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The 2022 Editors Pick of the UK Best Broadband ISPs for Homes

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 47,592

Finding a new ISP can be like walking through a minefield. Consumers in the UK often face a bewildering choice of different broadband providers and networks, which is getting worse as a growing number of new entrants enter the market. But this guide aims to help by delivering a simplified overview of the top options.

We’ll start by reminding readers that the service performance on an ISP can vary from location to location and is affected by many different factors, such as the capacity at the exchange or the type of line itself (copper or fibre optic etc.) and its length. Problems within your home (e.g. slow WiFi, a bad configuration, home network congestion or poor wiring) can also end up being wrongfully conflated with your broadband ISP.

All of this means that choosing an ISP, even highly rated ones, will carry some risk of poor performance. Put another way, even large poorly rated providers can still deliver an excellent service, but the ratio of dissatisfied to satisfied customers will often be higher than with smaller providers (i.e. you stand a bigger chance of getting burnt, but it might be worth the risk if saving money is your goal).

In keeping with the above, we’ve put together a selection of providers, which are organised into several categories to reflect the best picks for those seeking to save money or pay extra for more quality.

NOTE: We pick ISPs based on a mix of reader feedback, Ofcom quality / complaint scores, third-party awards, reviews (multiple sites), history, product and price selection.

The Categories

PAGE 1: Price – For the budget conscious, albeit possibly sacrificing quality.

PAGE 2: Quality – For those who will pay a bit extra to get the best service.

PAGE 3: Commendations – Alternative network ISPs that deserve praise.

We ask that readers always thoroughly investigate any ISP before joining and check our Broadband Technology page to learn about the different connectivity methods. The Awards and Special Offer categories in our news section are also useful for keeping track of industry achievements and price promotions. Finally, don’t forget to view our UK ISP Comparisons to see a price benchmark of around 200 providers.

NOTE: People in remote rural areas may sometimes pay more due to the lack of local competition and the higher cost of network delivery.

A Quick Market Overview

At present nearly 97% of UK premises are within reach of a 30Mbps+ capable “superfast” broadband service, which drops to  around 40% for 1000Mbps+ gigabit-capable lines (mix of full fibre FTTP and hybrid fibre coax HFC) – details. The vast majority of premises are served by ISPs that use Openreach’s (OR) network and 54% can also access Virgin Media’s cable DOCSIS network (mostly in urban areas).

Openreach is an open access platform (used by lots of ISPs) and supports several different technologies (e.g. slower ADSL or FTTC and ultrafast G.fast or FTTP). On the flip side, Virgin’s cable network (HFC DOCSIS + FTTP) is closed to other ISPs and mostly only available in urban areas.

On top of that there’s a rapidly growing market for smaller alternative networks (altnet). Some of the biggest are Cityfibre (aiming to cover 8 million premises with FTTP by 2025 or later), Hyperoptic (5 million with FTTP/B by 2024) and KCOM (250,000+ premises with FTTP). See our ‘Summary of Full Fibre Build Progress‘ for more.

NOTE: We advise avoiding older Satellite ISPs due to high costs, restrictive data caps and slow latency, but the new Low Earth Orbit (LEO) networks from SpaceX (Starlink) and OneWeb are miles better.

Finally, switching ISPs on Openreach’s network is just a matter of informing the new provider that you want to join (i.e. place an order), but sadly other networks may require you to separately order a brand-new line and then cancel your old service. Ofcom plan to extend their ‘One Touch Switching‘ system to include alternative networks, although it won’t be enforced until April 2023 (here).

We recommend that readers check out our Summary of Consumer Rules and Laws because there are a lot of measures that are designed to protect you, such as the one for Automatic Compensation (here and here), the Broadband Speed Code of Practice (here) and End-of-Contract Notifications (here).

