliver speeds of 400Mbps+ (here); albeit only under good conditions.

The Fastest UK Broadband Providers (H1 2017)

As usual our scores are based on data extracted 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, although we do highlight some of them later on.

On top of that it’s vital to note that ISPs which have a greater proportion of “superfast” (24Mbps+) or “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) 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 now 100Mbps and thus they tend to pull ahead of others).

By comparison the slowest 4-5 ISPs usually have a higher proportion of subscribers on older and slower copper ADSL lines, which suppresses their standing and this is partly 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.

Lest we forget that slow WiFi and local network congestion (e.g. running a speedtest at the same time as somebody else is downloading a big file / patch), among other things, can also impact the results.

NOTE: The top 10% result below represents the speeds experienced by the fastest 10% of customers on each ISP.

Average Download Speeds (Top 10)

No. Operator   2017 H1 (Top 10%) 2016 H2 (Top 10%) Change
1. Virgin Media 54.7Mbps (109.2Mbps) 50.9Mbps (103.5Mbps) 7.47%
2. AAISP 40.6Mbps (74Mbps) 31.7Mbps (73.3Mbps) 28.08%
3. IDNet 33.2Mbps (67.1Mbps) 24.5Mbps (67Mbps) 35.51%
4. Zen Internet 31.6Mbps (71.4Mbps) 26.7Mbps (65.1Mbps) 18.35%
5. Vodafone 27.9Mbps (51.6Mbps) 28.9Mbps (55.1Mbps) 3.46%
6. BT 25.9Mbps (52.1Mbps) 24Mbps (51.3Mbps) 7.92%
7. Plusnet 20.8Mbps (47.8Mbps) 18.4Mbps (43.1Mbps) 13.04%
8. EE 16.9Mbps (36.3Mbps) 13.7Mbps (34.8Mbps) 23.36%
9. TalkTalk 15.7Mbps (36.4Mbps) 14.2Mbps (34.7Mbps) 10.56%
10. Sky Broadband 14.8Mbps (33.6Mbps) 13.3Mbps (31.9Mbps) 11.28%

Average Upload Speeds (Top 10)

No. Operator 2017 H1 Result
2016 H2 Result Change
2. AAISP 10.1Mbps 7.5Mbps 34.67%
1. Vodafone 8.6Mbps 8.4Mbps 2.38%
3. Zen Internet 8.5Mbps 7Mbps 21.43%
4. IDNet 7.5Mbps 6.5Mbps 15.38%
5. Virgin Media 6.9Mbps 6.3Mbps 9.52%
6. BT 6.1Mbps 5.7Mbps 7.02%
7. EE 4.5Mbps 3.4Mbps 32.35%
8. Plusnet 3.9Mbps 3.3Mbps 18.18%
9. Sky Broadband 3.6Mbps 3Mbps 20%
10. TalkTalk 2.4Mbps 1.9Mbps 26.32%

Overall the average download speed of the top ten national providers was 28.21Mbps (up from 24.63Mbps at the end of 2016) and the average upload speed also hit 6.21Mbps (up from 5.3Mbps). Some will immediately note that the only ISP to record a decrease in performance was Vodafone, although we’re not reading too much into that because they’ve only recently entered the market and unusual fluctuations are to be expected.

At this point it’s worth taking a look at how smaller alternative network (altnet) providers compare with the mainstream national ISPs. Sadly most altnets only have a comparatively niche level of network coverage and sample speedtest data, which means that we can’t offer a very comprehensive list.

Altnets by Average Speed H1 2017 vs H2 2016

Operator Download Result 2017 (2016) Upload Result 2017 (2016)
Top 10% Down 2017  (2016)
Hyperoptic 102.6Mbps (78.9Mbps) 85.8Mbps (66.4Mbps) 293.5Mbps (171Mbps)
Gigaclear 83Mbps (64.4Mbps) 85.7Mbps (62.5Mbps) 177.2Mbps (104.8Mbps)
KCOM 43.6Mbps (32.1Mbps) 10.7Mbps (8.6Mbps) 92.7Mbps (80.1Mbps)

All of the above providers use ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP/H) technology, which can deliver Gigabit speeds. However not everybody chooses the fastest package offered by each ISP (e.g. Hyperoptic offers packages from 20Mbps upwards) and ultrafast connections are also much more likely to be impacted by the limitations of other technologies (e.g. WiFi or older Ethernet standards).

Likewise KCOM may have a large FTTP network, although many of their customers are still using much slower ADSL2+ services and a little FTTC. Once again all of these factors combine to drag down the performance. Never the less it’s clear to see that there’s a huge difference in speed between the largely hybrid-fibre dominated national networks and these pure fibre optic altnets.

The Top Fastest Mobile Network Operators

Generally speaking the fastest Mobile Network Operator (MNO) is usually the one with the best 4G coverage and unsurprisingly that puts EE ahead of the pack, although this may change as the others catch-up and upgrade their networks accordingly. Interestingly not a lot has changed over the past six months and only Vodafone registered a strong improvement in download speed.

The story for upload performance is more positive, albeit only when looking at the percentages (i.e. going from 3.1Mbps to 3.5Mbps on O2 won’t make a huge difference to how your actually connection feels).

