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Ookla Q3 2020 Study Shows Fastest Big UK Broadband ISPs and Cities

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020 (4:46 pm) - Score 4,320

Ookla, which runs the popular Speedtest.net service, has this week published their latest Q3 2020 study of UK fixed broadband and mobile data speeds across the market’s largest providers, which perhaps unsurprisingly sees Virgin Media (fixed) and EE (mobile) come top of the table.

Before we get started it’s important to note that speed testing based studies like this can be affected by all sorts of issues within the home, such as slow WiFi, limitations of the tester or remote server itself, people using high-speed business lines and local network congestion etc.

The following results are thus only good for observing general market change over time and shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a reflection of either ISP capability or network availability. Indeed, some providers may have more customers on slower packages and that tends to skew the results. Likewise, some networks are more widely available than others, so the same speeds may not be available everywhere.

Otherwise Ookla appears to score each provider using their own unique “Speed Score” metric, which incorporates a measure of each provider’s download and upload speeds to rank network speed performance (90% of the final Speed Score is attributed to download speed and the remaining 10% to upload speed because online experiences are typically more affected by download speed).

The Speed Score uses a modified trimean to combine speeds from the 10th percentile, 50th percentile (also known as the median) and 90th percentile in a weighted average using a 1:8:1 ratio, respectively. They place the most emphasis on the median speeds as “those represent what most network providers’ customers will experience on a day-to-day basis.”

Fixed Broadband Results

Sadly, none of the markets often better performing smaller providers were included in these results, which is probably due to a lack of data.

Speed Score
Virgin Media 95.66
BT 37.87
Vodafone 34.18
EE 31.77
TalkTalk 27.84
Sky Broadband 27.11
PlusNet 25.72

Latency (Lower figures are better)
Virgin Media 16ms
Vodafone 17ms
Sky Broadband 24ms
TalkTalk 25ms
BT 25ms
EE 26ms
PlusNet 27ms

Mobile Data Results

We should point out that Ookla’s data includes the results from Virgin Mobile, which at the current time is still an MVNO on the EE network but it will in the near future become a part of O2 due to the recent merger agreement.

Speed Score
EE 33.50
Virgin Mobile 33.43
Vodafone 22.95
Three UK 22.74
O2 18.56

Latency (Lower figures are better)
EE 39ms
O2 45ms
Virgin Mobile 46ms
Vodafone 47ms
Three UK 57ms

We get a few other details for mobile networks too. For example, EE delivered a 4G availability score of 97.1%, while Vodafone achieved 92.5%, O2 got 91.6% and Three UK walked away with a pitiful 79.3%. On top of that the report includes a summary of 5G download speeds, which sees Three UK top the table for once, although it’s worth remembering that none of the operators have particularly good coverage right now.

5G Speeds (Median Download Rate)
Three UK 201.12Mbps
O2 176.90Mbps
Vodafone 152.17Mbps
EE 134.76Mbps

Finally, we get a summary of the top 10 cities as ordered by both fixed broadband and mobile broadband speeds.

Top 10 Cities by Fixed Broadband Speeds

Rank City DL Speed (Mbps) UP Speed (Mbps) Latency (ms)
1 Edinburgh 94.05 22.58 19
2 Cardiff 87.6 25.26 21
3 Leeds 86.79 22.41 20
4 Liverpool 85.21 22.16 21
5 Belfast 82.84 18.13 34
6 Birmingham 82.82 16.86 19
7 London 80.92 36.94 20
8 Manchester 78.61 35.31 20
9 Glasgow 70.72 22 22
10 Sheffield 66.7 19.49 22

Top 10 Cities by Mobile Speeds

Rank City DL Speed (Mbps) UP Speed (Mbps) Latency (ms)
1 Cardiff 60.21 14.37 45
2 Belfast 52.76 12.17 61
3 Glasgow 51.39 13.13 51
4 Birmingham 50.19 12.3 42
5 Leeds 50.03 11.98 43
6 Manchester 48.38 13.09 44
7 London 48.01 12.3 35
8 Sheffield 46.24 11.56 45
9 Liverpool 45.81 11.75 51
10 Edinburgh 43.39 11.4 54

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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
11 Responses
  1. Qas says:

    Virgin are switching to Vodafone in 2021, are you sure they’ll be branded under as O2 instead?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      If you can point me to where it says they’ll continue with moving to an inferior Vodafone MVNO agreement, that hasn’t begun yet, as opposed to adopting O2 much more directly, then please do point it out. But otherwise the wide expectation is that they will not proceed with the Vodafone deal for very obvious reasons.

    2. JitteryPinger says:

      Virgin claim in the small print on their website that the transition to Vodafone is still planned to happen in 2021 and 5G will become available before the transition through Vodafone’s network.

    3. Roger_Gooner says:

      It can take another eight months for the deal between Liberty Global and Telefónica to be finalised. When that happens there is no question that Virgin Media will use O2’s network. VM can easily get out of the Vodafone contract by making whatever penalty payments are specified in their contract, and such payments would have been included by LG and Telefónica as one of the costs of doing their deal.

  2. FibreBubble says:

    “Sadly, none of the markets often better performing smaller providers were included in these results, which is probably due to a lack of data.”

    – Citation Needed

    1. Hen-tay says:

      I think this website IS the citation, just look at the reviews section. Plenty of other surveys showing smaller ISPs place higher for quality when included, such as on thinkbroadband, which? etc.

    2. Ryan says:

      the comment is right tho. you can’t make the news and tell it. it calls the impartiality into question.

  3. 3UK_404 says:

    Why are Three UK always scoring significantly poorer results when a large proportion of the RAN is MBNL site sharing.

    They are co-located with EE, antenna sharing, leased line sharing etc. So, how can Three be so much worse?

    1. Spurple says:

      Over-subscribed? Less backhaul? Less bandwidth at some sites? Less favorable frequency band?

      Could be for any number of reasons.

    2. Vince says:

      Because on 4G Three and EE do not share antennas, they share sites, they share the towers you put antennas on and so on.

      You might be thinking of the old agreement for 3G where they did share those things, but they do not on 4G.

      The main reason I suspect is that three has a significantly lower ARPU than EE, and thus the network has less money to be invested, but also they carry significantly more data volume than the other networks, so they also struggle with that.

      On 5G Three has a good amount of spectrum in a handily contiguous manner so they could get a leg up… if they decide to.

  4. Stephen Wakeman says:

    PlusNet being at the bottom of the list should come as surprise to nobody.

    As far as I’m aware, out of those listed it is the only provider that has no ultra fast product lines. Each of the others offers an ultrafast package in the form of FTTP or G.fast in their fixed line product stack. PN only offer VDSL2 at the top end.

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