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There are currently more than 200 internet service providers in the UK, from household names such as BT, Sky and Virgin to rivals such as TalkTalk and EE. Shopping for the best broadband provider can be a bit overwhelming. But it’s much simpler than before.
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In most cases, the actual cables that companies deliver to your home broadband are the same as Openreach’s. If you switch broadband providers, your physical connection will often stay the same, and companies will compete on add-ons such as phone lines and TV packages, and prices. So what is the best internet provider?
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We asked our readers to rate the quality of price, reliability, customer service, download speed and customer support. You can read the results below, a detailed FAQ section on how to choose the right service. But if you’re stuck, here’s a quick look at our top seven. (If you’re currently looking for a new deal, a broadband comparison service may be helpful.)
UK mobile network players can be hard to come by, but EE (formerly Everything Everywhere) inherited the broadband service formerly run by Orange and now owned by BT Group. The EE team has a solid reputation for offering good speeds with good bundle deals, and this was reflected in our test, where it came third overall for its speed, with 73 percent rating it as good or very good. Here’s the full score:
EE ranks second for support quality (74 percent G/VG) and reliability (79 percent G/VG), and scores well in other metrics as well. Although Vodafone has similar prices overall, more readers choose EE as their provider, giving it a slight advantage in our survey.
Vodafone is the UK’s largest mobile phone network, making its first call in 1985. It’s a late entrant to the UK broadband market, but offers aggressively priced packages and high speeds. In our survey, Vodafone ranked second for speed (82 percent G/VG) and second for cost (61 percent G/VG). Here’s the full score:
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A number of ratings on connectivity and service show that Vodafone still has a few kinks to work out, but readers who are Vodafone customers rate the service as highly as our EE winners. Slightly less than them, Vodafone is in second place.
Plusnet is a British internet company that cut its teeth in the internet phone days of the 1990s, but has since been bought by BT Group. Like Stablemate EE, it offers a variety of packages and services from BT.
Readers who were Plusnet customers actually gave it the highest scores for price (66% G/VG) and ease of communication (69% G/VG), but didn’t score as positively as Vodafone on other metrics. and EE puts it in third place.
BT is the world’s oldest telecommunications company, originating from the Electricity Company in 1846, and operates most (but not all) of the UK’s broadband network, reports CEO Openreach BT. With a long history and links to the old post office, BT is the primary choice for broadband for many of us.
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BT provides the same broadband as the next three respondents in our survey (Virgin, TalkTalk and Sky). But it’s also the most common provider that people turn away from. While it scored lower than some of its rivals for speed (72 percent reliability G/VG), it ranked well for reliability (78 percent G/VG).
Over the past two decades, Sky has been a major player in the UK broadband market, offering a wide range of TV services over broadband. In fact, the recently launched Sky Glass TV works over a broadband network, eliminating the need for a satellite dish for the first time.
Sky is known for its fantastic TV packages with hundreds of hours of TV and exclusive shows through its Sky Atlantic channel, and its offers are great for TV fans. It is highly rated for technical support (65 percent G/VG), second only to EE.
Virgin is the UK’s largest cable broadband provider, meaning they use coaxial cable and offer high speeds where available.
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With the advent of fiber in recent years, Virgin is no longer the only company offering faster speeds, but maintains its reputation for good value packages along with TV services. In our survey, readers rated Virgin best for speed (an astonishing 86 percent G/VG) but worst for ease of communication, with only 38 percent rating it as good or very good and 35 percent as poor or very poor—the biggest negative. . rate on our questionnaire.
Broadband operator TalkTalk, a subsidiary of Carphone, which previously suffered a 2015 hack that leaked millions of customer data, offers a range of budget deals on traditional copper and fibre. This is reflected in our survey of value (49 percent G/VG) and reliability (73 percent G/VG).
The maximum download speed where you live is determined by the local infrastructure, including the quality and type of cables used (copper, coaxial or fiber optic) and the distance from your home to the nearest telephone exchange or street box. It varies by country, but almost all broadband providers in your area will use similar infrastructure. With our broadband comparison service, you can compare which providers work in your area and what they offer.
Families who stream a lot of videos, music, and games to their laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, and other devices want the fastest download speeds possible. Whether it’s fiber optic cable, copper wire, or something else, it depends on your premises. We’ve added a FAQ section at the bottom of this article to explain the differences between superfast, ultrafast, and DSL services.
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Christian Torode, CEO and founder of broadband specialists Crystalline, always considers whether you need ultrafast or superfast services. In homes where there are not many devices competing for this connection, the requirements may be higher.
“If you’re running a business, an unlimited data package might be your best option. But if you’re using it for browsing and email, it’s cheaper to pay just ten gigabytes (10GB) a month. That’s enough.”
When it comes to getting the best price, consider the deals you’re paying for services like TVs and phone lines: “These deals are generally better deals,” Torode says. Several ISPs also offer them with mobile phone contracts and domestic TV streaming packages.
Other extras on offer include VIP packages with free Sky concert and football tickets, as well as internet security packages offered by various ISPs. You should check if you meet any of these, because internet security is expensive to pay for. Many ISPs now offer advanced IT support packages designed for people who work from home regularly.
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The fine print should be used when purchasing broadband connections. Some ISPs have upfront fees, and it should be noted that initial contracts are often discounted, but prices can increase significantly later on. The length of a typical contract varies, but if your contract has expired, you should call your ISP to see if you can get a better deal or better speed;
The fastest broadband speeds will only be available in urban areas. You can use Ofcom’s broadband check tool to see what speed you can get from local providers based on your postcode. There are some areas, such as Hull, where the local provider (KCom in Hull’s case) has a separate license to provide broadband and there is no BT connection.
Phil Sorsky, SVP of CommScope, which helps improve broadband services in the UK, says it’s best to choose providers with a good reputation for being able to reach out over the phone and resolve issues. “Personally, I’d stick with someone who owns the infrastructure rather than a vendor. They support well-known brands like Virgin or BT.”
Sorsky admits he uses BT as the best connection he can get where he lives, but if he could get higher speeds he would choose Virgin, while he also enjoys BT Sport. package Christian Torode uses Virgin, but agrees with Sorsky about this client
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