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ISP Review’s 2018 Choice of the Best UK Home Broadband Providers

Monday, January 8th, 2018 (1:02 am) - Score 117,930
Editor\'s choice uk best broadband providers

Most of the broadband providers mentioned on the first two pages, with the noted exception of Virgin Media, tend to be reliant on Openreach’s (BT) national telecoms network in order to deliver their service. However there is a rapidly growing community of Alternative Network (AltNet) ISPs that are serving consumers by building their own infrastructure.

Related providers tend to be comparatively small because they’re often only available in a limited number of typically niche or hard to reach areas dotted around the United Kingdom, which also means they don’t generate a lot of feedback and this makes them much harder to judge.

Despite these challenges we do often still manage to identify exceptions that are worthy of consideration, even if they don’t always meet our usual requirements (e.g. national coverage and unlimited usage). Providers like this may often turn up in our General Commendations list below.

General Commendations

Remember, providers listed below may only be available in very specific parts of the United Kingdom.

* ASK4

Sheffield-based ISP ASK4 tends to focus on serving businesses, student accommodation and homes (apartments) in large multi-tenant buildings. Customers of the network usually receive their service via either a WiFi setup or some form of fibre optic fed broadband connection that offers speeds of up to 100Mbps and unlimited usage.

The provider won’t be that well known in the mainstream side of the market but they have still managed to earn a strong reputation for service quality and support. In fact this year ASK4 were nominated for the ‘Best Superfast Broadband‘ category at the annual ISPA UK awards. Sadly there don’t appear to be any public details on their packages or prices.

* B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North)

Look up the phrase “community success story” and B4RN should probably be listed somewhere. Over the past few years this provider has become the best example of a community funded and built network, which has deployed a 1000Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) service to some of the remotest rural villages in parts of Lancashire, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Norfolk and Suffolk (the latter two are recent additions).

So far they’ve managed to connect around 3,500 homes to their service and have grown, from initially being a small band of volunteers, into a company that employs over 20 staff, including an in-house civil engineering team. The 1Gbps service costs just £30 per month for an unlimited connection, with a £150 one-off installation fee. B4RN deserves all the positive recognition that it gets.

* Hyperoptic

It’s sometimes easy to forget that Hyperoptic was one of the first broadband ISPs in the United Kingdom to make a successful commercial model out of deploying 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Building / Premises (FTTB/P) networks into big residential apartment blocks (MDU) and office buildings around London. Since then they’ve begun expanding into 28 cities and aim to cover 500,000 premises by the end of 2019 and 2 million by 2022.

The ISP has attracted a lot of positive feedback (Hyperoptic Reviews) and most recently picked up the gong for ‘Best Superfast Broadband‘ at the ISPA UK’s annual industry awards event. This is hardly a surprise when you consider that their prices start at around £22 a month for an entry-level unlimited 30Mbps service, which rises to £35 for 150Mbps and £60 for the full Gigabit class 1000Mbps package.

* Gigaclear

Deploying an ultrafast 1Gbps+ Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H) broadband network into rural areas is already hard enough, although Gigaclear are perhaps unique in being one of the only ISPs to have actually made a workable commercial model out of it.

In fact the model has been such a success that Gigaclear is currently picking up a growing number of large state aid supported contracts for deployments across England and in May 2017 they successfully raised £111 million in new equity funding. Going forward the plan is now to cover 150,000 rural homes and businesses by around 2020.

Customers of the service typically pay a one-off activation charge of £100 and packages start at £41.30 per month for a symmetrical 50Mbps service with an unlimited usage allowance, which rises to £76.60 per month for the top 1000Mbps option. Professional installation can also be taken from £129.99 (one-off).

* Wessex Internet

This is an ISP that builds a mix of fixed wireless (FWA) and pure fibre optic (FTTP) based superfast and ultrafast broadband networks around rural parts of Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. Over the years they’ve continued to expand at a steady pace and have built a strong reputation for service quality, as well as customer support.

Prices start from just £25 per month (plus £199 one-off installation) for a 30Mbps (wireless) package with a 40GB usage allowance or £35 per month (installation cost depends on location) for a 100Mbps fibre optic package with a 60GB allowance. Faster packages with bigger allowances are available, although sadly there are no “unlimited” options and this is Wessex Internet’s one weak point.

* Spectrum Internet

Cardiff-based ISP Spectrum Internet is primarily focused upon Wales and a few patches of South West England, which they do by deploying their own mix of Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC), Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) and some Fixed Wireless broadband technology.

Generally we continue to hear nothing but good things about the work that Spectrum is doing, although unfortunately their website doesn’t make it easy to figure out exactly where their networks have been installed (unless you plan to check every postcode in Wales via their website).

