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Free broadband and £75 cashback from Plusnet

Friday 01 May 2015 14:05:08 by Andrew Ferguson

The only way that free unlimited broadband can be improved upon is when they also hand over £75 to sweeten the deal, and PlusNet is doing precisely that with its latest ADSL2+ offer that runs until 5th May 2015.

New customers signing up to the unlimited ADSL2+ service will get free broadband for the 12 months of the contract irrespective of whether in a low cost area or not, then after 12 months the standard price of £9.99 a month or in rural areas £17.49 will apply.

Voice line rental at £15.95 per month applies which includes free weekend calls to UK landlines. Cashback must be claimed within two months of the service going live.

Speed test results for April 2015

Friday 01 May 2015 11:18:24 by Andrew Ferguson

Welcome to May and while the daily papers are full of General Election coverage our monthly tasks do not change and thus we have the latest round-up of broadband speed tests. After a number of months of splitting out high-volume and low-volume providers we have combined them into a single table to make comparisons easier.

If your provider is missing most likely we did not have enough tests from enough locations to have useful statistics so run a speed test.

Fastest 15 Provider Broadband Speeds in April 2015 - (ordered by median speed)
Provider Median Download Mean Download Median Upload Mean Upload Speed of top 10%
Hyperoptic 87.2 Mbps 188.5 Mbps 72.6 Mbps 166.5 Mbps 565 Mbps
Virgin Media 48.5 Mbps 57.3 Mbps 5.7 Mbps 6.5 Mbps 122 Mbps
AAISP 19 Mbps 26.5 Mbps 3.3 Mbps 6.3 Mbps 61.3 Mbps
Zen Internet 18.7 Mbps 27.2 Mbps 4.3 Mbps 6.7 Mbps 46.5 Mbps
EE Mobile (Orange/T-Mobile) 18.6 Mbps 22 Mbps 3.5 Mbps 5.8 Mbps 46.5 Mbps
BT 18.4 Mbps 25 Mbps 4.7 Mbps 6.3 Mbps 60.7 Mbps
IDNet 16.4 Mbps 27.3 Mbps 2.1 Mbps 6.6 Mbps 63.2 Mbps
PlusNet 15.1 Mbps 23.1 Mbps 1.5 Mbps 6.4 Mbps 58.2 Mbps
KC 12.9 Mbps 32.7 Mbps 0.8 Mbps 5.2 Mbps 95.4 Mbps
Entanet 12.3 Mbps 25.4 Mbps 1.7 Mbps 7.7 Mbps 61 Mbps
Sky 10.6 Mbps 15.9 Mbps 1 Mbps 4.2 Mbps 35.7 Mbps
O2 Mobile 9.8 Mbps 15.5 Mbps 1.5 Mbps 3.6 Mbps 37.2 Mbps
TalkTalk 8 Mbps 14.8 Mbps 0.7 Mbps 2.3 Mbps 37.2 Mbps
EE 7.9 Mbps 13.4 Mbps 0.8 Mbps 3 Mbps 35 Mbps
Daisy 6.9 Mbps 15.1 Mbps 0.7 Mbps 4.5 Mbps 35.6 Mbps

Remember particularly for the smaller providers, they may appear some months and not others, so a quick mention goes to providers like Gigaclear - 127 Mbps, B4RN - 171 Mbps, Wessex Internet - 34.9 Mbps (mean download speeds).

The web based speed test has been recording latency performance for the last few months while the download and upload tests are underway and we have just made the results visible for individuals after the test. The purpose of this new test is to illustrate buffer bloat problems, which are often down to very large buffers in consumer routers with the large buffers causing problems with the TCP/IP protocol such that one user/app can dominate the connection, we will blog more about the results in a few days. Put simply though, if your speed test comes up as grade A for buffer bloat then a web user is likely to happily co-exist with a video stream that otherwise fills the connection.

As usual to help people track the ups and downs of the main technology types, we have split out the ADSL/ADSL2+ and FTTC/cable speeds.