Price – The Lowest Cost Broadband ISPs

The UK broadband market is full of cheap deals but there are more risks involved if you opt for savings vs service quality. Cheaper ISPs may have less money to reinvest into future improvements (i.e. quality and support may suffer) and in most cases the discounts will only last for your first contract term (i.e. beware big post-contract price hikes).

Nevertheless, if you don’t mind taking a risk then the options below may suit. All of the prices include VAT and line rental (we show both post-contract prices and discount prices). Take note that if you need a brand-new line installed then the upfront fee may be larger than some of those stated below (one-off costs for this can vary up to c.£100).

On top of that we only show packages with unlimited usage and wide national availability (excluding altnets on PAGE 3), which are the most common and easiest to compare. The following is an unordered list of ISPs (not ranked) and this year we’ll only focus on superfast and ultrafast packages (speeds are displayed as peak-time averages).

NOTE: The prices (PM = Monthly) below were recorded in December 2021 and discounts only tend to last for the first contract term (usually 12-24 months). We exclude ISPs with no ultrafast packages. OR = Openreach.
Virgin Media (VMO2)
Setup: £35 Network Type: FTTP / HFC DOCSIS 3.1

Package Examples

Cheapest: 108Mbps DL (10Mbps UL) – £44 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£30)

Fastest: 1104Mbps DL (52Mbps UL) – £62 PM

Supports 2019 Speed Code: Yes
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

Virgin’s key advantage is that their network can deliver speeds of 1000Mbps+ (gigabit) to more than half of the UK. The provider has won lots of praise for their performance too and they also have a strong Pay TV platform, as well as a decent Vodafone powered Virgin Mobile service. But the operator is now merging with O2 and working on a major expansion of their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network by 2028 (here).

Admittedly it’s not all roses. The provider’s customer support and billing department has continued to attracted a fair few gripes. On top of that their HUB 3.0 router, which came attached to a lot of their older packages, has had more than its fair share of problems, although the HUB 4.0 is a nice improvement and the latest HUB 5.0 is significantly better than even that (here).

The operator is also a little more expensive than some of the others below. Meanwhile, contract terms tend to run for 18 months, which is fairly standard.

Pros:
• Excellent speeds that are widely available
• Good TV bundles
• Good 4G / 5G Mobile tariffs (e.g. quad play bundle and an unlimited data option)

Cons:
• Coverage is mostly urban focused (cities and big towns)
• Pricier than others, albeit perhaps sometimes deservedly so
• Support quality is variable
• We see a fair few gripes about unstable latency.
• Upload speeds remain a weak point.

Setup: £0 – £9.99 Network Type: OR FTTC/P + Cityfibre FTTP

Package Examples

Cheapest: 35Mbps DL (9Mbps UL) – £19.49 PM

Fastest: 900Mbps DL (900Mbps UL) – £60 PM

Supports 2019 Speed Code: No
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: No

Voda remains one of the cheapest FTTC/P broadband ISPs on Openreach’s network, although their service and support quality has suffered and they continue to attract a higher level of complaints than many of their major rivals (here). On top of that they also offer FTTP via CityFibre’s national network, but the coverage is limited.

Sadly, there’s no full Pay TV option from Vodafone, but they do bundle a reasonable Apple 4K TV service at extra cost and are one of the UK’s strongest national mobile networks for 4G and 5G services. Existing mobile customers can often save extra money (-£3 per month) by bundling with their broadband plan.

Pros:
• Good quality router (the latest model)
• Price
• Good choice of 4G and 5G Mobile plans
• Speeds on FTTP network, coverage allowing
• Reasonable Apple TV 4K service, albeit pricey

Cons:
• Service quality and support needs improvement
• Long 24-month contracts

Setup: £9.95 – £19.95 Network Type: OR FTTC/P, G.fast

Package Examples

Cheapest: 59Mbps DL (18Mbps UL) – £33 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£28)

Fastest: 500Mbps DL (60Mbps UL) – £50 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£45)

Supports 2019 Speed Code: No
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

Sky generally attracts a fair level of customer satisfaction and they’ve consistently received some of the fewest consumer complaints of all the major ISPs (here), which is partly down to having a reasonably good customer support team and network. The addition of new “ultrafast broadband” packages via Openreach’s FTTP network has been another plus point (they also offer G.fast on the same tier), even if it does currently only go up to 500Mbps.

