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The Best Broadband ISPs for 2014 – ISPreview UK Editors Pick

Monday, January 6th, 2014 (1:59 am) - Score 119,301
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Best UK Consumer ISPs for Quality

Affordability is always an important factor but some people, such as home workers, small businesses and those whom generally seek better reliability, might ultimately have to consider paying a bit extra in order to secure a higher quality of service, shorter contract and proper UK-based technical support by real IT people.

The good news is that there are plenty of smaller ISP options out there that offer a highly reliable service where quality, support and service are frequently placed above the mass market desire for lower pricing.

Zen Internet

Zen, over a period of many years, has managed to earn itself a solid reputation for quality. The service has also won multiple awards along the way and they’re highly rated among visitors to our website (Zen’s Reviews). On top of that they’re also one of the largest medium sized ISPs and have a broadband subscriber base of around 100,000 customers. Most recently Zen has invested £3.5m into their core infrastructure (here) and used that to help build a new network of local telephone exchange PoPs (Points of Presence).

Admittedly Zen’s packages aren’t always the cheapest but you get what you pay for. Prices for their standard broadband (up to 16Mbps) packages start at £18.37 inc. VAT for Zen Lite, which includes a 50GB usage allowance and 1 month contract (this comes with free email, 2GB of web space, a static IP address and other features). By comparison the mid-range Zen Active package includes 200GB of usage but costs £25.52 per month.

The ISP also offers a range of highly attractive home superfast broadband (FTTC) packages, which start at £19.50 for a 50GB usage allowance and up to 38Mbps download speeds (plus £30 setup). The next option up costs £27 and offers UNLIMITED allowance with up to 38Mbps speeds or £30 for 76Mbps; this is enough to give some of the bigger ISPs a run for their money! Some packages also require phone line rental from £15.44 a month.

Pros:
• Speed
• Support
• Additional Services

Cons:
• Standard Broadband is a little pricey

AAISP

Andrews and Arnold is a technically niche ISP that use to be best targeted towards businesses, home workers and those familiar with telecoms jargon. But they’ve since simplified their packages for home users (Home::1) and continue to offer strong reliability and extremely knowledgeable support staff that often go out of their way to help customers, which earns them plenty of praise (AAISP Reviews).

Prices typically to start at around £25 per month for a standard home broadband service with a 100GB usage allowance (+£10 per 50GB top-up) and you can add a superfast FTTC line for an extra +£10 per month. Native IPv6 support and a free router are some of the highlights, not to mention the usual phone line and calling solutions (line rental from an extra +£10 a month). Bigger allowances and faster speeds are also available at extra cost.

Pros:
• Speed
• Support
• Additional Services
• Honesty (everything is in the open)

Cons:
• Price
• Jargon (could confuse some people)

IDNet

A generally strong and reliable ISP (IDNet Reviews) that focuses more on businesses but still has a soft spot for home workers too, provided you don’t mind paying a bit extra. Prices start at £19.80 inc. VAT per month (up to 20Mbps speed, 25GB usage) and this rises to £27 if you want a superfast broadband (FTTC) connection. Take note that £25.80 will get you a monthly data usage allowance of 100GB (£35.40 if you connect with FTTC).

All packages come with anti-virus/spam filtering, static IP, native IPv6 support, a 1 month contract (except FTTC that requires 12 months) and these can also be bundled alongside a phone service from an extra +£12 per month (various free call options are also available at extra cost).

Pros:
• Speed
• Support

Cons:
• Usage Allowance
• Price

XILO (Uno Broadband)

Despite a few autumn 2013 gripes about customer service, which mostly appeared to afflict their sales contacts rather than support, XILO has otherwise continued to be a highly rated ISP (XILO Reviews) and thus they maintain their position as a recommended choice; though the presentation of their broadband packages could benefit from a little more clarity and less platform type jargon.

Prices start at £13.99 inc. VAT per month for an up to 24Mbps capable service with 10-100GB data usage and a static IP address. Each package also includes 250MB of UK web and email space, plus unlimited email addresses protected by security. A superfast broadband (FTTC) service is also available from £22.99 with speeds of up to 40Mbps and a 15-125GB usage allowance (unlimited overnight usage).

Pros:
• Speed
• Price (Pro Package)
• Additional Services

Cons:
• Some will be confused by the jargon rich package names

ICUK

A moderately well priced ISP that continues to hold plenty of positive feedback in our review system (ICUK Reviews), although their extensive array of broadband packages and platforms could confuse some customers. The ISP also offers a nice range of phone line rental / call services and most packages include email, anti-virus/spam filtering and even static IPv6 addresses.

Prices start at just £10 per month for a bog standard up to 24Mbps package with a 4GB usage allowance, while £25 will get you an unlimited (LLU) service. The ISP also offers an expensive mix of superfast broadband (FTTC and FTTP) options, with prices starting from £20 for a 10GB usage allowance (plus 50GB off-peak).