* Call Flow Solutions

Call Flow is another ISP that has built its own mix of FTTC, FTTP and Wireless broadband networks across various parts of Kent, East Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire and a few other locations. The provider is currently expanding their coverage and also has a good reputation on the service and support side of things.

Pricing varies depending upon where you’re located and Call Flow tends to conceal most of their details behind a postcode based coverage checker, although you can probably expect to pay a bit more for their service than others. For example, a 100Mbps (20Mbps upload) “unlimited” FTTC service will set you back £54.99 per month.

General Disclaimer

We generally try to pick ISPs (our Quality picks) that have both been listed on ISPreview.co.uk for several years and shown fairly consistent performance and reliability over the past 12 months, but there is no such thing as perfection and experiences do vary, especially with broadband being a shared “best efforts” service. We also favour fully independent providers over vISPs and resellers.

At the same time even large poorly rated ISPs can still deliver a good service, but the ratio of dissatisfied to satisfied customers will usually be far higher (i.e. you stand a bigger chance of getting burnt but it might be a risk worth taking if you want to save a lot of money).

It’s also important to remember that service quality can vary from location to location and is affected by many different factors, such as the length of your phone line, local capacity at the telephone exchange and the type of line itself (e.g. copper, aluminium, fibre optic and / or coaxial copper). Many of these factors may also be out of your ISPs ability to control.

Crucially, and unlike the other big comparison sites, we do not charge ISPs a fee to be listed (ISPreview is free) and do not restrict our coverage to only the largest providers. Our impartial policy is to list and cover all legal ISPs in the same way, regardless of advertising. Our long history of balanced coverage should speak for itself.

Finally, there are hundreds of ISPs in this market and thus it’s simply not possible for us to give a full appraisal of every provider. As such we recommend that this article should only be used as a very rough introductory guide.

NOTE 1: Like many sites ISPreview.co.uk’s continued existence as a free source of information is only possible due to the advertising that can be found displayed around our pages (e.g. banners and affiliate links), which is predominantly automatic and usually not managed directly by us (e.g. Google’s automatic Ad Banners).

NOTE 2: The pricing and recommendations of this article are only valid for the date published.

NOTE 3: You should expect most of the big ISPs to raise their broadband prices by around +£1-£2 (per month) once every year, which is often necessary in order to accommodate new demands from regulators, new services and rapidly increasing data usage. Smaller providers tend to raise their prices at a slower pace.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
25 Responses
  1. Matthew

    Thought plus net now offered 40/10 to all customers?

  2. Negan's Lover

    Vodafone now offer broadband login details upon request so a third party router can be used. Unlike previously where it was almost impossible to get this from VF.

    • I’ve had mixed feedback on that, it seems to depend partly on which support agent you contact. Likewise they only allow routers that have been approved by Openreach, which is tricky since we only have BT Wholesale’s list of approved devices and many of the more recent routers don’t appear on that.

    • @ Mark Jackson

      They do but only under certain circumstances.

      Their change in stance was a direct result of a joint effort by members of the kitz forum managing to hack into their HHG2500. A lot of the credit goes to member bishbashbosh who eventually managed to obtain login info. At the same time he discovered a potential security bug so did the correct thing and advised Vodafone. VF were given time to patch any potential flaws and we had about 5 VF techs (that I know of) looking at this.
      The end result was they agreed to give out login info if the EU was using an MCT based modem. We usually suggest they use one of the several Zyxels we frequently recommend as VF are aware of those particular models being MCT approved.

      The whole thread can be seen here, but as it is only visible to logged in members, I shall quote the summary.
      http://forum.kitz.co.uk/index.php/topic,18911.375.html

      [quote]
      I’ve now re-assembled this thread and put back all the useful information provided by bishbashbosh and many others.

      It has served it’s purpose and given vodafone time to patch any flaws.
      The outcome has been good and as a result vodafone have changed their stance on providing information so that users may now use their own routers 🙂
      All-in-all, it was a long journey but the end result was good.
      [/quote]

  3. Wow, thanks Mark! 😀
    Nearly all our new business comes through recommedations, so this is very much appreciated.
    We’re all now super chuffed.

  4. occasionally factual

    A con to add to Plusnet is that in Telephone Exchange Market A they will charge you £7.50 a month more for ADSL/FTTC/FTTP (Unlike John Lewis Broadband which is, of course, a Plusnet white label so maybe cheaper for any potential Plusnet customer)

  5. eM

    I disagree that Vodafone make it hard to use a 3rd party router. Now, they give out the password no problem – when I switched, all I had to do is input my new password into my Lede.