On top of that Sky has one of the best Pay TV platforms in the UK and their unique twist on an O2 MVNO powered mobile service is interesting, albeit not as attractive as the options offered by some of their rivals (this may depend on what you’re after). Customers also benefit from Sky’s competitively priced broadband services and extra features, such as parental controls (website filtering etc.) and nuisance call blocking.

Pros:
• Reasonable support for a major ISP
• Good Pay TV service
• Decent ultrafast packages
• Attracts fewer complaints than all of the other big ISPs

Cons:
• Cheaper streaming rivals make Sky TV (Sky Q / Sky Glass) feel expensive
• Coverage of ultrafast services is limited, but that’s not Sky’s fault
• Sky’s latest SR203/204 router has had quite a few bugs in the recent past

Setup: £0 Network Type: OR ADSL, FTTC/P, G.fast

Package Examples

Cheapest: 38Mbps DL (9Mbps UL) – £30.99 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£22)

Fastest: 900Mbps DL (100Mbps UL) – £57.99 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£50)

Supports 2019 Speed Code: No
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: No

Shell Energy first emerged as a broadband and phone provider back in 2019, as part of a re-brand by First Utility, and in 2021 they followed that by acquiring the Post Office’s telecoms division, which gave them a sizeable customer base. After some teething problems the ISP has steadily improved their UK based customer support and now also has a strong range of full fibre packages.

Shell typically supplies the Technicolor DWA0120 router to their FTTC (VDSL2) broadband customers, although we’re not sure what they offer alongside their latest FTTP subscribers. The provider also doesn’t have any Pay TV or Mobile options. Overall, they’re perhaps best described as a cheap provider (so far as Openreach based ISPs go), albeit one that doesn’t necessarily do enough to separate themselves from the herd.

Pros:
• Cheap
• Fuel savings at Shell service stations

Cons:
• Customer support has a mixed history
• No Mobile plans or Pay TV

Setup: £0 – £25 Network Type: OR ADSL, FTTC/P, G.fast

Package Examples

Cheapest: 36Mbps DL (9Mbps UL) – £30 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£23)

Fastest: 900Mbps DL (110Mbps UL) – £64 PM

Supports 2019 Speed Code: Yes
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

This is one of BT’s sibling ISPs, which in recent years seems to have taken over Plusnet’s role in the group by often providing a lower cost alternative to their parent, as well as a strong range of 4G and 5G mobile plans and related bundles with fixed broadband.

Crucially, EE seems to attract significantly fewer complaints from consumers than most other major ISPs in the market, except Sky (here). We suspect this may be partly because their support staff are now UK based, which is a fairly recent development. Otherwise, there’s a good selection of packages and the routers they shipped are the same ones that BT use, albeit rebranded.

Pros:
• Moderately cheap for broadband
• Attracts fewer complaints than many other big ISPs
• Good mobile and broadband package selection

Cons:
• Mobile plans are expensive
• No Pay TV solutions (for that you’re better off with parent BT)

Setup: £0 – £9.95 Network Type: OR ADSL, FTTC/P, G.fast + Cityfibre FTTP

Package Examples

Cheapest: 38Mbps DL (9Mbps UL) – £29.95 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£21)

Fastest: 900Mbps DL (91Mbps UL) – £49 PM

Supports 2019 Speed Code: Yes
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

As a provider TalkTalk has always styled itself on being the low-cost choice, but in recent years Vodafone has stolen that role and they still attract a fair few complaints from consumers (here) – the recent move to scrap fixed price plans mid-contract certainly didn’t help matters (here).

