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Northern Ireland is fastest in UK for broadband, with VMO2 fastest provider

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Northern Ireland has the fastest broadband in the UK, with a median download speed of 65.21Mbps, faster than the UK’s average of 61.69Mbps.

Ookla’s Speedtest Intelligence report, out today, says that Northern Ireland broadband customers experience a faster service that England, with a median of 62.40Mbps, Scotland, with 57.13Mbps, and Wales, with 49.71Mbps.

The survey shows that fixed broadband internet reached 86% of UK households at the end of 2021, with most customers having access to at least 30Mbps, smaller providers are sometimes the fastest across a few cities and counties.

Seven large internet service providers (ISPs) dominate the fixed broadband market, says Ookla – BT with 25%, Sky with 22%, Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) with 17%, and TalkTalk with 9%. After than two BT brands, EE and Plusnet, have 5% and 4%, followed by Vodafone with 4%.

VMO2 was the fastest fixed broadband provider in the survey, achieving a median download speed of 116.44Mbps and an upload speed of 20.86Mbps, according to the survey, conducted in the first six months of this year.

VMO2 has already upgraded its network to Docsis 3.1 and plans to migrate to fibre to the premises (FTTP) over the next few years.

Alternative network providers (altnets) had the top speeds in London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester, as well as across a number of counties.

“Public funding has helped facilitate the emergence of fibre ISPs in rural areas where fibre deployment is not commercially viable,” says Ookla. “Other altnets like Hyperoptic are already well established, deploying and operating an FTTP network in areas with high density, which connects existing and new multi-dwelling buildings.”

The correlation between fixed broadband speed and wealth was weak, says Ookla, but “many factors can determine a country’s internet performance like consumer demand, market competition, and regulatory stimulus”. The company notes the high performance in countries such as Chile, China and Thailand, “which outperform their economic peers”, and says it “would have expected some markets to transition to fibre more swiftly and provide users with faster median download speeds – but haven’t yet done so”. The UK is among those underperforming market, ranking 55th in the world in August 2022.

But 66% of all UK homes were gigabit-capable with fixed broadband in January 2022, up from 47% in September 2021.

A superfast broadband connection, defined as download speeds of at least 30Mbps, is available to 97% of homes, but only a third can order a FTTP.

It notes that VMO2 and BT-owned Openreach dominate the fibre landscape, CityFibre has emerged as the largest alternative wholesale fibre network provider. It has scaled from a small start-up aimed at rescuing failed fibre projects in small cities, to becoming a network that has just passed 2 million premises.

Another wholesale fibre provider, Netomnia, was founded in 2019 by Callum Dick, the former CEO of Community Fibre, and it “has ambitious plans to reach 1 million premises by 2023”, says Ookla. “To date, Netomnia has already passed 210,000 premises and it expects to extend across 48 towns and cities by the end of this year.” It has £123 million in funding in November 2021, followed by £295 new funding led by DigitalBridge in April 2022.