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Ofcom 2021 Study Ranks Mobile and Broadband ISPs by Quality

Friday, May 7th, 2021 (10:21 am) - Score 2,352
consumer satisfaction broadband rating

Ofcom has published their 2021 survey of UK broadband ISP and mobile service quality, call waiting times, complaints and install times among the largest providers. Overall TalkTalk attracted the lowest satisfaction for broadband (77%), while Three UK did the same for mobile (86%). Generally, customer service has taken a COVID-19 hit.

As usual this annual report is based on data that the industry regulator has gathered via a combination of consumer research (survey of people and social media posts etc.), submitted complaints and some new statistics that have been obtained directly from broadband, landline phone and mobile operators.

Overall 80% of fixed broadband ISP consumers claimed to be satisfied with their service (down from 85% last year), which compares with 90% for mobile (down from 93%) and 77% for landline phone (down from 85%). Subscribers to EE reported the highest levels of satisfaction with broadband (82%), while TalkTalk scored the lowest (77%).

In terms of mobile satisfaction, Three UK secured the lowest score (86%) – although this is generally still pretty good, while giffgaff did the best (93%). Otherwise, we’ve gone further than Ofcom’s report by keeping a log of how customer satisfaction has changed over the past five years (see below). As usual the big caveat below is that the regulator only has enough data to examine the largest providers.

Consumer Broadband Satisfaction (Change Over Time)

  BT EE Plusnet Sky Broadband TalkTalk Virgin Media
2021 80% 82% 81% 80% 77% 80%
2020 86% 88% 93% 86% 78% 85%
2019 80% 87% 86% 83% 79% 85%
2018 79% 79% 86% 83% 72% 83%
2017 84% no data no data 88% 83% 91%

Consumer Mobile Satisfaction (Change Over Time)

  EE giffgaff O2 Tesco Three UK Virgin Media Vodafone
2021 92% 93% 91% 91% 86% 88% 90%
2020 93% 95% 93% 97% 89% 93% 90%
2019 93% 96% 92% 90% 92% 91% 93%
2018 93% 98% 92% 97% 89% 86% 88%
2017 92% no data 93% 96% 89% 94% 89%

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. Among other things this reveals that Virgin Media had the longest call waiting times (7 mins and 40 seconds!) of all broadband providers (i.e. when contacting support) and they did the same for mobile operators (6 mins and 44 seconds).

By comparison EE kept broadband customers hanging on the phone for the least amount of time (1 minute 15 seconds) and the same was true of BT for mobile (46 seconds). Ofcom notes that, at the start of the pandemic, many providers’ call centres were significantly affected by social distancing rules and staff sickness.

While many firms have been able to bring call waiting times back down, some companies have struggled. More than a year since the pandemic began, we expect performance to return to at least 2019 levels, as restrictions ease,” said Ofcom while calling for operators to up their game. The regulator also reiterated its call for more providers to launch ‘social tariffs‘ for people on low incomes.

Ofcom 2021 service quality by uk broadband, phone and mobile provider

We should add that only around half of broadband (52%) and mobile (57%) customers were satisfied with how their complaints were handled, while more than a quarter (26%) of broadband customers had a reason to complain about their service or provider.

New Service Provision and Repairs (Fixed Lines)

Ofcom’s study also examined how long it takes providers to deliver a new broadband or landline phone service to customers, as well as how long they may take to repair. Overall, 85% of all landline and broadband orders were delivered by the date agreed with the customer (down from 87% last year).

On average, it took 13 days to complete a new landline or broadband order (either a new service, home move or a change to service), which is 2 days slower than last year (11 days). Virgin Media delivered the shortest wait of 4 days and after that KCOM were the next shortest at 9 days, while Vodafone were the slowest at 15 days.

Meanwhile, the average time to change provider is 14 days (Virgin Media was the quickest on 10 days), although this is unlikely to ever fall significantly below 14 days as Ofcom’s rules specify a similar minimum transfer period for most switches between providers.

ofcom_2021_summary-of-provisioning-and-fault-repair-by-ISP

Across the major providers there were also 46 faults a month, of any kind, per 1000 customers. This includes any landline or broadband fault that took place in 2020, as opposed to only those that resulted in a total loss of service. Vodafone had the highest number of faults per 1000 customers (73 faults per month), while Plusnet had the lowest (12 faults per month).

However, it’s noted that 56% of faults resulting in total loss of service were actually within the customer’s domain (i.e. problems with in-home wiring or disconnections between devices) and not the fault of the broadband ISP.

ofcom_2021_summary_of_uk_isp_fault_levels

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Networks and Comms Group Director, said:

“Telecoms companies adapted quickly to meet soaring demand for their services last year – helping to keep the country connected.

But some have struggled with customer service problems. We’re challenging them to act now, so the telecoms industry becomes the gold standard for customer service.”

Finally, we can examine the impact from Ofcom’s system for automatic compensation (here) after its second year of operation, which compensates consumers by £8.06 per day for delayed repairs following a loss of broadband (assuming it isn’t fixed within 2 working days). Missed appointments can also attract compensation of £25.18 and a delay to the start of a new service would be £5.04 per day.

However, it’s important to point out that in March 2020, given the challenging circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ofcom published an update to explain that it would be legitimate for providers to temporarily not pay automatic compensation. As such the figures for 2020 may not be entirely reflective of a normal year due to fewer payments being made.

Faults resulting in a total loss of service were resolved within 2 days on average in 2020, with 89% of all total loss of service faults being solved within a week (this includes those resolved in a shorter space of time than a week) and that’s largely unchanged from last year. When an engineer was required to fix a fault, it typically took two days longer to have the fault resolved (4 days when an engineer was required, compared to 2 without).

Virgin Media and KCOM were able to resolve a fault faster, on average, than other providers. KCOM was the quickest, on average, to restore a customer’s service and was able to resolve most total loss of service faults on the same day, while Virgin Media had the highest proportion of total loss of service faults solved within a week, at 98%.

As for missed appointments, some 2.7% of repair and provision appointments were missed in 2020. Plusnet and the Post Office (no longer active) had the highest proportion of appointments missed, at 5.5%, while KCOM had the lowest proportion of appointments missed, at under 1%. Meanwhile EE and TalkTalk both scored 2.2%, Sky Broadband was 2.8% and Virgin Media 3%.

The automatic compensation scheme saw over £27.5 million (£11m on delayed repairs, £2.8m on missed appointments and £13.7m on delayed installs) paid out to 726,000 broadband and landline customers who experienced problems with their services, which is up from £20.7m and 600,000 last year.

NOTE: Participating providers in the compensation scheme have committed to annual increases in compensation in-line with inflation (CPI). Sadly Plusnet and Vodafone continue to drag their heels over an earlier promise to join the scheme (here), but EE has joined this month.

Ofcom’s Service Quality Report 2021
https://www.ofcom.org.uk/../service-quality

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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
2 Responses
  1. Michael V says:

    Current home ISP since about 2018 – Vodafone Superfast2. Quality is great. No complaints.

    Previous ISP for 12months – sky, hopeless & didn’t listen to my concern ls.

    Before that for a god few years, with ADSL broadband, it developed a fault they could not fix.

  2. Buggerlugz says:

    For once a great, in depth, useful and comprehensive survey.

    Good to see they hit the nail squarely on the head with three’s results.

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