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Survey Claims 53% of UK Broadband Users Suffer Connection Woes UPDATE

Tuesday, Jul 4th, 2023 (12:00 am) - Score 1,384
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A new survey of 3,975 UK people who had a contract for a home broadband ISP in December 2022 and January 2023, which was conducted by Which?, has found that 53% have experienced “connection issues” in the past year (e.g. very slow speeds, connection drop-outs etc.) and Sky Broadband were the worst offender.

Out of the biggest ISPs, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media and EE all had the lowest proportion of customers who had not experienced any issues – with just 32%, 35% and 37% of their customers, respectively, not reporting any problems. Of the major providers, BT fared best – with 49% of its customers not experiencing a performance issue in the past year.

By comparison, Hyperoptic, Shell Energy and Utility Warehouse performed better, with half or more of their customers not experiencing any performance issue in the twelve months to January 2023. However, even with these providers, at least four in ten customers still said they had experienced at least one problem.

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In terms of what causes these “connection issues“, the top offender was listed as “frequent connection drop outs” (19% of respondents affected), while the second most common issue customers experienced was a “very slow speed” (17%), which was confusingly followed by 15% also saying they experienced a connection that was “slow to download or upload files“.

ISP Name Proportion of users that hadn’t experienced any performance issue
Hyperoptic 52%
Shell Energy 52%
Utility Warehouse 50%
BT 49%
Plusnet 47%
Vodafone 46%
Now Broadband (Now TV) 44%
Zen Internet 42%
TalkTalk 40%
EE 37%
Virgin Media 35%
Sky Broadband 32%
Issue Proportion of users who’d experienced problem
Frequent connection drop outs 19%
Very slow speeds 17%
Connection slow to download or upload files 15%
Problems with router 14%
Left without connection for more than hour 14%
Slow or disrupted streaming (music or video) 12%
Left without connection for more than a day  8%

The fact that Sky Broadband came bottom above seems unusual. Ofcom’s own official complaints data tends to show that Sky consistently returned some of the fewest customer gripes amongst the biggest providers (here), while Shell Energy were by far and away the worst. Suffice to say that Ofcom’s data, which is based off actual complaints received, presents a very different picture from that of Which?’s more anecdotal survey above.

As for the “issues” the survey raises, it’s worth noting that these shouldn’t all be automatically conflated to mean they’re caused by the broadband ISP itself. Remote internet services can also suffer connectivity problems and so too can your home network, which could just as easily stem from a problem inside your home (e.g. local network configuration error, local network congestion, poor WiFi etc). The survey really needed to drill a bit deeper.

The survey also further confuses matters by including two options that are too easily conflated – “very slow speeds” and “connection slow to download or upload files“. Make of all this what you will, but here’s what some of the ISPs had to say in response.

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A Sky spokesperson said:

“We are committed to providing the best service to our customers. We do not believe this is a representative survey – Ofcom’s quarterly complaints data shows we are consistently one of the least complained about broadband providers and, in Ofcom’s latest report, we received the fewest complaints out of all broadband providers.”

A Virgin Media spokesperson said:

“While these findings are only taken from a small sample of customers, the latest, fuller data from Ofcom shows that our customers benefit from the fastest download speeds, and customer complaints on our broadband services fell by 22% in the first quarter of this year. Only last month we were rated the ‘Best in Test’ in Umlaut’s broadband benchmarking survey, ahead of other major providers.

With demand for connectivity higher than ever, we’re investing billions of pounds each year to upgrade and improve our networks to ensure we’re providing our customers with fast and reliable broadband services they can rely on. Customers are receiving more value than ever from their telecoms services, and we continue to invest in every area of our business to ensure we continue to improve and deliver an excellent customer experience.”

An EE spokesperson said:

“Ofcom’s latest complaints report shows that we remain one of the least complained about broadband providers, with complaints remaining well below the industry average throughout recent years.

We remain committed to providing the best customer service across the industry and ensuring our customers get value for money as the UK’s best network. Our teams across the UK and Ireland already provide the most personal and local service in contact centres and retail stores across the country.

We have proudly led the way with social tariffs since 2008, with around 80% of the total market being supported on BT social tariffs. Customers who are struggling financially and are eligible for our social tariffs can move penalty-free at any point in their contract, this also includes EE and Plusnet customers.”

