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2024 Editors Pick of the UK Best Home Broadband ISPs

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2024 Editors Pick of the UK Best Home Broadband ISPs

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024 (9:00 am) - Score 90,408

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 98% of UK premises are within reach of a 30Mbps+ capable “superfast” broadband service, which drops to around 80% 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 over half (16.4m) can also access Virgin Media’s 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 network (HFC DOCSIS + FTTP) is closed to other ISPs and mostly only available in urban areas.

On top of that there’s a huge and rapidly growing market for alternative networks (altnet). Some of the biggest are CityFibre (aiming to cover 8 million premises with FTTP by 2025 or later), Hyperoptic (2 million with FTTP/B in 2024) and KCOM (300,000 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) network from SpaceX (Starlink) is miles better.

Finally, switching ISPs on Openreach’s network is just a matter of placing an order with the new provider, but sadly other networks may require you to separately order a brand-new line and then cancel your old service. Ofcom will soon tackle this by launching their One Touch Switching (OTS) system to include alternative networks, which after a long delay should go live in mid-March 2024.

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 2023 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: £0 – £35 Network Type: FTTP + HFC DOCSIS 3.1

Package Examples

Cheapest: 132Mbps DL (20Mbps UL) – £49 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£25)

Fastest: 1104Mbps DL (52Mbps UL) – £73 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£50)

Supports 2022 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 has a strong Pay TV platform, as well as a decent Virgin Mobile service. The operator is merging with O2 mobile and working on a major FTTP upgrade of their network by 2028 (here), as well as plans to reach up to a further 5-7 million premises (here).

However, the provider’s customer support and billing department does still attract plenty of complaints, and their packages are not as attractive (expensive) as they once were due to rising competition. Otherwise, VM’s contracts are typically 18-month terms and their latest HUB 5.0 router is better than older models (here), if still not excellent.

Pros:
• Good speeds that are widely available
• Good Pay TV bundles
• Reasonable 4G / 5G Mobile tariffs when bundled
• Social Tariff offered for those on state benefits

Cons:
• Coverage is mostly urban focused
• Post-contract prices can be very expensive if you don’t negotiate on renewal
• Support quality
• Upload speeds could be better

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

Package Examples

Cheapest: 36-82Mbps DL (9-82Mbps UL) – £33 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£24)

Fastest: 900Mbps DL (110-900Mbps UL) – £58 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£38.00-£46.00)

Supports 2022 Speed Code: No
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

Voda remains one of the cheapest of the big broadband ISPs, although their service and support quality has suffered and they continue to attract far too many complaints (here). But they do offer FTTP broadband via both Openreach and CityFibre’s national network, which thanks to an exclusivity agreement with the latter gives them some of the UK’s widest full fibre coverage.

Sadly, there’s no Pay TV option from Vodafone, but they are one of the UK’s strongest national mobile networks for 4G and 5G. Existing mobile customers can also save extra money by bundling with their broadband plans. Finally, the provider also offers some optional features at extra cost, such as 4G (mobile broadband) backup and Apple 4K TV. But Vodafone are one to watch in 2024 as they’re trying to merge with Three UK (here), which would be a major change for the wider market.

Pros:
• Price
• Good choice of 4G and 5G Mobile plans
• Fast speeds on FTTP
• Paid add-ons, like 4G backup, Apple 4K TV and inclusive calling, are nice options to have
• Social Tariff offered for those on state benefits

Cons:
• Service quality and support needs improvement
• Long 24-month contracts only
• Have to pay a lot more to get a WiFi 6E router.

Setup: £0.00 – £19.95 Network Type: OR FTTC/P, G.fast

Package Examples

Cheapest: 61Mbps DL (18Mbps UL) – £39.50 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£25)

Fastest: 900Mbps DL (90Mbps UL) – £63 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£50)

Supports 2022 Speed Code: Yes
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

Sky generally attracts a fairly good level of customer satisfaction and they’ve consistently received some of the fewest consumer complaints of all the major ISPs (here). The addition of new full fibre packages via Openreach’s FTTP network has been another plus point, although they still don’t sell via any other networks.

