The upload speed of your home broadband or mobile broadband connection is important for things like video conferencing and cloud storage.

In the UK, most home broadband and mobile broadband services are asymmetric. This means upload speeds are slower than download speeds, affecting things like video conferencing, cloud storage and online backup services. For this reason, it’s worth choosing a broadband connection with good upload if you want to use these services on a regular basis.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the topic of upload speeds, seeing how home broadband and mobile broadband services compare on upload. We’ll also look at how this affects your real world day-to-day usage.

What is Upload Speed?

If you’re choosing a home broadband or mobile broadband service, there are two different speeds you should care about: the download speed and the upload speed.

In most cases, broadband services are designed to be asymmetric. This means the upload speed will normally be slower than the download speed. For some applications, this doesn’t make a huge difference. For instance, if you’re just browsing the web, downloading files, listening to music or watching videos online, you’ll mainly be concerned with the download speed of your connection rather than the upload speed.

Where the upload speed is a lot more important is for applications where you need to transfer a lot more data to the internet (e.g. video conferencing, cloud storage, online backup, online photo & video sharing). The upload speed can also be important for online gaming, VPN and P2P services. Having broadband with a slow upload can make it difficult to use these applications. It can even cause your entire connection to become unstable or to crash in some cases if all of the available upload capacity of your connection has been used up.

Broadband & Mobile Upload Speeds

Home Broadband

The following table shows maximum upload speeds and average upload speeds on a variety of home broadband services in the UK:

Broadband Service Maximum Upload Speed Average Upload Speed
Full Fibre FTTH (e.g. Hyperoptic & Vodafone Gigafast) Up to 1,000Mbit/s 900Mbit/s (e.g. BT & Sky) Up to 50Mbit/s 45Mbit/s*
Superfast FTTC (e.g. BT, TalkTalk, Sky & Vodafone) Up to 20Mbit/s 18Mbit/s*
Virgin Media Gig1 Up to 54Mbit/s 52Mbit/s
Virgin Media M500 Up to 36Mbit/s 36Mbit/s
Virgin Media M350 Up to 36Mbit/s 36Mbit/s
Virgin Media M200 Up to 20Mbit/s 20Mbit/s
Virgin Media M100 Up to 10Mbit/s 10Mbit/s
Virgin Media M50 Up to 5Mbit/s 5Mbit/s
Standard ADSL Broadband Up to 1.5Mbit/s 0.8Mbit/s*

* The average upload speed depends on your phone line and your internet service provider. ISPs using an Openreach phone line for ADSL, FTTC and broadband include BT, EE, Plusnet, Shell Energy, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone.

If you’re looking for the fastest possible upload speeds, we’d recommend choosing a full fibre provider like Hyperoptic or Vodafone Gigafast Broadband. You’ll normally get a symmetrical speed service with both downloads and uploads reaching 900Mbit/s on the most expensive plans.

On other home broadband services, you’ll typically get a better ratio of upload speed to download speed when choosing an Openreach fibre-based plan over a Virgin Media cable broadband connecton. For instance, the average fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) plan will give you upload speeds of around 18Mbit/s (dependent on location). This is faster than the upload speed on a comparable plan from Virgin Media (e.g. you’ll get 10Mbit/s upload on Virgin’s M100 plan).

Mobile Broadband

The following table shows maximum and average upload speeds when using a mobile broadband connection:

Mobile Service Maximum Upload Speed Average Upload Speed
2G EDGE Up to 0.1Mbit/s <0.1Mbit/s
3G HSPA Up to 5.8Mbit/s 0.5-1Mbit/s
3G HSPA+ Up to 22Mbit/s 3-4Mbit/s
4G LTE Category 4, 6 & 9 Up to 50Mbit/s 8-10Mbit/s
4G LTE Category 7 & 10 Up to 100Mbit/s 15-20Mbit/s
5G 80-100Mbit/s

Like download speed, the actual upload speed you get will be dependent on your mobile network as well as factors like your location and the amount of congestion in your area.

Impact on Upload Times

The following table shows how upload times can vary across various broadband connections with different upload speeds:

Activity Upload Time (Based on Upload Speed)
1Mbit/s 10Mbit/s 20Mbit/s 50Mbit/s
Sending an e-mail with no attachments 0.1 seconds <0.1 seconds <0.1 seconds <0.1 seconds
Upload a high-quality photo 40 seconds 4 seconds 2 seconds <1 second
Upload a 3-minute high-definition video 1 hour 7 minutes 3 minutes 1 minute
Upload a music track (MP3) 30 seconds 3 seconds 2 seconds <1 second
Save or backup 1MB document to cloud 8 seconds <1 second <1 second <1 second

Typical file sizes used in our calculations: 10KB for a basic email with no attachments, 5MB for a high-quality photo, 500MB for a 3-minute high-definition video and 5MB for a MP3 music file.

It can be seen that the upload speed of your broadband connection makes a significant difference when you do things like uploading photos and videos to the internet. For instance, you might be sharing photos and videos with your friends and family using email or social media. Alternatively, you might be using a cloud-based backup service like Google Photos or iCloud Photos to store your pictures online.

Some online applications have a minimum required upload speed to work correctly. For instance, you’ll need an upload speed of 0.3Mbit/s to use video calls on Skype, increasing up to 1.5Mbit/s for a high-definition video call. On Zoom, you’ll need 0.6Mbit/s upload for video calls (increasing to 0.8Mbit/s on a group call). This increases to 1.8Mbit/s for a full HD video call (or 3.0Mbit/s if you’re on a group video call).

More Information

For more information, please refer to your broadband provider’s website for an indication of the speeds available on their service. You may also find it useful to read our guide to mobile download speeds and our review of home broadband providers in the UK.

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