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The 2019 Best UK Home Broadband ISP Choices by ISPreview

Monday, January 7th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 81,897
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Comparing fixed line broadband and phone providers can often result in a headache of confusing choices and not everybody shops around for the best deal, even though they probably should. In this guide we aim to simplify the options and quicken the process of choosing an ISP with our own picks.

Sadly service quality can vary from location to location and is affected by many different factors, such as the length of your line, capacity at the exchange and the type of line itself (copper or optical fibre etc.). Equally problems within your home, such as slow WiFi or poor wiring, could make you think that an ISP is at fault when that might not be the case (some factors are outside of the provider’s ability to control).

On the flip side even large poorly rated ISPs may still deliver an excellent 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). As such choosing a new ISP can sometimes feel like a lottery.

In response we’ve put together a selection of internet providers, which are organised into several categories to reflect the best picks for those seeking to save money or those who would rather pay extra for more quality.

Editor’s Pick Categories

PAGE 1: Price – For the budget conscious, albeit possibly sacrificing quality.

PAGE 2: Quality – For those who will pay a bit extra to get the best service.

PAGE 3: Commendations – Alternative network ISPs that deserve praise.

As always we recommend that you thoroughly investigate any ISP before joining, although there’s always a risk of bad service and this is true for even the highest quality providers. We also advise readers to check our Broadband Technology page in order to learn about the different connectivity methods.

Meanwhile the Awards and Special Offer categories in our news section are useful for keeping track of third-party ISP awards, surveys and price promotions, but take note that those in remote rural areas may sometimes pay more due to the lack of local competition and the higher cost of service delivery. Finally, don’t forget to check out our UK ISP Listings system for a price benchmarked comparison of around 200 ISPs.

NOTE: We pick ISPs based on a mix of reader feedback, Ofcom quality and complaint studies, awards, reviews (across multiple sites), history, product and price selection.

Understanding the Market

At the time of writing it’s estimated that fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks reach almost 96% of UK premises and a little over half of the country should be able to order an “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) service. Generally there are two primary national networks in the UK – Openreach (BT) and Virgin Media.

Openreach is an open access platform (used by lots of ISPs) and supports a mix of different technologies (e.g. slow ADSL, superfast hybrid fibre FTTC and ultrafast G.fast or “full fibre” FTTP). Meanwhile Virgin’s ultrafast Cable (Hybrid Fibre Coax DOCSIS + FTTP) network is closed to other ISPs and mostly only available in urban areas.

Some areas also have access to Alternative Network (AltNet) providers, which deploy a mix of different technologies (wireless, FTTP etc.) to cater for specific areas (see PAGE 3). Related ISPs are growing rapidly in coverage (here) but they’re currently still only a small part of the market. We don’t recommend Satellite ISPs due to problems with high costs, small data allowances and slow latency.

Finally, we recommend that readers check out our Summary of Useful Consumer Rules and Laws because there are a lot of existing and future measures (e.g. automatic compensation for faults, protection against mid-contract price hikes and the broadband speed code of practice etc.) that are designed to protect you.

NOTE: Switching provider is usually as simple ordering a service from your new ISP and they will then handle the rest, but there are some caveats and we recommend reading our Guide to Switching. Plus those choosing an ISP during 2019 will also benefit from the new Automatic Compensation system for faults and delays.

Price – The Best Low Cost Broadband ISPs

Finding a cheap broadband package in the UK isn’t hard but it’s worth remembering that low cost providers may have less money to reinvest into their service (i.e. the quality of service, performance or support may suffer). Nevertheless if you don’t mind taking the risk then the options below should suit.

All of the prices below include VAT and line rental. We do not show special offers as those change far too often (post-contract prices are shown) but we have included a range of common discounts for each example package, while our UK ISP Listings will give you the prices with the latest known discounts applied.

Furthermore we only show packages with unlimited usage and wide national availability (except PAGE 3), which are the most popular and easiest to compare. The following is an unordered list and most of these ISPs will also tie you into a standard 12 or 18 month contract. Discounts only tend to last for the first contract term.