Pros:
• Speed
• Support
• Additional Services

Cons:
• Some packages only offer small usage allowances
• FTTC/P options can be expensive

Aquiss

Aquiss might not have the same historic reputation for quality as some of the others above but they’ve still managed to carve a nice corner of the market out for themselves and receive a lot of general praise (Aquiss Reviews). They’re also one of the few ISPs to offer a home phone line rental service alongside a 1 month contract from £13 inc. VAT per month. On the other hand the loss of their cheaper LLU packages make the service look a lot less attractive than last year.

Prices tend to start at £27 per month for a 19Mbps connection with unlimited usage (includes a static IP address, email, email security) and the option of a 1 month contract. Meanwhile those who want a superfast 38Mbps (FTTC) connection will have to shell out a hefty £36 per month but they do get unlimited usage and IPv6 support.

Pros:
• Speed
• Support
• Honesty about extra charges

Cons:
• Price

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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15 Responses
  1. Avatar Bob2002

    Have to disagree about speed and quality from Plusnet. My speedtests(around 73 Mb/s with a profile of about 77Mb) have been consistent since I had FTTC installed back last Easter. And the quality of the connection is fine as well, hasn’t missed a beat under heavy use.

  2. Avatar FibreFred

    How come Virgin has support listed as a Con? I thought they did generally well in this area and I seem to remember a few articles on this site to back that up, mention of awards etc

    • Most of the gripes that pass through my inbox about Virgin Media tend to stem from problems with customer support, such as staff that fail to acknowledge that a problem even exists until several days later or which suggest silly solutions when the line is totally dead (e.g. replacing the router).

      Slow service status updates, poor communication between departments and other issues along those lines seemed quite common. I think they’ve improved a fair bit in the last few months of 2013 but we still see a fair few gripes and I can’t ignore that feedback.

      But you’ll note that most of the ‘value’ picks have support as a negative so it’s not uncommon :). Smaller ISPs just tend to do much better on that front.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I see, thanks for that

    • Avatar CrazyLazy

      Also with Virgin i think you will find the customer call centre you have to phone if you have issues differs depending on if you are an Virgin.net (ADSL) customer or Virgin cable. Or that at least used to be the case. Obviously the cable service given its awards this year does better. Maybe they do not see as many complaints as the cable product?

    • Avatar CrazyLazy

      Opps that should obviously read “Maybe they do not see as many complaints WITH the cable product?”

  3. Avatar dragoneast

    I’ve used IDNet for my landline broadband for a couple of years now. Regrettably over the last 6 months or so customers around the country both on VDSL and ADSL connections are reporting regular working day daytime/evening packet loss of up to 5% or so on their forum, and variable throughput speeds. They’ve increased capacity but don’t seem yet to have sorted it. There might be a suspicion that home users are being affected by some “excessive” business use of the odd major commercial customer. I only mention it since it’s looking like a “general” issue. It doesn’t show up in the same way on other ISPs (as far as I can gather). And may not matter unless QoS is critical.

  4. Avatar Peter

    The Plus.Net 40GB FTTC offering (up to 38 Mbps) has the same ‘unmetered overnight’ as the lower speed service.

    I still think 40 GB a bit limiting (and as they offer unlimited data for 9.99/month on ADSL, not sure how the costs stack up from Openreach), but for people out at work on the 9 to 5 grind, it may be fine.

  5. Avatar MinusNet

    Took me 3 months against PlusNet to get things resolved. They agreed to port my phone number over but it didn’t happen on day of transfer. No honest answer when I asked why this wasn’t done after countless phone calls and raising job tickets. Just one excuse after the other. Caught them out lying when they blamed it on my phone supplier who hadn’t even received a transfer request from Plusnet. I know because I checked.

    After 8 weeks of fake promises to look into it, I used CISAS and suddenly they paid attention and got their finger out to do the work.

    You get what you get for. Pay more for a company that provides decent support.

  6. Avatar cyclope

    Not with plusnet but was considering them, but reading their forums is a little off putting, they don’t seem to be able to support their customer base in a timely fashion anymore, there are issues with online gaming /peering too, as well as peak time slow downs and from the looks of some of the ping monitor graphs, lets say i wouldn’t be a happy bunny if they where of my connection

  7. Avatar Michael Bradbrook

    I moved over to Plusnet in October I had problems with them. They changed my telephone to a new number without me knowing, but I wasn’t bothered, but since getting FTTC with Plusnet and everything has been fine. I have not had a problem with them once and my speed hasn’t dropped below 74meg.

  8. Avatar supercasual

    I am a member of plusnet. in the last year they have become pathetic. Speed has drifted down. Service has dropped off a cliff and support has become sparse and worse over time.

    I am not impressed. Having in the past refered others to this company i am now going to leave as they have time and time again failed to provide support or information for weeks on end.

  9. Avatar pauld

    why does this website not discuss contract lengths, i think a thumbs up should be given for shorter contract lengths

  10. Avatar Mmouse

    sky are censoring my web site visits – despite not rewuesting sky shield they have cut off visits to certain sites – I am way over 21 and resent being censored by n organisation that has been in court and in front of MPs for perjury and hacking!

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