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2019 vs 2015 Netflix UK Video Streaming Broadband ISP Speed Index

Monday, Dec 30th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 8,737
netflix uk unlimited broadband movie streaming

It’s that time of the year again when we take a look back to see how video streaming speeds by different broadband ISPs have changed for UK users of Netflix’s popular internet movie and TV service, which this year adds the impact from Vodafone’s fixed line service and oddly splits TalkTalk’s “fibre” and “DSL” connections.

As usual we find that the performance – measured during November of each year – across all of the largest UK home broadband providers has only increased a little over the past 12 months. Indeed the average speed (Megabits per second) for most providers is still struggling to push much above 4Mbps (Megabits per second) and we’ll come back to that later.

Otherwise the fastest UK provider by Netflix continues to be cable and fibre optic operator Virgin Media, which delivered a top streaming speed of 4.48Mbps. Meanwhile TalkTalk’s DSL network came bottom on 3.38Mbps but confusingly they’ve now split TalkTalk’s “DSL” and “Fibre” networks into two, although the latter could easily mean FTTC (VDSL2) or FTTH (we don’t think they have enough FTTH users to register a proper score).

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The other big change this year has been the addition of Vodafone to the table, which appears to reflect the results of their FTTC and FTTH customers (mostly FTTC as their FTTH coverage via Cityfibre remains tiny).

ISP 2019 2018 2015
Virgin Media 4.48Mbps 4.30Mbps 3.98Mbps
BT 4.45Mbps 4.22Mbps 3.78Mbps
TalkTalk Fibre (FTTC/H) 4.36Mbps no data no data
EE 4.24Mbps 3.97Mbps 3.27Mbps
Plusnet 4.13Mbps 4.01Mbps 3.48Mbps
Sky Broadband 4.13Mbps 3.86Mbps 3.33Mbps
Vodafone 4.12Mbps no data no data
TalkTalk (Combined) no data 3.79Mbps 3.42Mbps
TalkTalk DSL 3.38Mbps no data no data

However the above results must be given the correct context because they’re essentially just a measure of Netflix’s own 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 like 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 who are viewing content in either a low video quality SD (Standard Definition), higher quality HD (High Definition 720p+) or even a 4K (UltraHD) bitrate stream.

Crucially Netflix offers three packages (Basic – £5.99, Standard – £8.99 and Premium – £11.99) 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 4K streaming on 4 devices. This is important because the transfer speed requirements are influenced by content quality.

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Netflix’s Recommended 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 above suggest that the majority of Netflix users are streaming videos at HD and SD, which is reflected in why most of the scores hover around 4Mbps+. But the results can also be impacted by other factors including video codecs / compression (i.e. bitrates 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 or 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 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. South Korea is one of the fastest countries in the world for broadband but its top ISP is LG U+ at 4.35Mbps).

Ultimately the usefulness of Netflix’s data is questionable and the streaming giant might do better to display extra details, such as by splitting out 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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
15 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Barry says:

    Where is Vodafone in the list of Broadband Providers. They offer 76Mbps with an average of 60ish and cost of £20

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Look at the table, they’re already listed.

  2. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:

    I would expect to see VM at the top as invariably they are streaming via their box and by default directly connected by the COAX. Similarly for BT many of the older TV boxes only have a wired connection inferring users are using either a direct cable to the router or Powerline (or similar). The users of Netflix are likely to be the same mix for all providers and many of these providers have dedicated capacity to Netflix. As you have separated TT FTTC and DSL the TT DSL are lower as most of these users will probably only attempt SD.

    The only conclusion I draw is that like broadband packages consumers remain cost conscious and therefore do not necessarily go for the premium products and this may remain the case even if they had Ultra/Giga.

    1. Avatar photo mike says:

      The default for the V6 box is to use your home wifi. They removed the dedicated connection the older TiVo had.

    2. Avatar photo beany says:

      The coax connection on the V6 Virgin box is only used for the broadcast TV side of things and playback of any DRM protected recordings (looks for subscription token).

      Any app content including Netflix and Youtube uses an internet connection, no different to any other provider including BT.

      The internet connection on a V6 box is delivered over wifi or wired which you are given a choice of during setup and can be altered within the settings.

      The general tiny difference of just 0.25 to about 0.5Mb in the speed results between providers are more likely down to how people are watching in the home rather than any quality of the ISP. (EG of whatever number of connections tested a few more may be watching via wifi on one provider over another or many including VM users may not be using the supplied box for Netflix watching, its quite possible they have a second Smart TV in another room and are watching Netflix on that and would not need the TV box at all).

      The v6 box has an Ethernet port just like any half decent TV box. NO bandwidth is “dedicated capacity” just for Netflix from any provider AFAIK. Some may Traffic prioritise it, but “dedicated capacity” nope.

    3. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      As these guys said there is no cable modem in the v6 box. This is for very, very good reasons.

      There is a separate service flow for the v6 on the VM Hub just as there is for phone service, so downloading doesn’t impact VoD.

  3. Avatar photo A_Builder says:

    The other thing may be that users are on a 4K screen and subscription but the ISP is throttling the bandwidth and the end user is then watching upscaled SD…….without realising they are being prevented from getting what they paid for. As Netflix does automatically drop down, picture wise, to whatever the connection will support.

    Just a thought.

    Most VM users will be using native VM products.

    So the underlying data may be skewed.

    1. Avatar photo beany says:

      “Most VM users will be using native VM products.”

      I doubt that, if you look at the regularly quarterly figures for VM that pop up on here the TV side of things has the least amount of subs now, meaning most VM customers do not have a VM TV box at all.

    2. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Selectively throttling Netflix or indeed anything else is a no-no in the EU. The UK has implemented this and it’s accordingly monitored by Ofcom.

      https://www.ofcom.org.uk/research-and-data/internet-and-on-demand-research/net-neutrality

    3. Avatar photo A_Builder says:

      @CarlT

      Agreed it is not allowed.

      The data looks suspiciously flat to me.

      Everyone has at least a 1080 HD TV now and unless you are using an ancient steaming device it will be pulling HD so I’m a bit mystified by the low bandwidths.

      I take it there are no subscription breakdown stats? Seems odd that you would deliberately feed a TV a low quality input than it should have.

    4. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Combination of subscription changes and use of mobile devices / tablets with sub-1080p as default resolution perhaps.

      Either way it’s the same all over the place it seems so not down to a particular ISP manipulating things.

  4. Avatar photo mike says:

    Would be more interesting if they published data from fast.com

  5. Avatar photo Trudy Awflame says:

    The results will also reflect ISPs caching of Netflix (OpenConnect); do they do it? where to the place their caches? right at the edge/metro or in the core etc etc

    1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      VM use a few backbone sites to host CDN cache farms.

      Mileage of other ISPs may vary but you’d need to have a lot of traffic and access to a lot of colo space to have OpenConnect make sense at the edge or metro.

    2. Avatar photo Roger_Gooner says:

      VM makes use of Akamai’s servers. When someone requests content for the first time on their mobile device it will come from the Langley headend and be cached by Akamai’s CDN. Subsequent requests will come from the CDN straight from their edge server.

Comments are closed

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