Which is the best broadband provider? It’s a harder question to answer than you may think! Believe it or not, there are over 200 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the UK today. With such a wealth of choice, how do you know which is the right one for you? Don’t worry! The Broadband Plans team are here to help! Here we’ll look at how to compare ISPs and arm you with the information you need to choose the best broadband provider for you.
Last update: October 2021
As well as the big names like Virgin Media, Sky and BT we’ll also look at smaller and specialist providers to help you determine which is the best broadband provider for your household’s needs, usage and budget.
How to compare broadband providers?
If you’re looking for a new broadband deal, you’ve likely seen lots of glossy marketing copy from all kinds of broadband providers. Each promising you lightning-fast speeds, superior customer service, and generous extras. Nonetheless, it’s important to look beyond that and compare broadband providers using the criteria that matters the most to you.
So, what should you look for when choosing a new broadband provider? We have some suggestions…
Coverage: Which broadband providers are in my area?
Unfortunately, not all broadband providers are available all over the country. This is especially true of companies like Hyperoptic or People’s Fibre that specialise in Fibre To The Premises connections. These are only available to around 14% of households. Furthermore, there are some providers that are exclusively available in a particular region. Community Fibre, for instance, is exclusively available in London.
It’s a good idea to use Ofcom’s Broadband Checker to see what types of connection are available in your area.
- ADSL (slow but widely available. Uses copper phone lines to get online)
- Fibre To The Cabinet (Uses a fibre optic cable via an exchange cabinet shared by other users)
- Fibre To The Premises (A direct “full-fibre” connection right into your home)
Once you know what kind of connection you can get, you will have a good idea of what providers are available in your area. If you live somewhere with no cabling infrastructure (or are too far from the exchange for reasonable ADSL speeds) your only option may be to use a mobile network. Or, if you live in a very remote or rural area with no network coverage, a satellite broadband specialist like AirWave and BigBlu.
Contract lengths are something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand a longer contract insulates you from price rises. Unless you happen to be with Sky who do not rule out mid-contract price rises.
Most broadband contracts are between 18 and 24 months, although a few are shorter at 12 months. After this period has elapsed, your prices may rise significantly, which is why it’s important to switch frequently and know your options when you’re coming to the end of your contract. Of course, the Broadband Plans team will always be here to help you better understand what deals are available and which broadband providers will give you the best value for money.
There are some providers who will offer rolling 30 day contracts for those who value their freedom. However, you can expect to pay a much higher rate for these.
If you switch providers before your contract is up, you could find yourself lumbered with some very expensive fees (which we’ll look into later).
Total cost of signing up
Of course, like any consumer decision, the cost of your broadband needs to be carefully considered. As a monthly outgoing expense, your broadband costs need to fit seamlessly with your meticulously calculated household budget.
It’s also not just the initial monthly cost that you’ll have to consider. You should check for any setup fees or other upfront costs like the cost of shipping your router, or the cost of installing a new line (if necessary).
Some broadband providers offer special promotional rates for a limited amount of months before building in a mid-contract price increase, and many will increase the price of your broadband after your contract has ended.
We all want fast broadband. But be careful in managing your expectations when looking at advertised prices. These are usually based on average download speeds and may not necessarily match what you will experience when your connection is up and running.
You’ll also need to achieve something of a balancing act between speed and cost. Sure, it’s nice to get over 1 Gbps full-fibre broadband and know that you’re getting the best that money can buy. But if that speed is totally surplus to your requirements, you’re essentially throwing money away. Relatively few households really need speeds of over 100 Mbps, and most will manage perfectly well with speeds of 50-65 Mbps.
In the table below, you can see some common online activities and the kind of speeds that are required for them.
|Online activity||Broadband speed required|
|Streaming music||1 Mbps|
|Watching video in HD||5 Mbps|
|Making a high-quality video call||10 Mbps|
|Online gaming||At least 3 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload|
|Watching video in 4K UHD||25-30 Mbps|
While the above are the three main criteria by which consumers measure their broadband providers, you may also want to consider…
Bundles (TV / landline phone)
If you make a lot of calls from your landline or want access to a world of TV programs, films and sport you may want to consider whether the provider offers TV and call bundles. If you’re looking for TV, don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re limited to Sky and Virgin Media. Lots of other providers like Plusnet, BT, NOW and smaller providers like Pop Telecom and Origin also offer TV deals. These are usually treated as add-ons that you can include with your broadband package, and as such tend to have more flexible contracts.
