When it comes to broadband, we’re faced with a lot of choices. There are at least 57 broadband providers in the UK at the moment. These providers feed the 26 million fixed internet connections that currently exist in the country, and often offer other services such as TV or mobile deals. We hear your questions: What is the best broadband provider? And which provides the best broadband in my area? Let us break it down for you.
UK Broadband choices
In spite of the dozens of competitors on the market, only a handful are truly well-known as TV and broadband providers. Many have drawn comparisons between the energy sector’s ‘Big Six’ and the six “major” broadband providers, who do in fact have an 87% share of the broadband market. Here are the culprits:
It is also true, however, that of this 87% the vast majority of customers are snapped up by just three of these providers - BT, Sky, and Virgin Media. The ‘Big Three’, as you might call them, help themselves to a whopping 70% of the broadband market. Why? Are they just that good? Well, not according to reviews.
As in many sectors, broadband providers with the most customers also have the most complaints and the poorest ratings on review sites. Most people, it seems, go to these big-name providers simply because they don’t know the alternatives well enough. Surely among the 50 or so other providers out there there's one or two who won't rip you off. So what are the alternatives? And are they any better?
Alternative broadband choices
While about 70% of consumers are opting for one of these three big providers, you might do well to consider one of the 50+ others out there competing for your custom. We’re here to help you answer that key question - is it worth the switch?
To answer that, we’ll first have to answer another question: what is it you’re looking for? Is it fast speeds? A cheap price? Reliability? Do you demand all three? Will you settle for two? Whichever it is, we’ve got you covered. But first, here’s a list of those alternative providers that we feel stand out from the crowd:
Most settle for convenience as pretty much the only factor in deciding on a provider - often being inconvenienced as a result. If you’re one of these, you might be surprised (perhaps a bit annoyed) to learn that the fastest broadband deal in the UK lies elsewhere, along with the cheapest.
If the fastest deal is what you’re after, then it’s definitely worth looking beyond just the providers you know. Most providers, large or small, will have three packages - Basic (around 11Mbps), Fibre (around 35Mbps) and Superfast Fibre (usually over 60Mbps). Among the larger providers, Virgin are the biggest exception to this rule, with their cable packages faster across the board and their fastest package reaching speeds of 362Mbps. The fastest speeds on the market, however, come from niche provider Hyperoptic, whose fastest deal is almost three times as fast as Virgin's.
But what is a good broadband speed?
Well, what you need depends on your household and what you’re using it for. If there’s only a few of you and you only use the internet to browse and shop online, a standard 11Mbps package should be plenty for you. If you’re a family that likes to stream films and do a bit of online gaming, you will probably need a fibre package of 35Mpbs or more.
If for work or gaming or streaming purposes you always need lightning speeds, you’d best go for one of the faster packages - which tops out with Hyperoptic’s almost frightening 1Gbps speeds. This way you'll never have any issues with latency that come when speeds drop.
And which offers the cheapest broadband deal?
If speed is no big thing and you just need the cheapest deal, you’ll be interested to know you could find significant savings by looking outside of the ‘big three’. BT’s slowest package will currently set you back about £25 a month - and watch out, because as with many of the bigger providers this deal jumps to £33 a month once your contract ends.
Many of the big providers also feel free to notch up your bill as they like because of inflation and other external factors, and you could end up locked in to a deal you’re less and less happy with while your bills go up and up.
Some smaller providers, such as POP Telecom, Origin Broadband and NOW TV, offer fixed-price contracts or the option to pay the contract in full all at once. Some of these one-payment deals work out at as little as £15 a month for standard broadband. If this doesn’t tempt you and a standard pay monthly package is what you’re after, you can still find a deal for less than £20 a month from one of the smaller providers.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the cheapest deals out there and how they compare with the big three’s ‘budget’ packages:
|BT||Sky||Virgin||POP Telecom||Origin||NOW TV|
|8-16Mbps £24.99pm, later £32.99pm £29.99 upfront||11Mbps £18, later £31 £9.95 upfront||54Mbps £27pm, later £42pm £25 upfront||11Mbps £18.99pm No upfront||11Mbps £16.50pm £29.99 upfront||11Mbps £18pm No upfront|
Of course, we recognise that most of you won’t simply be after either the cheapest, most basic package or the fastest imaginable speeds. Most of you will be after good speeds at a great price - that perfect marriage of value and service.
