speed meter broadband download upload uk isp

As the first half of 2019 comes to an end we’ve taken a look back to see how average broadband download and upload speeds have changed across the top fastest national fixed line ISPs and 4G mobile operators. Overall the picture is one of gradual improvement, thanks to rising take-up of faster connections.

Consumer service speeds tend to increase for two primary reasons, a) the impact of increased coverage by faster connectivity technologies and, b) their associated take-up by consumers. In keeping with that the coverage of “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) capable fixed line networks (available to 96% of UK premises) and 4G mobile infrastructure (97-99% population coverage but only 67% geographic by all operators) is now slowly reaching maturity.

Meanwhile there has also been a rapid increase in the availability of “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) networks (available to 7% of UK premises), as well as Virgin Media’s DOCSIS (cable) infrastructure (available to around half of premises) and Openreach’s new “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) hybrid fibre G.fast technology.

In terms of take-up, Ofcom revealed that at the end of 2018 some 45% of live fixed line connections were now “superfast” services (up from 38% in 2017 and 31% in 2016 – here). We should point out that Virgin Media has recently launched a new 500Mbps top-tier (here), but early take-up of that won’t have much of an impact on the results below.

Data Caveats: Every home is different and speedtests are affected by all sorts of issues such as slow WiFi, limitations of the test itself, local network congestion and package choice (an ISP may offer 1Gbps but a lot of people will pick a slower / cheaper plan).

The Fastest Fixed Line Broadband ISPs (H1 2019)

In this list we only include independent providers with strong national availability. On the following page we’ll also take a closer look at the performance of the fastest alternative network (altnet) ISPs, which sadly tend not to produce much data and aren’t yet available to the vast majority of premises (i.e. we can only display a few of these due to limited data samples).

The results below are naturally also more reflective of take-up than network availability. For example, some ISPs may have a significantly larger portion of customers on slower pure copper ADSL lines (e.g. the slowest providers below), which will weigh against anybody on faster fibre optic or hybrid fibre lines with the same provider (pushing average speeds down).

The following data has been extracted from Thinkbroadband‘s independent database (including our Broadband Speedtest). Please take these results with a pinch of salt because the market is a lot more complicated than speedtest based data can show.

NOTE: The top 10% result (below in brackets) represents the speed experienced by the fastest 10% of users on each ISP. The results are in ‘Megabits per second’ and averages are in ‘mean’. Data was processed at the start of June 2019.

Average Download Speeds – Top 10

No.Operator2019 H1 (Top 10%)2018 H2 (Top 10%)Change %
1.Virgin Media75.7Mbps (162Mbps)69.4Mbps (142.2Mbps)+9.08%
2.AAISP50.4Mbps (109.4Mbps)55.1Mbps (74.3Mbps)+8.53%
3.Zen Internet42.9Mbps (74.2Mbps)39.7Mbps (73.4Mbps)+3.2%
4.iDNET36.9Mbps (70.5Mbps)36.5Mbps (70.8Mbps)+0.4%
5.Vodafone33.2Mbps (59.9Mbps)31.5Mbps (58.6Mbps)+5.4%
6.BT33.1Mbps (65.2Mbps)31.1Mbps (63Mbps)+6.43%
7.EE24.4Mbps (50.8Mbps)22.6Mbps (46Mbps)+7.96%
8.Plusnet24.3Mbps (50.4Mbps)23.8Mbps (50.5Mbps)+2.1%
9.Sky Broadband23.9Mbps (50.5Mbps)20.3Mbps (37.1Mbps)+17.73%
10.TalkTalk22.6Mbps (43.1Mbps)19.9Mbps (37.8Mbps)+13.57%

Average Upload Speeds – Top 10

No.Operator2019 H12018 H2Change %
2.Zen Internet10.7Mbps11Mbps-2.73%
3.Virgin Media9.3Mbps8Mbps+16.25%
7.Sky Broadband6Mbps4.6Mbps+30.43%

Overall the average download speed of the top ten national providers was 36.74Mbps (up from 34.99Mbps at the end of 2018) and the average upload speed hit 8.32Mbps (up from 7.99Mbps). Not a lot has changed over the past six months in terms of download performance, other than the gradual upward trend but even this is much reduced over our last report at the same time in 2018 (here).

The reason for this year’s milder improvement is likely to be because FTTC coverage has now reached maturity and many of those who wanted to upgrade will have already done so. Meanwhile the new generation of Gigabit capable “full fibre” networks are still suffering from a lack of wider ISP support and limited coverage, although their growth is starting to surge.

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

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