Line rental is usually included in your subscription costs, so you’ll be able to make calls on a Pay As You Go basis. However, you’ll likely also be able to add unlimited evening and weekend or anytime calls to your package for a small extra fee. NOW Broadband offers free unlimited anytime minutes to UK landlines and mobiles for your first 12 months, while all TalkTalk plans include unlimited free calls to TalkTalk numbers.
Quality of the router
Not all routers are created equal. The quality of your router will impact the speeds you can get from your connection as well as the consistency of your Wi-Fi signal around your home. You should opt for a provider that offers a dual-band router. These broadcast on two bands, 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz. The former will provide faster speeds over a more limited area, while the latter provides better coverage but slightly slower speeds. The more aerials a router has, the better your chances of a good connection all around your home.
Finally, you’ll want to choose a provider that has a good record for customer satisfaction and delivering the quality of service that you deserve. Take a few moments to browse through Trustpilot and you may find that the most ubiquitous and well-known ISPs don’t necessarily have the best customer service track record.
The best broadband providers for performance
Value for money is undeniably important. But value for money isn’t necessarily measured in low prices. It’s measured in the performance that you get for your money. Although you should take average broadband speeds with a pinch of salt, you can reasonably expect speeds pretty close to what’s advertised. If not, under Ofcom guidelines you can switch to a new provider without worrying about contract termination fees.
There are a number of things that can affect your broadband speed, depending on the type of connection. If you have an ADSL connection, your speed will get slower the further you are from the exchange. If you have a Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) connection, you will experience fluctuations in speeds at peak times as more households in the exchange are using the connection. A Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) can yield the fastest and most reliable connection. However, the fastest packages usually come at a premium.
The average UK broadband bill stands at around £30 per month, but some of the fastest broadband packages on the market cost more than double that.
Who are the fastest internet providers?
While many households will do just fine with speeds of between 50 and 60 Mbps, there are some for whom it’s important to get the fastest broadband available. Student houses and large families (especially those where at least one member of the household is working from home) will benefit the most from fasters speeds. This is due to the likelihood of multiple people being online at the same time and / or carrying out heavy-bandwidth activities like streaming in 4K, live streaming or downloading / uploading large files.
So, who are the fastest broadband providers? Let’s take a look:
Community Fibre has the fastest broadband in the country with an astonishing top speed of 3 Gbps. This market-leading speed doesn’t come cheap at £99 per month, but this will be surplus to requirements for virtually all households anyway. This package is intended more for small businesses than domestic customers. Download and upload speeds are symmetrical which means you can upload just as fast as you download.
Community Fibre is an FTTP-only provider and is exclusively available in Greater London.
- Top speed- 3 Gbps
- Fastest package price- £99 per month
- Contract length- 24 months
Hyperoptic is a fast-growing FTTP specialist with top speeds of 1 Gbps, with average speeds of 900 Mbps which are also symmetrical. They are currently offering significant discounts on broadband packages with their fastest package reduced from £60 per month to £39.
- Top speed- 1 GBps
- Fastest package price- £39 per month (£60 after promotion)
- Contract length- 12 months
People’s Fibre is another FTTP-only provider meaning that they are only available to 14% of UK households at the time of writing. They are currently offering generous 50% discounts on their ultrafast broadband deals for 18 months. Their fastest package is similar to Hyperoptic’s with average speeds of 900 Mbps.
- Top speed- 900 Mbps
- Fastest package price- £30 per month (£60 after promotion)
- Contract length- 18 months
Gigaclear also provides extremely fast broadband via FTTP with symmetrical speeds and Smart WiFi to improve coverage around your home. Their fastest package has average speeds of 900 Mbps but at £59 per month for 18 months (£79 thereafter) it’s one of the priciest.
- Top speed- 900 Mbps
- Fastest package price- £59 per month (£79 after promotion)
- Contract length- 18 months
Virgin Media has its own cable network, and as such is more readily available than most FTTP providers. That said, its fastest 1 Gb deals are not yet available to all households. And £62 per month it certainly isn’t the cheapest. But as one of the biggest names in the UK broadband industry, it’s a safe bet that offers good reliability and speeds.
- Top speed- 1 Gbps
- Fastest package price- £62 per month
- Contract length- 24 months
Who has the best router?
