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The Top 2019 vs 2018 Fastest UK Mobile and Home Broadband ISPs

Saturday, December 28th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 12,276
speed_test

We’re finishing 2019 by taking a look back over the year to see how average broadband ISP download and upload speeds have changed across the top national fixed line and mobile operators. Overall the picture remains one of gradual improvement but the rollout of 5G and “full fibre” (FTTP) will soon change that dynamic.

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 their associated take-up by consumers. In that sense Ofcom’s latest coverage data should help to put any performance rises into the correct context. Remember that full fibre networks can generally deliver Gigabit speeds (1000Mbps+).

fixed_broadband_coverage_may_2019

The new generation of 1000Mbps+ (Gigabit) capable “full fibre” (FTTP) networks has clearly seen its coverage rise from 5% of UK premises in May 2018 to around 8% in May 2019, which is an impressive rate of growth but it will take time for this gradually rising take-up and coverage to have a truly significant impact upon speedtest results.

NOTE: Ofcom has just published more recent data to September 2019 but sadly we ran out of time to update this article (here). Full fibre coverage is now 10%.

Arguably Virgin’s move to launch a 500Mbps package, as well as the start of their 1Gbps DOCSIS 3.1 technology rollout (here), could have an even more significant impact in the short to medium term. However it’s their recent boost to upload speeds for existing customers that has had the most noticeable impact this time around (more on that later).

Meanwhile 5G mobile has been rolling out since May 2019, although its coverage and take-up remains largely insignificant (i.e. not enough to hugely impact the results). Likewise many early deployments aren’t that much better than the most advanced 4G networks, although this should change as Ofcom releases more spectrum in 2020 and consumers adopt 5G handsets. By comparison 4G has already reached a fairly mature level of coverage.

Fastest Fixed Line Broadband ISPs (H2 2019)

The following data stems from Thinkbroadband‘s independent speedtest database (inc. ISPreview’s Broadband Speedtest) and we’ve only included independent ISPs with strong national availability. We would like to cover smaller alternative network ISPs too but they aren’t yet available to the majority of premises and thus don’t produce much data, but we have still added a few examples of the fastest altnets after the main results.

As usual there are some common caveats to consider with speedtest based results, not least that such scores are naturally more reflective of take-up than network availability. For example, some ISPs may have a much larger proportion of customers on slower pure copper ADSL lines, which can weigh against anybody on faster fibre lines with the same provider (i.e. pushing average speeds down).

Likewise speedtests can easily be affected by all sorts of issues within the home environment, such as slow WiFi, limitations of the tester itself, local network congestion and package choice (an ISP may offer 1Gbps but a lot of people will pick a slower / cheaper plan). As such these scores are really only good for observing general market change over time and MUST NOT be taken as a reflection of provider capability.

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 was processed at the start of December.

Average Download Speeds – Top 9

No. Operator 2019 (Top 10%) 2018 (Top 10%) Change %
1. Virgin Media 85.6Mbps (193.8Mbps) 69.4Mbps (142.2Mbps) 23.34%
2. Zen Internet 46.4Mbps (74.4Mbps) 39.7Mbps (73.4Mbps) 16.88%
3. iDNET 41.2Mbps (70.2Mbps) 36.5Mbps (70.8Mbps) 12.88%
4. Vodafone 38.2Mbps (67.7Mbps) 31.5Mbps (58.6Mbps) 21.27%
5. BT 35.1Mbps (66.8Mbps) 31.1Mbps (63Mbps) 12.86%
6. EE 27.6Mbps (57.4Mbps) 22.6Mbps (46Mbps) 22.12%
7. Sky Broadband 25.4Mbps (54.4Mbps) 20.3Mbps (37.1Mbps) 25.12%
8. TalkTalk 24.3Mbps (48.2Mbps) 19.9Mbps (37.8Mbps) 22.11%
9. Plusnet 24.2Mbps (50.5Mbps) 23.8Mbps (50.5Mbps) 1.68%
AAISP no data 55.1Mbps (74.3Mbps)

Average Upload Speeds – Top 9

No. Operator 2019 2018 Change %
1. Virgin Media 13.6Mbps 8Mbps 70%
2. Zen Internet 13Mbps 11Mbps 18.18%
3. iDNET 10.8Mbps 8.4Mbps 28.57%
4. Vodafone 10.6Mbps 7.9Mbps 34.18%
5. BT 8.7Mbps 7.2Mbps 20.83%
6. EE 6.7Mbps 5.3Mbps 26.42%
7. Sky Broadband 6.3Mbps 4.6Mbps 36.96%
8. Plusnet (Tied) 5.7Mbps 5.2Mbps 9.62%
9. TalkTalk (Tied) 5.7Mbps 4.5Mbps 26.67%
AAISP no data 17.8Mbps

Overall the average download speed of the top nine national providers was 38.66Mbps (up from 32.75Mbps at the end of 2018) and the average upload speed hit 9.01Mbps (up from 6.9Mbps). The general trend remains broadly upwards (the lack of data this time around means we’ve had to remove the impact of AAISP from both the 2019 and 2018 averages).

