Best Broadband Deals 2021 | UK providers Reviewed

It takes time and effort to find the best broadband deal. You have to search the web for hours and compare 100s of plans from 10s of companies to pinpoint the right deal for you. Well, we did that for you and even more.

This guide will provide you with a bird’s eye view of the best broadband deals in the UK that offer amazing value for money and speed at the same time. So, read the guide till the end to get fully informed and you will be able to take the right decision.

  1. TalkTalk Fibre 35

While there are currently two broadband plans from TalkTalk namely “Fibre 35” and “Fibre 65”, “Fibre 35” offers better value for money at a decent internet speed.

Features

  • The average download speed offered by Fibre 35 deal is 38 Mbps at a quite reasonable cost.
  • You can add anytime call plans with Fibre 35 and can also opt for a “pay as you go” monthly contract
  • The length of the contract is 18 months but you can leave the contract within the first 30 days if you are not satisfied with the speeds.

Pros

  • Reasonably priced
  • Flexible call plans are available
  • Comes with a 30-days money-back guarantee
  • There is no price rise in the middle of the contract

Cons

  • Only an 18-month contract is available
  • BT full Fibre 1

When you choose BT, the way of choosing a broadband plan is a bit different from other broadband service providers in the UK. First, you need to find a suitable broadband plan that meets your requirements and after that, you can add extra packages like BT Sport at the checkout window. You are not compelled to purchase a specific broadband and call deal.

Features

  • The average download speed offered by Fibre 1 plan from BT is 50 Mbps. If you sign a contract of 24 months which will cost you much lesser monthly, your average download speed will be 36 Mbps
  • They will provide you with one of the best routers in the market- BT’s Smart Hub.
  • BT guarantees a great WiFi signal in every corner of your house and they do have a minimum speed to offer.
  • They also have “WiFi signal boosters” which can be placed around the house to increase the WiFi signal strength. This will prevent any signal dropouts in the far nooks and corners of the house

Pros

  • Strong WiFi signal with a money-back guarantee
  • Zero setup cost
  • The router is amazing
  • Lots of flexibility when it comes to plans

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Plusnet Unlimited Fibre and Unlimited Fibre Extra

Plusnet offers great flexibility when it comes to broadband plans with unlimited data. There are three major plans to choose from and each of these can be supplemented with inclusive call deals to landlines and mobiles in the UK.

Features

  • The deals are the same for all the customers and not exclusive for online customers only
  • Offers account reviews and notifications regarding end of contracts
  • Online security and parental control features are available for better control of the home broadband
  • The monthly cost includes the cost of the WiFi router and line rental. Thus, it is a complete WiFi deal for you
  • After everything is set up and running, you can add an exclusive BT Sport package to your plan
  • The Unlimited Fibre Extra offers an average download speed of 66 Mbps whereas Unlimited Fibre offers an average download speed of 36 Mbps
  • You will be rewarded with a £50.00 Plusnet reward card with both the offers
  • The call packs can be also added as “pay as you go” plans
  • You can either commit to a 12-month or an 18-month contract

Pros

  • Great value for money when it comes to Unlimited fast fibre broadband
  • Unlimited anytime call plans are available as add-ons at an affordable price
  • No upfront fees

Cons

  • An 18-month contract might not be feasible for everyone
  • KCOM Lightstream

 KCOM is one of few broadbands providers in the UK that provides a “Fibre to the Home” (FTTH) connection.  With FTTH, the dropouts in speed due to long-distance between your router and the cabinet in the street is zero. So, if you are a heavy internet user, you will get great speed and consistency in the network even during the evenings.

Features

  • FTTH broadband simply means no copper wires in between to hamper your speeds
  • KCOM offers a wide range of broadband speeds starting from 30 Mbps and going all the way up to 900 Mbps, each of them with Unlimited data.
  • With KCOM fibre broadband, you can switch and try between four available speed tiers for the first six months. This will help you to decide what is the right bandwidth for you
  • The award-winning customer service of KCOM is another of their USPs.

Pros

  • Blazing speed limits
  • Consistent extraordinarily
  • Lots of plans to choose from
  • Great customer care and technical support

Cons

  • Only available in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
  • Virgin Media M50 and M100

Virgin Media is different from other broadband providers in the UK as they are not on the Openreach network. It is also reputed as an expensive broadband brand that offers amazing broadband speeds. Two of their plans viz. M50 and M100 offer great value for money.

