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Consumer ISP Choices on Openreach’s UK FTTP Broadband Network

Saturday, August 24th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 5,595
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One of the most common questions to grace our inbox centres around the still evident confusion over ISP choice on Openreach’s (BT) Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based “ultrafast broadband” network, which usually occurs once people realise that it’s not available (yet) from most of their usual haunts.

Historically people have tended to assume that all of the major providers, except Virgin Media, will support Openreach’s latest technologies but that isn’t the case with FTTP. Several reasons for this exists, although the key issues relate to availability (it’s currently only available to around 1.5 million premises), capacity (some ISPs have to upgrade first) and the cost / time required to adapt related admin / ordering systems etc.

NOTE: Many of the queries we get stem from people who are aware they could get FTTP from BT but want to pick another ISP, usually due to a dislike of the largest provider.

The other big factor in all this has been the often complicated debate over market competition. Some of the big ISPs, like TalkTalk and Vodafone, are already involved with building their own alternative networks (altnet). Meanwhile others have concerns about the wholesale cost of Openreach’s network, which is more expensive than many of the newer altnet rivals (hard to avoid due, in part, to Ofcom’s model of regulation).

Nevertheless none of the ISPs can afford to ignore Openreach’s significant commitment to deploy FTTP to 4 million premises by March 2021 and then 15 million by around 2025 (here). At present this represents a build that is several times largely than any of their rivals have planned (e.g. both Cityfibre and Hyperoptic aspire to reach around 5 million each within a similar time-scale).

All of these competing interests have resulted in some internal confusion among major ISPs over their future strategies, which has in turn conspired to slow the introduction of new Openreach based services. Despite this both TalkTalk and Sky Broadband have said they will soon make FTTP services available via Openreach’s network, although they’ve also signalled their intention to examine, partner or deploy alternative platforms.

NOTE: Openreach is about to drop their wholesale FTTP prices for ISPs (here).

What are the FTTP ISP options on Openreach?

Suffice to say that many consumers have been left feeling confused about what their choices are and so we’ve extracted a few of the more consumer friendly options from our UK ISP Listings to help. In order to narrow this list down we’re only covering those ISPs that offer “ultrafast broadband” packages based off Openreach’s 160Mbps download / 30Mbps upload tier at more consumer affordable prices.

On top of that we’ve also excluded some of the more expensive business focused providers, as well as those that lacked enough package detail, failed to clearly display whether their prices included VAT or where we couldn’t be certain whether or not the packages were even Openreach based. We have not taken a view on the service quality of any of these providers so this should NOT be taken as a table of recommendations.

Something else to note is that we aren’t highlighting any of the other value added features that may come with some packages, such as cloud backup, static IP addresses, access to public WiFi hotspots, phone services and so forth. This table is merely intended as a quick guide.

ISP Summary of 160Mbps Packages (Openreach FTTP)

ISP Price Upfront Usage Contract Months Free Router
Spectrum Internet £49.99 £59 Unlimited 12 Zyxel VMG8825-B
Structured Communications £49.99 £60 Unlimited 12 Yes
iDNET £51.60 £60 Unlimited 12 No
Trunk Networks (Leetline) £54 £60 Unlimited 12 Yes
Spitfire £54 £0 Unlimited 24 Yes
BT £54.99 £9.99 Unlimited 24 Smart Hub 2
Distance Voice £55.14 £64.80 Unlimited 12 No
Zen Internet £59.99 £55 Unlimited 18 FRITZ!Box 7530
Freeola £59.99 £62.40 Unlimited 12 No
Optanet £59.99 £66 Unlimited 12 No
AAISP £60 £100 2000GB 12 VMG3925-B10C
Cerberus Networks £64.80 £48 Unlimited 12 Zyxel VMG3925
Giganet £65 £55 Unlimited 12 Technicolor DGA2231

Now a few points about the above packages. BT’s post-contract price rises to £59.99 per month. Spectrum Internet only tends to sell their FTTP packages to parts of Wales and South West England. Freeola will give you a discount if you pay for a full year in advance (equivalent to £47.30 per month) and Zen Internet hide their FTTP packages behind an availability checker (otherwise you’ll just see their similar speed G.fast options).

We also found that you had to go deeper in AAISP’s ordering system before the 160Mbps option is shown (oddly this only comes after you first pick an 80Mbps tier). Sadly several of the ISPs also do not allow you to order their FTTP packages online (e.g. Zen Internet) and instead force you to go through the tedious hassle of ordering over the phone.

A number of ISPs were excluded from our list for various different reasons and the most common were: 1) We couldn’t be sure whether the FTTP packages were Openreach based or not, 2) the ISP lacked a 160Mbps tier, 3) the ISP was too expensive, 4) the provider was too business centric or 5) key package / price details weren’t shown.