Average Download Speeds

No. Operator 2017 H1 (Top 10%)
2016 H2
1. EE 27.7Mbps (57.4Mbps) 27.4Mbps 1.09%
2. Vodafone 18Mbps (38.1Mbps) 16.3Mbps 10.43%
3. O2 14.4Mbps (32.2Mbps) 14.4Mbps tied 0%
4. Three UK 14.3Mbps (35.5Mbps) 14.4Mbps tied 0.69%

Average Upload Speeds

No. Operator 2017 H1
2016 H2
1. EE 6.1Mbps 5.3Mbps 15.09%
2. Three UK 4.3Mbps 3.7Mbps 16.22%
3. Vodafone 3.7Mbps 3.5Mbps 5.71%
4. O2 3.5Mbps 3.1Mbps 12.9%

Overall the average download speed of the top mobile providers is 18.6Mbps (up from 18.12Mbps at the end of 2016) and the average upload speed also hit 4.4Mbps (up from 3.9Mbps).

Disclaimer: It’s important to take average speeds, like those reported 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.

Mobile connections are also particularly subject to the daily movements and radically differing hardware choices (Smartphones etc.) of their end-users, which makes it especially difficult to establish a reliable picture of performance across each network.

Finally, readers can conduct a test of their Internet connection performance via our Speedtest Page, which also contains a simplified summary of the above data including a longer historic comparison; this reflects the fact that we tend to update our service speed data every 6 months.

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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.
Leave a Comment
11 Responses
  1. Avatar Simon

    obile operators have also continued to upgrade their 4G+ performance, which in several UK cities can now deliver speeds of 400Mbps+ (here); albeit only under perfect conditions.

    Really? I got 452mbps yesterday whilst sitting in Cardiff Castle under my sun shade.. Perfect in many ways – but not of those you speak of.

    • Why wouldn’t that qualify as broadly perfect conditions for the network? I’m guessing the local network was under limited load and you had a strong signal, which would be about as perfect as you can get for consumer mobile.

  2. Avatar dragoneast

    I can never make any sense of these speed tests. Just out of curiosity (because as long as my internet handles what I want it to, what use is a speedtest – I’ve better things to do with my time) I try one occasonially and it’s pathetic. It says I have a few MB download and kpbs upload – which if it were true I couldn’t do the things I do on my connection. Only I’m using the connection. Do a check, second test, and it comes out as around 30Mbps download and 6 upload, which is what it “should” be, and what my router suggests too. It’s a wired, not wifi connection, though the latter makes no difference anyway, and there are few competing connections around showing up on my router (2 at max in the same frequencies).

    Try it on the mobile and it suggests I have 70Mbps/40Mbps and more, on a connection capped at 35/6! Or not, as the case may be! About as much use as sticking my finger in the air. I suspect they are works of fiction. OK, I know they’re not; but they aren’t perfect either despite your and TBBs best hype. OK they’re the best we’ve got, if you want that sort of thing; and most importantly it gives us something to talk about. (I sometimes wonder if the home internet business would collapse without speedtests). Which, let’s face it, is all that matters. Bragging rights for the kids: “mine is bigger than yours!”.

    • Avatar dragoneast

      I did have this discussion with Andrew at TBB, who blamed that I wasn’t using his approved browsers! Notwithstanding it “works” sometimes, I tied his approved browser with the same result! Then decided I was too much in danger of becoming another addict!!! Cold turkey time methinks.

    • On the approved browser side, I don’t recall the conversation, but have seen people with versions forked off from older firefox versions that can have issues, but developing and resolving those issues is not straightforward, particularly when for some browser versions we see are just a handful of visitors per month.

      So while you have the freedom to say ‘I suspect they are works of fiction’ I dispute that assertion based on the work that has gone into development and actual testing in various scenarios.

      Keeping independent testing alive is important, especially if the broadband advertising world is about to change as people will want to check if what they bought is at all like what they were sold.

    • Avatar ultraspeedy

      Why are you even looking at the useragent string (atleast i assume thats what you are doing) in the first place for people speedtesting. Seems even more dumb when your 2 different types of speedtest seems to be more dependent on Java script and Shockwave/flash.

  3. Avatar Cwallis

    On is Wight wireless is gaining traction blinding speeds in e xcess of 3.5 mps.one major advantage of this company NO Line Rental!

  4. Avatar PaulM

    NO real shock who the top 5 and bottom 5 ISPs were.

  5. Avatar Andrew

    Given that all of the providers (apart from Virgin) are resellers of Openreach connections, then really what is being highlighted is the difference in the customers they are selling to (i.e packages they take) rather than differences between them. Agree that there can be issues on providers backhaul contention, but doubt this is really helping to identify that.

    • Avatar alan

      Perhaps you should inform the entire Thinkbroadband team speed testing is pointless and there is no real difference across the providers.

    • Avatar PaulM

      Perhaps he also doesn’t know sky offer a 3db profile where as thats still being rolled out by BT. So dunno how he things things on the Openreach network equals same performance. Im sure Talk Talk will be glad to hear they perform just as well as others though.

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