Features

  • M100 comes with an average download speed of 108 Mbps and upload speed of 10 Mbps
  • M50 offers an average download speed of 50 Mbps
  • You get a Virgin Media Hub 3 router with both the plans which is one of the best routers in the market
  • If you are a student you qualify for extra discounts and shortened contract lengths

Pros

  • Amazing fibre optics speed at a good price
  • One of the best router
  • No setup cost for 30-days rolling contracts

Cons

  • The upfront cost is huge
  • Switching from/to another network is a tad bit complicated
  • John Lewis Unlimited Broadband

John Lewis is a buzzword when people talk about affordable yet decent broadband plans in the UK. The broadband deals from John Lewis are cheap and comes with short contract lengths that make it a choice for students as well. There is no upfront fee on any of the plans which makes it even more cost-effective.

Features

  • You get three options to choose from.
    • Lowest tier – 11 Mbps
    • Mid-tier – 36 Mbps
    • Top-tier – 66 Mbps
  • All of the plans come with unlimited data
  • You will get a free online security package from BullGuard
  • The prices are constant all over the UK, even in the remote and rural areas
  • UK-based customer care at your service 24/7
  • The length of the contract is 12 months

Pros

  • Affordable for all kinds of users
  • Online security comes at zero cost
  • Anytime call deals available as an add-ons at reasonable prices

Cons

  • No ultrafast fibre option
  • EE Fibre broadband

EE offers their broadband deals without any anytime call packages. So, this is the closest broadband-only deal you can get on the Openreach network. You will still have to pay for phone line rental but it is included in the monthly cost. There are three main plans to choose from – Standard, Fibre, and Fibre Plus.

Features

  • The average download speed offered by each of the plans are-
    • Standard – 10 Mbps
    • Fibre – 36 Mbps
    • Fibre Plus – 67 Mbps
  • Each of the deals can be purchased by committing to a contract of 18 months
  • The setup cost is zero
  • You will get free EE mobile data with each plan

Pros

  • Offers 5-20 GB of free data if you have a EE mobile data plan
  • Affordable prices
  • No upfront charges

Cons

  • Price hike after 18 months is not appreciated

Here are few things you might be wondering about. And you should know these before you purchase a broadband deal in the UK.

  1. Broadband vs Fibre: What is the difference?

Technically speaking, Fibre is a type of broadband like ADSL or cable. The wire that brings the internet to your home decides what kind of broadband it is. But in the market, these words are used to refer to two different kinds of internet connections. So, without creating further confusion, let us see what common people mean when they utter either of these words.

  • Broadband: Broadband, in the internet market refers to the ADSL connection provided to you using copper wires (or the standard telephone wires) or coaxial cables (the one that usually connects to your television). The internet speed offered by either of these broadband connections is somewhere between 5 to 36 Mbps.
  • Fibre – While Fibre too is a newer kind of broadband connection, the word is used along to refer to the internet connection provided using fibre-optics cable which is a new and revolutionary way to connect to the internet. The internet speeds offered via fibre internet are much higher than typical broadbands and can provide a maximum download speed of around 1 Gbps. When broadband service providers use the term” Fibre broadband” to market their plans, they are mostly referring to their Fibre connection deals.
  • Will my speed reflect what is advertised?

Broadband service providers mostly advertise an average download and upload speed for their deals and plans. What this means is that you can lower speeds than this when the usage is heavy and there is congestion in the network. And at times when the usage is scarce, you will get speeds higher than the average. So, the answer is, yes your speed will be as advertised and even higher than that. But it can slow down eventually at times of heavy traffic on the network.

You need to find a broadband provider that has great customer service. They will provide you with functional directives when you run into problems of low speed and inconsistent network. They will listen to your concerns and will act on them immediately. So, you can do extensive research on how different broadband service providers handle the complaints and queries of their customers when the speed drops in the evenings.

New Ofcom guidelines have been enforced since March 2019. According to these rules, telecommunication service providers need to guarantee minimum speeds on their broadband plans apart from the average speeds they advertise. But, since this is a voluntary standard, only the top service providers like Sky, BT, and Virgin Media have participated to follow the guidelines.

  • Internet Speed: Explained

Different broadband service providers advertise their speeds in different formats and it might be confusing to a lot of people who are not familiar with the jargons related to internet speeds. So, this small explanation is meant to blow away those clouds of confusion. There are two internet speeds displayed by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on their websites for their broadband deals.

  • Download Speed: This is the primary speed you should be concerned about. This speed determines how fast you will be able to receive or retrieve data when you watch videos or play games or just browse the internet. The speed at which events take place on your clicks and taps on your devices depends on this particular speed.
  • Upload Speed: While download speed is the speed at which you will receive from the internet, upload speed means the speed at which you can transfer data to the internet. This comes into play when you are trying to put up a video on your Youtube channel or on your social media. Photo and video sharing apps like Snapchat and Instagram rely on these speeds when you share your pictures and snaps online.
  • What broadband speed do I need?

