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The 2023 vs 2022 Top Fastest UK Mobile and Broadband ISPs

Wednesday, Dec 27th, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 6,200
Internet Speed

We’re today taking a quick look back over 2023 to see how the average UK broadband download and upload speeds have changed across the fastest nationally available fixed line, satellite and mobile network operators. As usual, improvements in FTTP and 5G coverage are continuing to fuel performance gains.

The result below stem from web-based speed testing by consumers and are thus inevitably impacted by a number of factors, such as the rising coverage of faster networks (e.g. full fibre, 4G and 5G) and the associated level of take-up by customers. Due to this, it helps to understand any key changes in network deployments since the start of the year, and there have been a few.

NOTE: Coverage data comes from Ofcom’s Connected Nations study (here). The term “gigabit-capable” on fixed lines refers to the combined coverage of FTTP and Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC / Virgin Media) networks.
Fixed Connection 2023 Coverage (2022)
% Under 10Mbps (USO) c. 1% (c. 2%)
Superfast (30Mbps+) 97% (97%)
Gigabit-capable (any speed) 78% (70%)
Full Fibre (FTTP) 57% (42%)

The first thing to note is that a fair few operators deploying Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology have had a bit of a rough year, with many reporting job losses and a slowing of their builds due to wider market pressures (rising costs, competition etc.). Nevertheless, the rollout has continued at a fairly strong pace, and thus coverage has clearly improved above (Summary of Full Fibre Build Progress).

Most of the gigabit-capable coverage continues to be fuelled by commercial roll-outs in urban areas, which is expected to reach c. 80% in 2025. The Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme, which focuses on rural premises that won’t benefit from commercial builds, then aims to lift this up to at least 85% by 2025, followed by “at least” 99% by 2030. The latter programme started to have a small but positive impact during 2023.

As for mobile networks, both 4G and 5G coverage recorded some improvements during 2023. The commercial 5G deployment showed the biggest change, but this year also saw the industry-led £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) project make progress on boosting geographic 4G coverage too (here) – aiming to hit 95% of the UK from at least one operator by the end of 2025.

Mobile Coverage
2023 Coverage (2022)
4G Geographic 80-87% (unchanged)
5G Premises (Outdoor) from at least 1 operator 85-93% (67-78%)
NOTE: Speedtests can be affected by various issues, such as slow Wi-Fi, 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 Major Fixed Broadband ISPs (H2 2023 vs H2 2022)

The data in this report stems from Thinkbroadband’s independent speedtest database (inc. ISPreview’s Broadband Speedtest). The table below only includes the largest and most established independent ISPs with strong national availability, but there is a separate table for smaller alternative networks on page 2 – these are difficult to include because they aren’t yet available to the majority of premises and thus don’t produce much test data.

Naturally, there are caveats to consider with speedtest based studies like this, not least because such scores tend to be more reflective of take-up than network availability. For example, some ISPs may have a much larger proportion of customers on slower copper ADSL or FTTC lines, which can weigh against anybody on faster FTTP packages with the same provider (i.e. pulling average speeds down). The opposite can also be true.

The big change this time is that our main top list below will now only be focusing on performance amongst the biggest ISPs (subscriber size), which largely reflects how the market is changing and the difficulty of keeping track of so many different options. As a result we had sought to add Utility Warehouse and Shell Energy to the table, but TBB can’t currently distinguish their results from the crowd of ISPs on the same wholesale networks.

NOTE: The top 10% is the speed experienced by the fastest users on each ISP (below in brackets). The results are averages (mean) in Megabits per second (Mbps). Data was processed at the end of November 2023.

