Broadband providers: which ones are good?

May 13th, 2022
Broadband providers: which ones are good?

When it comes to choosing your broadband provider, you want to be sure that you’ve made the right decision for your family or business. After all, our modern lives are increasingly dependant on having reliable access to fast internet services, both for work purposes and for enjoying our precious downtime. Yet with an ever-growing array of broadband providers to choose from, it can be hard to know which option is best. Read on to discover our guide to the best broadband providers available in the UK today.

The UK Broadband Market

Right now, the UK certainly has a thriving sector when it comes to internet service providers. In a study by Statista [1], it was found that BT held the lion’s share of the broadband services market, with 33.45% of all UK broadband provided by them in 2020. The next largest share was held by Sky, who had 22.48% of the market during the same period. Virgin Media are in third place, and cited as holding 24% of the UK household broadband market by 2021, leaving the rest of the companies to cover the remainder.

It’s worth noting, however, that the smaller internet service providers will typically make use of the giant companies’ infrastructure, which will be indicated on the provider’s website. EE, for example, uses the BT network in order to deliver its broadband services.

The Major Names

BT

Let’s start out with a look at these top three internet service providers. First on the list is BT, and the telecoms leader, with its OpenReach division, is currently hard at work on the fibre upgrade to the UK’s internet networks. BT comes with an excellent reputation for reliability, which is a very important consideration for many, particularly if you need consistent broadband access for working or studying at home. Indeed, BT scored an impressive 61% [2] when it came to the question "Would you recommend this service to a friend?", in the recent Expert Reviews survey.

Alongside its impressive reliability rating, BT also offers a good selection of packages to suit different households and their needs or budget. The most inexpensive option provides broadband with speeds of around 36 Mbps, with no upfront costs. For only a little more money, you can access speeds of 50 Mbps, whilst its "Fibre 2" service promises download speeds in the region of 67 Mbps. Moving away from the basic broadband services, BT also offers an impressive range of full-fibre packages, with average download speeds ranging from 100 Mbps through to 910 Mbps.
BT gives all of its customers a SmartHub 2 router, with four Gigabit Ethernet ports and the ability to support both VDSL2 and G.Fast Fibre connections, making this a piece of equipment that is hard to beat. BT also offers a Complete WiFi service as an add-on, which is ideal for larger homes with reception issues, and they now also give the option of taking up their broadband services without the need to install and pay for a landline telephone.

Sky

Sky, meanwhile, is another popular choice for home broadband and the company offers a good range of packages that cover a range of download speeds and price points. Sky’s entry offering is its "Essential Plus" service, which promises average internet speeds of just 11 Mbps, but spend a little more and you can be enjoying Superfast speeds of 59 Mbps. Sky’s fastest broadband service can be accessed via its "GigaFast" package, which delivers speeds of around 900 Mbps. Choosing Sky also comes with upfront costs of around £20, regardless of which package you choose. Sky broadband deals can be a smart move if you are looking to consolidate the cost of Sky TV and telephone services, too.
Sky is regarded as a very reliable internet service provider, with good reviews for its customer services, too. The company offers a "Broadband Boost" monthly subscription, which gives customers access to additional services such as out of hours (weekends and evening) visits from engineers, and use of its Sky Buddy app, which gives parents greater control over their children’s internet use, amongst other benefits.

Virgin Media

The third largest share of the UK’s home broadband market is held by Virgin Media, and this provider stands out when it comes to delivering top broadband speeds. Its entry-level broadband package, "M50 Broadband & Talk Weekends" offers average speeds of 54 Mbps, whilst the company’s "Gig1" service offers speeds up to an incredible 1130 Mbps. These packages are all accompanied by an upfront fee, which is somewhat higher than that of its rivals, and monthly costs do not include line rental.
However, Virgin also delivers impressive reliability, and with its own infrastructure network, prides itself on deploying the latest technologies to help its broadband performance stand out. As yet, the Virgin network does not reach far beyond the UK’s main towns or cities, which means that these top speeds may not be available if you live in a more remote location. It’s also worth noting that customer service reviews have been poorer for Virgin than the other large internet providers BT and Sky.