ADSL2+ Connection Speed Tests April 2015
Provider Median Download Mean Download Median Upload Mean Upload
All Providers 4.5 Mbps 7.4 Mbps 0.6 Mbps 0.8 Mbps
BT 4.7 Mbps 5.9 Mbps 0.4Mbps 0.5 Mbps
Plusnet 5.7 Mbps 6.8 Mbps 0.5 Mbps 0.5 Mbps
Sky 6.2 Mbps 7.2 Mbps 0.7 Mbps 0.7 Mbps
TalkTalk 5.6 Mbps 6.6 Mbps 0.6 Mbps 0.7 Mbps
We only split the different technology speeds for the largest providers where the sample size is large enough to ensure a reasonable mixture representative of the UK.
Fibre Based Connection Speed Tests April 2015
Provider Median Download Mean Download Median Upload Mean Upload
FTTC Overall (excludes Virgin Media) 33.2 Mbps 34.4 Mbps 8.8 Mbps 10 Mbps
BT 35.9 Mbps 37.2 Mbps 9 Mbps 10.2 Mbps
Plusnet 36.9 Mbps 38.4 Mbps 12.7 Mbps 11.9 Mbps
Sky 28.4 Mbps 28.5 Mbps 8.4 Mbps 8 Mbps
TalkTalk 33 Mbps 33.5 Mbps 1.9 Mbps 6.2 Mbps
Virgin Media 48.5 Mbps 57.3 Mbps 5.7 Mbps 6.5 Mbps

The mean upload speed for PlusNet being lower than the median may look unusual, but if you look at the distribution of results there is no particular plateau so we can expect the mean and median to shift around each other each month. The download profile shows a lot of users on the £19.99 up to 76 Mbps service, with the capping for the cheaper £14.99 Fibre service very evident, suggesting that for a good many the extra speed available is not worth the extra £5 per month.

With our mobile compatible speed test that has been gathering data now for over eight months we can also say that while mobile devices are increasingly used for web access, if you want the best experience a PC is still best, for BT users the average PC speed test in April 2015 was 26.5 Mbps, on a mobile phone 21.5 Mbps and a tablet 18.3 Mbps, on other providers mobile phones also appear to out perform tablets overall. A chunk of this difference is the Wi-Fi capabilities of the router and device, though of course some of the PC tests will still be Wi-Fi based. If the proportion of mobile devices continues to climb we might have to filter the overall results, we are seeing tablets and phones hitting the maximum speeds of the FTTC services, but overall we see around 1% of phones with results over 90 Mbps (70 Mbps for top 1% on tablets).

Don't forget you can look at where the fastest speeds are on both our maps and also our broadband availability checker which will do the maths for you based on your postcode, and show the average speed test in your area along with the weekly updating levels of fibre coverage.

4G offers and free EE TV appear to be working for EE

Tuesday 28 April 2015 09:47:50 by Andrew Ferguson

EE is currently the champion of 4G in the UK this is reflected with some 9.3 million 4G EE customers, a rise of 224% in the last 12 months, and with an aim of 14 million by the end of the year we can expect to see more of Kevin Bacon. In terms of coverage EE claims 87% of the population and is aiming for 99% by 2017 with 90% geographic coverage of 2G voice at the same time.

The fixed line broadband (ADSL2+/fibre) sector of EE for some years was shrinking but with several quarters of growth, a healthy user base of 884,000 is the result, up 15% in the last 12 months. The EE TV set-top box that tries to differentiate from YouView boxes by allowing you to stream content to handheld devices appears to be a large part of the success story.

In the 4G arena the Dan and Phil promotion of 100GB free data for two months late in 2014 will no doubt have boosted the number upgrading to a 4G plan. In theory while 4G coverage means broadband speeds much higher than fixed line broadband are possible, 4G (and its older 3G) connections often suffer more variability than a fixed line service which along with the cost of 4G data may limit the appeal as a fixed line broadband replacement, particularly in homes where video streaming and online gaming is popular.

Our broadband speed test that runs just as happily on mobile devices as full desktop PC shows some very nice double speed EE 4G results. It will be interesting to see how the EE mobile services behave as data usage levels rise.

Hampshire reaches 54,000 premises passed target

Monday 27 April 2015 19:39:24 by Andrew Ferguson

At the end of the last week Hampshire declared that it had reached its premises passed goal for the 2014/2015 financial year with an extra 54,000 able to get 24 Mbps or faster speeds from its Superfast Broadband Programme.

