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The Top 2018 vs 2017 Fastest UK Mobile and Home Broadband ISPs

Thursday, December 27th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 13,843

We’ve looked back at 2018 to see how the average download and upload speeds have changed across national fixed line broadband ISPs and mobile operators, although it’s no surprise to find that Virgin Media (fixed) and EE (mobile) are still front runners. But the picture changes when alternative “full fibre” ISPs are included.

Service speeds tend to rise for several reasons, with two of the biggest factors reflecting the impact of increased coverage by faster connectivity technologies and associated take-up by consumers. As such it’s useful to note that fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) connections have slightly increased their coverage, going from 95% of UK premises at the end of 2017 to around 96% now.

Broadly speaking 2018 has also witnessed the first solid year of growth for a new generation of “ultrafast broadband” (100Mbps+) class technologies, particularly hybrid fibre G.fast and Gigabit capable “full fibre” (FTTP/H) networks. Prior to this year the ultrafast connectivity market was dominated by Virgin’s cable network but that is now starting to change, albeit slowly.

One issue is that so far the actual coverage of “ultrafast” services has only risen from around 53% at the end of 2017 to 56% now, which is partly because a lot of the new infrastructure tends to be focused on commercial urban areas and is thus overbuilding existing networks (e.g. Virgin vs Openreach vs Hyperoptic vs Cityfibre). At the same time Virgin has been slowly expanding their network too.

Nevertheless the roll-out of such services is still at an early stage, which means that for the time being the established market for slower hybrid fibre (FTTC) and copper based broadband products continues to dominate. As a result the improvements in average speeds seen below continues to be fairly gradual.

Meanwhile it’s a similar story where mobile operators are concerned, not least because 4G population coverage has been at a mature level since the end of 2017. Meanwhile on-going improvements in geographic coverage are welcome, but they won’t influence the overall performance results as much. But we may see future improvements due to better use of existing spectrum and 5G upgrades from 2019/20.

Data Caveats: Every home is different and speedtests can be affected by all sorts of issues, such as slow WiFi, limitations of the test itself, local network congestion and user package choice (e.g. an ISP may offer 1Gbps but a lot of people will still choose a slower / cheaper tier). The results do not reflect network availability.

The Fastest Fixed Line Broadband ISPs

The following data stems from by Thinkbroadband‘s database (including our Broadband Speedtest) and we only include 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 show a few examples of the fastest altnets below the main table.

Take note that the 4-5 slowest ISPs usually have a higher proportion of users on older 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 speedtest based data like this can show.

NOTE: The top 10% result (below in brackets) represents the speed experienced by the fastest 10% of users on each ISP. The results are in ‘Megabits per second’ and averages are in ‘mean’. Data for each year was processed in early December.

Average Download Speeds – Top 10

No. Operator 2018 (Top 10%) 2017 (Top 10%) Change %
1. Virgin Media 69.4Mbps (142.2Mbps) 62.1Mbps (129.5Mbps) 11.76%
2. AAISP 55.1Mbps (74.3Mbps) 38.2Mbps (72.8Mbps) 44.24%
3. Zen Internet 39.7Mbps (73.4Mbps) 31.4Mbps (68.5Mbps) 26.43%
4. iDNET 36.5Mbps (70.8Mbps) 31.9Mbps (68.2Mbps) 14.42%
5. Vodafone 31.5Mbps (58.6Mbps) 25.1Mbps (43.9Mbps) 25.5%
6. BT 31.1Mbps (63Mbps) 27.9Mbps (62.3Mbps) 11.47%
7. Plusnet 23.8Mbps (50.5Mbps) 21.6Mbps (45.2Mbps) 10.19%
8. EE 22.6Mbps (46Mbps) 16.9Mbps (36.2Mbps) 33.73%
9. Sky Broadband 20.3Mbps (37.1Mbps) 16.1Mbps (35.1Mbps) 26.09%
10. TalkTalk 19.9Mbps (37.8Mbps) 16.6Mbps (36.9Mbps) 19.88%