  6. 3G Infinity (now 4G going on 5G)

    Can you do the same for business/SME offerings?

    • I’m not sure if it’s possible to produce such a report for business connectivity due to the lack of feedback (a lot of businesses won’t wish to upset their suppliers) and all sorts of other reasons with testing / verification. But I will see what I can do to rectify that, although it might be awhile before I have the time to focus on it.

  7. Nigel

    When you do reviews of adsl / ISPs it might useful to also state what the ‘back bone’ network is of the ISP.
    eg IMHO the Post Office telephone and broadband offering was very good when they used the BT network, but they changed away from BT and the quality of service IMHO reduced.

    • The problem with that is many ISPs do not reveal their suppliers and so often we can only guess or go off limited end-user feedback. On top of that providers may use several suppliers (e.g. BT Wholesale, TalkTalk Wholesale, Vodafone etc.). I’d like to mention suppliers but in practice we can’t rely on the information.

      On top of that some people make the mistake of assuming that a wholesale supplier and retail ISP (e.g. TalkTalk vs TalkTalk Wholesale) are one and the same thing, in terms of network quality / performance, which can be very wrong. I don’t want to cause more confusion for those who don’t understand the differences.

  8. George

    I do not have a bank account. I do not want a bank account. I hate that banks charge me money to use my money to make money for themselves and they share so little of it with me. This means that I can only pay for broadband services through the Post Office. That in turn means that I am trapped into using the Post Office broadband which is dire. They are currently throttling ADSL users to force them into buying their new fibre service. They publicly deny this but I was told it is true by a girl who works for them.

    Anyway, do you know of any other providers I can use and not have to have a bank account to use them?

  9. Wojciech Buda

    OriginBB

    I am a customer of Origin broadband and the service they provide is fatal. 15 minutes outages are a daily standard.

    Last week there was an outage taking 6 hours 14 minutes.

  10. Art

    Mark,
    Why is the Virgin network is closed to other ISPs whilst a network like Gigaclear is open to all? Even though Gigaclear is open to piggybacking it doesn’t seem that any ISPs do.

    If you live in a location within the Gigaclear network, you have a choice between Snailband internet (2MB in my case) with phone at around £20-30/month or full fibre Superfast 50MB (with VOIP phone) at £50/month, neither of which the majority of homes actually want, need or can afford, judging by the reported 40% take up.

  11. Chris

    People, what exactly do you smoke here? You call 38Mbps superfast? Then how’s 1000Mpbs? For 7.5 GBP. Unlimited. Without any installation cost. Available everywhere, not for a few lucky ones.
    Yeah, that’s in Romania, one of the lamest countries in Europe, where you can’t get less than 150Mbps internet and is only 2-3 GBP, where everybody has the “regular”, not superfast, 250Mbps at about 5 GBP per month.

    38Mbps was superfast in 2000, I remember I had 50Mbps in 2004 in Bucharest.

    All these companies selling net in the UK are selling technology from the year 2000. Only imagine Vodafone (yeah, the same Vodafone) in RO gives you a bonus of 1GB per day on each prepaid SIM. Yes, 30GB on your mobile for free, on top of the 5GB you get for ~4€. For prepaid, you don’t even need a subscription.

    So probably you’re smoking something that you ended up even considering 38Mbps as broadband.

    • Daniel Vincent

      Agree 100% with Chris, anything less than 100mbps is slow. Gigabyte is the way to go. Here in Dublin we get minimum 240mbps from Virgin IE for €44 month – not cheap but nearly 5 times the minimum speed offered by Virgin UK 50mbps for £35 month.

  12. Peter Collins

    Zen should be on your list. Best ISP by a mile.

    • Steve

      I agree. Just which I could afford their high prices.

      I am looking for a new provider, preferably with UK speaking customer service, which is a bit of minefield. You think you’ve found a cracker only to find either poor customers service reviews, prices hike up after the initial 12/18 months contract or you don’t get the deal as advertised.

  13. Jeremy Savill

    I have been a household customer of Zen for years. Originally attracted to them for their commitment to customer service and been a loyal customer thereafter. In the last 12 months I have seen a significant decline in this aspect of their service, communication, attitude of staff and resolution of issues. Never thought I would be saying this but seriously considering other providers and having to get my issues escalated to Ofcom to get them resolved.

    • Chris LANGDON

      I agree fully with Jeremy. As a longstanding zen customer I have found their service level is markedly deteriorating. To get a simple problem solved I have spoken to 6 staff members -only one of which was helpful. All have very little delegated authority somth3or goal,seems to be pass you as soon as poss to another adviser. Something has gone badly wrong!

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