The total number of cabinets enabled in Hampshire via the project to date is 238 and while we have obviously not seen the invoices, the simplistic calculation that if all the £10m of gap funding was spent on those cabinets alone it would work out at £42,000 per cabinet of gap funding. The projects original goal was 90% able to access superfast by the end of 2015 and if more cabinets are added as we expect the coverage estimate to increase ever closer to this original goal.

The wave 2 project that is aiming to take over coverage to 95% at superfast speeds is in the planning stages and detailed information will be released probably after September.

thinkbroadband calculation of current fibre, superfast and new USO broadband coverage in Hampshire and its Parliamentary Constituencies - 30th April 2015
Council Area % fibre based % superfast (>30 Mbps) % cable % Openreach FTTP % Under 2 Mbps USC % Under 5 Mbps (new USO) % Under 15 Mbps
Cities and County combined 91.2% 87.6% 62.4% 0.07% 0.8% 3.8% 8.1%
Hampshire County 89.3% 84.6% 55% 0.1% 1% 4.8% 10.3%
Portsmouth (City) 98.8% 98.6% 91.8% 0% 0% 0.5% 0.9%
Southampton (City) 95.5% 94.7% 78.2% 0% 0.3 1.2% 2.4%
Aldershot 98.3% 97.1% 89% 0% 0.3% 1.3% 1.9%
Basingstoke 94.1% 89% 59.9% 0% 2.2% 5.4% 8.5%
East Hampshire 82.2% 73% 17.8% 0% 1.3% 5.7% 16.4%
Eastleigh 95.4% 94% 62% 0% 0.2% 0.9% 2.6%
Fareham 96.5% 94.9% 84% 0% 0% 1.5% 3.6%
Gosport 97.8% 96.2% 88% 0% 0.6% 1.2% 3%
Havant 98.6% 98.2% 86.2% 0% 0.2% 1% 1.2%
Meon Valley 85% 78.9% 56.2% 0% 1.4% 8.2% 16.3%
New Forest East 84.4% 77.5% 24.6% 0% 1.2% 5.7% 12.5%
New Forest West 86.1% 75.7% 0% 0% 1.2% 5.1% 13.8%
North East Hampshire 86.1% 77.3% 51.3% 0% 2.1% 8.3% 15.6%
North West Hampshire 80.8% 74.9% 38.2% 1.5% 1% 8.8% 18.7%
Portsmouth North 98.6% 98.4% 90.6% 0% 0% 0.5% 1%
Portsmouth South 99% 98.8% 92.9% 0% 0% 0.5% 0.9%
Romsey and Southampton North 77.2% 72.7% 54.7% 0% 1.6% 10.2% 22.8%
Southampton Itchen 93.8% 92.8% 73.8% 0% 0.6% 1.9% 3.7%
Southampton Test 96.8% 96.7% 82.8% 0% 0% 0.3% 0.9%
Winchester 87.3% 83.7% 58.2% 0% 1% 5.1% 9.5%

CORRECTION: 30th April 2015 The USC, USO and 15 Mbps threshold figures were found to be incorrect in some cases. In areas where FTTC was available but slower than ADSL/ADSL2+ and cable was also available, the presence of cable broadband had been ignored when calculating the percentages. The overall figures thus change from USC 0.9% to 0.8%, USO 4.1% to 3.8% and 15 Mbps from 8.5% to 8.1%.

NOTE: These figures are based on an analysis of likely speeds for areas with FTTC/FTTP/cable covering them and for none fibre areas then ADSL/ADSL2+ speed estimates are used. These estimates are indepdent of our speed test databases.

The sub-division of large counties into roughly equal constituencies is a useful way to see which areas are doing very well for coverage and those that are some way behind still.

£1.50 price rise at TalkTalk tempered by new mobile offer

Monday 27 April 2015 09:57:53 by Andrew Ferguson

TalkTalk has just put its broadband prices up, and this means their entry level unlimited service has a standard price of £5 per month rather than the previous £3.50 per month. The £1.50 price rise has trickled down through the whole broadband product range, the price rise is softened the return of the £75 Love2Shop vouchers for 10 days for those switching to TalkTalk. The new pricing only applies to new customers, if and when prices change for existing customers they should get the obligatory notification.

Voice line rental has remained unchanged at £16.70 per month, which will help to avoid the negative press of previous years where people were complaining that the true cost of the service was buried in the small print as part of the voice line rental.

