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Netflix UK’s 2018 to 2014 Video Streaming Broadband Speed Index

Monday, December 31st, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 5,791
netflix uk unlimited broadband movie streaming

Internet Movie and TV video streaming giant Netflix UK has recently published the latest update of their broadband ISP speed index, which reveals that cable operator Virgin Media is still the fastest provider for their service in 2018 and also going all the way back to 2014. But being the fastest here doesn’t really matter.

Overall some readers may be surprised to learn that the performance (measured during November of each year) across all of the largest home broadband providers has only increased a little over the past five years. Indeed the average speed (Megabits per second) per ISP is still struggling to push much above the 4Mbps (Megabits per second) mark.

As usual there’s a very good reason why we haven’t seen much change, but first here’s a look at the latest data.

ISP 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Virgin Media 4.30Mbps 3.94Mbps 3.77Mbps 3.98Mbps 3.49Mbps
BT 4.22Mbps 3.83Mbps 3.71Mbps 3.78Mbps 3.19Mbps
Plusnet 4.01Mbps 3.64Mbps 3.44Mbps 3.48Mbps no data
EE 3.97Mbps 3.52Mbps 3.31Mbps 3.27Mbps 2.82Mbps
Sky Broadband 3.86Mbps 3.47Mbps 3.31Mbps 3.33Mbps 2.87Mbps
TalkTalk 3.79Mbps 3.47Mbps 3.33Mbps 3.42Mbps 2.81Mbps

The speed index needs to be given the correct context because it’s essentially just a measure of Netflix’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 home broadband connection, although some other reports have incorrectly explained it as doing just that.

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 video quality SD (Standard Definition) bit-rate, higher quality HD (High Definition 720p+) or even a 4K (Ultra HD) stream.

NOTE: The service began rolling out 4K streams during 2014-2015, which shows above as a jump in the average speed.

Crucially Netflix offers three packages (Basic – £5.99, Standard – £7.99 and Premium – £9.99) and the most popular ones are usually 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 up to Ultra HD (4K) streaming on 4 devices. This is important 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. But the results can also be impacted by other factors including video codecs and compression (i.e. bit-rates vary as the video stream changes), slow home WiFi, home network congestion and any ISP-side Traffic Management measures etc.

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

Over time the rising uptake of faster broadband connections and Ultra HD 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 4.22Mbps, while in Singapore most ISPs are now FTTH and all hover around 4Mbps).

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). Sadly they’ve never provided that information or offered data for smaller ISPs.

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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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6 Responses
  1. Avatar Dave

    Some of the most pointless data I have ever seen.

    • Avatar Marty

      Pointless to you maybe. There ARE people who can understand why this is useful though.

    • Avatar Moses

      how is this pointless?

    • Avatar Spurple

      It is indeedpointless and the reasons are stated in the article. Your connection speed is irrelevant, the video bitrate is the key limiter, and otherwise, your subscription plan on Netflix isn’t even that important because the proportion of 4K content is minuscule albeit rising. Even their new original shows aren’t exclusively 4k or HDR.

      The Netflix data may as well say “a higher percentage of VM customers watch our small and growing collection of high-bitrate shows” which I think is a more plausible conclusion to draw from the article since according to other data, 80+ percentage of the UK can already stream Netflix in 4k HDR.

      When I read the article, I was like this is the anime equivalent of a filler episode, but I don’t really have a fair complaint since I’m not paying a subscription for this site.

    • Avatar Jonny

      Samknows can report figures for Netflix such as the time to start the stream, time to get to the full quality of the video being watched etc. Presumably Netflix collect even more detailed figures. Things like amount of buffering events during a video, video quality downgrades due to network, stream failures etc. as a percentage presented by ISP would probably do a better job at conveying the user experience being delivered.

    • Avatar joseph

      Samknows performance figures for UK ISPs rank them in pretty much the same order. Give or take a position or so.

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