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TV & Broadband choices - what's the best provider?

Broadband which is best

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.

Resolving broadband issues

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.

Confused man

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.

Cancellation

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.

Save money

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:

BT Sky Virgin POP Telecom italk Origin
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.

TV and broadband bundle

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

bOnline Broadband

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:

  • bOnline
  • XLN Telecom
  • Vonage
  • Woav
  • Toople
  • OneStream
  • Onebill
Updated on

One of the UK’s fastest growing B2B providers, bOnline offers a range of IT infrastructure products and cloud-based services to small businesses. Established in Cape Town in 2013, bOnline’s original focus was website design (how to create a business website). At the time less than 50% of UK small businesses had an online presence, and they sought to make this service more widely available without charging a fortune.

BT is the largest provider of consumer fixed-line phone and broadband services in the UK. It’s also the UK’s largest mobile network operator and the country’s second-largest pay-TV sports broadcaster. Its name, which you’ll know stands for British Telecom, gives a clue as to its importance to the country’s telecommunications infrastructure.

You may not have heard, but for a long time Direct Save Telecom has been offering some of the cheapest tariffs on the UK market. Since 1999, Direct Save have monitored UK telecommunications in order to make sure they’re delivering the best possible price and quality broadband and phone service to their customers. They are also committed to maintaining a UK customer support team, and recently launched 24/7 UK-based telephone line and broadband faults teams.

EE Limited claims to be the largest and most advanced digital communications company in the UK. Formed less than a decade ago from a merger between Orange and T-Mobile, initially going by its less catchy full name Everything Everywhere. You will be more familiar with its mobile deals, but we’re going to focus more on EE’s TV and broadband offer, as well as give you a general overview of the company.

In their own words: There’s no other broadband like it. Hyperoptic are unique on the UK broadband scene in that they never use old-fashioned copper phone wires. Their network is fully fibre optic all the way to the building and provides the fastest speeds available on the market. The team behind Hyperoptic is the same one that set records in superfast broadband with the Be Unlimited in 2005.

italk are not new on the UK broadband scene: they’ve been around since 2007 and have slowly built up a reputation as a trusted and reliable provider. But don’t just take this from us - their 8.9/10 rating on Trustpilot basically speaks for itself. 78% of reviewers give them the five star “Excellent” rating on Trustpilot, with less than 10% of reviewers finding a reason to complain.

As the name suggests, NOW TV started life as a TV provider. In their words, they’re “all about making things extra easy.” They've tried to apply this philosophy in their more recently launched broadband service by offering customers no contract deals. This flexibility has won them favour - according to Reevoo 80% of them would buy again.

Origin Broadband was set up in Yorkshire in 2011 with the simple goal of offering a better standard of broadband nationwide. Since then, several awards attests to their success in this, and they have maintained an ethos of giving customers the best possible support along with great value for money. Another part of their ethos has been to avoid outsourcing any of their operations overseas, so you know when you call them up you’ll be speaking to someone who understands you.

From humble beginnings as a provider of dial-up internet in the 1990s, Plusnet now offers a comprehensive set of packages including everything from superfast fibre-optic broadband to dirt-cheap standard broadband packages. Despite having its origins in the early days of the world wide web in the UK, most of us became familiar with the provider through Joe - who first appeared in ads in the early 2010s - who pioneers Plusnet’s ‘good, honest’ service from its Yorkshire base.

Established in 2011, POP Telecom is one of the UK’s fastest-growing telecommunications companies. They say their ethos is ‘simply communicating by communicating simply’, and that they aim to make joining and benefitting from their landline, broadband & mobile networks simple and clear.

With over 370 years of experience, the Post Office’s 11,500 branches attend 17 million customer visits per week, but they’re hardly famous for being an ultramodern ISP. What you didn’t know is that the PO now offers more than 170 different products and services under its four ‘product pillars’. These pillars include: Mail & Retail, Financial Services, Government Services, and Telecoms.

Initially a simple satellite TV provider, Sky made the transition to digital and was an early pioneer of several of the televisual features we now take for granted. It broadened its focus in the mid-2000s with the launch of (link coming soon)Sky Broadband and later Sky Talk, and as early as 2012 it was pioneering superfast broadband - offering speeds of up to 58 Mbps.

Formed in the nineties under the name Opal Telecoms, TalkTalk has gone from providing fixed-line telephony services to businesses to being one of the UK’s largest quad-play telecommunications providers - supplying phone, broadband, TV and mobile services to millions of subscribers.

Virgin Media is one of the best known TV, broadband and home phone providers in the UK, and unsurprisingly make up one of the top three in terms of subscribers. Its range of cable services - having the only major cable network in the country - is a key differentiator between Virgin and its competitors. Beyond this, Virgin is also a major player in mobile services, which it provides to over three million UK customers.

Perhaps not best known as a broadband provider, Vodafone is making waves in 2019 as one of the best of an emerging crop of ISPs on the market. A host of awards has recently shone the spotlight directly on Vodafone as a company you should seriously consider switching to. At this year’s uSwitch Broadband Awards they took home the Best Value Broadband Provider award, as well as the overall Best Provider of the Year award. This comes the year after being named the Best Value Provider and Fastest Uploading by Broadband Genie.