As much as we like to champion smaller broadband providers, there’s no denying that the biggest names on the UK broadband scene also have the best routers. By rule of thumb, the more aerials a router has and the more connections it can sustain at any given time, the more frictionless your experience with it will be.
In no particular order, the best routers are:
- Virgin Media Hub 3.0
- BT Smart Hub
- Sky Q Hub
- EE Smart Hub & Bright Boxes
- TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub
The cheapest broadband providers
The proliferation of competition and availability of fast fibre connections mean that virtually everyone in the UK can get access to an affordable yet fast broadband deal. Although the speeds and costs you can expect will vary depending on the type of connection that’s available where you are.
With that in mind, we’ll look at the cheapest ADSL, superfast, ultrafast and mobile broadband providers below.
Cheapest provider for ADSL
Because ADSL connections use the copper cabling of your phone line to connect you to the internet, they are very widely available. However, the copper cabling that they rely on also bottlenecks their speed to around 10-12 Mbps.
An ADSL connection is still the cheapest way to get online, though some of the cheapest fibre deals are not far behind.
|ISP Name||Monthly subscription charge|
|Shell Energy||£18.99 (£21.99 after contract ends)|
|John Lewis Broadband||£19.00|
|EE||£21.50 (£27.99 after contract ends)|
Cheapest for superfast fibre
A superfast fibre connection is anything that’s above 30 Mbps and lower than 300 Mbps. Most superfast packages are around 36-65 Mbps, although this varies by provider. Most superfast deals use a FTTC connection, so speeds may vary throughout the day depending on how many users in the cabinet are sharing your connection.
|ISP Name||Monthly subscription charge|
|Shell Energy||£21.99 (£30.99 after contract ends)|
|TalkTalk||£22.00 (£29.95 after contract ends)|
|Onestream||£22.50 (£27.99 after contract ends)|
|XLN Telecom||£22.74 (£47.94 after contract ends)|
|NOW||£22.99 (£40.00 after contract ends)|
|Plusnet||£22.99 (£36.52 after contract ends)|
Cheapest for ultrafast fibre
As we’ve seen, ultrafast fibre deals give you the fastest connection that money can buy. However, they require a full-fibre FTTP connection. Speeds range from 300 Mbps to 3 Gbps.
|ISP Name||Monthly subscription charge|
|Hyperoptic||£29.00 (£35.00 after contract ends)|
|TalkTalk||£29.95 (£39.95 after contract ends)|
|People’s Fibre||£30.00 (£60 after contract ends)|
|TalkTalk Business||£35.94 (£41.94 after contract ends)|
|EE||£39.00 (£44.00 after contract ends)|
|BT||£39.99 (£47.99 after contract ends)|
Cheapest mobile broadband deals
Mobile broadband deals connect you via 4G and 5G mobile networks. You can connect via a wireless dongle or a tablet or other device with a data-only SIM. Mobile deals can be tricky, because many of the cheapest plans have fairly meagre monthly data allowances. And while some contracts will allow your data to roll over from one month to the next, most do not. Some, on the other hand, provide unlimited data with tiered speeds.
Here we’ve compiled deals with low monthly costs and generous data allowances:
|Network Name||Data allowance||Monthly cost|
The best broadband providers for customer satisfaction
At Broadband Plans, we understand that while fast speeds and low prices are two big pieces of the puzzle, they’re no substitute for good customer service. So, which broadband providers have the best track record for customer satisfaction? The answers may surprise you!
Who are the most popular broadband providers?
It makes sense that we gravitate towards well-known brands. The reasoning is simple, we presume that people use them because they’re the best. However, the most popular broadband providers aren’t necessarily the most beloved by customers. At least not when we measure success in terms of Trustpilot scores.
Trustpilot is a good platform to gauge customer sentiment as brands actively solicit reviews through the platform. As such, you get a much broader spectrum of opinion. Without solicitation, consumers are more likely to leave a review only if they have has a negative experience with a brand.
With that in mind, we can see the UK’s most popular providers in terms of subscriber numbers are as follows:
|ISP Name||Number of Subscribers|
|BT (Including PlusNet & EE)||9,300,000|
However, in terms of Trustpilot scores, few of these achieve more than a middling score:
|ISP Name||Trustpilot Score|
|BT (Including PlusNet & EE)||1.4 BT / 1.4 Plusnet / 2.3 EE|
This begs the question…
Which providers have the best Trustpilot scores?
