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A Brief Price Comparison of UK FTTP / FTTH Ultrafast Broadband ISPs

Saturday, April 15th, 2017 (1:03 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 4,533)
fibre optic cable strands

Over the next few years we expect to see the number of premises covered by ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP/H) networks in the United Kingdom rise from nearly 1 million today to around 5 million+, but which ISPs provide this service and what do you get for your money? We take a quick look.

In a Fibre-to-the-Premise / Home network the cable that enters your home or office is a pure optical fibre line, which transmits its information using laser light instead of sending electrical signals over metal cables. Related services are highly reliable and considered “ultrafast” due to the fact that they can typically deliver speeds from 100Mbps and all the way up to into multi-Gigabit territory (1000Mbps+) over just a single fibre.

The downside is that they often require a lot of civil works (e.g. road works) to roll-out, which is not only very expensive but also slow to deploy. Cost is one of the key reasons why big operators have tended to prefer the cheaper and faster to deploy hybrid fibre and copper approach (e.g. FTTC or HFC DOCSIS), although these can suffer from a significant performance detriment over longer copper line distance.

Never the less BT has now committed to deliver FTTP connectivity to 2 million premises by 2020 and Virgin Media will add around 2 million to that total by 2019 (here and here). On top of that multiple alternative network (altnet) providers, such as Gigaclear, B4RN, GTC / IFNL and Hyperoptic, to name just a few of many, are also rolling out similar services.

All of this adds up to a patchwork of network coverage, but it’s clear that the situation is improving and as such it’s time for us to examine what’s on offer.

The Comparison

Pure fibre optic ISPs promote a wide variety of different packages and features, thus in an effort to simplify we’ve attempted to focus on products that offer at least a download speed of 100Mbps+ (most people seem to agree that this is the point where “ultrafast” starts, although Ofcom prefers 300Mbps+ and a few would rather it began at 1Gbps+) and which preference unlimited usage (sadly not all ISPs offer this).

On top of that we’ve also tried to include packages that have been aimed more at home users, although a few ISPs do lean more towards business connectivity. As usual we only give a total cost (including line rental, where required) and have removed any special discounts so as to only show standard pricing. All prices also include VAT.

Remember that this is a basic comparison and does that not reflect all of the subtle complexities which may exist in the small print, such as included value-added features (e.g. Zen and IDNET give you a static IP, while others might add TV content, WiFi hotspots, cloud storage etc.), exit fees and /or any other hidden charges. This data was collected during early March 2017 and the list is unordered.

DL / UP Speed Usage New Setup
Contract Included Router Monthly Price
B4RN 1000Mbps / 1000Mbps Unlimited £150 1 Month  Yes  £30
Aylesbury Vale Broadband 100Mbps / 100Mbps Unlimited £150 12 Months  Yes  £38
BT 200Mbps / 20Mbps Unlimited £9.99 12 Months  Yes  £66.49
Zen Internet (Business) 220Mbps / 20Mbps Unlimited £25 12 Months  No  £115.20
IDNET (Business) 220Mbps / 20Mbps 1000GB £? 12 Months  No  £96.60
Gigaclear 100Mbps / 100Mbps Unlimited  £229.99 15 Months  Yes  £46.85
Hyperoptic 100Mbps / 100Mbps Unlimited  £40 12 Months  Yes  £35
Seethelight (GTC / IFNL) 120Mbps / 24Mbps Unlimited  £99 12 Months  Yes  £41
Direct Save Telecom (GTC / IFNL) 100Mbps / 15Mbps Unlimited  £70 12 Months  Yes  £39.45
Community Fibre 100Mbps / 100Mbps Unlimited  £0 12 Months  Yes  £35
ICUK 220Mbps / 20Mbps Unlimited  £116.40 12 Months  Yes  £188.40
vFast 100Mbps / 20Mbps Unlimited £75.00 12 Months Yes £39.99
KCOM 100Mbps / 5Mbps Unlimited  £50 18 Months  Yes  £59.99
Truespeed Communications 100Mbps / 100Mbps Unlimited  ? ?  ?  £47.50
Virgin Media (DOCSIS or FTTP) 100Mbps / 6Mbps Unlimited  £14.99 – £40 12 Months  Yes  £37.25
Pine Media (new price hidden on website) 100Mbps / 10Mbps  Unlimited  £60 – £130 18 Months  Yes  £50.00
Triple Connect 100Mbps / 100Mbps  Unlimited  £0 24 Months  Yes  £35.80
telcom 150Mbps / 150Mbps  Unlimited  £45 6 Months  Yes  £30.00
Wessex Internet 100Mbps / 10Mbps  60GB  ? 12 Months  Yes  £35.00
Sky Broadband (Cityfibre Trial in York) 100Mbps / 100Mbps  Unlimited  ? 12 Months  Yes  £38.99
TalkTalk (Cityfibre Trial in York) 900Mbps+  Unlimited  £0 18 Months  Yes  £21.70

It’s important to point out that BT, Zen, IDNet and ICUK all offer FTTP via BT’s (Openreach) national infrastructure, while the others have either built their own independent network or share such a network from a different supplier. Sky actually has its own FTTP trials, as well as a separate network with Cityfibre and TalkTalk in York, but we’ve chosen to use the latter because it’s already classed as a commercially available product.

Check out our UK ISP Listings database for a more extensive summary of the ISPs.