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 has its attractions (useful features like data rollover etc.), albeit as cheap as the options offered by some of their rivals. 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:
• Good support for a major ISP
• Good Pay TV service
• Decent full fibre packages (only from Openreach)
• Attracts fewer complaints than all of the other big ISPs
• Social Tariff offered for those on state benefits

Cons:
• Sky’s new WiFi 6 router can only be taken alongside their £10 WiFi guarantee
• Price not always as competitive as it once was

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

Package Examples

Cheapest: 37Mbps DL (10Mbps UL) – £33 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£30)

Fastest: 900Mbps DL (110Mbps UL) – £58 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£50)

Supports 2022 Speed Code: Yes
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

Communications provider EE is today part of the BT Group and they’re currently in the process of becoming the group’s “flagship brand for our consumer customers“. As part of that they’ve already broadened their horizons to offer a fairly attractive mix of broadband, TV and phone plans.

Crucially, EE seems to attract significantly fewer complaints from consumers than almost any other major ISP in the market, except Sky (here) – this is partly because their support teams are now UK based. Otherwise, there’s a good selection of packages, while the routers they ship are the same ones that BT use, albeit rebranded. The provider has also launched a new 1.6Gbps tier and WiFi 6 (Smart Hub Plus) router.

Pros:
• Reasonably priced for FTTP
• Attracts fewer complaints than most other big ISPs
• Good mobile and broadband packages
• UK based support

Cons:
• Mobile plans are expensive
• No Social Tariff for broadband (only BT does this directly)

Setup: £0 – £15 Network Type: OR FTTC/P, G.fast + Cityfibre FTTP + Freedom Fibre FTTP

Package Examples

Cheapest: 38Mbps DL (9Mbps UL) – £28 PM

Fastest: 900Mbps DL (91Mbps UL) – £45-£49 PM

Supports 2022 Speed Code: Yes
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

As a provider TalkTalk has always styled itself on being the low-cost option, but in recent years other providers have stolen that role and they also continue to attract a high proportion of complaints from consumers (here). We also find it hard to know what their post-contract prices are for existing customers.

However, the ISP does sell fairly cheap Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based ultrafast broadband products via several networks across different parts of the UK (e.g. CityFibre, Freedom Fibre, CommunityFibre and Openreach). On top of that they also have an affordable Pay TV service via their Netgem and Android TV based platforms, but these lack the same premium quality that you’d get from the likes of BT, Sky or Virgin Media.

Overall, the ISP rarely comes out on top for service quality and support, while debt pressures seem to be pushing them toward a breakup (here). TalkTalk’s future is thus a little bit open to debate.

Pros:
• Modestly Cheap
• FTTP customers get Amazon’s decent eero 6 router / mesh
• Support for several alternative full fibre networks

Cons:
• No mobile plans
• Patchy support quality
• The current WiFi Hub 2 router is not as competitive as it once was
• No Social Tariff for broadband

BT
Setup: £0 – £29.99 Network Type: OR ADSL, FTTC/P, G.fast

Package Examples

Cheapest: 35Mbps DL (9Mbps UL) – £35.99 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£30)

Fastest: 900Mbps+ DL (110Mbps UL) – £59.99 PM (discounts may cut this to c.£50)

Supports 2022 Speed Code: Yes
Ofcom Automatic Compensation: Yes

BT is both the largest ISP and also one of the more expensive providers (especially post contract), particularly on their older connection types. But this is largely due to all of the premium extras they include (e.g. access to millions of WiFi hotspots, speed guarantees, a decent wireless router, 4G backup and nuisance call blocking etc.) and their fastest full fibre packages are much more competitively priced.

The primary reason for including BT here, aside from being a useful comparison with the others above, is thus because their ultrafast and gigabit broadband packages (FTTP) are better value for money. On top of that they have a strong selection of Pay TV packages, although EE will shortly become the main focus for all their consumer facing products. On the other hand, we’ve noted that consumer complaints seem to be rising again (here).

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. Going forward, the operator is keen to make connectivity between their mobile and fixed line broadband networks as seamless as possible.

Pros:
• Good premium extras
• Good SmartHub routers
• UK based support
• Reasonable pricing (FTTP)
• Decent Pay TV options
• Social Tariff offered for those on state benefits

Cons:
• Standard (ADSL) and Superfast (FTTC) packages are expensive, especially post-contract
• Service quality can be variable
• Consumer complaints have risen through 2023
• Mobile plans now only available via EE

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..

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