However, the ISP does sell fairly cheap Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based ultrafast broadband products via Cityfibre, Freedom Fibre and Openreach’s networks in different parts of the UK. On top of that they also have an affordable Pay TV service, but this lacks the same sort of premium quality that you’d get from the likes of BT, Sky or Virgin.

Overall, the ISP seems to be improving on the connectivity front, but they rarely come out on top for service quality and support. The provider has also been taken over by Toscafund in a £1.1bn deal, which makes their future seem a little uncertain.

Pros:
• Cheap, albeit not always the cheapest
• FTTP customers seem to get Amazon’s decent eero 6 router

Cons:
• No mobile plans anymore
• Support quality is patchy
• Weaker Pay TV experience than rivals
• The WiFi Hub router looks less competitive as rivals launch better kit

BT
Setup: £0 – £19.99 Network Type: OR ADSL, FTTC/P, G.fast

Package Examples

Cheapest: 36Mbps DL (9Mbps UL) – £35.99 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£28)

Fastest: 900Mbps+ DL (110Mbps UL) – £67.99 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£60)

Supports 2019 Speed Code: Yes
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

As the market’s largest ISP BT is also one of the more expensive providers (especially post contract), but this is largely due to all of the premium extras they include (e.g. access to masses of WiFi hotspots, speed guarantees, online cloud storage, a decent wireless router and nuisance call blocking etc.) and their ultrafast packages are much more affordable.

The primary reason for including BT here, aside from being a useful comparison with the others above, is thus because their ultrafast broadband packages (G.fast / FTTP) are better value for money. On top of that they have a strong selection of Mobile plans (EE’s network) and Pay TV packages.

The provider also offers a number of premium HALO packages, which include extra protection if your service goes down (“Keep Connected Promise“), better support and extra mobile data at the fastest speeds. The HALO service is also the first step in BT’s ambition to adopt an integrated all-IP network, which aims to seamlessly bring their fixed line broadband and mobile networks together (here and here).

We should add that BT has seen complaints against their service fall significantly over the past couple of years, which is partly because they moved customer support back to the UK.

Pros:
• Lots of premium extras
• Good SmartHub routers
• UK based support
• Affordable FTTP and G.fast plans
• Decent Pay TV and Mobile plans

Cons:
• Standard (ADSL) and Superfast (FTTC) packages are expensive, especially post-contract!
• Service quality can be quite variable
• 5G has been removed from their mobile plans

NOTE: Readers should pick a separate provider for web and email hosting, so you can easily switch ISP without fear of losing those.

Take note that most of the above ISPs will also offer plenty of add-ons at an optional extra cost, such as anytime UK calls, mobile plans or enhanced TV bundles. In addition, providers that use Openreach’s UK network still have a lot of control to differentiate themselves in terms of features, network quality and performance (capacity), so don’t treat them as all the same – some will perform better than others on the same infrastructure.

Please continue on Page 2 to view the best ISPs for service quality..

Cheapest Ultrafast ISPs
  • Gigaclear £17.00
    Speed: 200Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Community Fibre £20.00
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Virgin Media £25.00
    Speed: 108Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £25.00
    Speed: 100Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Hyperoptic £25.00
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Large Availability | View All
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £17.99
    Speed 30Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • NOW £21.00
    Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Shell Energy £21.99
    Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £22.00
    Speed 38Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Plusnet £22.99
    Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: £75 Reward Card
Large Availability | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. FTTP (4015)
  2. BT (3131)
  3. Politics (2086)
  4. Building Digital UK (2007)
  5. Openreach (1950)
  6. FTTC (1917)
  7. Business (1803)
  8. Mobile Broadband (1588)
  9. Statistics (1487)
  10. FTTH (1369)
  11. 4G (1359)
  12. Virgin Media (1264)
  13. Ofcom Regulation (1229)
  14. Fibre Optic (1221)
  15. Wireless Internet (1220)
  16. Vodafone (920)
  17. EE (899)
  18. 5G (874)
  19. TalkTalk (815)
  20. Sky Broadband (782)
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