Opensignal has analyzed the real-world fixed broadband experience of our users across the U.K., nationally and across five cities — the capital cities (Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London) along with Manchester to represent the north of England. To reflect the varying ways in which fixed broadband is used we have analyzed five different measures of the user experience: Broadband Consistent Quality, Broadband Video Experience, Broadband Download Speed, Broadband Peak Download Speed and Broadband Upload Speed.
The U.K. fixed broadband market is undergoing rapid development — according to Ofcom’s analysis of ISPs’ rollout plans, while these have reduced in scope, if they are fully realised as planned, the number of properties covered by full fibre — also referred to as fibre to the premises (FTTP) — will increase from the 15.4 million seen as of May 2023 to 27.0 million by May 2026 (91% of all properties)*. Physical infrastructure agreements (PIAs) are a key enabler — they allow ISPs to make use of Openreach’s ducts and poles and are leading to an increasing number of consumers being able to choose between ISPs running over Openreach and alternative networks (“altnets”), which are building their own fibre networks as an alternative to those running over Openreach or Virgin Media’s, such as Hyperoptic. Openreach is the largest wholesale fixed network in the U.K. There is also the U.K. Government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit, which is focused on rural and remote communities. However, as highlighted by ISPreview, providers are currently suffering from rising costs and increased competition, which can make it harder to obtain funding for new rollouts.
In this report, we assess the real-world experience of our users measured across all broadband technologies. As a consequence, the mix of plans and speed tiers selected by users for any given ISP will influence its scores. Doing so highlights the extent to which they have been able to migrate their users away from legacy technologies and offer high-speed plans at compelling prices. Tracking this will allow interested parties to see how ISPs’ rollouts and investments are changing the overall user experience.
While EE is in the process of becoming BT Group’s lead consumer brand, at the moment, BT, EE and Plusnet all sell fixed broadband subscriptions under their own brands and so we have treated them as separate ISPs for the purposes of this analysis.
* Ofcom’s analysis does not include plans by public authorities to roll out networks.
As might be expected, fibre-only players perform strongly when analyzing our users’ experience nationally. London-based Community Fibre has the outright highest score across all three of Opensignal’s speed metrics (Broadband Download Speed, Broadband Peak Download Speed and Broadband Upload Speed), while also statistically tying for first place with rural-focused Gigaclear for Broadband Consistent Quality and with Hyperoptic and Gigaclear for Broadband Video Experience. In addition, Community Fibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear are far ahead of the other analyzed ISPs in terms of the average upload speeds observed by our users.
However, cable/FTTP provider Virgin Media also performs strongly nationally, being the runner-up for Broadband Download Speed, Broadband Consistent Quality, Broadband Video Experience and sharing that distinction with Hyperoptic for Broadband Peak Download Speed.
In London, Community Fibre comes out on top across all five analyzed metrics, doing so outright across four of them and statistically tying with Hyperoptic for Broadband Video Experience.
Our users’ experience in the other four cities tells a different story, as Virgin Media places first — either jointly or outright — the most often. The provider does so in 13 out of 16 comparisons made, eight of which are with an outright best experience. Virgin Media is the outright winner across Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester for Broadband Download Speed and places first in all four for Broadband Consistent Quality and Broadband Video Experience. In the case of Broadband Video Experience, Virgin Media only places first outright in Manchester — where it does so across all four analyzed metrics. However, Vodafone takes the top spot in Belfast and Edinburgh for Broadband Upload Speed, while BT does the same in Cardiff.
National broadband experience
As might be expected, fibre-only players dominate the national fixed broadband experience. London-based Community Fibre has the outright highest score across all three of Opensignal’s speed metrics (Broadband Download Speed, Broadband Peak Download Speed and Broadband Upload Speed), while also statistically tying for first place with rural-focused Gigaclear for Broadband Consistent Quality and with Hyperoptic and Gigaclear for Broadband Video Experience.
Looking at Broadband Consistent Quality, Community Fibre and Gigaclear statistically tie for first place nationally with scores of 90.5-90.6%, giving them a lead of around 1.6 percentage points over third-placed Virgin Media. Broadband Consistent Quality measures how often users’ experience on a network was sufficient to support common demanding applications’ requirements.
All three of the fibre-only providers we’ve analyzed — Community Fibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear share first place for Broadband Video Experience with statistically tied scores of 73.7-74.4 points on a 100-point scale. However, Virgin Media is only about 0.8 points behind the front runners with its score of 73.3 points. Almost all the analyzed ISPs place in the Very Good (68-78) category, indicating that our users are, on average, able to stream video at 1080p or better with satisfactory loading times and little stalling. The one exception is fixed wireless access (FWA) provider 3, which places in the Good (58-68) category instead.
Our Community Fibre users see the fastest average fixed broadband download speeds — 159.6Mbps, well ahead of second-placed Virgin Media’s 129.5Mbps. However, Virgin Media is 10.4Mbps and 20.6Mbps ahead of third-placed Hyperoptic and fourth-placed Gigaclear, respectively. These four operators are the only ones analyzed with scores of more than 100Mbps — KCOM leads the rest of the pack with 61.2Mbps.