There is a new product launched which claims to be Britain's lowest priced unlimited SIM which costs £12 per month and is only available to TalkTalk customers on an unlimited broadband package and offers unlimited 3G mobile data, minutes and texts on a 30 day rolling contract basis.

  • Simply Broadband, current offer is free for 12 months and a £75 shopping voucher. Then £5 per month for totally unlimited ADSL2+ connection.
  • Unlimited Fibre, up to 38 Mbps downloads (up to 2 Mbps upload), £5 per month for six months then £10 per month rising to standard price of £15 per month. £75 shopping voucher for switchers.
  • Essentials TV, ADSL2+ with basic YouView box, £7.50 per month for six months and a £75 voucher for those migrating in rising to £10 per month thereafter.
  • Essentials TV with fibre and a basic YouView box, £12.50 per month for six months and a £75 voucher for those migrating in rising to £20 per month thereafter.
  • Plus TV, ADSL2+ with full YouView PVR, £14.50 per month for six months and a £75 voucher for those migrating in rising to £20 per month thereafter. Includes anytime landline calls and free mobile SIM with basic text/call/data bundle.
  • Plus TV, fibre with full YouView PVR, £19.50 per month for six months and a £75 voucher for those migrating in rising to £30 per month thereafter. Includes anytime landline calls and free mobile SIM with basic text/call/data bundle.

All the fixed line broadband services require voice line rental (£16.70) via TalkTalk and feature an 18 month contract.

Free Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 or £100 reward for new Sky Broadband customers

Friday 24 April 2015 17:51:50 by Andrew Ferguson

Sky has changed its offer on its Unlimited Broadband package, the long term 12 months half price offer (£3.75 per month) rising to £7.50 at the end of the 12 month contract has several new reward offers added for new customers signing up to broadband and phone

Until the 30th April new customers will get the choice of a £100 M&S e-voucher, prepaid MasterCard or Tesco gift card, or if you prefer you can opt for a free Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7" tablet (worth £105 to £140).

Voice line rental is applicable at the standard Sky price of £16.40 per month, and there will be a delivery charge of £6.95 for the Sky Hub. There is no need to take a TV package to benefit from the offer.

Cotswold Broadband closer to starting work in West Oxfordshire

Friday 24 April 2015 10:36:56 by Andrew Ferguson

Back in May 2014 West Oxfordshire District Council elected to choose Cotswold Broadband to work on an infrastructure project to build a mixed FTTH/Fixed Wireless network to cover the remaining properties that had missed out on superfast broadband as part of the much larger Superfast Oxfordshire project (90% fibre based as a target, our figures suggest 81.9% fibre, 75.5% superfast currently)

Cotswold Broadband has now identified that the number of premises the new project will serve is around 6,100 up from previous estimates of 5,839 because of apparently BT servicing fewer premises than initially planned.

Actual ground work for project is expected to start in August or September, though this looks to be dependent on final contract negotiations with BDUK over the £1.6m of Westminster money. A clearer timeline should emerge in time and we look forward to receiving the coverage list of postcodes, so we can add it to our local resource and maps sites.

As of 2rd April the superfast coverage in West Oxfordshire District Council area was 69.7% of premises, with 81.6% able to access a fibre based service (the difference in figures is down performance variation of VDSL2 over distance) which when combined with existing ADSL coverage means around 3.6% can expect to be under 2 Mbps and 12.9% with access to speeds under 5 Mbps. As the main Oxfordshire project has not finished these figures should continue to improve until that project completes.

Cotswold Broadband is planning to act simply as the wholesale network provider, relying on retail providers to buy the service and deal with end-users. This means we cannot talk about pricing until we know which retailers are on-board and they have set their prices.

BA may soon link to 4G to provide inflight Internet

Friday 24 April 2015 09:26:53 by Andrew Ferguson

It appears that while inflight Internet has been growing a significant change may soon be about to take place. At this time most inflight Internet access is via a satellite based connection with the inherent latency delays and from experience very little actual bandwidth.

It would appear that BA is planning to offer inflight 4G with links to ground based 4G masts, significantly reducing the latency and in theory offering a lot more bandwidth. Being able to post selfies over 4G while flying at 30,000 feet may be a trivial thing, but for business travellers being able to email and remotely work can make the time spent flying more productive.

