OfCom: Virgin Media Rules U.K. Downstream Speeds

As the FCC gets ready to vote on new rules that could shape the future of the Internet in the U.S., Ofcom, the U.K.’s communications regulator, released a new broadband report Thursday finding that Virgin Media continues to deliver the fastest average Internet speeds, at least in the downstream direction. 

According to Ofcom’s latest annual report, which tabulated data from ISPs that represent 90% of the total market, Virgin Media’s “up to” 152 Mbps service averaged 135 Mbps over a 24-hour period, outpacing the top tiers from ISPs such as Plusnet, BT, Sky, EE, and TalkTalk.

“This is the 12th consecutive time Virgin Media has been proven to be the UK's fastest broadband provider,” Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge said in a statement that also mentioned the MSO’s plan to spend £3 billion (US$4.6 billion) in the coming years to expand the reach of its broadband network to millions of additional homes and businesses.

Plusnet, meanwhile, provided the quickest upstream, averaging 17 Mbps on average with its fastest tier.

Sky’s 38 Mbps tier was impacted the least by congestion during peak times, with 96% of Ofcom’s research panelists getting 90% or more of their advertises max speeds from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays. On the other side of that spectrum was EE – just 7% of panelists receive 90% or more of their max speeds during peak times, Ofcom said.  Among Virgin Media consumers who were part of the study, achieving advertised max speeds during peak times got progressively worse at higher service tiers. While those on the 50Mbit/s broadband achieved it 100% of the time, it dropped to 59% for the MSO's 100 Mbps service, and to 33% for the 152Mbit/s service, according to Ofcom.

The overall broadband picture is improving. Ofcom said adoption of “superfast” broadband services (30 Mbps and above) helped to drive the average U.K. broadband speed to 22.8 Mbps, up from 18 Mbps in May 2014, making it the largest rise (4.1 Mbps) in broadband speeds recorded by the agency over that span.

The report also found that 32% of U.K. broadband connections offer speeds up to 30 Mbps or more, up from 24% in November 2013.

Cable broadband saw a 26% increase in average speeds, to 54.4 Mbps, while fiber services (excluding cable connections) averaged 41.6 Mbps, relatively flat from the six months prior to November 2014. Average ADSL speeds were also flat, averaging 7.3 Mbps.