A peek at peak time speeds and Virgin Media speeds for last year
The UK broadband networks have largely held up well to the shift in usage patterns with millions furloughed and others working from home. There has been blips in performance e.g. the day when Virgin Media had several outages but that was a core network issue and nothing to do with the usual concerns of antiquated UK broadband that some experts talk about. There have also been other outages but these seem to be affecting, copper, partial fibre and full fibre services equally and while some may be due to networks being busy the patterns do not seem unduly higher than usual.
Of course for households where the simple equation of 10 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload per person (i.e. to allow individuals to stream) is not being met things will seem worse that usual. Factor in the use of Wi-Fi and multiple devices and the crowded 2.4 GHz bands and it is very easy for people to think their broadband is broken.
We have covered the main providers individually over the period of lockdown, but today we are doing something different and that is looking at the peak time speeds i.e. analysis of speed tests seen between 7pm and 10pm every day. The previous weekly reports have looked at the figures across the whole 24 hour period of each day. To make comparisons a little easier we have also adopted a simple line chart showing median and mean average for each day rather than the 3D plot with the various speed range steps.
Ofcom has published its latest Connected Nations update and the interactive pages also include some information from its SamKnows testing population (ISPreview has covered this Ofcom release in more detail) and you can see in the daily average chart for Virgin Media a dip in speeds at the end of March 2020. What is interesting is that when we look at our 24 hour daily plot this dip is not visible and the peak time figures do recover quickly in April. Why one chart has a dip and one does not could be down to numerous reasons; the most likely one is that Virgin Media speeds were actually good apart from during the short evening period and thus the 21 hours of data swamped the 3 hour peak window.
While looking at the Virgin Media data we pulled a full years of data into our charts and there is some interesting insights that jump out.
- In the last year the average download speeds at Virgin Media have increased by a very visible 20 Mbps
- First step change point was around September 2019
- Second change was in January 2020 when the upgrade to 100 Mbps for everyone was announced and the data suggests this upgrade may still be on-going
This rise in average speeds will translate into a big jump for the UK and regional average speeds and can be seen in our speed test analysis part of the broadband stats. Technologies such as ADSL2+ and VDSL2 generally have fairly flat speeds with the impact on area speeds being down to take-up alone. FTTP (full fibre) does show a quarter on quarter improvement and with the launch of the 500 and 900 Mbps options over the Openreach FTTP network along with speed upgrades from other FTTP operators that path is set to continue - hopefully.