In terms of download performance, most of the annual increases have been fairly normal, although uploads were a different story. On the upstream front we’ve witnessed a huge increase from Virgin Media, as well as big rises via both Sky Broadband and Vodafone. Virgin’s jump is no doubt primarily due to their recent upstream boost for existing customers and perhaps the launched of their 500Mbps tier.

Similarly Sky also upgraded a lot of their existing FTTC customers to a faster tier earlier this year (at no extra cost) and they’ve recently launched a new G.fast based “ultrafast” plan, which probably explains their upstream increase. As for Vodafone, it’s a bit harder to say, but rising uptake via Cityfibre’s FTTH network and the cheapness of their top FTTC plan could be playing a role.

Please flick over to page 2 to see how the fastest alternative network (AltNet) ISPs and mobile operators did.

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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
10 Responses
  1. Avatar Sam says:

    It’s time FTTC was provisioned to the max the line can support like when we moved from fixed rate 1/2Mb ADSL to ADSLMax upto 8Mb and ADSL2+ upto 24Mb. My router shows a max attainable rate of 130Mb download and 40Mb upload. Yet it is rate limited to 80/20Mb.

    1. Avatar CarlT says:

      I wouldn’t hold your breath.

      Openreach can’t make that change as BT Wholesale did. Their customers would have to ask for it and they are far more interested in full fibre, reliability and profitability.

    2. Avatar joe says:

      max attainable rate is not the stable rate. wishful thinking.

    3. Avatar A_Builder says:

      I’d be surprised if OR did mess with a stable product such as FTTC now.

      As I have posted many times before the GFast investment would have been better spent on upgrading FTTC from 17 – 35MHz. And potentially this could have taken throughput up significantly for the majority of people with FTTC.

      Now things have moved on to FTTP – further investment in copper is a diversion of resources that would be better spent adding more full fibre premises and hopefully discussion about sync rate and throughput become a distant memory – here is to hoping.

      Lets be thankful that FTTP is now recognised as a necessity across the political spectrum and at BT/OR with a properly resourced full fibre rollout that is actually happening.

    4. Avatar dave says:

      @joe

      Max attainable rate with a reasonable SNR margin should be fine in all but a few cases.

    5. Avatar beany says:

      The max attainable rate many routers report would not actually be attainable (at least not reliably) many just would not have a good enough line attenuation to support considerably more than the current 79999kbps. Lowering the SNR even more on a poor attenuation line would make it even less reliable. The maximum rate is a THEORETICAL.

      There is a reason the “average” rate for “UPTO 76Mb” FTTC only stands at around 65Mb across providers. People that think because there router says max and a figure 100Mb or higher could actually get that speed reliably are living in cuckoo land for the most part.

      VERY ROUGHLY you would require a line attenuation below 8db and an SNR of around 10db or better (Hardly anyone is likely to have that it would be an insanely good line) to go from 80Mb to 100Mb or more (you would get around 4Mb per db drop. Or your 10db SNR @ 80Mb would go to about 6db to get 100Mb or more maybe 120Mb @3db). Anyone that is currently at around 3-6db SNR already (The vast majority) has absolutely no chance of a reliable 100+ Mb.

      The person who thinks they could get 130Mb on FTTC at the beginning of the post either has a bizarrely good line (unlikely), is outright fibbing about reported figures (possibly) or just does not know what the hell they are on about or how things would would in reality.

    6. Avatar dave says:

      @beany

      I’m looking at a line right now where the router reports:

      Current Rate 49999 kbps
      Maximum Rate 138488 kbps
      Signal-to-Noise Ratio 31.9 dB
      Attenuation 4.5 dB

      The VDSL cabinet is literally right outside the property.

      You’re right that most would not be able to attain more than 80Mbps but some definitely will. Maybe Sam is one of them.

    7. Avatar Go away says:

      ^^^ Are you sure you have those Atten and SNR figures the right way round?

      For a line that can sync at 50Mb with a cab right outside the property an Attenuation of 4.5db is pretty poor. When i had FTTC i could get the full 80MB (no doubt you could to if you did sub to only 50Mb) but i was around 600 Metres from the cabinet but still only had an Atten of 9.4db. As to the SNR i suspect that would fall pretty quick if you subbed to 80Mb and would be down around the 10db mark instead, which would leave only around 5db wriggle room for you to get that extra 50Mb or 138Mb in any reliable fashion, so highly unlikely.

    8. Avatar dave says:

      @go away

      The reasonably expected sync rate at 600m is about 50Mbps (or a little over). There’s no way you had 80Mbps sync at 600m.

      I have 5 lines into my property, all of which have had FTTC on them at some point and all could do 80Mbps with only a little extra possible (judged by max attainable reported by the router, the SNR margin and for one line a test performed by an Openreach engineer who commented that it was the best result he has yet seen on my street). This is at a distance around 150-200m which entirely fits with expected speeds.

    9. Avatar dave says:

      The real factor stopping sync at 130Mbps would be that BT haven’t implemented the appropriate profile.

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