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The 2017 vs 2016 Top Fastest UK Home Broadband and Mobile Providers

Thursday, December 28th, 2017 (12:04 am) - Score 5,933
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We take a look back to see how much faster the national fixed line broadband ISPs and mobile (3G / 4G) network operators have become for download and upload speed over the past 12 months, which reveals that Virgin Media, Hyperoptic and EE continue to come top in the speed stakes.

As usual it’s crucial not to confuse speedtest based results, like those below, with network availability because take-up and other factors can have a big impact. At the end of 2017 some 95% of UK homes and businesses were estimated to be within reach of a “fixed superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) service and yet just under half of premises still take a slower ADSL line, which helps to drag down the results at some ISPs.

On top of that every home is different and speed can be affected by all sorts of issues, such as network congestion and this can be a particular problem at busy peak times (in order to offer an affordable service the capacity has to be shared between many users). Many other issues may also be beyond the provider’s ability to control (slow wifi, poor home wiring and the customer choice of package / speed etc.).

Similarly 4G mobile networks are approaching near universal levels of population coverage (c.97-98% of the UK), although in practice a lot of people may still connect via slower 3G data services and signal quality can be highly variable depending upon your location. Likewise 4G operators also have different amounts of radio spectrum and network maturity, which impacts their available performance.

Suffice to say that we do not consider the below data to be a reliable barometer for individual users, but it can help to highlight general changes in the market. Overall the ever expanding reach of faster networks and take-up means that we should be seeing a general upward curve as consumers adopt faster services and this appears to hold true.

The Fastest Fixed Line Broadband ISPs

The following results use data extracted from Thinkbroadband’s database (including our Broadband Speedtest) and we only cover independent providers with strong national availability. We would like to fully cover smaller alternative network (altnet) ISPs but they tend not to produce much data and aren’t available to the vast majority of premises, although we do display a few examples from altnets below the main table.

Take note that the 4-5 slowest ISPs usually have a higher proportion of users on old copper ADSL lines and this suppresses their standing. So please take such results with a pinch of salt because the market is a lot more complicated than speedtests can show. We also include an extra result to reveal the fastest 10% of connections at each ISP, which adds some useful context.

NOTE: The top 10% result, shown below inside brackets, represents the download speed experienced by the fastest 10% of customers on each ISP. Both the 2016 and 2017 results are based off data that was published during early December (Dec) of each year. All the results are in Megabits per second and the averages are ‘mean’ based.

Average Download Speeds (2017 vs 2016)

No. ISP 2017 (Top 10%) 2016 (Top 10%) Change
1. Virgin Media 62.1Mbps (129.5Mbps) 50.9Mbps (103.5Mbps) 22%
2. AAISP 38.2Mbps (72.8Mbps) 31.7Mbps (73.3Mbps) 20.5%
3. iDNET 31.9Mbps (68.2Mbps) 24.5Mbps (67Mbps) 30.2%
4. Zen Internet 31.4Mbps (68.5Mbps) 26.7Mbps (65.1Mbps) 17.6%
5. BT 27.9Mbps (62.3Mbps) 24Mbps (51.3Mbps) 16.25%
6. Vodafone 25.1Mbps (43.9Mbps) 28.9Mbps (55.1Mbps) -13.15%
7. Plusnet 21.6Mbps (45.2Mbps) 18.4Mbps (43.1Mbps) 17.39%
8. EE 16.9Mbps (36.2Mbps) 13.7Mbps (34.8Mbps) 23.36%
9. TalkTalk 16.6Mbps (36.9Mbps) 14.2Mbps (34.7Mbps) 16.9%
10. Sky Broadband 16.1Mbps (35.1Mbps) 13.3Mbps (31.9Mbps) 21.05%

Average Upload Speeds (2017 vs 2016)

No. ISP 2017 2016 Change
1. AAISP 10Mbps 7.5Mbps 33.33%
2. iDNET 8.1Mbps 6.5Mbps 24.62%
3. Zen Internet 8Mbps 7Mbps 14.29%
4. Virgin Media 7.4Mbps 6.3Mbps 17.46%
5. BT (Tied) 6.6Mbps 5.7Mbps 15.79%
6. Vodafone (Tied) 6.6Mbps 8.4Mbps -21.43%
7. Plusnet 3.9Mbps 3.3Mbps 18.18%
8. EE (Tied) 3.7Mbps 3.4Mbps 8.82%
9. TalkTalk (Tied) 3.7Mbps 1.9Mbps 94.74%
10. Sky Broadband 3.5Mbps 3Mbps 16.67%

Overall the average download speed of the top ten national providers was 28.78Mbps (up from 24.63Mbps at the end of 2016) and the average upload speed hit 6.15Mbps (up from 5.3Mbps).

Broadly speaking most ISPs have increased their overall performance since the end of last year, although Vodafone is the clear exception. Vodafone are still growing and have only been in the market for a fairly short time, which means their customer base may be more prone to fluctuations due to produce choice. On the other hand it may be no coincidence that they’ve also become one of the markets cheapest FTTC providers, which could run the risk of sacrificing service quality.

Obviously the reason why Virgin Media has such a commanding lead is because nearly all of the other providers are dominated by Openreach’s slower ‘up to’ 20Mbps ADSL and faster ‘up to’ 40-80Mbps FTTC (VDSL2) technologies, which can suffer from highly variable performance due to longer and less reliable copper lines.

By comparison Virgin’s Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H) based EuroDOCSIS network is able to offer much more stable and ultrafast speeds (up to 350Mbps) to around 50%+ of premises (urban areas). On top of that their entry-level package is a 50Mbps product and this makes a huge difference vs ADSL dominated ISPs, although their EuroDOCSIS technology does struggle with upload speed.

Now flip over to page 2 to see more analysis, as well as the fastest altnets and mobile operators..

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Paul.

    Something looks wrong with the Vodafone upload numbers. They can’t be slower this year yet have a +ve change.

  2. Neil Kean

    I signed up with SSE in november 2016 on any 18 month control and speed has never dropped below 70Mbps download and 20Mbps upload and all for £21 per month including line rental and calls. Only everything had excellent service with peak time drops of speed.

  3. Neil Kean

    Bloody predictive text!!
    I signed up with SSE in november 2016 on an 18 month control and speed has never dropped below 70Mbps download and 20Mbps upload and all for £21 per month including line rental and calls. Only ever had excellent service with no peak time drops of speed.

  4. Wujek Paweł

    Can’t see any difference in upload speed on my Vodafone line. Still 8.5Mbit/s as it was 8 months ago.

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