Broadband News

Millions working from home and home schooling so how is broadband performing

The 10th March seems an eternity ago now when stories of a UK Internet meltdown started to appear. We have been looking closely at broadband performance both with our automated routines that have been running for a couple of years now and extra manual dips into the data and as yet UK broadband is yet to show any widespread meltdown.

Average download speeds for largest UK broadband providers
Average download speeds for the last 60 days at the largest UK fixed line broadband providers

The above graphic shows the average (median) download speed for BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk, VirginMedia and Vodafone and it is pretty obvious that beyond the daily variations there has been no collapse in the speed test results people are recording in the last week. Virgin Media is well above the other providers, but this is to be expected with the product range starting at 100 Mbps and going all the way up to 1108 Mbps. BT and Vodafone are very similar because Vodafone stopped selling its ADSL2+ service shortly after entering the fixed line market and BT has been aggressively upgrading customers. TalkTalk, Sky and Plusnet are clustered together because they have very similar technology mixes, but if TalkTalk and Sky launch their Openreach FTTP products we can during the course of 2020 to see them leave Plusnet on its own.

The latest date on the chart is 23rd March with results up to 6pm included in the analysis and this covers the first day when millions are working from home in conjunction with lots of school children also at home.

Of course a single median average might be hiding dips for the fastest customers, so when we look at the data we also look at the decile and quartile speeds along with the mean average, additionally while not show here we also look at the upload speeds, number of tests (since an ISP with a big outage will have very few tests, followed by a surge in testing when it finally comes back) and whether our quality metric is varying widely.

Daily BT performance since Jan 24th to 23rd March
Spread of speeds for each day from January 24th to 23rd March 2020 for BT Broadband customers

The BT chart shows an incredibly boring business as usual pattern.

Of course past performance is no guarantee of future performance, but with the past history of networks handling large spikes from large game releases as people download their digital purchase (or free download) and major sporting events with large streaming audiences there is lots of experience of scaling broadband networks to cope.

At one time there will be a number of people having congestion problems, or other broadband faults, but what the data is telling us is that there is no sign of these problems being worse than usual.

Comments

I spoke at some length to Liam Kelly of the Sunday Times on Friday morning to explain why UK ISPs should not have a problem with bandwidth and shared the helpful blog post from Howard Watson of BT which had been published that morning. We talked about the difference between the daytime and evening peaks and the likelihood of at least some home working activity simply displacing traffic from offices. We also touched on things that do push up traffic levels, primarily uncoordinated game updates etc.

contd

  • New_Londoner
  • 7 months ago

Unfortunately the article that he wrote veered towards a more negative angle, starting with the headline “unreliable broadband hinders work from home”, which is simply untrue for the vast majority of us. I think some of the point in the article conflated capacity of the broadband network as a whole (ie the trunk network) with the limitations of connections to some premises, and also confused some services being slow due to server limitations with there being constraints imposed by networks.

Contd.

  • New_Londoner
  • 7 months ago

Those of us that are more technically aware need to continue to try to educate journalists to help improve the accuracy of these stories and to highlight errors where they do arise. As Andrew covers in the article, and Mark Jackson does in a post on ISP Review, most networks are built to cope with significant peaks and there is no evidence at the moment of any problems. Not an exciting headline but the facts are what matter here rather than clicks or newspaper sales.

I'll certainly point out this article to any journalists looking to cover the same ground in coming days. Thank you Andrew!

  • New_Londoner
  • 7 months ago

New_Londoner

The Trouble is "things are just fine" isn't a newspaper head/strap-line.

  • Croft12
  • 7 months ago

Re. Croft12

Indeed. Time has come to de-fenestrate some editors and replace desperation with inspirarion.

How about;

Broadband comes of age

Novel work solutions powered by net

Had it with gloom, you can probably tell!

  • Webbas
  • 7 months ago

Was thinking of doing another one of these on Friday, and assuming nothing major changes on the BT figures will report on another provider.

One of the other advantages in the UK is providers have been scaling up for big roll-outs and most likely have also done the upgrade work on core networks, reading for bulk migration of people onto faster services.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 7 months ago

Glad to see the #s confirmed my expectations. I couldn't really see why a prob would occur. If anything without live sport the peaks/trough might even be volatile.

BT/OR will have done a lot of work for the large numbers of new fttp connections they had planned. Same with project lightening etc...

  • Croft12
  • 7 months ago

"less" volatile!

  • Croft12
  • 7 months ago

  • satrow
  • 7 months ago

TalkTalk have increased the single thread download speed here, it's doubled, 8-18Mbps, over the last 3-4 days. Now matches the multi download in this impacted area.

  • satrow
  • 7 months ago

I've also had the unfortunate experience of a Sunday Times journalist not listening to what I was saying and clearly wanting to tell a bad story (on a renewable energy technology) rather than an objective report. He admitted to me after the publication of the article (with 'unnamed' sources providing dirt) that he had been directed by the then editor (and apparent climate change sceptic) John Witherow to do so. But there are also very good journalists out there - Ewen MacAskill is a legend, albeit retired now.

  • e7max
  • 7 months ago

Can you make the clickable images force to a maximum width please?

The first one invokes horizontal scrolling, and your fancy script prevents copy/paste of image so I can view and resize.

#BadCodingNetiquette

  • camieabz
  • 7 months ago

Also suggest horizontal axis labels.

Also, also edit post option, so I didn't have to post twice. :D

  • camieabz
  • 7 months ago

This article has it all wrong. I don't care about bandwidth when working from home. I care about latency/ping as I use various forms of remote desktop (Microsoft, VMWare, Citrix). Also, I suppose, to a lesser degree, VoiP and Video Conf.
Streaming/downloads I couldn't care less about.

Right now on my 350MB Virgin connection, I can still download and upload at usual speeds, but working from home is a nightmare. Remote desktop has become so sluggish it's barely usable (and I'm someone who used to use it loads, working from home regularly).

  • davidc01
  • 7 months ago

This is a major problem for me and many of my colleagues (not just those on Virgin).

Take a look at this chart: https://www.thinkbroadband.com/broadband/monitoring/quality/share/34a22d23a067953d5c8df1634e630ac1955799d1-26-03-2020

Anyway, VoiP/Video conf is ok.. .just a bit worse quality... but genuinely this has made WFH almost impossible for me.
Is it perhaps that the volume of video conf has gone up dramatically and the networks prioritise QoS for that kind of traffic vs RDP?

I contacted Virgin about this and they said it was just due to increased load and nothing they could do.

  • davidc01
  • 7 months ago

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