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2018 Study Compares Big UK Mobile and Broadband ISPs by Quality

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 2,046
consumer satisfaction broadband rating

Ofcom has published their annual study of service quality, call waiting times, complaints and service provision among the largest UK ISPs and Mobile operators, which among other things found that Plusnet had the longest call waiting times (7:50 mins) and the highest broadband satisfaction (86%).

The new report is based on data that the telecoms regulator has gathered (during 2017) via a combination of consumer research (survey of 2,500 people), submitted complaints and some new statistics that have been obtained directly from broadband, landline phone and mobile providers like BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, Post Office, O2, Tesco Mobile, Three UK, giffgaff and Vodafone.

Overall, eight in ten fixed line home broadband customers (80%) say they are satisfied with their service and this is down sharply from 87% last year, while 15% have a reason to complain (up from 13% last year). Meanwhile Virgin Media’s customers were more likely than average to say they would recommend their provider to a friend and TalkTalk’s customers were less likely to say they would do so.

Some of the data below has been seen before (Ofcom’s consumer complaints report) but a big chunk is new information. In all cases the regulator hopes that by publishing this information they will incentivise providers to improve their service quality and fix recurring problems, at least so far as they are able.

Service Quality & Complaints Handling

Overall 91% of mobile (down from 92% last year), 87% of landline phone (down from 89%) and 80% (down from 87%) of broadband customers said they were satisfied with their service. Subscribers to Plusnet reported the highest levels of overall satisfaction with their broadband service (86%), while TalkTalk scored the lowest on 72%.

A spokesperson for TalkTalk said the ISP is working to improve: “We’ve closed down our call centres in India. We have introduced new online tools to help customers resolve issues quickly and conveniently. And we are launching new Wi-Fi routers to strengthen network reliability. All these initiatives are starting to deliver material improvement in satisfaction levels” (TalkTalk’s broadband satisfaction score was 83% in the last report).

We’ve summarised some of the headline results below, although we’ve only done this for broadband and mobile because the results for landline phone were naturally similar to the scores for broadband.

Summary of the Key Results

* Plusnet had the highest customer satisfaction (86%)
* TalkTalk had the lowest customer satisfaction (72%)
* TalkTalk had the highest proportion of customers with a reason to complain (18%)
* Plusnet had the lowest proportion of customers with a reason to complain (13%)
* Plusnet had the longest call waiting times (7:50 mins)
* EE had the shortest call waiting times (48 seconds)

* giffgaff had the highest customer satisfaction (98%)
* Virgin Mobile had the lowest customer satisfaction (86%)
* Vodafone had the highest proportion of customers with a reason to complain (7%)
* giffgaff had the lowest proportion of customers with a reason to complain (1%)
* O2 had the longest call waiting times (1:17 mins)
* BT Mobile had the shortest call waiting times (47 seconds)

The full results can be found below and you can skip past this if you’d rather read about the service provision or repair performance of the major fixed line broadband ISPs.

Home Broadband


Landline (Phone)




New Service Provision and Repairs (Fixed Lines)

Ofcom’s study also examined how long it takes providers to deliver a new broadband and or landline phone service to customers, although sadly they don’t have much in the way of provider specific fault data yet but this is expected to be gathered from March 2019 as part of the new automatic compensation system (here). However we do get some general stats for the Openreach and Virgin Media networks.



Elsewhere the regulator estimates that network faults occur approximately every 8 to 9 years for lines carrying standard broadband services, which rises to once every 12 years for landline-only services, and once every 7 years for line carrying “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) services.

As for repairs. Providers using Openreach’s UK network can pay for a faster repair service if they so wish, although only BT and the Post Office (broadband) take the more expensive ‘one working day‘ (level 2) repair service. Meanwhile EE, Plusnet, Sky Broadband, the Post Office (landline) and TalkTalk all take the cheaper ‘two working day‘ (level 1) option. However it’s worth noting that Openreach does not fix every fault on time.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said:

“People often focus on price when they’re choosing a phone or broadband provider. But there are big differences in the customer service offered by providers.

We’re encouraging people to look beyond the price and consider customer service too. In such a competitive market, companies simply can’t afford to let their service standards slip. If they don’t up their game, customers can vote with their feet.”

Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice, said:

“Broadband and mobile are now essential services for many of us. Consumers deserve services that meet the demands of modern life, yet these new figures show that not all providers are delivering. Citizens Advice research also reveals that loyal customers face higher prices in the telecoms market. There are clearly some issues that need tackling.

The government’s Consumer Green Paper offers an opportunity to strengthen consumers’ hands by establishing an independent telecoms consumer advocate. This would help address poor service and ensure the consumer voice is heard in this increasingly important market.”

Broadly speaking Ofcom’s study has this year shown a decline in satisfaction among broadband customers. In particular, customers’ satisfaction with the broadband speeds they received has fallen compared to 2016 (from 83% to 77%), although those on faster broadband packages were more satisfied than those on standard broadband packages.

Overall Virgin Media was the only provider with above average customer satisfaction for broadband speeds. However the regulator was keen to stress how they’re working to tackle all this (see below).

Changes Being Made to Boost Service Quality

• Introducing automatic compensation for slow repairs, missed appointments and delayed installations from March 2019 (here).

• Improving the Broadband Speeds Codes of Practice, to give new customers more accurate speeds information and a stronger right to exit if their speed falls below the minimum guaranteed level from March 2019 (here).

• Strengthening the rules on complaints handling to ensure that providers deal with complaints from consumers promptly and effectively, from October 2018 (here).

• Setting tougher quality of service standards for Openreach to install new lines and fix faults more quickly. These came into effect on 1 April 2018 (here).

• Setting wholesale price controls that strengthen Openreach’s incentives to make long-terminvestments in service quality. These came into effect on 1 April 2018 (here).

• Supporting the broadband USO to help improve speeds for those who currently get less than 10 Mbit/s (here).

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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.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses

    I’ve been with TalkTalk for years. Customer service has been superb.

    I wonder how many complaints are due to customer error.

    • Avatar Meadmodj


      Many are caused by the constant switching between providers, misunderstanding of the products or exaggerated marketing. Using the word “fibre” doesn’t help.

  2. Avatar Jerry

    I do find this rather laughable.

    “If they don’t up their game, customers can vote with their feet.”

    How is it when the contracts are so long? The clauses for early termination without penalty are severe. For me to leave my 24 month contract with TalkTalk (sadly), my synchronised speed has to fall below 0.7Mbps out of a possible 4Mbps. This in it’s own right just simple won’t happen however I get 1.4Mbps.

    I realise that a lot of consumers are at error but I am not. I have no extensions. I have a recently fitted NT5e5C socket. Minimal cables, twisted pair rj11 cable to the back of the modem, Cat6 ethernet cable bridged to my DSL-AC88U router which provides phenomenal WiFi reliability but the connection is just severely poor and TalkTalk refuse to do anything about it. They say it’s within the confines of the speed range (0.7Mbps – 4Mbps).

    I realise that line distance isn’t exactly helping here but they have several options to help increase stability albeit at the cost of speed which has severely impacted the quality of my line. Interleaving is already enabled, along with Forward Error Correction.

    Is it fair for consumers to have to put up with such things when the cost remains the same as someone who lives in a town and gets a far better connection than someone who does not?

    Ofcom need to better protect consumers and tighten the reigns on ISP’s ludicrous contracts. Make it fairer for a consumer to see if the service is for them before locking into a contract for 12 months minimum.

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