The excluded providers (these are often still worth consideration) included Unchained ISP, Aquiss, Jibba Jabba, Gradwell, BitStreme and I Need Broadband. Otherwise the prices above were all valid at the start of August 2019. We have not included Sky’s Ultrafast service above as at the time of writing those are G.fast based, even though some people do seem able to order FTTP (the latter is not yet fully implemented).

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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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16 Responses
  1. Avatar Jordan

    The UK is such a bad role, we still barely gritting FTTP installed. Might as wel stop and invest in 5G since more people can get that and i will getting 5g with Three soon.

  2. Avatar TT

    Ring the BT fttp number and you can get the 330/50 package for £43/pm on an 18 month contract, no set up fee only £9.99 for router delivery

    • Avatar MrZipf

      BT ranks low for customer support:

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/03/which-hammers-biggest-uk-broadband-isps-in-satisfaction-survey.html

      I checked in with BT a couple of weeks ago and they don’t grok that mobiles render the landline irrelevant. So they’ll add in charges for services you don’t want.

      We switched from FTTP with BT to BTTP with idnet last year and have had zero support issues. The service has worked flawlessly. Never felt the need for anything beyond 80/20 on either provider.

    • Avatar Local Slapper

      @MrZipf
      Unlike xDSL technologies, FTTP is far far more reliable so you’re unlikely to experience line issues on FTTP hence you’re less likely to call support. I suspect majority of those on BT FTTP will be very happy with the technical aspect of their service.

    • Avatar Matthew Witchell

      What is the number you are referring to? I have tried searching for it and discussed to by on the phone with no luck.

    • Avatar Mike

      BT was pretty awful in the ADSL era but with FTTC they seem to be a lot better now minus the poor support, personally I’d still pay more for an alternative.

      One thing to remember with large ISP’s is they tend to attract customers that have issues located between the chair and computer.

    • Avatar TT

      Matthew, yes the number is 0800 587 478 I’m pretty sure.
      I can’t remember what option I pressed, but basically I just asked about pricing and a lead time for a new connection , I got through to a really helpful guy who said he could do it for £43 a month and would even pay up to £200 to buy out or cancel another providers contract. I said I know the openreach wholesale prices have recently been lowered, are those reductions going to be passed on to the customer and he said no but I can do you this price.

  3. Avatar Sally

    Thanks for this I just moved into a house in Cathays in Cardiff which has bt fttp 1000/220 as an option but when I Ed spectrum they said they couldn’t provide it. I was going on to sign up to bt when this came up in my phones news feed. Very glad it did!

  4. Avatar Peter

    The strangely absent ISP on that list is Plusnet. I understand Plusnet has run some early FTTP trials with some of their existing customers but is currently not intending to provide an FTTP option (or seemingly G.fast either) in the near future. I suppose it shows a degree of independence from the parent company, BT, but I’m not sure why, in this case, it would be seen as a virtue.

    • Avatar James

      That’s the point of trials, to see if its worthwhile selling the product en-masse or not. Plusnet clearly believe its not worth the time & effort selling FTTP (for now)

      Btw BT’s other baby, EE, also aren’t selling FTTP at present.

    • Avatar Occasionally Factual

      But Plusnet should get some credit for not shutting down those on the FTTP Trial so forcing them to go to other ISPs or back to ADSL or whatever.
      And the costs to those locked in is the same as the list price for FTTC so much cheaper than any of the other ISPs listed above. So cheap FTTP even if limited to FTTC speeds.

  5. Avatar Marcos

    My address postcode is CO3 4BP. The Openreach wholesale checker states that FTTP is available 330/30. The text after the information box on the first line says FTTP is NOT Available, what does this mean ? Does it mean that the cabinet is FTTP but it hasn’t been activated ?

    • Avatar Freeola

      I’ve just checked and it’s offer FTTP on Demand, not wholesale FTTP at that postcode. You need to look under ‘featured products’ in the results. So you could opt to pay a substantial amount to get FTTP installed for you if you wish but wholesale FTTP is not available to you so you won’t be able to order from most ISP’s who offer FTTP.

  6. Avatar Euan

    Just to pick up on a detail here: some (if not all) of the prices listed in the table in this article refer to the prices including line rental – which is no longer necessary with FTTP. (I actually have the 300/50 package with Zen for the same price as listed in this article against the 160/20 package).

    Perhaps a clarification/update is in order?

  7. Avatar Stuart

    How many of these are nationwide and aimed at home use (not business)?

    BT, Zen and AAISP are some of them but there are very few others I believe.

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