Average Upload Speeds – Top 10

No. Operator 2018 2017 Change %
1. AAISP 17.8Mbps 10Mbps 78%
2. Zen Internet 11Mbps 8Mbps 37.5%
3. iDNET 8.4Mbps 8.1Mbps 3.7%
4. Virgin Media 8Mbps 7.4Mbps 8.11%
5. Vodafone 7.9Mbps 6.6Mbps 19.7%
6. BT 7.2Mbps 6.6Mbps 9.09%
7. EE 5.3Mbps 3.7Mbps 43.24%
8. Plusnet 5.2Mbps 3.9Mbps 33.33%
9. Sky Broadband 4.6Mbps 3.5Mbps 31.43%
10. TalkTalk 4.5Mbps 3.7Mbps 21.62%

Overall the average download speed of the top ten national providers was 34.99Mbps (up from 28.78Mbps at the end of 2017) and the average upload speed hit 7.99Mbps (up from 6.15Mbps). Not a lot has changed over the past 12 months, other than the broadly upward performance trend.

In terms of performance, Virgin Media is still the fastest widely available national operator for downloads, which is thanks to the strength of their cable (EuroDOCSIS) network that can currently deliver ultrafast broadband to over half of UK premises. But their network is weaker when it comes to uploads, which can easily be beaten by some of the cheaper FTTC (VDSL2) packages on Openreach’s network.

The biggest speed increase over the period was recorded by AAISP, although we’d take this with a pinch of salt because they’re also the smallest ISP in the table (i.e. smaller sample size) and so it doesn’t take much for their position to fluctuate.

Now flick over to page 2 to see how the fastest alternative network ISPs and mobile operators performed.

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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
8 Responses
  1. Sheila says:

    You’ve missed from the list my broadband supplier – beeline broadband – which is far superior for me – with BT et al I was getting less than 2mbps but with beeline signal strength is 75mbps if I want to upgrade but current 9mbps is sufficient for my needs

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Beeline isn’t a nationally available ISP (it’s a location specific wireless provider) and we don’t have any average speeds data for them.

  2. Clem Dye says:

    It’s about time that ISPs got rid of “ADSL” thinking. Fast uploads are now just as important as fast downloads. Until we see better upload performance from all the providers, be they fixed or mobile in nature, use of cloud services as a true storage component will remain hampered.

    1. Meadmodj says:

      Asynchronous is common across the world and reflects research (at that time) to provide cheaper networks and balance the bandwidth more for upload whether DSL or GPON. As the price of synchronous kit is getting cheaper and faster the need is diminishing and congestion as ONTs await an allocated upload slot becomes a noticeable overhead. The Altnets appear to be going straight for symmetrical which keeps their network designs simple. OR will migrate to symmetrical as the market dictates being able to mix and match in future possibly offering a premium upload product even on the older kit.

      However there will always be commercial pressure to ensure differential between domestic and commercial. Even if the line speeds are giga in both directions the upload for domestic use can still be impacted depending on the network settings and backhaul upload capacity provided by the ISP. We have yet to see how the Altnets networks will perform when they become more loaded. There are both commercial and technical reasons why OR and VM use asynchronous for domestic and small business.

      If you are still using local client based computing then you are not really using cloud techniques. Local secure storage can synch over time. Many companies can survive quite effectively on Google/Cloud apps etc on relatively low speeds. High speed is always nice but not always necessary, its how you use it. Synchronous FTTH going forward will provide consumers with burst uploads for videos etc but if commercial performance is needed then those users need to pay for it.

  3. Joe says:

    Without subdividing to connection type the noise overwhelms the data

  4. Morsie Louati says:

    Do you have anything similar to this but for ping and lag. High speeds are awesome but I game a lot and always looking for the lowest ping and lag.

  5. Meadmodj says:

    Figures will always be distorted based on the percentage of high FTTH and low ADSL populations a particular ISP has. Most consumers are more interested in the speed they can get in a cost band. Therefore a better comparison going forward may be for each broadband category band of Standard, Superfast, Ultrafast and Giga.

  6. Matt says:

    I would guess for the larger ISP’s (BT, Sky etc) their larger volume of customers on really slow connections is going to distort the figures anyway. Its still the case in some areas that some ISP’s just don’t consider it worth it to provide to some areas on the open reach network because its so slow but the likes of BT ususally will even if their average speed is below 1Mb etc.

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