Broadband News

Streaming, peak and off-peak broadband performance for largest UK providers in January 2019

It is time again for our monthly round-up of performance for eight of the largest UK broadband providers and in particular to highlight the difference between single download and multiple downloads at different times of the day.

Vodafone Home Broadband is once again performing poorly, which may seem at odds compared to our product round-up published at the start of the month, but the round-up that looks at some 60 or so different broadband products does not include the single download performance. The reason single download performance is so important these days, especially at peak times is that it mirrors the ability for a connection to sustain video streaming.

We do not split the eight providers into their different products since the single download performance is much more likely to hampered by core network issues which is shared between the numerous services. The important column is the % difference between download tests, the other columns are these to allow people to check the maths and give an idea of other aspects of the service. Additionally you can compare peak and off-peak figures for different aspects, for example if an ISP has 20ms latency off-peak but 75ms during peak times this would suggest that gaming on that provider in the evenings will be laggy - we would also be double checking to make sure that there was not a statistical quirk e.g. the evening performance was dominated by an unusual proportion of tests from Norrthern Ireland which will have higher latency to a London based server than someone in central London.

Off-Peak Tests Results February 2019
Off-Peak defined as midnight to 5.59pm
Median Average
Providertbbx1 Streaming Test
(1 download)
Multiple Download Test
(8 downloads)
% difference
between
download tests
Upload SpeedQuality
Lower is Better
Grade A = Best
Latency
BT 35.4 Mbps 40.7 Mbps -13.0% 8.6 Mbps 0.5 Grade A 34ms
EE 15.5 Mbps 17.4 Mbps -10.9% 3.2 Mbps 1.0 Grade B 46ms
Plusnet 26.4 Mbps 31.4 Mbps -15.9% 5.6 Mbps 0.6 Grade A 41ms
Sky 22.3 Mbps 30.2 Mbps -26.2% 6.8 Mbps 0.6 Grade A 39ms
TalkTalk 16.5 Mbps 21.0 Mbps -24.5% 4.5 Mbps 0.5 Grade A 46ms
Virgin Media 54.4 Mbps 86.3 Mbps -37.0% 8.2 Mbps 1.0 Grade B 37ms
Vodafone Home Broadband 18.1 Mbps 34.6 Mbps -47.7% 7.8 Mbps 0.6 Grade A 38ms
Zen Internet 36.6 Mbps 39.3 Mbps -6.9% 10.2 Mbps 0.2 Grade A 33ms

The quality score is looking at how stable the download speed is during the multiple download test. The observant will notice that we have moved from using six downloads to eight downloads, which in theory should give the speed test an even bigger slice of the bandwidth pie if there is congestion during a test, though looking at the figures this has made little to no difference.

Peak Tests Results February 2019
Peak time defined as 6pm to 11:59pm
Median Average
Providertbbx1 Streaming Test
(1 download)
Multiple Download Test
(8 downloads)
% difference
between download tests
Upload SpeedQuality
Lower is Better
Grade A = Best
Latency
BT 34.2 Mbps 39.2 Mbps -12.8% 8.3 Mbps 0.4 Grade A 33ms
EE 15.4 Mbps 20.4 Mbps -24.5%

4.1 Mbps

0.9 Grade B 48ms
Plusnet 27.2 Mbps 30.8 Mbps -11.7% 5.6 Mbps 0.6 Grade A 40ms
Sky 20.9 Mbps 29.2Mbps -28.4% 6.0 Mbps 0.6 Grade A

39ms

TalkTalk 16.5 Mbps 21.0 Mbps -21.4% 3.9 Mbps 0.6 Grade A 49ms
Virgin Media 52.5 Mbps 85.7 Mbps -38.7% 7.0 Mbps 1.0 Grade B

38ms

Vodafone Home Broadband 14.6 Mbps 31.9 Mbps -54.2% 7.4 Mbps 0.7 Grade A 40ms
Zen Internet 33.5 Mbps 36.8 Mbps -9.0% 9.0 Mbps 0.4 Grade A 36ms

As we mentioned further up the quality score is based on the multiple download performance and is essentially the variance for the download speed during the test period, so the less variance the better i.e. an ideal speed test will reach the maximum speed within 100ms of the test start and hold that speed for the full 8 to 12 seconds of the test. As we have not shown any specific examples for different quality scores for a while we are going to link to a few EE test results showing different scores, the reason for highlighting EE is that the provider has an unusual pattern to many of the speed tests with a slow rise to the top speeds, this is probably not visible to people in terms of large file downloads but may does point to web browsing particularly on sites where the graphics designer has worked overtime being less than snappy.

  • Exceptional Grade A quality score test, with the ideal sharp rise in speeds at the start and sustaining them for the full test.
  • Grade A test but speeds do start to tail off over time, so score was 0.5.
  • Grade B test that shows a common pattern we see for EE visitors, both the multiple download test and single download tests are slow to reach the median speed and single download test hints at the odd pause in data flow.
  • Grade C test where the mutliple download is again slow to reach median speed and even then is not stable.
  • Grade D test which never really holds a single speed for any length of time, in this example the upload speeds are perfectly stable.
  • Grade E test that has the pattern we are used to seeing for EE customers.
  • Off the scale test that has good upload performance suggesting not Wi-Fi or connection issue but test only levels off in the last second or two.

EE is unusual in that the slow ramp pattern is so common especially on the VDSL2 services, on other providers where we see tests with a poor quality score it is usually results such as this Grade E result on a BT connection which does have a nice start but two significant dips in speed during the test period.

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