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Netflix UK – 2017 vs 2016 Video Streaming Broadband ISP Speed Index

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017 (12:01 am) - Score 6,243

Internet Movie and TV video streaming giant Netflix UK has recently published the most recent edition of their broadband ISP speed index, which reveals that cable operator Virgin Media continues to be the fastest provider for their service in 2017. But being the fastest isn’t all that important.

Overall some readers may be surprised to note that the performance across all of the major broadband providers (measured during November 2017) has only increased a little bit since the last summary at the end of 2016 and the average speed (Megabits per second) continues to remain below the 4Mbps mark, but there’s a very good reason for that.

ISP 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
Virgin Media 3.94Mbps 3.77Mbps 3.98Mbps 3.49Mbps 2.99Mbps
BT 3.83Mbps 3.71Mbps 3.78Mbps 3.19Mbps 2.66Mbps
Plusnet 3.64Mbps 3.44Mbps 3.48Mbps no data no data
EE 3.52Mbps 3.31Mbps 3.27Mbps 2.82Mbps 2.32Mbps
TalkTalk 3.47Mbps 3.33Mbps 3.42Mbps 2.81Mbps 2.35Mbps
Sky Broadband 3.47Mbps 3.31Mbps 3.33Mbps 2.87Mbps 2.44Mbps

Netflix’s speed index needs to be given the correct context because it’s essentially just a measure of the service’s own “prime time” video streaming performance. Put another way, the index should never be taken as a table that reflects the actual capability of your own broadband connection.

The reason the speeds are so low is because they’re being influenced by a number of key factors, not least the proportion of subscribers that are viewing content in either a low bit-rate SD (Standard Definition), higher quality HD (High Definition 720p+) or even 4K (Ultra HD) stream. NOTE: Netflix formally began rolling out 4K during 2014-2015.

Crucially Netflix offers three packages (Basic – £5.99, Standard – £7.99 and Premium – £9.99) and the most popular ones are the cheapest two. However, the ‘Basic’ plan only supports SD quality streaming on 1 device, while ‘Standard’ supports HD streaming on 2 devices and ‘Premium’ supports HD and 4K (UltraHD) streaming on 4 devices. This is crucial because the transfer speed requirements are influenced by content quality.

Netflix’s Recommended Internet Connection Speeds
* 0.5Mbps – Required broadband connection speed
* 1.5Mbps – Recommended broadband connection speed
* 3.0Mbps – Recommended for SD quality
* 5.0Mbps – Recommended for HD quality
* 25Mbps – Recommended for Ultra HD quality

In other words the results from each ISP suggest that the majority of Netflix users are streaming videos at HD and SD, which is reflected in why most of the scores hover within the 3-4Mbps range. However the results can also be impacted by video codecs and compression (i.e. bit-rates vary as the video stream changes), slow home WiFi and any ISP-side Traffic Management measures etc.

Similarly ISPs that offer significantly faster speeds are perhaps likely to represent Netflix users with a greater proportion of HD or even 4K accounts, thus it’s no surprise that Virgin Media come top of the big boys because their entry-level package is a respectable 50-100Mbps.

Over time the rising uptake of faster broadband connections and 4K screens should push the results upwards, although this could be countered by future price hikes that may cause users to downgrade on to a lower tier. The results from other countries also tend to be very similar to the UK (e.g. the fastest ISP in the USA is Comcast on 3.96Mbps, while in Singapore the top speed of 3.95Mbps goes to StarHub Fibre).

As such the usefulness of Netflix’s data is questionable and the streaming giant might do better to display extra details, such as the difference in performance between SD, HD and 4K streaming, as well as at different times of the day (e.g. peak vs off-peak).

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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
9 Responses
  1. Avatar Simon says:

    I cancelled my subs on Xmas day – Had Ultra HD but felt it was no longer worth the value. Might re visit in future.

    1. Avatar AndyC says:

      Agree’d, im considering dropping to HD as well as there just is not the content to justify the price (you tube has far more 4k content and its free!)

      the fact the new star trek series is not even in 4k and yet they are showing ghostbusters2 in 4k…… come on

      4k to me is starting to look like how 3D was supposed to be the big thing but was let down by next to no support.

    2. Avatar Asrab says:

      4K Will get mainstream support – just a matter of time, how else will they justify a faster broadband package and higher price for premium content ?

    3. Avatar h42422 says:

      How was your 4K picture quality with Netflix? I am not sure what I am doing wrong, but for me it is horrible. Speed is not the issue (TV measuring 150-180Mbps or something like that, Hyperoptic 150Mbps connection). TV is Sony 65XD9305 that supports 4K and HDR.

      I have tried with the Android client on TV and also Apple tv 4k and Netflix client there. Apple TV 4k screensaver videos are pin sharp, but 4K HDR movies are plain awful. The picture is so grainy it makes watching anything almost unbearable. Especially areas with a lot of lighter colours (sky, clouds, walls painted white) exhibit a huge amount of noise that is not there if watching content only available in HD quality. I have changed quality to “best” from “auto” in Netflix preferences, but it does not seem to matter.

      I am considering a downgrade just because of that. HD looks so much better than 4K and I cannot understand why.

    4. Avatar AndyC says:

      when the content is filmed in 4k from the off the quality is very good, the big problem is when they “upscale” like they did with GB2, that looks horrid, there is lots of places where you can see “blocking/artifacting” especially for me in the sewer scene.

      to put that in context i also watched the new russell howard stand-up which was crystal clear with no issues at all.

      We have a LG smart tv (forget the number at the moment) running cabled on infinity2 (80meg sync) via the not so smart hub until i can decide what to replace it with).

      all i can suggest is to check your app can contact all the servers, with the 4k sub im showing the login server and 4 content servers listed by the app.

  2. Avatar Jigsy says:

    If 3.0Mbps is required for SD quality, doesn’t making 0.5 Mbps a requirement in general kind of redundant?

    1. Avatar Matt says:

      Recommended**

  3. Avatar blueacid says:

    @h42422 – go to http://www.fast.com and check the speed you get there.
    That’s a speedtest from Netflix’s video servers – the speedtest uses exactly the same routes and servers as you’d likely use for Netflix video streaming.

    I find that my speed from there is around 30-40mbit, even getting 150mbit speedtests from elsewhere.

    150mbit on Hyperoptic in Manchester.

  4. Avatar Mixk says:

    Need to get season 6 of falling skies amediatley on Netflix

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