What is a little unusual is that the service may launch on UK domestic routes first. This does avoid issues around how roaming is handled, plus long haul routes crossing oceans will eventually lose line of sight to 4G masts and fall back to satellite only systems.

The worst and best Constituencies for broadband as General Election looms

Wednesday 22 April 2015 13:01:51 by Andrew Ferguson

While the UK as a whole has superfast broadband (at 30 Mbps or faster) available to some 82.2% of premises, this figure is far from uniform and the sub-division of the UK into the 650 Parliamentary Constituencies highlights the areas where the most or least work is needed.

30 General Election Constituencies with least superfast fibre broadband
Click image for full size version

The Western Isles top the table and that is probably no surprise, but the inclusion of several Kingston Upon Hull areas will surprise some, the issue there is that the FTTH heavy roll-out from KC is great for those that have it, but still lots more work to do. For those who have not figured it out yet, the colours are based on the official party colour (for the major parties) in the coverage charts, indicating lots of Conservative candidates with questions to be asked as to why their area is doing so badly. Of course the Governments national plan never called for 90% of every constituency to be covered. The other end of the scale is shown below.

30 General Election Constituencies with the most superfast fibre broadband coverage
Click image for full size version

The top performers in terms of coverage are invariably the more urban areas of the UK, and all of the top 30 are well above the 2017 target already. Coverage is not everything, our speed test results help to show a combination of take-up and the actual package choice people make when parting with their cash, but the correlation between high levels of coverage and decent broadband speeds is pretty evident when you look at the 30 slowest constituencies and the 30 fastest constituencies. At one end of the range we have an average that will struggle with one video stream at peak times, when at the better end 2 or 3 Ultra-HD streams should be possible.

The 30 parts of the UK with the most chance of a broadband under 2 Mbps
Click image for full size version

In theory the Universal Service Commitment is still on track for completion in 2015, but all the signs are that just like the EU did for basic broadband this will be declared job done by the virtue that two-way satellite services are available and reduced price install cost schemes. The presence of two Cornish constituencies seems to go against the success that the Superfast Cornwall project has been, but this is down to the extreme rural nature of large parts of the county and the way that VDSL2 falls off in terms of performance as the line length increases.

The proposed Universal Service Obligation of 5 Mbps which the Conservatives say they will flesh out if they return to power produces a very different picture in terms of the worst performing areas. The current scale of the problem which sees 24% of the Derbyshire Dales unable to get speeds above 5 Mbps means that it is impossible to consider satellite a solution unless the Australian approach of Government funded satellites are launched. Hopefully if we look back at these figures in a few months things will have improved, the overall picture in the UK showed a 1% increase in superfast broadband coverage in the last month, if that rate is sustained we might cross the 90% threshold in December 2015.

If your area does not appear in any of the charts as you are in the middle ground then head over to to learn what the average speed test is near your postcode and learn exactly what the coverage level is for your wider community.

Update 7pm: The full 650 seats can be seen in single bar chart, though to you will need to view the 3300 pixel wide copy to stand a chance of reading seat names. The coverage is improving every day and we generally update our analysis once a week, with the largest improvements in the bottom half of the bar chart.

Free fibre based broadband for six months with Plusnet

Wednesday 22 April 2015 10:14:21 by Andrew Ferguson

The competition to get people to sign up to a fibre based broadband service continues and as Plusnet finishes its cashback offer on ADSL2+ a new offer of six months free up to 38 Mbps download (up to 19.5 Mbps upload) fibre based broadband starts.

The latest offer of free fibre applies to both low cost areas and the smaller more expensive areas that Plusnet offer service in, after the six month period the price returns to the standard £14.99 or £22.49 respectively. This latest offer runs until 12th May 2015.

For those close to their fibre cabinet who want some extra speed Fibre Extra is available which will provide up to 76 Mbps download speeds if within a suitable distance of the cabinet and has an offer of £8.99 per month for 6 months then £19.99 per month (outside low cost areas offer is £16.49 rising to £27.49). The Fibre Extra offer is valid until 30th June 2015.

Voice line rental at £15.95 per month is a requirement and includes free evening and weekend calls. The line rental can be reduced to the equivalent of £12.99 per month if you pay it annually, but the free calls are not included with line rental saver.

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