The requirement of internet speed depends on the size of your household and the number of heavy users that are going to go online all the time. There is no single broadband that will quench the requirement of all the families and households.

First, you need to have a rough estimate of how much internet and in what ways the internet is going to be used. This will help you choose an optimal download speed for your need and accordingly, you can compare similar broadband plans to pinpoint the best one.

Here are some pointers that can help you to decide the speed you will need:

  • If your household consists of light users (general web browsing and social media buffs) and the size is 1-3 people, then 10 to 25 Mbps will be just fine for you
  • But an active household with 4+ members who are constantly online streaming videos and playing games, you can start looking at 50 Mbps plus speeds and can go up to 200 Mbps if the usage is further heavy.
  • The third scenario is when you are uploading and downloading a colossal amount of data all the time and the internet is being used for intensive tasks like hosting files, game servers, then you can go for a broadband speed of 500 Mbps to 1 Gbps. This will be only accomplished via Fibre optics broadband plans.

Always go for a tier higher speeds than what you think you need because upgrading later can be pretty expensive with most of the broadband service providers in the UK.

  • Why do I need more speed the more people in the house?

Broadband connections are basically like roads or pathways for data packets. When there are more vehicles on the road, the traffic increases and it leads to congestion of the pathway. In the same way, more users sending and receiving content on the internet will create the same sort of traffic and the speed of the internet goes down remarkably.

 This traffic can lead to spikings in your ping which creates lag while playing games and your other download speed will fall down significantly. So, you need to choose a bandwidth to handle this traffic efficiently or you will get frustrated consistently. You can try different bandwidth calculators available on the web to find about how much speed your family or household needs.

  • What other extras should I consider?

The Internet Service Provider (ISPs) in the UK not only offer unlimited broadband service at a decent price but also bundle up other extra offers along with it to lure customers. There are tons of add-ons features to choose from and it is up to you to figure out exactly what you want.   These are some of the options you can look that-

  • Sport package (like Sky or BT Sport, which streams the Champions League)
  • Other Cable TV channels
  • Domestic/international anytime call minutes
  • Extra mobile data plan with some providers like EE

If your thirst for entertainment is quenched by online streaming sites like Netflix/Amazon Prime Video/Hulu then your focus for the broadband plan should be the bandwidth and data limit instead of extra offers. You will definitely save some money while choosing the internet-only broadband plan while you might not get much value for money out of a broadband and TV deal.

  • Are usage caps still a thing?

While it was a common thing in the past, most of the fixed-line broadband deals today don’t come with a usage cap and almost all of them have an unlimited download limit.

A few years back, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would offer their broadband deals with monthly usage limits or caps. If you reach that cap, you would either have to tolerate a secondary slow internet speed or have to pay extra to add some more data for the month.

If there is a usage cap on something these days, it is the mobile broadband plans. Dongles and MiFi deals come with monthly usage caps as well as unlimited data limits. While the latter one is pretty expensive, you can go for the ones with monthly usage caps.

If you are getting a cheaper broadband deal from a broadband service provider, you need to be sure that there is an unlimited data limit on the deal. You should read the terms and conditions thoroughly and confirm the same.

  • What else defines the speeds I can get?

After all the reasons I provided above that can impact the broadband speeds you get, there are some factors that might not be obvious to you. So let us talk about those and remove the clouds of confusion once and for all.

  • The local infrastructure set up by the broadband provider: As we know that the present hype is all about fibre optics broadband. It is blazing fast compared to the standard ADSL broadband and the connection is much more reliable compare to the same. But, the coverage of fibre optics broadband in the UK is still sparse and the remote or rural areas are still deprived of it. They have to bear the painful speeds provided by copper wire (ADSL broadband). So, the infrastructure of a particular broadband provider available at your location can be a major latent factor for the speeds that you get. You can check for the same on the websites or the apps provided by the ISPs after you input your postal code. This way, you will be informed well about the kind of setup you are going to get.
  • The cabling in your building: The internet signal is carried to your home from the node is by the wiring or cabling in your building. If you live in an old building or a flat, it is possible that the wiring could have gone bad and this will affect the speed of your internet significantly. While this might be the reason for the slow internet, there is a very scarce chance that you will find something like that. But, if your neighbor is getting a great speed with the same broadband but you are not, then this could be a viable reason. However, concerned Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will send out an engineer or a technician to check these lines or wires if you show them evidence of your issue.
  • How far is your router from the cabinet or the box: Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology or pure ADSL broadband is still the major way of providing internet access to most of the residential areas. This simply means the connections are carried out by copper wire cables rather than fibre optic cables. Using this type of copper cabling over long distances reduces the speed dramatically. So, if you are a long-distance away from the box, your internet speed will suffer. If you are using Virgin Media broadband, you won’t have to face this issue because they use a different kind of cable which is not susceptible to broadband speed drop-offs.
  • What if the worst comes to worst?