If great customer service is a priority, then PlusNet could be your ideal choice for broadband. The internet service provider was awarded the title of Best Customer Service in 2022 by Expert Reviews, as well as scooping the Most Reliable Gold award at the 2022 Choose awards, and being awarded Highly Commended by USwitch in the category of Most Popular Broadband Provider 2022. PlusNet focuses on providing mid-range speeds (between 36 and 66 Mbps), so this provider may not be the best choice for households with keen online gamers or avid video streamers.
PlusNet provide a high quality router, and upfront costs are either zero or just £10, making it a very affordable option that provides all the broadband services most families are likely to need. PlusNet is actually owned by BT (although it is operated by its own management team), and uses the telecoms giant’s superb infrastructure and network to deliver its services. This means that PlusNet provides a highly reliable internet access and is widely available across the UK, with 93% of homes able to make use of its broadband services.

TalkTalk broadband is another popular option, which also offers great value packages. Its "Fibre 65" package offers average speeds of 67 Mbps, along with free calls to other TalkTalk phones, whilst for a few pounds more, its "Fibre 150" provides Ultrafast broadband with average speeds of 145 Mbps for still less than £30 a month. There’s also the chance to combine TV services, with a 4K TV Box with Alexa capabilities on offer for an extra £4 a month. All of TalkTalk’s fibre plans include unlimited data, as well as HomeSafe and Kid Safe security, meaning that this provider can be the ideal solution for busy families.

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Consider A Mobile Network Provider

There are other options when it comes to choosing a broadband provider for your home, including companies that you may not think of straight away, such as mobile networks. Whilst providers such as EE may not be the first name which springs to mind when you consider internet services, they can in fact make a great choice. EE, for example, offers full-fibre broadband, which means that you don’t need to have a landline installed in order to enjoy the fastest internet speeds available. EE’s service makes use of the BT infrastructure, which offers confidence that you’ll be signing up to a high quality, reliable network.

Furthermore, EE promises that its broadband is powerful enough to provide fast internet to up to 100 devices (making it a great choice for small business owners, too), as well as "Smart WiFi" that eliminates any areas of poor reception in the home. EE offers tempting bonuses, too. With a year’s worth of free Norton Security Premium software for up to 10 devices, call centres based in UK and Ireland, and a £50 sweetener for switching early from another provider, EE could well be a perfect solution for many.
Vodafone is another popular option and this company, whilst traditionally associated with with mobile telephone services, is actually playing an integral role in helping to roll out the UK’s fibre network. Vodafone offers plenty of enticing deals when it comes to its internet contracts, including superfast broadband services for less than £20 a month. £30 a month will get you the even faster 500 Mbps broadband services, so if you enjoy streaming video or online gaming, but are budget conscious, Vodafone can make a perfect choice.

For those who are happy to spend a little bit more each month, Vodafone also offers a great selection of "Pro" packages, that deliver incredible broadband speeds (up to 900 Mbps), alongside attractive extras such as Norton 360 Premium security software for up to 10 devices, free landline calls and routers with built-in Alexa capabilities.

Your Area Will Narrow Your Choice

Unless you live in one of the UK’s major cities, it’s likely that your choice of broadband provider will be narrowed by your location, so before you proceed, check your availability for your address. Almost every broadband company will have a free online availability checker, which lets you see at a glance if you can access their services in your postcode. You should also be able to access other information that can help you to make your choice, such as the type of broadband available in your locality, and its average speed. For example, not every home will be able to enjoy the benefits of full-fibre broadband.

Be mindful, too, that the average speeds advertised by an internet service provider will be just that – an average. In reality, you may experience download speeds that are both faster and slower than this rate, so it’s always a good idea to compare other metrics such as reliability. This can be seen on Ofcom’s website as part of their annual customer satisfaction report, and offers an unbiased insight into the true performance of the broadband internet delivered by the UK’s different providers. Find the report here, at https://www.ofcom.org.uk/research-and-data/telecoms-research/broadband-research.
As with any contract, the length of your commitment can vary, so check the term of any broadband agreement before you sign up. It can be useful to do an affordability check, and websites such as Citizens Advice have a free tool that can make light work of calculating your household budget [3], thereby ensuring that you don’t end up paying more on broadband per month than you can comfortably spare. Once you have a clear idea of the amount you’re happy to spend on your broadband package, use Free Price Compare to check out the different options available for your address.

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