Reminder: We define “standard” broadband as offering speeds up to 24Mbps, while “superfast” starts at 24Mbps+, “ultrafast” is 100Mbps+ and “gigabit” begins 1Gbps+ (1000Mbps+).

* Vodafone

Setup: £0 | Type: Openreach FTTC, Cityfibre FTTH | Fastest Plan: 1Gbps

Entry-Level Package Examples

Unlimited Superfast: Average Speed 35Mbps (Download) – £22 a month (£20 for existing Mobile customers)

Unlimited Ultrafast: Average Speed 100Mbps – £28 a month (£23 for existing Mobile customers)

Since re-launching in 2015 Vodafone has established itself as one of the cheapest fixed line broadband providers in the market and this in turn has continued to boost their growth. At present their primary packages are dominated by superfast FTTC (VDSL2) technology on Openreach’s network, which come with unlimited usage and a fairly capable router (802.11ac WiFi, Gigabit Ethernet etc.). Not to mention the 4G Mobile plans.

More recently Vodafone and Cityfibre have begun a £2.5bn project to roll-out a new 1Gbps capable “full fibre” (FTTH) ultrafast broadband network to cover a “minimum” of 1 million homes by 2021, which should reach up to 5 million homes in 37 towns and cities by 2024 (approximately 20% of the current UK broadband market) – more details.

The new fibre optic network is a very welcome development but it will be years before they achieve significant coverage and for now the availability is limited to patches of around 10 cities. We are also concerned that Vodafone may risk sacrificing service quality by pricing their mainstream FTTC packages so low. Plus they have no Pay TV solution, which is something that all of their main rivals on this page are offering.

• Good router
• Cheapest for superfast broadband
• Truly unlimited usage
• Good choice of 4G Mobile plans
• New 1Gbps FTTH network holds promise but will take years to roll-out

• Concern over future service quality due to low pricing
• You can use a third-party router but must request the connection details and it has to be an approved model
• No Pay TV
• Hard to judge quality due to limited feedback.

* Virgin Media

Setup: £25+ | Type: Virgin DOCSIS / FTTP | Fastest Plan: 362Mbps

Entry-Level Package Examples

Unlimited Superfast: Average Speed 54Mbps (Download) – £35 a month for 12 Months (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£25+)

Unlimited Ultrafast: Average Speed 108Mbps (Download) – £40 a month for 12 Months (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£30+)

Virgin is a cable operator that uses a mix of DOCSIS based Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) and FTTP infrastructure in order to deliver ultrafast broadband speeds, which in the future could reach Gigabit levels of performance once the new DOCSIS 3.1 standard is adopted. At present Virgin’s network covers a little over half of the UK (mostly urban areas) but it’s being extended to around 60% of premises by 2019/20.

The provider, which has won plenty of praise for their broadband speed, also receives a smaller volume of complaints than most of the other big ISPs and is positively ranked for service satisfaction (here and here). On top of that they also have some of the strongest Pay TV products in the market, parental controls and offer a good selection of data friendly 4G Mobile plans (EE MVNO), as well as access to various public WiFi hotspots.

On the other hand some customers have had problems with latency over the past two years, particularly users of their Hub 3.0 router (CPU bug), and the operator tends to be a bit weaker than some rivals when it comes to upload speeds (although downloads are great). NOTE: A new router is due to launch in 2019.