Turning to peak download speeds, Community Fibre users come top with 594.1Mbps, around 115.7Mbps ahead of Virgin Media and Hyperoptic, given their statistically tied scores of 466.1-485.3Mbps. There is also a significant gap between the two runners-up and the rest of the pack, given that no other analyzed ISP scores above 400Mbps — Gigaclear and Vodafone tie for fourth place with scores of 338.5- 382.8Mbps.
The fibre-only players are massively ahead of their rivals in terms of Broadband Upload Speed. While Community Fibre comes top with an impressive 120.5Mbps, around 25.1Mbps (26.2%) faster than Hyperoptic and Gigaclear’s statistically tied scores of 93.1-97.8Mbps, none of the average upload speeds observed on the other analyzed operators are above 30Mbps.
Because there are no truly national fixed broadband providers in the U.K. we have included regional players such as KCOM (Hull, East & North Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire) and Community Fibre (London) — along with rural-focused Gigaclear — in the national results to better reflect the reality of the U.K.’s broadband market. While no consumer will be in a position to choose between all of these providers, making comparisons at the national level makes it easy for consumers to see on which providers our users have the best experience and then see if that provider is available in their area.
Broadband experience in cities
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its performance on the national stage, in London Community Fibre comes out on top across all five analyzed metrics. It places first outright for Broadband Consistent Quality, Broadband Download Speed, Broadband Peak Download Speed and Broadband Upload Speed. In addition, Community Fibre shares first place with Hyperoptic for Broadband Video Experience given their statistically tied scores of 74.1-74.4 points on a 100-point scale.
In the speed categories, Community Fibre wins in London by impressive margins — our users on its network see average download speeds that are around 40.8Mbps (34.6%) faster than those seen on the two statistically tied runners-up (Virgin Media and Hyperoptic). Our Community Fibre users in London see peak download speeds of 589.9Mbps — around 130.3Mbps ahead of Virgin Media and Hyperoptic, which share second place with statistically tied scores of 435.1-484.1Mbps. Community Fibre’s lead is more modest for Broadband Upload Speed — 24.9Mbps or 26.1% faster than Hyperoptic’s 95.4Mbps.
Looking at the other analyzed cities, Virgin Media places first — either jointly or outright — the most often. The provider does so in 13 out of 16 comparisons made, eight of which are with an outright best experience. Virgin Media is the outright winner across Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester for Broadband Download Speed with our Virgin Media users observing average download speeds ranging from 112Mbps in Edinburgh to 131.4Mbps in Manchester. Speaking of which Virgin Media places first outright across all four analyzed metrics in Manchester. The provider also places first — jointly or outright — across these four cities for Broadband Consistent Quality. Similarly, in these cities Virgin Media places first for Broadband Video Experience, but it only does so without statistically tying with one or more ISPs in Manchester.
However, Virgin Media doesn’t have everything its way — particularly in terms of Broadband Upload Speed — Our Vodafone users have the outright fastest upload speeds in Belfast and Edinburgh, while BT users do so in Cardiff.
Methodology and definitions
Opensignal captures user measurements across all broadband network architectures, encompassing fibre (FTTx), xDSL, cable, fixed wireless access (FWA) via 4G and 5G, as well as satellite, and reports on a holistic evaluation of our users’ experience with the listed providers' internet services.
We have only included the largest fixed broadband providers by market share in each area, determined by our user base size.
Tariff characteristics — for example, speed tiers or data caps — vary greatly by provider and the dispersion of the plan mix will affect the average experience result. Opensignal’s measurements capture users’ experience, regardless of the plan that they have purchased from their provider. This report analyzes the real-world situation across all users’ plans.
Broadband Consistent Quality
Measures how often users’ experience on a network was sufficient to support common applications’ requirements. Broadband Consistent Quality uses six key performance indicators, including download and upload speed, latency, jitter, packet loss and time to first byte. Metrics are represented as a percentage of users’ tests that have met the minimum recommended performance thresholds to watch HD video, complete group video conference calls and play games. Broadband Consistent Quality is measured across all users in all hours of the day.
Broadband Video Experience
Opensignal’s adaptive video experience quantifies the quality of video streamed to mobile devices by measuring real-world video streams over an operator's network. The metric measures users’ adaptive video experience using a Mean Opinion Score (MOS) approach inspired by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) studies which have derived a relationship between technical parameters of adaptive bitrate video streaming and the perceived video experience as reported by real people.
The videos tested are streamed directly from the world’s largest video content providers and include a wide selection of resolutions that dynamically match the network conditions, available bandwidth and device performance. Resolutions range from 144p to 2160p, which is also called 4K or UHD (Ultra High Definition). The model calculates a MOS score on a 0 to 100 scale by evaluating a number of parameters, including: the time to start playing the video, the quality of the video, the time playing each resolution, and the time spent re-buffering.
Broadband Download Speed
Measured in Mbps, Broadband Download Speed represents the typical everyday speeds a user experiences across a provider’s network.
Broadband Peak Download Speed
Measured in Mbps, Broadband Peak Download Speed represents the 98th percentile of the user speed distribution. i.e. this is what the users with the highest speeds within the footprint experience.
Broadband Upload Speed
Measured in Mbps, Broadband Upload Speed measures the average upload speeds for each internet service provider observed by our users across their fixed networks. Typically, upload speeds are slower than download speeds, but this often depends on the technology used for broadband connections.
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