Ofcom research confirms Virgin Media as fastest broadband provider

21 October 2022 13:20   By Lyndsey Burton

Ofcom's latest research into broadband speeds confirms Virgin Gig1 delivers 1.13Gb on average at peak times.

Independent research into real-world broadband speeds experienced by customers has included Virgin Media's fastest Gig1 package for the first time.

The report also includes various ultrafast full fibre packages from Openreach resellers for the first time as well, including Sky and TalkTalk's 145Mb plans, and TalkTalk's 500Mb plan. BT's 145Mb and 300Mb fibre to the premises (FTTP) plans are also included, as well as several packages from Virgin Media.

While Virgin Media had the fastest download speeds, TalkTalk had the fastest upload speeds, and BT's full fibre packages performed the best for reliability.

ofcom mobile phone
Source: Ofcom

Fastest broadband

Ofcom's latest broadband speeds research published today, covers a test period of March 2022 and features Virgin Media's Gig1 service for the first time.

With a panel base of 100 customers, Ofcom has confirmed Virgin Media's average download speed on their Gig1 package at peak times is 1,134.83Mb. Over 24 hours the package delivered an average of 1,137.55Mb, suggesting customers are experiencing little slowdown during the busiest times of the day.

While the research doesn't compare Virgin's gigabit broadband to any other gigabit provider, it does confirm their average download speed is accurate, which places them as the fastest widely available broadband in the UK.

Average download speed at peak times Average download speeds over 24 hours Panel base
Virgin 1130Mb 1134.83Mb 1137.55Mb 100
Virgin 516Mb 526.64Mb 540.69Mb 99
TalkTalk 500Mb FTTP 451.34Mb 451.64Mb 336
Virgin 362Mb 375.65Mb 380.34Mb 100
BT 300Mb FTTP 304.02Mb 303.88Mb 1128

Fastest uploads

TalkTalk's full fibre broadband also performed well in the report, with their 500Mb package delivering the fastest upload speeds of all providers tested.

TalkTalk's 500Mb broadband plan achieved an average upload speed of 73.11Mb at peak times, based on a panel base of 264.

The second fastest package for upload speeds was BT's 300Mb full fibre plan, which delivered average upload speeds of 51.37Mb at peak times. Virgin Media's Gig1 plan also delivered peak time average upload speeds of 50.32Mb.

Average upload speed at peak times Average upload speeds over 24 hours Panel base
TalkTalk 500Mb FTTP 73.11Mb 73.01Mb 264
BT 300Mb FTTP 51.37Mb 51.42Mb 1108
Virgin 1130Mb 50.32Mb 51.21Mb 100
Virgin 516Mb 36.22Mb 36.51Mb 99
Virgin 362Mb 36.03Mb 36.37Mb 100

Most reliable

Ofcom's speed research also looks at various reliability metrics including daily disconnections, packet loss, jitter, and latency.

BT's FTTP packages had the lowest latency results, recording an average latency rate of 6.66-6.90. With a panel base of 1142 customers on BT's 300Mb FTTP plan the results should be highly accurate.

Low latency means a connection is delivering data faster, without lags or delays, which can affect Internet activities like online gaming, where a fast response time is needed.

BT's 145Mb FTTP plan also had low daily disconnections, reporting an average rate of 0.06 for disconnections lasting 30 seconds or longer. In comparison, Virgin Media generally had a higher disconnection rate, ranging from 0.03 to 0.11 across five of their plans.

Daily disconnections on fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) packages were also fairly low across the providers tested. TalkTalk, Plusnet, and BT all reported a 0.06 rate for average daily disconnections of at least 30 seconds, while Vodafone's FTTC plan reported a 0.03 rate.

BT's 145Mb FTTP plan also had lower packet loss and jitter figures than both Virgin Media and the FTTC plans tested.

Interestingly, BT's 145Mb FTTP plan had faster average loading time of webpages than Virgin Media's faster packages, even beating their Gig1 plan. This could be a real-world example of how the lower latency and jitter rates are affecting online experiences.

Average loading of web pages (milliseconds) Panel base
BT 145Mb FTTP 85.21 57
BT 67Mb FTTC 132.41 206
TalkTalk 67Mb FTTC 146.69 142
Sky 59Mb FTTC 215.81 159
Virgin 1130Mb 231.03 100
Virgin 516Mb 353.94 99

While Virgin Media's performance doesn't look too great here, it's worth bearing in mind they're currently in the process of upgrading their entire network to fibre, which should bring them closer in line with BT's FTTP network. Virgin say this upgrade should be completed by 2028.

Useful insights

Broadband providers are now required to list their packages with average download speeds experienced by at least 50% of their customers during the peak hours of 8pm to 10pm.

It's worth bearing in mind then, that Ofcom's research is based on much smaller panel sizes than 50% of a provider's customer base. So, in some cases, advertised average speeds might now actually be the best indication of performance we can get on a large scale. That's thanks to rules by Advertising Standards Authority, updated in 2017, to improve how broadband speeds are advertised.

This research still provides a highly useful insight into how different broadband providers and technologies are performing in the real-world for customers though, especially when we start to look at more granular data like latency, packet loss, disconnections and jitter.


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