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Survey Claims Switching UK Broadband ISP Could Save GBP143 a Year

Monday, September 13th, 2021 (7:22 am) - Score 1,056
Pound money uk piggy bank savings image

A new “nationally representative” survey of 4,478 broadband customers by Which? has claimed that consumers taking packages from the biggest four UK ISPs – Sky Broadband, BT, Virgin Media (VMO2) and TalkTalk – could save up to £143 per year by switching to a different provider. But price isn’t the only consideration.

The survey, which analysed the cheapest introductory offers available from 14 of the United Kingdom’s biggest broadband providers, found that customers pay an average of £33.77 per month for their broadband deal – this drops to just £26.34 when only examining the cheapest introductory fibre deals.

According to the results, customers of Virgin Media could have the most to gain by switching (average potential annual saving of £143.64) and they were followed by Sky Broadband (£131.76), BT (£119.52) and TalkTalk (£31.68). But part of this reflects the fact that, for example, Virgin Media has the highest availability of ultrafast (100Mbps+) class speeds, while many of the cheapest fibre deals from rivals are for slower speeds.

Switching can also bring additional benefits, such as giving you access to newer equipment (routers etc.), more advanced features (e.g. a static IP address), as well as potentially improved support, service quality and speeds. We say potentially because you never know for sure until you’re actually connected.

Average Monthly Prices by the Big Four ISPs
Virgin Media £41.68
Sky Broadband £37.32
BT £36.30
TalkTalk £28.98

As usual, surveys like this tend to overlook other factors, such as whether or not the customer is more focused upon service quality than price (i.e. if you’re happy then there’s less desire to rock the boat). As a result of that, the potential savings listed also ignore the fact that some consumers may opt to haggle for a better price (see our Retention Tips guide), which stands a reasonable chance of success on the big four.

NOTE: Haggling may not work with smaller ISPs because most of those tend not to play the discounting game (i.e. they’re more likely to give both new and existing customers the same stable pricing structure).

The survey also overlooks that many customers on Virgin Media’s faster packages may still live in areas where a viable alternative speed broadband product simply does not yet exist, although the increasingly rapid rollout of rival Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) networks is starting to change that dynamic and some also have access to good Mobile Broadband (4G / 5G) speeds – the latter was not even considered by the survey. But sometimes even when those networks are present, then consumers may not be aware (GigaTag’s proposal to fix this).

The fear of switching is also another factor, although Ofcom plan to introduce a new and much faster “one touch” switching process that will simplify all this and extend their migration rules to alternative networks (details). But the complexity of implementing that means we won’t see it go live until around December 2022.

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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.
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12 Responses
  1. Ray Woodward says:

    ” the increasingly rapid rollout of rival Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) networks is starting to change that dynamic. ” Since when? No sign at all of even being listed for the future round here (let alone even the remotest possibility of it ever actaully happening .. 🙁

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Just because you can’t yet benefit doesn’t change the fact that millions of other UK premises, over the past few years, have now been put within reach of alternatives and rising fast. Hence.. “starting to change”. But that will of course be no consolation to those still playing the waiting game, which includes myself.

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      I totally agree Ray, FTTP has no bearing on it whatsoever. The simple reason is, that in 2021 you’d have to be really stupid to purchase any broadband or mobile phone deal from a ISP or phone companies website or shop directly, when you can do far better finding a deal from a comparison site 9 times out 10.

  2. Eduard says:

    How it can change? Look at most providers, their FTTP prices are like 2-4x what the wholesale costs.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      This is because the wholesale cost often does not factor things like the need to include network features, data capacity, 20% VAT on consumer prices, a profit margin and various other costly extras (e.g. adherence to all the rules and regulations) that retail ISPs have to add before they can create a product for you to buy.

      The UK’s aggressively competitive broadband market is actually an extremely low margins business for ISPs, which makes it hard to turn a profit.

  3. Eduard says:

    I slightly disagree with that.
    – Data capacity is absolutely no issue at all, it’s very cheap to get connections for international transit lines outside the UK. Especially nobody used their full 900 Mbps at all times, it’s all about bursts and if they have someone who has any idea how to manage peaks all should be good.
    – Features? Users only want a connection, forcing any additional feature is just a decision the retail ISPs want to grab more cash. If your workflow is sound, the end user doesn’t need to call your support, there are plenty of examples outside the UK when users have 1Gbps, and they haven’t called their ISP in years because the connection is stable.

    Allow the user to make a decision whether they want a landline to come with it, even the bundled router, there should be an opt-out option for any additional feature to lower the cost.

    In regards specifically to FTTP, the support behind retail ISPs is already there, they have all the infrastructure in place, since they pay less than VDSL, they don’t pass that to the client, but in fact increases pricing because they offer more speed and that’s where the fault lies.
    You can’t blame everything on labour, as one good example is Sweden where 1Gbps costs £21 on average, that is very much below UK.

    1. Eduard says:

      Forgot to mention that the UK is the only country that does the price hikes based on CPI. Just another legit way to creep up prices on customers.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      “network features” covers a much wider multitude of things and connectivity requirements, I wasn’t referring to specific retail features with that so much as the necessary aspects. But I think you should try establishing a proper ISP for yourself to see just how much there is to consider.

      As more of a practical example, a lot of ISPs with cheaper entry-level FTTC tiers may only walk away with about c.£1 per month profit per customer (there are a lot of variables in this, but it’s not bags of cash) and some even seem to sell almost at a loss. Likewise, if you’ve just started building your own FTTP network and acting as an ISP then you’ll be spending more than you make for many years to come.

  4. Regorimabitbackward says:

    So this then begs the question if as you say there is not a lot of profit in being an isp why all the new start ups surely profit is reliant on supply and demand. Currently I am with virgin media because in the area where I live I only have the choice between virgin media ultrafast or asdl from a not upgraded street cabinet or unreliable/unsecure 4G mobile, so I have to take virgin for a fast reliable broadband service at virgin prices £65/ mph for 200 meg there are over 28 connected devices with 5 people living in our home with xboxes smart TVs google nests smart phones iPads etc etc you get my drift, so virgin it has to be and I’m grateful this is available but I just wonder what virgin would charge if I lived in an area where they faced competition. Again this begs a second question if there’s not much profit being an isp why all the overbuild surely from an isp point of view it would make more sense to go into an area where there is no competition or very little at the least, I understand that with the passage of time overbuild will become more likely and hence more competition, which hopefully will benefit the end user/customer.This could also result in some of the smaller isps being bought up by the big boys,as did happen with the railways/ bus companies years ago and you end up with “the big four” in the case of the railways, is history about to repeat itself?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Over the longer-term, if you can make it work (i.e. survive past the debt and grow scale), then being the owner of the infrastructure in the ground is the most lucrative side to be on (cost savings vs Openreach etc.); especially if you’re both the network builder and retail ISP at the same time (optimal position). But there is risk (burning money for a decade before payback), and all of those AltNets cannot succeed, so expect a fair bit of consolidation and a few failures.

      As I say, a lot of variables to consider.

  5. Adrian says:

    As said price is not always the consideration.

    I am now on VM with 230 meg, full TV Inc movies, phone with calls and a 5 gig SIM all for £60 a month.

    I can put the cable router into modern mode and use my own £400 cat 6 WiFi 6 router.

    Been rock solid for 15 months unlike the FTTC connection which was slowly dropping speed, I suspect to crosstalk.

    So no price is not always the main concern.

  6. Billy Nomates says:

    I would if I had a reasonable choice. For me it’s VM or < 50mbit DSL. I can't wait for the day to have a legit choice to switch to.

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