• Download speeds
• Strong TV bundles
• Strong 4G Mobile tariffs (quad play bundle)
• Option of a 30 day contract, at extra cost
• Good value standalone broadband packages

• Upload speeds could be better
• Coverage is mostly only in urban areas (cities and big towns)
• Switching ISP isn’t seamless as Virgin have their own network

* Sky Broadband

Setup: £9.95-£59.95 | Type: Openreach FTTC, ADSL | Fastest Plan: 63Mbps

Entry-Level Package Examples

Unlimited Standard: Average Speed 11Mbps (Download) – £30 a month for 18 months (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£20)

Unlimited Superfast: Average Speed 63Mbps (Download) – £43.99 a month for 18 months (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£30)

Traditionally Sky was more of a Pay TV provider, although today they are also the second largest consumer broadband ISP in the UK. One of the reasons for that is because they’ve managed to maintain a good balance of affordability and service quality, which is highlighted by several Ofcom reports and the fact that they receive proportionately fewer complaints than ANY of the other big players (here).

On the other hand their 4G Mobile (O2 MVNO) plans aren’t as attractive as they could be due to meagre data allowances and they don’t yet have any mainstream “ultrafast” broadband plans (we expect some in 2019). Meanwhile the supplied Sky Q Hub is good but only has 2 x LAN ports, although a new model is due in 2019. Customers also benefit from features like parental controls (website filtering etc.) and nuisance call blocking.

• Truly Unlimited Usage
• Good support and service quality for a major ISP
• Network is upgraded for IPv6
• Nuisance call blocking

• Sky Q Hub router is good but only has 2 LAN ports
• No ultrafast broadband packages, yet
• Mobile plans need bigger data allowances
• In a world of cheaper streaming, Sky TV feels expensive

* NOW TV (NOW Broadband)

Setup: £9.99-£50 | Type: Openreach FTTC, ADSL | Fastest Plan: 63Mbps

Entry-Level Package Examples

Unlimited Standard: Average Speed 11Mbps – £25.99 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£15-£20)

Unlimited Superfast: Average Speed 36Mbps – £35.99 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£25-£30)

This ISP is effectively the low cost brand of Sky and they have a number of unique selling points over their bigger brother, as well as benefiting from the same broad service and support. Firstly, you have the option of taking their packages without a contract (attracts a £50 setup fee) and their internet based video streaming platform also gives you access to a lot of popular premium TV channels, albeit at a much lower cost (from £7.99).

On the other hand they don’t offer any Mobile plans and nor have they launched an “ultrafast broadband” package.

• Truly Unlimited Usage
• Good support and service quality (like Sky)
• Network is upgraded for IPv6
• Affordable and good streaming Pay TV service (uses Roku kit)

• Rebranded Sky Q Hub router is good but only has 2 LAN ports
NOW TV lock their routers, making it hard to use a third-party alternative
• No ultrafast broadband packages
• No Mobile plans
• If you had a bad service from Sky then NOW TV will be the same

* Plusnet

Setup: £0-£25 | Type: Openreach FTTC, ADSL | Fastest Plan: 66Mbps

Entry-Level Package Examples

Unlimited Standard: Average Speed 10Mbps – £29.98 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£18-£25)

Unlimited Superfast: Average Speed 36Mbps – £34.98 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£23-£30)

Generally speaking Plusnet has continued to win awards for their customer service and value (examples here and here), while Ofcom also rates them quite highly for consumer satisfaction (here). As an ISP they tend to focus more on basic low cost packages, although they do also sell some limited Pay TV services using the YouView (IPTV) platform and offer a range of 4G Mobile plans (EE MVNO).

On top of that Plusnet also offer a 30 day contract option on their broadband packages (similar to Virgin Media and NOW TV), albeit at extra cost. This is a good ISP if you just want the basics and aren’t too concerned about always getting the best service speeds.

• Cheap (especially FTTC)
• UK based support
• Simple Pay TV solution
• Short 30 day contract options

• Bundled router is reasonable but a little dated
• 4G Mobile plans need bigger data allowances
• Seems to have an issue with long call waiting times (support)
• No ultrafast broadband packages (maybe in 2019)

* First Utility

Setup: £0 | Type: Openreach FTTC, ADSL | Fastest Plan: 63Mbps

Entry-Level Package Examples

Unlimited Standard: Average Speed 11Mbps – £18.99 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£17)

Unlimited Superfast: Average Speed 35Mbps – £31.99 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£25)

Most people only know First Utility as an energy supplier but all that changed in 2016/17 when they introduced their own broadband service. The new service is different from others in that their standard pricing is already quite low and they’ve pledged not to increase this at the end of your 18 month contract. On top of that they don’t charge any upfront setup fees but you still receive an included wireless router.

