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H1 2020 – Fastest National UK Mobile and Home Broadband ISPs

Monday, June 29th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 7,555

Next we take a look at how some of the more established altnet Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) providers – those that have built their own physically separate networks – perform when compared with the mainstream national ISPs. Sadly most altnets only have comparatively niche coverage and limited speedtest data, which means that at present we can only summarise results from a few of them.

As full fibre ISPs don’t suffer from the same performance pitfalls as copper or hybrid fibre ISPs then we tend to only focus our results on the top 10% of fastest connections, which in most cases will reflect those consumers who take the fastest package tiers available from each provider.

However the performance scores below will still be heavily affected by the same caveats as mentioned earlier (e.g. slow Wi-Fi, local network congestion etc.). Some full fibre ISPs have also requested that we display the average speeds for only their fastest available package, but often there simply isn’t enough data for that on every ISP and our purpose here is to examine general market change.

Hopefully in the future Ofcom may require ISPs to publish more of their own internal speedtest data (i.e. to the customer’s router) for each of their packages (but they probably won’t do that unless forced), which would enable us to see how such connections perform when WiFi is taken out of the equation.

Full Fibre Altnets by Avg. Download (2020 H1 vs 2019 H2)

ISP DL – Top 10% (2020 H1) DL – Top 10% (2019 H2)
Community Fibre (FTTP) 565.5Mbps 448.9Mbps
Vodafone Gigafast (FTTP Only) 517.5Mbps 321.6Mbps
Hyperoptic (FTTP) 311.8Mbps 284.9Mbps
Gigaclear (FTTP) 294.3Mbps 321.4Mbps
KCOM (FTTP Only) 213.3Mbps 272Mbps

Obviously such providers are anything but slow and it’s probably not worth reading too much into speed fluctuations here as the faster you go, the more obvious the caveats of web-based speed testing, WiFi and other factors tend to become.

The Fastest Mobile Operators

Pinning down performance trends on mobile remains incredibly difficult due to the highly variable nature of the technology. Customers of such services are almost constantly moving through different areas (indoor, outdoor, underground etc.), using different devices with different capabilities and the environment around them (weather, trees, buildings etc.) is ever changeable. All of this impacts your signal and that’s before we even consider the issue of network (backhaul) capacity and spectrum ownership.

Suffice to say that studies of mobile broadband performance should always be considered open to variation, although the top networks tend to be those with a combination of the best 4G coverage, a good amount of radio spectrum and the most advanced technology (e.g. LTE-Advanced and Carrier Aggregation for harnessing multiple spectrum bands).

Over the past 12 months we’ve also see the coverage of ultrafast 5G technology increase, although adoption among consumers remains fairly low. Nevertheless we should soon start to see 5G having an impact and that will grow as the roll-out continues, not to mention the performance boost that will come once Ofcom auctions more radio bands later this year.

Average Mobile Download Speeds

No. Operator 2020 H1 (Top 10%) 2019 H2 (Top 10%) Change
1. EE 32.4Mbps (69.7Mbps) 32.5Mbps (70.7Mbps) -0.31%
2. Vodafone 23.3Mbps (58.2Mbps) 26.5Mbps (60.7Mbps) -12.08%
3. Three UK 19.9Mbps (48.4Mbps) 18.6Mbps (43Mbps) 6.99%
4. O2 16.2Mbps (37.2Mbps) 16.9Mbps (38.4Mbps) -4.14%

Average Mobile Upload Speeds

No. Operator 2020 H1 (Top 10%) 2019 H2 (Top 10%) Change
1. EE 7.6Mbps (18Mbps) 7.6Mbps (17.9Mbps) 0%
2. Vodafone 5.6Mbps (14.3Mbps) 6.5Mbps (16.4Mbps) -13.85%
3. Three UK 5.1Mbps (14.3Mbps) 5.5Mbps (15.2Mbps) -7.27%
4. O2 4.2Mbps (10.7Mbps) 4.4Mbps (11.4Mbps) -4.55%

Overall the average download speed of the four primary mobile operators was 22.95Mbps (down from 23.62Mbps at the end of 2019) and the average upload speed hit 5.62Mbps (down from 6Mbps). Once again we haven’t seen the sort of biannual increase that would normally be expected, which suggests a possible link to the extra load caused by COVID-19.

At present EE continues to hold the top position for another year, which is partly due to them having the best geographic UK network coverage (aiming for 95% by the end of 2020) and plenty of 4G spectrum to fuel it. On the other hand their speeds seem to have stagnated, although they haven’t gone into reverse like some of their rivals. It’ll be interesting to see if things improve come Christmas 2020.

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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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1 Response
  1. Avatar Rich Mayes

    Since switching from BT to Plusnet, my broadband speeds are much higher for nearly half the monthly cost.

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