Cost Differences

At this point it goes without saying that FTTP/H providers vary in price by quite a wide margin, which is largely because of the many different approaches to deployment and funding being adopted around the industry. Ordinarily this might mean that smaller ISPs are more expensive than the big boys, but as you can see above that isn’t always the case.

B4RN’s network in Lancashire has managed to adopt a model that attracts funding from local communities, businesses, bank loans and also ropes in community volunteers to help build the network in exchange for shares and a free connection. As a result they can offer 1000Mbps for just £30 per month (£150 connection fee). Mind you this model works best in rural areas and it’s not so easily adapted to complex urban environments where permissions, costs and other factors can create a headache for the D.I.Y approach.

By comparison other operators’ have been able to make use of public funding to support their deployments (e.g. Aylesbury Vale Broadband) and then there are the more commercial ISPs, such as Gigaclear, Hyperoptic or Virgin Media, that largely rely on private investment (although Gigaclear has recently won a few major state aid FTTP contracts, such as in Devon and Somerset). Some roll-outs are also more demand-led than others, which fuels a certain level of assured take-up (e.g. Gigaclear’s commercial deployment).

Suffice to say that the physical deployment methods may be similar, but the sources of investment, as well as where the network is being rolled out, who is doing the actual digging and whether or not the company is profit focused or not can all play a role in the price you ultimately pay.

Finally, it is possible to get cheaper FTTP packages than those listed above (e.g. Zen, AAISP and Claranet’s 80Mbps FTTP profile etc.), but you usually have to accept a slower sub-100Mbps speed or other usage restrictions. Likewise you can also get faster options than some of those examples above, but expect to pay a lot more.

Another factor to consider is that the install time for some FTTP connections may be longer as they often require more work than traditional connections, especially if you have to dig your own trench like B4RN or AVB optionally allow. Right now the biggest limitation is still the lack of availability, which means that the vast majority of you won’t be able to get such a connection; at least not cheaply.

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19 Responses
  1. bubblegun

    Sky’s Cityfibre trial in York for 900Mb+ is/was £48.99 per month. It was priced the same as Sky Fibre Pro. Have they stopped offering the full speed service in the trial area?

  2. James

    £21.70 a month for 900mbps + – makes FTTC a laughing stock. Why they can’t roll it out nationwide I really don’t know. If I had that i’d never want to go out – York is a hell hole!

    • AndyH

      It’s a “trial” and TalkTalk don’t make any money on it. When BT Retail were trialling FTTP, they offered free 330/30 connections + line rental.

      TalkTalk is not in the position financially to make an substantial investment in FTTP or roll it out nationwide. York was purely a trial to look at deployment costs etc.

    • FibreFred

      Indeed, they had to give it away in the end as there wasn’t a good uptake.

    • CarlT

      York is hardly a hellhole by any measure.

  3. DOCSIS is not fibre broadband, it’s coax cable broadband but Virgin Media don’t seem to understand this. See http://www.virginmedia.com/shop/broadband.html Virgin’s cable broadband should not be included in this list.

    • Virgin Media is listed because the price for their FTTP is the same as for their HFC DOCSIS, but customers only the speed not the technology used in their area.

    • Of all people, ISPreview should know that it is only about speed irresepective of whether Vigin Media charge the same for Coax and Fibre broadband. Not telling customers how your broadband get’s to you is no excuse for Virgin Media to describe copper broadband as fibre and the Advertisng Standards Authority have now become a laughing stock for allowing Virgin Media to include such blatant lies in their advertising. At the end of their emails the ASA quote their strapline: “Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful”. They have given up on “Honest and Truthful”!

    • CarlT

      I look forward to any areas b4rds plan to cover boycotting Virgin Media in that case.

      Massive and non-distance limited increases be damned, people are all about the advertising and will definitely know and care about the difference between HFC and FTTP.

      While we are at it Hyperoptic are debatable too. FTTB solution.

    • It’s not about boycotting anyone – it’s about being “Honest and Truthful” with customers which Virgin Media are clearly not. Give consumers the true facts about what they are being offered and let them make up their own minds. Lying to consumers to get them to buy something you are not providing is unethical and immoral – two words the ASA don’t seem to understand. As the ISPreview article says, Virgin Media’s coax DOCSIS only offers 6Mbps up at 100Mbps down…. I bet Virgin don’t make that clear to consumers either.

    • AndyH

      Do people really care how the speed is delivered? Having a multitude of names for different technologies just ends up confusing consumers.

    • CarlT

      On two of the four packages VM openly mention upload.

      However – I couldn’t care less how it’s delivered either. I’m far more bothered by that Openreach have no plans to deploy anything that allows me a faster service at least until the next decade than how they do it. A hybrid solution would be fine.

    • GNewton

      @CarlT: Haven’t got both Virgin Coax and VDSL services now at your place, after a long campaign? Or are you not the same Carl Thomas?

  4. Hyperoptic gigabit is performing well in mine case. I have subscribed the package last month and getting consistent speed of 250 mbps (download) and 230 mbps (upload). I viewed a report by thinkbroadband suggesting UK’s fastest 50 broadband providers and I chose #1 Hyperoptic as my broadband provider.

  5. Pretty sure Gigaclear also offers 1000Mbps service, in fact I read a few months ago they go above this.

    • Yes they do, but as the article says this is only a brief comparison of primarily 100Mbps+ packages and not all of the options for each ISP. There are some exceptions like B4rn because they only offer 1Gbps.

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