In terms of Trustpilot scores, the highest aggregate scores are from much smaller providers. The caveat here is that the lower the number of reviews, the less reliable some may consider them as a definitive measure of quality.
As such, we’ve listed the providers with the highest Trustpilot scores as well as the number of reviews, so you can make a more informed decision as to which has the best customer sentiment.
|Provider||Trustpilot Score ( /5)||Number of Customer Reviews|
|Andrews & Arnold||4.8||252|
We compare the market to find you the best broadband deal.
Free service - Available Monday to Friday from 8.30 am until 5.30 pm
What are the best bundles available? [Best bundles available]]
Many broadband consumers like to combine their broadband package with TV and phone call packages. Some providers like SSE, Utility Warehouse and OVO will even provide bundles that combine tv, broadband, and landline calls with gas and electricity. While this can prove great value for money, it’s important to be realistic about whether you’ll get your money’s worth from these packages, especially with TV bundles. The more channels you add, the more you can expect your monthly bill to climb.
The best TV and broadband deals
While lots of smaller providers offer their own TV packages, usually powered by NOW TV, when it comes to sheer choice of channels and content, nothing beats the trinity of Sky, Virgin Media and BT. Let’s take a look at their bundles so you can choose the best one for your budget.
Sky broadband and TV packages
Sky’s selection of standalone TV packages are as follows. These can be added to any broadband deal:
|Name of Package||Monthly Cost||Contract Length||Setup Fee||Contains|
|Sofa So Good||£25||18 Months||£49||Over 100 Sky Channels including Sky Atlantic 500 TV box sets Netflix subscription included|
|Spring Into Action||£41||18 Months||£20||Over 100 Sky Channels 500 TV box sets 8 Sky Sports channels|
|Sky Sports & BT Sport||£58||18 Months||£20||Over 100 Sky Channels 500 TV box sets 8 Sky Sports channels BT Sport 1, 2, 3 & BT Sport ESPN|
|Build Your Own||From £25||18 Months||Varies||Over 100 Sky Channels 500 TV box sets Netflix subscription included Add any extras you like including: Sky Cinema (£11 per month) Sky Sports (£20 per month) Kids channels (£5 per month) Ultra HD (£11 per month)|
Virgin Media broadband and TV packages
Virgin Media’s TV packages isn’t quite as comprehensive as Sky’s but it does offer a good selection with decent value for money. There are four basic packages to choose from for an extra £7 per month:
- Entertainment & docuseries
- Entertainment & drama
- Entertainment & lifestyle
- Entertainment & sport lite
All of these contain favourite channels like Sky One, Comedy Central & Gold. You can also switch between these packages to get a better mix of channels. Viewers can build on this base package by adding “premium picks” including:
- Sky Sports collection (add £31.75 per month)
- Sky Cinema collection (add £21 per month)
- Sky Sports & Cinema (add £39.25 per month
- Kids channels ((add £5 per month)
BT broadband and TV packages
BT TV has 6 TV packages that you can add to any broadband plan starting from at £10 per month. Packages include:
- Entertainment- Sky Atlantic, Sky One, Discovery, Comedy Central and many more. (£12 per month)
- Big Entertainment- As above plus NOW Cinema membership. (£22 per month).
- Classic Entertainment- Comedy Central, Discovery, Gold and other premium entertainment channels. (£10 per month).
- Sport- All 4 BT Sport channels plus BoxNation. (£15 per month)
- Big Sport- Adds all 11 Sky Sports channels and Eurosport 1 and 2 to the above. (£40 per month).
- VIP- Combines the Big Sport and Big Entertainment packages. (£65 per month).
The best broadband and phone deals
There are lots of providers that offer landline call packages with your broadband. However, not all offer the best value for money. Here we’ll look at a few of the best broadband and phone packages for those who make a lot of landline calls.
NOW broadband and phone deals
NOW offers unlimited anytime calls with all of its broadband deals for the first 12 months, making it a no-brainer for chatterboxes.
TalkTalk broadband and phone deals
TalkTalk offers unlimited calls to other TalkTalk numbers, and allows customers to add unlimited calls to other UK landlines and mobiles for a thoroughly reasonable £7 per month.
EE broadband and phone deals
Owned by BT, EE’s broadband offering comes with call packages that are actually preferable to those offered by BT. You can add unlimited anytime calls to UK landlines and 1,500 minutes to UK mobiles to your broadband for an extra £8 per month.
