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H1 2020 – Fastest National UK Mobile and Home Broadband ISPs

Monday, June 29th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 8,007
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Once again we’ve taken our biannual look back to see how average download and upload speeds have changed across the fastest nationally available fixed line ISPs and mobile operators. Overall the COVID-19 crisis has produced a broad downward trend in H1 2020, but Virgin Media remains top for fixed lines and EE top for mobile.

As usual the following results tend to be impacted by a number of factors, not least the rising coverage of faster technologies and any associated take-up by consumers. In that sense it helps to understand some of the key changes in network deployments since the start of 2020 and there have been a few, which we’ll summarise below.

NOTE: So-called “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) coverage has only increased a little from 96.45% in H2 2019 to 96.73% in H1 2020.

Firstly, the UK coverage of “gigabit-capable” full fibre (FTTP) broadband infrastructure has risen from 11% at the end of 2019 to over 14% now. Meanwhile Virgin Media has continued to upgrade their Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) based network to deliver 1Gbps speeds via DOCSIS 3.1 technology (due to reach 15 million premises by the end of 2021).

The combination of the above two developments means that gigabit-capable connections now cover around 20% of the UK (up from c.14% in Feb 2020). In terms of take-up, Ofcom revealed that in September 2019 (here) some 57% of connections were “superfast” (up from 45% in 2018) and take-up of “full fibre” has risen to 30%.

As for mobile networks, 4G geographic coverage from all UK operators is largely unchanged on 67%, although this is expected to receive a gradual boost from the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) project that aims to hit 95% coverage by the end of 2025 from at least one operator (i.e. each operator must hit at least 90% by then).

The roll-out of 5G ultrafast mobile technology has of course picked up pace during H1 2020 too but coverage is still confined to busy parts of major cities and some towns, while take-up will be limited as very few people own 5G capable Smartphones. As such 5G will currently only be having a fairly small impact upon mobile speeds.

NOTE: Speedtests can easily be affected by all sorts of issues within the home, such as slow WiFi, limitations of the tester itself, local network congestion and package choice (a lot of people will pick a slower and cheaper plan, even with 1Gbps available). The following results are thus only good for observing general market change over time and MUST NOT be taken as a reflection of ISP capability.

Fastest Fixed Line Broadband ISPs (H1 2020)

The following results stem from Thinkbroadband‘s independent speedtest database (including 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, although we have still added a few examples of those 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 copper ADSL lines and that can weigh against anybody on faster fibre lines with the same provider (i.e. pushing average speeds down).

NOTE: The top 10% is the speed experienced by the fastest 10% of users on each ISP (below in brackets) . The results are averages (mean) in Megabits per second (Mbps). Data was processed at the start of June 2020.

Average Download Speeds – Top 10

No. Operator 2020 H1 (Top 10%) 2019 H2 (Top 10%) Change %
1. Virgin Media 93.8Mbps (207.1Mbps) 85.6Mbps (193.8Mbps) 9.58%
2. Zen Internet 42.7Mbps (73.9Mbps) 46.4Mbps (74.4Mbps) -7.97%
3. AAISP 42Mbps (72.8Mbps) no data n/a
4. Vodafone 38.6Mbps (68.2Mbps) 38.2Mbps (67.7Mbps) 1.05%
5. iDNET 38.1Mbps (70.6Mbps) 41.2Mbps (70.2Mbps) 7.52%
6. BT 37.9Mbps (68.8Mbps) 35.1Mbps (66.8Mbps) 7.98%
7. EE 26.5Mbps (57.5Mbps) 27.6Mbps (57.4Mbps) -3.99%
8. TalkTalk 25.1Mbps (52.4Mbps) 24.3Mbps (48.2Mbps) 3.29%
9. Sky Broadband (tied) 24.8Mbps (53.8Mbps) 25.4Mbps (54.4Mbps) -2.36%
10. Plusnet (tied) 24.8Mbps (52.6Mbps) 24.2Mbps (50.5Mbps) 2.48%

Average Upload Speeds – Top 10

No. Operator 2020 H1
2019 H2
Change %
1. Virgin Media 13Mbps 13.6Mbps -4.41%
2. Zen Internet 11.1Mbps 13Mbps -14.62%
3. AAISP 10.9Mbps no data n/a
4. Vodafone 10Mbps 10.6Mbps -5.66%
5. iDNET 9.3Mbps 10.8Mbps -13.89%
6. BT 8.9Mbps 8.7Mbps 2.3%
7. EE (tied) 6.2Mbps 6.7Mbps -7.46%
8. Sky Broadband (tied) 6.2Mbps 6.3Mbps -1.59%
9. TalkTalk 5.9Mbps 5.7Mbps 3.51%
10. Plusnet 5.8Mbps 5.7Mbps 1.75%

Overall the average download speed of the above national providers was 39.43Mbps (up from 38.66Mbps at the end of 2019) and the average upload speed hit 8.73Mbps (down from 9.01Mbps). It’s worth noting that a lack of data excluded AAISP from the prior H2 2019 results, but they’ve returned for H1 2020 (we still take their score with a pinch of salt as the sample size is at the smaller end).

On the other hand it’s notable from looking at the biannual percentage change that the normally upward motion of broadband speeds has, for more than a few ISPs, suddenly gone into reverse. As this report is based on data supplied during early June then it’s possible that the suppression of progress is at least partly related to COVID-19, which has put additional strain on home broadband providers and slowed the take-up of faster packages.

We suspect that performance will return in time for Christmas (unless there’s another lockdown). On top of that Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone all seem likely to have fully launched packages on Openreach’s FTTP network by the end of 2020, which could also influence these scores.

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

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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 says:

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

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