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The UK Best Home Broadband ISP Options for 2020 by ISPreview

Monday, January 6th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 52,065
Golden star

The vast majority of providers mentioned on the first two pages, with the exception of Virgin Media, tend to be predominantly reliant upon Openreach’s national telecoms network in order to deliver their service. Despite this there is now 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 to a limited number of areas dotted across the United Kingdom, which also means that they don’t generate a lot of consumer feedback and this makes them much harder to judge.

Nevertheless we do still manage to identify exceptions that are worthy of consideration, even if they don’t always meet our usual requirements for inclusion (national coverage, unlimited usage etc.). Providers like this will often turn up in our General Commendations list below.

General Commendations

Remember, providers listed below may only be available to very specific parts of the United Kingdom and due to this we don’t include ‘coverage’ as a negative mark because this is an issue for all of them.

Setup: £150 Type: FTTH Top Plan: 900Mbps+

Entry-Level Package Examples

Ultrafast: Average Speed 900Mbps+ – £30 a month

Supports 2018 Speed Code: No
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: No

Broadband for the Rural North is an excellent provider, which follows the Community Benefit Society model with a full fibre network that has been both predominantly built and funded by those in the communities they serve (usually in exchange for shares). By using this approach they’ve been able to connect well over 6,000 homes to their network across remote rural parts of Lancashire, Cumbria, Cheshire, North Yorkshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

The model also relies on local landowners (e.g. farmers) being generous and agreeing to waive their right to payment as part of a wayleave agreement, which enables the fibre to be dug through their land at a lower cost. Over the past year B4RN has managed to raise another £3m+ to help fuel their future expansion (here) and as an ISP they continue to deliver excellent service quality to those they cover.

Pros:
• Price (£30 for 1Gbps!)
• Quality
• Support
• Speed

Cons:
• Specs for bundled router look weak (limited detail on FAQ page – states 802.11n WiFi)

Setup: £0 Type: FTTH / FTTB Top Plan: 900Mbps+

Entry-Level Package Examples

Superfast: Average Speed 50Mbps – £22 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£16-£21)

Ultrafast: Average Speed 150Mbps – £35 a month (discounts sometimes reduce this to c.£25-£30)

Supports 2018 Speed Code: No
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

Say hello to one of the very first alternative full fibre network providers to enter the UK market (launched 2011), which made Gigabit broadband speeds possible at a time when many people still viewed 20Mbps as more of an aspiration than a reality. Since then they’ve grown to cover well over 400,000 premises (mostly large residential apartment blocks / MDUs) and have attracted a lot of investment (here). As a result they now aim to reach 2 million UK premises by the end of 2021 and then potentially 5 million by the end of 2024.

Hyperoptic has also built a strong reputation for delivering good customer support, affordable ultrafast broadband packages and generally excellent service quality. The only real weak point is that they still have a tendency to bundle some very budget level routers with their service, which is disappointing given the service they offer but not surprising when you consider how affordable they are. We also like the flexibility they offer of an optional monthly contract term and broadband-only packages.

In addition, this is the only alternative network ISP to support Ofcom’s new automatic compensation scheme.

Pros:
• Speed
• Support
• Price
• Service quality and automatic compensation
• Monthly contract options

Cons:
• Bundled routers could be better

Setup: £0 – £350 Type: FTTH / Fixed Wireless Top Plan: 350Mbps

Entry-Level Package Examples

Superfast: Average Speed 50Mbps – £49 a month

Ultrafast: Average Speed 100Mbps – £59 a month

Supports 2018 Speed Code: No
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: No

Homes and businesses in remote rural parts of Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire can now access superfast and ultrafast broadband services thanks to Wessex Internet’s deployment of both an alternative Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. Service prices are reasonable given what is provided and the areas they serve.

Despite being a smaller provider they’ve still managed to build a seemingly successful ISP over difficult terrain and appear to support this with good support, although we have seen the odd grumble from some people who connected to their wireless network and sadly didn’t get the expected speeds (not applicable to their FTTH service).

Pros:
• Speeds (FTTH)
• Support
• Quality (FTTH)

Cons:
• Should make sure wireless users can get the promised speeds
• Install costs for FTTH could be clearer / simplified
• Packages appear to include a router but we couldn’t find any details / specs

Setup: £0 Type: FTTH Top Plan: 900Mbps+

Entry-Level Package Examples

Superfast: Average Speed 50Mbps – £20 a month

Ultrafast: Average Speed 150Mbps – £25 a month

Supports 2018 Speed Code: No
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: No

Despite being fairly young Community Fibre, which at present tends to focus on building Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks for social housing in London, has over the past 3 years managed to raise £90m and their network currently reaches 100,000 premises. Going forward they’ve promised to cover 500,000 premises across the city by 2022 and potentially 1 million by 2025.