Average Download Speeds – Top 8

No. Operator 2023 (Top 10%) 2022 (Top 10%) Change %
1. Virgin Media 264.5Mbps (626.6Mbps) 204.1Mbps (468.3Mbps) 29.59%
2. Zen Internet 165.4Mbps (506.3Mbps) 113.6Mbps (308.7Mbps) 45.6%
3. Vodafone 134.8Mbps (430.3Mbps) 78.7Mbps (146Mbps) 71.28%
4. BT 93.7Mbps (231.5Mbps) 78.3Mbps (149.4Mbps) 19.67%
5. EE 72.1Mbps (108.5Mbps) 53.6Mbps (74.8Mbps) 34.51%
6. TalkTalk 64.8Mbps (107.8Mbps) 51.4Mbps (75.4Mbps) 26.07%
7. Sky Broadband 61Mbps (127.5Mbps) 50.1Mbps (74.8Mbps) 21.76%
8. Plusnet 58.5Mbps (103.6Mbps) 39.2Mbps (70.2Mbps) 49.23%

Average Upload Speeds – Top 8

No. Operator 2023
2022 Change %
1. Zen Internet 58.3Mbps 41.4Mbps 40.82%
2. Vodafone 55.5Mbps 30.7Mbps 80.78%
3. Virgin Media 34.4Mbps 22.7Mbps 51.54%
4. BT 20.7Mbps 18.1Mbps 14.36%
5. EE 19.5Mbps 13.8Mbps 41.3%
6. TalkTalk 17.6Mbps 12.4Mbps 41.94%
7. Sky Broadband 14.9Mbps 12.1Mbps 23.14%
8. Plusnet 13.1Mbps 9.1Mbps 43.96%

Overall, the average download speed of the top national providers was 114.35Mbps and the average upload speed hit 29.25Mbps. The biggest performance gain this year came from Vodafone, which mostly reflects the growing adoption of faster FTTP packages on their respective CityFibre and Openreach networks.

Curiously the ISP with the smallest gain was BT, which perhaps suggests that a lot of the customers they’re converting to FTTP are taking slower speeds as part of that upgrade. Sky Broadband is in a similar boat to BT, although they’ve long since stopped publishing any data about their broadband base and thus it’s much harder to know what’s happening.

Satellites

Since early 2022 we’ve also been tracking the results for SpaceX’s satellite based Starlink broadband service. Sadly, not enough data exists to include other satellite platforms or providers, but that may change in the future. Otherwise, Starlink’s download and upload performance appears to have slipped a bit during 2023, which follows after the H1 2023 period showed a slight improvement.

Average UK Starlink Broadband Speeds
 
  2023 (Top 10%) 2022 (Top 10%)
Download 105.2Mbps (171.3Mbps) 118.6Mbps (190.8Mbps)
Upload 8.8Mbps (13.3Mbps) 10.8Mbps (16.3Mbps)

Now flick over to page 2 to see how the fastest full fibre alternative network (altnet) 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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
8 Responses
  1. Avatar photo J says:

    Very surprised with Three, well done to them! O2 the only network to go down, haha, nothing new

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      What? 3 also went down.

    2. Avatar photo Matt says:

      Also worth noting it was ~March’23 that VM moved people from EE to O2. So ~3million connections moved from one network to another. That’ll have a swing effect on speeds for both networks in a lot of areas.

      Like I happily join in on the o2 bashing – but that’s not as bad as it could have been considering. Annoyingly I’m trying to get a cheap O2 SIM so I can actually receive calls when driving because 3’s spotty coverage isn’t cutting it.

    3. Avatar photo Declan M says:

      Matt have a look at uswitch for a cheap O2 sim only plan, am currently on O2 and yes it could be better but the coverage indoors is solid compared to EE

  2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    Zzoomm have improved over the last month or more, There were a few times when I had slower speed that I should have, not too bothered as long as I could do what I needed to do. Had a couple of times when it did drop completely, now that was a little annoying. 9 years with FTTC and only one major problem with the broadband dropping out.
    But as I said, above, far, better now, over 530Mb/s up and down, I pay for 500Mb/s

    It is a new network, so they are going to get teething problems, but they really need to change their router. I use my own, and I am so glad I do.

    Keep it up Zzoomm

  3. Avatar photo John says:

    Interesting how the alts with bad pricing have low 10% speeds, some are even doing worse than last year

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      What do you mean by bad pricing?

    2. Avatar photo Me says:

      @Ad47uk probably full pricing, some of these altnets charge full price of £79 for a gigabit connection, and some will charge that and not even offer symmetrical upload speeds. They do not offer any discounts for having a fixed term contract.

Comments are closed

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