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H1 2021 – Fastest National UK Mobile and Home Broadband ISPs

Saturday, June 26th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 4,896
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On this page we look at how some of the more established altnet Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) providers – those who 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 we’re only able to look at a few of them.

As these providers don’t suffer from the same performance pitfalls as copper or hybrid fibre networks 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. The caveat is that these scores will still be heavily impacted by the same issues as mentioned earlier (e.g. slow Wi-Fi, local network congestion etc.).

In an ideal world all providers would also publish their own internal speedtest data for each of their packages (i.e. to the customer’s router), but that would be expensive and require action from Ofcom. On the flip side it would enable us to see how such services perform when WiFi is taken out of the equation.

Full Fibre Altnets by Avg. Download (2021 H1 vs 2020 H2)

ISP DL – Top 10% (2021 H1) DL – Top 10% (2020 H2)
Vodafone Gigafast (FTTP) 565.8Mbps 427.8Mbps
Community Fibre (FTTP) 545Mbps 639.2Mbps
Hyperoptic (FTTP) 529.8Mbps 453.9Mbps
KCOM (FTTP) 415.8Mbps 194.7Mbps
Gigaclear (FTTP) 272.6Mbps 225.5Mbps
County Broadband (FTTP) 363.3Mbps No data

The above ISPs are anything but slow, although we’d suggest not reading too much into speed fluctuations above, as the faster you go, the more obvious the caveats of web-based speed testing and other factors (slow WiFi etc.) become. Hopefully as more altnets surface and grow then we’ll be able to expand this table, but generally speaking most FTTP providers deliver excellent performance.

Fastest Mobile Operators for H1 2021

Mobile speeds are difficult to pin down because their users are always moving through different areas (indoor, outdoor, underground etc.), using different devices with different capabilities and the surrounding environment (weather, trees, buildings etc.) is ever changeable. All of this can impact your signal and that’s before we even consider network (backhaul) capacity or spectrum ownership.

Suffice to say that studies of mobile broadband performance should always be considered open to variation, yet the top networks often tend to be those with a combination of the best 4G or 5G coverage, a good amount of radio spectrum and the most advanced technology.

The biggest change over the past 6 months has of course the rollout of 5G technology, although the impact of this below is limited because most consumers have yet to adopt a 5G capable Smartphone, and network coverage is still quite low. Equally, Ofcom’s release of more spectrum in the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz bands is still too recent to impact these results.

Average Mobile Download Speeds

No. Operator 2021 H1 (Top 10%) 2020 H2 (Top 10%) Change
1. Three UK 40.8Mbps (113Mbps) 27.5Mbps (56.7Mbps) 48.36%
2. EE 39.3Mbps (83.9Mbps) 39Mbps (80.1Mbps) 0.77%
3. Vodafone 25.7Mbps (61.3Mbps) 27.1Mbps (59.8Mbps) -5.17%
4. O2 17.7Mbps (40.8Mbps) 17.4Mbps (44.2Mbps) 1.72%

Average Mobile Upload Speeds

No. Operator 2021 H1 (Top 10%) 2020 H2 (Top 10%) Change
1. EE 9.2Mbps (20Mbps) 8.3Mbps (18.5Mbps) 10.84%
2. Three UK 7.1Mbps (18.2Mbps) 6.1Mbps (16.1Mbps) 16.39%
3. Vodafone 6.3Mbps (16.2Mbps) 6.3Mbps (16.3Mbps) 0%
4. O2 4.6Mbps (12.8Mbps) 4.4Mbps (12.6Mbps) 4.55%

Overall, the average download speed of the four primary mobile operators was 30.87Mbps (up from 27.75Mbps at the end of 2020) and the average upload speed hit 6.8Mbps (up from 6.27Mbps). The story this time around is mostly one of gradual improvement, although for the first time Three UK has leapt to the top of the download table and taken EE’s long held position.

In fact, Three UK saw the largest performance improvement of any major mobile network, which we assume to be a reflection of their recent capacity upgrades and the large amount of 5G spectrum that they’re able to field (at the point of this study they still had more 5G spectrum than any other operator). It’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain this position for our next report, which is due around Christmas.

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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
9 Responses
  1. adslmax says:

    Haha Plusnet at the bottom table! Because they don’t sell G.fast and FTTP

    1. Martin says:

      So what you can read from this is that customers at Plusnet are moving from the 36Mbps average to the 66Mbps packages (assuming all other things don’t change much).

    2. AnotherTim says:

      Plusnet’s increase may simply be because those on the lower speed products have left to go to a different ISP where Ultrafast is available – it doesn’t need any connections to have actually got faster.

  2. Broccoli says:

    Since Vodafone is also on the second page table (FTTP alt net), shouldn’t the same apply to TalkTalk and Zen since you can get Cityfibre based services on the latter?

    1. JP says:

      Not really, backhaul will different. Would be like listing all Openreach provided services the same.

    2. Broccoli says:

      Yes I’m well aware that ISPs use different backhaul links. But results on page 1 appear to be all on Openreach based FTTx services (except VM) while page 2 is for non Openreach based FTTP. So since VF, TT and Zen all sell services on both Openreach FTTx and Cityfibre FTTP platforms, then I would also expect to TT and Zen on the second page.

    3. JP says:

      Aaaah OK.

    4. New_Londoner says:

      Quote “ So since VF, TT and Zen all sell services on both Openreach FTTx and Cityfibre FTTP platforms, then I would also expect to TT and Zen on the second page.”

      Only if there was a sufficient number of tests to warrant inclusion in the TBB data.

  3. NE555 says:

    I do wish a more meaningful figure, like median, would be used. An average is too easy to sway by outliers, especially upwards.

    If Zen achieve an average upload speed of 23.5M across their entire user base, that is on the face of it astounding. But maybe 15% of their customers take the 900/110 product, and the remaining 85% have an average 8M upload.

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