The ISP is able to deliver a very high level of service quality and we’ve heard nothing but good things about their speeds. On top of that they’re one of the cheapest providers around and installation is free. So far as we can tell the router they bundle is a TP-Link Velop Tri-Band WHW0301, which is a Mesh WiFi device that can deliver a peak wireless speed of 2.2Gbps. On the downside it only has 2 x Ethernet ports and no phone sockets for VoIP.

Pros:
• Price
• Support
• Quality
• Speed

Cons:
• Lack of ports on router and mesh kit often lacks more advanced router features.

Setup: £25 Type: ADSL / FTTH / FTTC Top Plan: 900Mbps+

Entry-Level Package Examples

Superfast: Average Speed 30Mbps – £40 a month

Ultrafast: Average Speed 200Mbps – £46 a month

Supports 2018 Speed Code: No
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: No

Technically speaking KCOM isn’t an alternative network ISP because they’re the incumbent operator for Hull and East Riding in Yorkshire, although this year we really have to give them credit for completing the rollout of their Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network across almost their entire network area (c.200,000 premises).

In the past year they’ve also improved service pricing, which has made their unlimited options more comparable to the rest of the UK. Customer support is also reasonably good for an incumbent provider, albeit not as good as most of the others on this page. Similarly service quality is reasonable, if not amazing. The provider has also just introduced the Technicolor DGA2231 and ZyXEL XMG3927-B routers for their FTTP customers.

Going forward KCOM’s £627m sale to Macquarie Infrastructure (MEIF 6 Fibre) is expected to result in another expansion of their full fibre network and possibly greater wholesale access for rival ISPs (here).

Pros:
• Price
• Speed

Cons:
• Support quality, according to some customers, could be better.

Setup: £0 (with voucher) Type: FTTH Top Plan: 250Mbps

Entry-Level Package Examples

Ultrafast: Average Speed 200Mbps – £47.50 a month

Supports 2018 Speed Code: No
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: No

The ISPA recently named them ‘Best Rural ISP‘ and that’s in no small part thanks to their focus on delivering a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network across some of the most remote parts of South West England, which has so far focused upon the Chew Valley area of Somerset. The provider has also attracted £75m of investment and this supports their aim to cover 75,000 premises by 2021 and then possibly 200,000 by 2025 (this is a demand-led deployment where 30% of a community needs to sign-up first).

At present TrueSpeed’s fastest residential package is only 250Mbps, although they have hinted at plans for a 10Gbps service in the near future (here). The ISP appears to deliver good support and service quality too, although some people may experience delays as you may have to wait the new network to be built before you can connect to it. We couldn’t find any details on their website about the bundled router but feedback from customers suggests it’s a Huawei Echolife DN8245W (a reasonable piece of kit), although they seem to lock this down quite a bit.

Pros:
• Price
• Speed

Cons:
• Restricted router access

We did nearly include Gigaclear again this year because their actual service quality has been good, although the significant delays to their network rollout since 2018/19 and some issues with customer support have caused a notable drop in positive consumer sentiment and so we’ve left them off this year’s altnet picks.

General Disclaimer

Generally we aim to pick ISPs that have both been listed on ISPreview.co.uk for several years and shown fairly consistent performance and reliability over the past 12 months (Page 1 is an exception because that’s focused on saving money), but there is no such thing as perfection and experiences do vary, especially with broadband being a shared “best efforts” style of service. We also favour fully independent providers over vISPs and resellers.

Crucially, and unlike the other big comparison sites, we do not charge ISPs a fee to be listed (ISPreview.co.uk is free) and nor do we 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 (although we may exclude some providers that have caused harm in the market). On this point our 20 year history of balanced coverage should speak for itself.

Nevertheless 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.

Always remember, if you’re happy with your ISP but the price keeps rising then the best course of action may be to try and renegotiate the price (see our Retention Tips article) before you consider leaving. Similarly if you’ve been hit by a mid-contract price hike then remember that Ofcom has a rule against this, which enables you to exit your contract penalty free and switch ISP (i.e. if the price hike is above the level of annual inflation).

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 automated banners).

NOTE 2: The pricing and recommendations of this article are only valid for the date published. Prices change all the time so we recommend getting the latest costings from our ISP Listings system.

NOTE 3: You should expect most of the biggest 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 packages features and rising data usage by consumers. Smaller providers tend to raise their prices at a much slower pace and many haven’t done so in years.

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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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