If you are not getting the speed that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) promised you and you end up paying a lot of money for a poor internet connection, then here are few measures that you can take.

  • You need to lodge your complaint or issue to the official complaints department of your ISP. You cannot go to Ofcom as they do not entertain individual complaints and their guidelines suggest that you need to contact your ISP first.
  • If this fails, then you can forward or escalate your complaint to an autonomous Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Scheme. Ofcom has approved two ADR schemes- The Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) and Ombudsman Services. It is mandatory for all telecom companies to be a member of one of these schemes
  • Once your complaint is submitted, the ADR will investigate the case which normally takes around six weeks. This can be longer in complicated cases. After that, the ADR will give a judgment. They may direct the provider to offer compensation, cancel the current contract or take care of the problem if possible. There is no need for any legal representation but the decision given by the ADR will be the final one and it cannot be challenged or appealed in a higher court.
  • What is the Openreach network?

Most broadband service providers put up this unusual claim that they are an Openreach network and there are many people who have no idea what this means.

Openreach is a division of BT, a major telecom company in the UK. The task of this division is to maintain the entire phone and broadband network across the country. Thus, most of the Internet Service Providers are customers of BT since they use the Openreach network. The only company that does not rely on Openreach is Virgin Media. Virgin Media has its own fibre broadband network.

When different companies are part of this Openreach network, switching between them becomes easy. For instance, you can switch between Sky and EE or Plusnet and TalkTalk without much fuss. On the other hand, switching to and from Virgin Media can be a hassle.

  1. What is actually involved in changing providers?

Switching between ISPs on the Openreach network is pretty straightforward. All you need to decide is which network want to switch to and the new broadband provider will take care of all the cancellation process with your old ISP. This will not be the case if you are moving to or from Virgin Media or Hyperoptic broadband.

Here are few pointers to help you with the switching process.

  • Visit the website of your new broadband service provider and order your new broadband plan.
  • You will be sent written confirmation from both your current and new ISPs stating that switching is in process. Your current provider will also notify you about any early exit fee that you are obligated to pay. Your new service provider will let you know about the terms of the contract, the setup fee (if any), and the date when the new plan will start.
  • You will soon receive a new router in your mail from your new broadband company. You won’t experience any downtime with most of the broadband service providers but again, this depends on the providers you are dealing with.

If the switching process involves Virgin Media and another broadband service provider on the Openreach network, the process gets a tad bit complicated.

  • First, you will order your new broadband plan on the company’s website
  • Inform your old provider via call or email about the switch and explain to them that you are canceling your contract.
  • The rest of the procedure is the same. You will get two confirmation emails and a new shiny router.
  • But, since your old provider will cut your connection abruptly, the switch might not be seamless unless you get the dates matched.
  1. What else is different about Virgin Media?

Virgin Media has some of the fastest broadband deals in the UK. They have fibre optics broadband plans that break the 1 Gbps barrier seamlessly. Here are few pointers that make them different from other broadband service providers in the UK.

  • If you have never used their services before, they will set up their wirings which might require digging up your driveway or front porch. They offer to send out their technical expert before you make the purchase so that they can have information about things to be done to set up the connection.
  • Virgin Media uses a different cable altogether instead of the copper ADSL wires. The wires provided by them are thicker and much more insulated. Thus, over long distances from the box, the internet speed remains intact without any drop-off.

So, if you want to experience a faster and much more consistent internet and money is not an issue, you can give Virgin Media a try.

  1.  Do I need to pay for line rental?

You cannot get a broadband connection in the UK unless you have an active phone line with you. This is not the case with Virgin Media and Hyperoptic broadband but with the rest of the providers on the Openreach network, a telephone line is a must. Thus, you have to pay a line rental charge in order to use the internet. This charge is mostly included in the monthly price of your broadband deal.

If you don’t use a landline phone at your home, you still have to pay for the line rental and there is no way around it. The broadband-only deals by Virgin Media might be the other option that allows you to use the internet without the telephone line but the coverage is limited and it might not be available in your area just yet.