For £12 per month, you can also add calls to landlines in 50 countries and 30% discount on other landlines around the world.
Plusnet broadband and phone deals
Plusnet offers a range of broadband and call packages that offer either evening and weekend calls or anytime calls to your broadband deal. Options are as follows:
- Unlimited 36 Mbps Fibre Plus Evening & Weekend Calls- £27.99 per month
- Unlimited 66 Mbps Fibre Plus Evening & Weekend Calls- £29.99 per month
- Unlimited 36 Mbps Fibre Plus Anytime Calls- £31.99 per month
- Unlimited 66 Mbps Fibre Plus Anytime Calls- £33.99 per month
How can I switch?
Many UK consumers have been with the same broadband provider for years. But if you want to get the best value for money from your broadband plan, it’s important to switch suppliers regularly, just like you do with your energy or car insurance. This keeps the market competitive and ensures that you’re getting good value for money.
The Broadband Plans team are always on hand to help you switch to a better value broadband deal. But when is the best time to switch? Let’s take a look.
Mid-contract switching costs explained
You can technically switch your broadband provider whenever you want. But if you’re still under contract, this could carry some hefty penalties. You will be expected to pay an upfront termination fee and / or pay off what remains on your contract. Some providers will expect you to pay off your whole contract, while others will expect a flat-rate payment for every month left on your contract.
If you want to keep your options open, it’s best to opt for a 30 day rolling contract. Most providers offer these, although you can expect to pay a higher monthly subscription fee.
Should I switch or should I upgrade?
That’s a tricky one to answer. You may find that your current provider offers you a more favourable deal if you upgrade to a faster plan. Alternatively, you may be able to get a better rate by switching. Although the process of switching may take longer, upgrading is usually instantaneous. It’s important to keep your options open.
What happens when my broadband contract ends?
When you’re coming to the end of your contract, your provider will send you an end of contract notification. This may come as a letter, an email, or even a text message. Once you have received this, you can switch broadband providers without needing to worry about termination fees. If you don’t switch, be advised that your broadband costs may rise after your contract is over.
Should I get a new broadband deal?
If you’re out of contract, you could almost certainly get a better broadband deal by switching to a new provider. The Broadband Plans team can help you find the best value broadband provider and tariff for your needs and manage your switch to make it 100% hassle-free.
Want to know more?
Give us a call today on 0330 054 0020.
Available Monday to Friday from 8.30 am until 5.30 pm
Should I choose a broadband package based on price?
The monthly (and upfront) cost of your broadband is important. But while it should certainly be considered, it’s not the only thing you should keep in mind when choosing a broadband provider. You should also think about the speeds they can offer you, what packages are available in your area, the length and flexibility of their contracts, and their reputation for customer service.
Which are the most popular providers in the UK?
At the time of writing, the UK’s 5 most popular broadband providers are:
* BT- 9,300,000 subscribers (including PlusNet & EE)
* Sky- 6,200,000 subscribers
* Virgin Media- 5,420,100 subscribers
* TalkTalk- 4,220,000 subscribers
* Vodafone UK- 876,000 subscribers
What types of broadband are there?
There are several types of broadband, with each using slightly different technology to help you get online. These include:
* ADSL- Connects using copper wires
* Fibre- Connects via fibre optic cables either via an exchange cabinet or straight to your home
* Mobile- Uses a mobile dongle with a data-only SIM card
* Satellite- Connects via orbital satellite which beams the signal to a dish outside your home
What broadband speed do I need?
That depends what you need to use the internet for. 10 Mbps is perfectly adequate for streaming music, general browsing, light online gaming and even watching HD video. Most smaller households will be perfectly happy with speeds between 36 and 65 Mbps. However, larger families may benefit from a faster connection of over 100 Mbps.
Can I get fibre broadband?
Most households in the UK have access to fibre broadband. It is available to around 96% of the population. The only barrier in most cases is that there isn’t enough room in the nearest exchange for another connection.
Should I bundle broadband, TV and phone?
You may get better value for money by bundling TV and landline calls with your broadband package. But be wary of adding lots of channels to your bundle as this can drive up the price significantly. Likewise, while anytime call packages may seem appealing, you’ll get little value from them if you make most of your calls in the evening or weekend.
Updated on 23 Jul, 2021
Consumer Broadband Expert