And in your case a look beyond the big providers is equally important. If you’re looking for a 35Mbps fibre broadband package with an anytime calls package added on, your bill could stretch to £40 a month with BT. A smaller provider could save you at least a tenner a month on this - often more - which we’d say is very much worth the time it takes to switch.
Here’s a breakdown of what you would pay for similar packages across the bigger and many of the smaller providers:
|35Mbps + Anytime Calls £39.98pm, later £47.98pm £29.99 upfront||38Mbps + Anytime Calls £37, later £50.99 £9.95 upfront||54Mbps + Anytime Calls £35pm, later £50pm £25 upfront||35Mbps + Anytime Calls £31.99pm No upfront||35Mbps + Anytime Calls £29.98pm £39.99 upfront||35Mbps + Anytime Calls £29.98pm £29.98 upfront|
But perhaps you don’t really use your landline any more and a calls package isn’t much use to you. In this case you might also opt for BT, Sky or Virgin for the sake of convenience and because they’re the most reputable TV providers.
But you don’t need to be with BT Broadband to get BT TV, nor do you need to be with Sky Broadband to add a Sky TV package. Many of the smaller providers offer TV add-ons from the bigger providers, and it could work out cheaper this way. Sports fans will be interested to know that while adding BT Sport to a Sky or TalkTalk deal, for example, would cost around £25 per month.
If you’re more about films and series, you’ll be more interested in adding a Sky Entertainment or Movies package to your deal. Instead of paying through the nose for a Sky package, why not opt for a much cheaper deal and get their Sky Entertainment Pass through NOW TV for £7.99 a month? You can also get the Sky Movies pass for just £11.99 a month.
Of course, lots of us now simply watch our TV on demand by streaming through Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc. You can just as easily add these to your package with a smaller provider as you could with a major one.
In short, if you feel like mixing and matching a bit with your broadband, phone and TV packages you are totally free to do so, and could save yourself a wedge in the process! Many providers also offer adding mobile deals, so with some you could get pretty much everything in one package, but that’s an option we’ll leave for the mobile experts to go into.
So who do we recommend?
For us, the best option to go for in home broadband: POP Telecom and Origin. Their broadband deals start at under £20 per month, and both offer fixed prices for the duration of your contract. You can add calls packages, with POP's starting at just £2 and Origin's at £3.49, and line rental is included.
Not only this, but both providers score well with reviewers online. POP are lauded on review site Feefo, getting 4.2 out of 5, while over half of Origin reviewers on Trustpilot scored them either excellent or great. Their respective customer service teams are lauded by several reviewers, so you can trust them to make your life easy on the cheap - something we’ve learnt to stop expecting when it comes to broadband.
List of UK providers
Here is a list of the home broadband providers in the UK for your convenience:
Business Broadband Deals
Business broadband is more or less the same story as home broadband. Consumer instinct is still to go with known and trusted (if apparently unpopular) brands, while smaller and newer providers offering great deals go under the radar. These known and trusted faces take more than their fair share of business broadband customers despite offering little more in the way of value. Specialist business broadband provider XLN, for example, quotes on its website up to £500 annual savings compared to BT.
If you ask us, though, the most interesting business broadband deals right now are to be found with bOnline. They’re currently offering the cheapest deal on the market as far as we can see at £16/month for basic broadband, including line rental and a free website for your business worth £395…
But we also know that an eyecatching deal is not the be all and end all. We don’t just recommend them on the basis of a single one-off deal. We recommend them because it’s clear their customers are happy. bOnline is proud to boast a 5 star rating on review site Trustpilot, with a host of reviewers singing their praises and leaving us sure we’re not pushing a service you’ll be disappointed with - you’d be among a precious few.
List of UK business broadband providers
Those that cater exclusively to the business broadband market are fewer. Here's a list of providers working in this sector:
- XLN Telecom