  1. How do I ensure I keep my number?

If you are switching between ISPs that are on the Openreach network or between those that are not, you can keep your number either way. While it is easier between ISPs on the Openreach, it is a little bit nuanced when either of the broadband service providers is not a part of the Openreach network.

  • If you are switching between internet providers that are on the Openreach network, you will get an option to keep your number and a field where you can type it in. Your new provider will take care of the rest of the procedure.
  • If either the old or the new service provider is not a part of the Openreach network, you will need to inform your new provider who your old ISP was. They will deal with the rest of the process but you need to call them to inform them. Nowadays, most of the broadband service providers in the UK have started to add options on their websites when the customer is signing up for a switch of the network.

So, now you know that it is very easy to keep your current number as long as you are not changing your address.

  1. How do broadband contracts work? Can I get out easily?

All broadband plans in the UK come with a contract and these contracts are legally bound. So, you are basically entering into a legally binding contract with the broadband service provider that states that you will be provided with an internet connection and in return, you will pay a certain amount of money per month. There are some other clauses regarding the speed and other costs if applicable.

However, quitting or exiting a broadband service contract is not as easy as quitting a Netflix subscription. You simply cannot stop paying for a month because you cannot afford it or you don’t want the service for a month. There is a certain duration or period mentioned in the contract that you have to honor or commit to. If you plan to cancel the contract before its maturity, you will have to pay a cancellation fee. This charge can be pretty huge and you need to know the exact amount before you sign up for the contract.

With mobile broadband plans or “pay as you go” plans, you can skip all this hassle and can terminate your contract whenever you want to.

  1. What sort of contract (if any) should I sign?

Almost all the broadband service providers in the UK have multiple options when it comes to the length of the contract. The possible length of contracts can be –

  • “Pay as you go” monthly contract
  • A 12-month contract
  • An 18-month contract
  • A 24-month contract

With a shorter contract length, you will have to pay a significant amount of fee as a setup fee and your monthly cost will be high as well. But, you do have the freedom to exit the plan and switch to some other operator if any dissatisfaction arises. With a longer contract length, your monthly cost will be less and there will be almost zero setup cost, but you won’t be able to exit out of it without paying a hefty cancellation charge.

Some other factors are pivotal in deciding what you should go for:

  • Your confidence in your present broadband service provider and its customer service
  • The discounts and difference in cost between short and long-term contracts
  • The availability and economic feasibility of “pay as you go” plans
  • The exact amount of the contract cancellation fee
  • The length of your stay at your present location
  • Should I go with a big or small provider?

With big broadband service provider companies, there are many upsides-

  • Better infrastructure
  • Wider coverage
  • Flexible plans

There is an issue though. Since they are bound to have a huge customer base, they won’t address your issue with priority unless there are other similar complaints.

With small broadband service providers companies-

  • They try to offer awesome customer care at a personal level which can make a huge difference

But they will lack in –

  • Wider coverages
  • Competitive plans
  • Awesome infrastructure

So, with the downsides and merits highlighted, it is up to you to decide what is right for you.

  1.  Who actually provides the best broadband service?

There are two major ways to measure which broadband service provides top-notch service. One is the customer’s reviews which is quite subjective and is not the best way to find out as the experiences of the customers can be a mixed bag. The next one is the industry survey which provides insights into the technical details and positive factors that helps a broadband service provider stand out.

Ofcom has published a recent report and the findings are pretty interesting.

  • Virgin Media customers are quite satisfied with their broadband provider and they are more likely to recommend their ISP to others
  • TalkTalk is not doing so great when it comes to customer satisfaction as the rating is lower than the average
  • Plusnet customers are not satisfied with their customer service as they have to wait for the longest to get connected to the phone support
  • EE customers are pretty happy with the phone support as the average waiting time is around 48 seconds- the shortest hold time among the ISPs in the UK

No company is best as they all have their shortcomings. But, some of them have covered most of them and have excelled compared to others.

  1. What about my email address?

Different broadband service providers have different policies regarding your email address.

  • Sky and BT allow you to access your inbox and you can keep your emails for as long as you want.
  • If you switch to Shell Energy, your current account will be deleted immediately. So you will be forced to export contents you want to keep.
  • If you are planning to use Plusnet, they will charge you an extra £1.06 per month for inbox maintenance.

You need to study the terms and conditions well on your current provider’s website and be informed about the policies regarding the emails. It is handy to keep another email account like Gmail handy in case you ever have to switch to a new broadband service provider and it doesn’t allow you to keep your email address.

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