Furthermore we understand that existing customers of First Utility may get a discount on their broadband price, although subscribers would need to check their account page in order to figure out what impact this would have on their own service. Early feedback about the operator has been positive but they’re still quite young and only time will tell whether that holds into the future.

• Cheap and no upfront fees
• Commitment not to increase prices

• No Pay TV service
• No Mobile plans
• Limited details on savings for existing energy customers
• No ultrafast broadband packages
• Still a young ISP, hard to judge long-term quality

* BT

Setup: £9.99-£59.99 | Type: Openreach FTTC/P, G.fast, ADSL | Fastest Plan: 300Mbps

Entry-Level Package Examples

Unlimited Standard: Average Speed 10Mbps – £45.49 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£25-£30)

Unlimited Superfast: Average Speed 36Mbps – £44.49 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£28-£35)

Unlimited Ultrafast: Average Speed 145Mbps – £59.99 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£55)

Generally we struggle to recommend BT for their standard and superfast packages, not least due to concerns over service quality, complaint levels and their post-contract prices are among the most expensive on this page (although their initial contract terms usually benefit from good discounts). As such the main reason for including BT is because of their affordable FTTP / G.fast based ultrafast broadband packages and premium features.

Customers can expect to receive free UK weekend calls as standard, access to a vast network of public WiFi hotspots, a big online cloud / backup storage (200GB to 1000GB), parental controls (website filtering etc.), anti-virus protection, a good quality wireless router (Smart Hub 1 or 2) and nuisance call blocking. On top of that they have a strong selection of EE based Mobile plans and Pay TV packages using the YouView (IPTV) platform.

We should also point out that BT has recently launched a new range of ‘Plus‘ packages, which is a step toward their future all-IP network and one that brings fixed line broadband and mobile broadband much closer to being almost a seamless connectivity experience (here).

• Lots of included extras
• Good SmartHub 1 and 2 router (similar specs)
• Mostly UK based support (aims to be 100% by 2020)
• Good selection of FTTP and G.fast ultrafast broadband plans
• Decent Pay TV and Mobile plans
• Nuisance call blocking

• Standard and superfast broadband packages are expensive
• Hefty post contract prices, partly due to all the premium extras
• BT attracts a lot of complaints, although they are the biggest ISP
• The new ultrafast packages are good value but will have limited coverage for another year or so

NOTE: Most of the above ISPs will also offer plenty of paid extras (add-ons), such as Anytime UK calls, mobile plans or enhanced TV bundles. In addition, providers that use Openreach’s UK telecoms network still have a lot of control to differentiate themselves in terms of features, network quality and performance, so don’t treat them as the same.

Continue on Page 2 to view the best ISPs for service quality..

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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
22 Responses
  1. Avatar Marcel Thompson

    Hi Mark, I believe as of June last year virgin media changed their traffic management policy so it no longer applies to both download and upload usage on all of their main packages. 🙂


  2. Avatar Sid

    Any reason why TalkTalk has been left out under the ‘price’ category?

  3. Avatar Denis Williams

    Funny you never mention UTILITY WAREHOUSE who have been awarded numerous Which awards for all services for years now yet you never mention them. So much for being impartial.

    • We’ve had pretty much zero feedback on that service or contact from UW as an ISP, so how can we make a judgement? The Which? magazine seem to be the only ones who give them any awards and those are based on feedback from a commercial membership (we can’t see the details of their ratings etc.). Not enough to go on.