Richard Tang, CEO of Zen Internet, said:

“Our industry unfortunately has a poor reputation for managing customer expectations and being transparent with communications, and introducing price rises mid-contract at a time when everyone is struggling with household bills does nothing to improve this. With price rises based on a 10.1% CPI rate, and the above inflation addition of typically 3.9%, that amounts to a substantial additional burden to household budgets.

We are not immune to the inflationary forces impacting supply chains and wages, but we all recognise that customers need as fair a deal as we can offer. Zen’s response to this challenge for residential customers is the Contract Price Promise – a promise not to increase prices for the length of the contract period.

When it comes to customer service, Zen was the only provider to score four stars in all seven categories in the Which? survey – connection speed and reliability, customer service, value for money, technical support, ease/speed of contact and ease of set up. We have topped the table for eight years and are the only Which? Recommended Provider for Broadband. It’s not always easy, but we will always work to ensure we provide an industry leading service and support our customers when they need it most, rather than prioritising profit-driven price hikes that only benefit shareholders.”

UPDATE 5th July 2023

Added an extra comment.

Tom Williams, CEO and Co-Founder of Lit Fibre, said:

“The findings from the Which? report published yesterday are not surprising. Broadband providers have become complacent regarding poor customer service. Taking time to explain how customers can get the best experience ‘in home’ from their wifi setup is also top of our agenda as we know most customers need our expertise with this.

At Lit Fibre we put customer service and reliable internet first from the outset, it’s the bare minimum we think customers should be expecting. We’ve earnt our 5 stars on Trustpilot by providing customers with a consistently high quality and personal service, an average call pick-up time of 20 seconds, no bots and no mid-contract price hikes, so we know it’s possible for the industry to do so much better.”

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
9 Responses
  1. Avatar photo zero says:

    Guess what. While I was using Hyperoptic, they were doing maintenance at 9.30 in the morning, and there was a 10% packet loss in the game during the evening peak. Oh, and they also use CGNAT unless you pay an extra £5.

  2. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    Based on personal experience I would say most connection problems are down to internal WiFi problems rather than the broadband service itself. By default most WiFi routers are placed next to the incoming phone master socket (more often than not in the hall by the front door) which is highly unlikely to be the optimum placement for WiFi. Also as the country moves to gigabit FTTP it is highly unlikely that customers will in the real world will be able to access the full speed via WiFi and will require a wired network to access the full bandwidth and this will need to be explained to the customers by the ISPs.

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      in older houses it’s the front door, in newer houses they seem to love putting the phone socket / ONT next to the living room TV. Neither are great from a coverage perspective.

      iirc Openreach issue a best practices guide to builders that explains the things they could do (like trying to locate the ONT and hence router centrally within the house, and putting in wired connections to rooms where it is likely to be needed) but that doesn’t mean they follow them

      I know it’s already been said but I would bet actual money that a lot of the issues are indeed caused by the use of wifi

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Yep, I agree that a lot of it is Wi-Fi problems and not the broadband, sometimes due to naff routers and sometimes just because people think they are going to get the best signal all over the house.
      I am lucky in that Wi-fi is normally pretty good around the house. At the moment I am in my computer room, in the room just above my router and on my phone I am getting about 100Mbs on my phone, if I take my mac off Ethernet and on Wi-Fi I get around 330Mb/s, I am on a 500Mb/s broadband connection. So different devices give different results, my phone is older so don’t have Wifi 6. Houses I have been in have awful Wi-Fi in different rooms, and they blame the provider. I recommend getting an extender and some people have done that and thanked me for the advice, others just carry on complaining about the Wi-fi.

  3. Avatar photo Which Disliker says:

    It being a Which survey begs the question of how the 3,975 were selected. They are out to make headlines to self promote rather than provide any free useful information.

  4. Avatar photo Obi says:

    I wonder the extent to which the difference between ISPs performance being poor routers.

  5. Avatar photo The Facts says:

    No mention of the PC causing the problems?

  6. Avatar photo Bob says:

    These surveys tend to be pretty meabingless. I suspect Zen comes out better as it is likely to attract more ecxperienced users who can sort out any isues

    I suspect a lot of the issues with other ISP’s are WiFi issues which are not really the fault of the ISP

    WiFi can always be problomatic even with the improvenmednts made to it. Hard wired is always a lot better but modern houses do not makre it easy to hard wire

    With a modern house the easist way to hard wire is to run the cables exxternaly

  7. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    I don’t think this should be done as a company vs company issue. As for all its going to be Openreach FTTC calling the shots for downtime.

    I think this should be sold as a “this is why you need to upgrade to FTTP”

Comments are closed

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