  4. Avatar Out_In_The_Sticks

    Another funny thing…. Well, I wasn’t surprised when I read this article, is the fact that none of these ISP’s are available here in the Rhondda and surrounding areas, which shows where the lady of the fibre land is at present.
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we get G.fast in the not too distant, but as of yet, even with the cabinet in our area showing that it’s ready, absolutely no ISP has taken it up!
    Ah well, BT are the main shareholders for supplying the cables here to, until you go out towards Swansea and Cardiff that you see FTTP and cable fibre in abundance.
    Nice to see none of the big companies in the list, and being a Sky Broadband customer, would love to switch to a faster service, but it looks like we’ll be stuck for a while at the speed we have, which is capped to the UK average as Sky seem to think our line cannot take more than 36Mbps, but I’ve done the tests and neighbors down the street have 45+Mbps and our router shows we can go quicker, but the info this company uses to determine how fast easy house or area should be is so out of date, it’s crazy!
    Anyway, there ends my rant for the beginning of 2019, who knows what the rest of the year will bring?

  5. Avatar FibreBubble

    Article is just plucking stuff out of the air.

  6. Avatar Andrew

    I’m surprised Pulse8 didn’t feature this year. Any particular reason for this?

  7. Avatar dennis

    “Sky lock their routers, making it hard to use a third-party alternative”

    Im not sure what you mean by this so maybe i am misreading but you can use your own router on Sky very easily as long as it supports MER. Username and Password details are no longer required (No more needing to use tools to extract it from the Sky router). You have not needed to do that for almost 2 years.

    Also a bit confused why for Plusnet you have “UK based support” as a pro but for most other ISPs which have “UK based Support” all you have is the word “support” under them. For Plusnet it confuses things more as even though “UK Based Support” is deemed a pro when under con you have wrote “Seems to have an issue with long call waiting times (support)”. Support UK based or not, is either good or poor and personally to me long wait times is not a good thing in any regard (UK based or not).

    Im also not sure if i personally would under BT call “Mostly UK based support (aims to be 100% by 2020)” a pro, in a comparison to other ISPs. That sounds more like a con to me when others already have 100% UK Support.

  8. Avatar Kinolmontie

    Out in the sticks, doorbell rang, Openreach engineer, we will be installing FTTP within the next three months….. Can’t believe it, stunned, lost for words, BIG Smile… Need to change Mobile from 3 as about as much use here as a chocolate Teapot, thinking of moving to EE! Does anyone know if there are any EE/BT Mobile/BT Broadband 300+mps deals?
    As this will mainly be for home use, is there much of a difference (Time wise, would we notice it if we went for a slower speed, say 100Mps)?

  9. Avatar Jan

    where is hyperoptic?

  10. Avatar Poppy Jordan

    The above blog describes very well about which broadband service is to be the best choice of selection in 2019. Thanks for the information.

  11. Avatar Keith

    I’m surprised that Vodafone’s router was judged “good”. The thing has so many issues that the only thing that seems to work anywhere near properly is it’s 5GHz WiFi. Rather than good, most users on Vodafone’s forums would probably judge it as special needs!

  12. Avatar Emma Roy

    Great Post Sir,
    Your Post is very great and very helpful For me and my team. and when I read your post I search it and I got one platform that’s name is Coupon Mall and in this platform, I get best deal and offers.

  13. Avatar Colin P

    Been told by Vodafone ( Thus/Demon) that they will no longer provide adsl basic service here in our part of the Vale of Glamorgan . There is fibre less than a mile away but BT won’t bring it into the villageof 90 houses even though there is an almost empty duct laid about 10 yrs ago – Now searching for a new ISP

  14. Avatar Danny

    i currently have virgin Meadia with there topinternet with its newest router I’m considering switching to sky to there supper fast broadband and sky q tv package….. witch is the better suppler would people say… sky or virgin?

  15. Avatar Fazal Majid

    G.Fast is *not* full fiber, and it’s not fast either, only in comparison to the UK’s dismal standards compared to our European peers. It’s copper-based technology, i.e. more flogging of Openreach’s dead-horse infrastructure they keep refusing to invest in.

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