Choosing your ISP can be an incredibly difficult task: not only is the choice very wide and the use of language very liberal (and confusing), but it is something that will effect you every day, and given how much we rely on the internet when it goes wrong it can be fairly catastrophic.
However, here on Zath we’ve previously covered the Top UK Broadband Providers Awards 2010 and now ISPreview.co.uk have gone some way in helping you make that decision. They’ve had a look at the reviews and experiences they’ve had over the last year to come up with some of the best broadband provider deals for 2011 and some advice on who to go to for your internet needs.
Whilst the report from ISPreview.co.uk focused partly on businesses as well we’ll just be looking at the consumer side and which companies have got the right balance between performance and price; as with most things you do tend to get what you pay for, but there are some obvious pitfalls to avoid…but without further ado let’s have a look at the top three broadband ISP networks:
BE Broadband & O2 Broadband
BE Broadband (and O2 who use the same network) have received quite a lot of praise over the last year for their services, and were in fact the country’s first ‘up to’ 24 Mbps provider. Price wise BE start at around £14.08 a month for an ‘up to’ 12Mbps service, whilst O2 Broadband are a little cheaper at £8.17 for 20Mbp but impose a 20GB usage allowance and a £25.53 connection fee if you’re not currently an O2 customer.
Both offer free wireless routers and various line rental and phone services, but ISPreview.co.uk have warned to stay clear of the O2’s Home Access package which uses BT’s network rather than BE’s, and has been the source of more issues; they nevertheless both offer very good support.
Unsurprisingly the key selling point of using Sky Broadband as your ISP is the digital TV offerings that you can take advantage of, but if you live within the area covered by their ‘unbundled network coverage’ they have some fairly good standalone broadband packages including Sky Broadband Unlimited: prices start at just £10 a month which gives you the unrestricted 20Mbps service, although it does require your phone calls to be made through Sky’s Talk Freetime service (which offers free evening and weekend calls, so isn’t too much of a disadvantage!)
You no longer need to be a Sky TV customer to take advantage of their broadband offerings (although you do get a £2.50 a month discount if you are) which is good, and in fact if you are a customer you can get free 20Mbps broadband capped at 2GB! But if you live outside of the aforementioned ‘unbundled network coverage’ area then ‘Sky Broadband Connect’ is your only real option with Sky and it is inferior in every aspect: it costs £17 a month, has a 40GB limit and only offers 8Mbps speeds.
With regards to support, ISPreview commented that although they are good in most areas, email support can be quite slow; nothing amazing but likewise nothing terrible.
Virgin Media Broadband
Arguably purely for the amount of money being invested into fast broadband speeds Virgin Media Broadband deserves a place at the top of the ISP tree, but they also find strength in their TV packages and moderate prices and it is probably more thanks to that they they feature here.
The headline offering is of course the £35 a month 100Mbps package, but for most of us the £12.75 10Mbps offering that comes with a free wireless router will suffice. Unfortunately again those living outside the catchment of it’s cable coverage (which is about half the country) will have to make do with the ‘Virgin National’ ADSL-based packages which are relatively poor by comparison thanks to their reliance on the older BT copper infrastructure.
Another negative is that the support can often be poor, and the Traffic Management that is in place on the packages can feel restrictive, but the strong TV bundles more than make up for this!
So those are the three main rivals at the top of the Broadband tree, and a brief look at what’s good and bad about them and what to look out for.
Cheaper Budget Options?
ISPreview also highlighted five other ISPs for the more ‘budget conscious’ users and offered a brief explanation as to why they were chosen:
- PlusNet – very cheap, although experiences do vary
- Tesco Broadband – whilst there are many varying experiences there is some very good feedback
- Eclipse Internet – improving
- XILO – they’ve not been around long enough to make it into the main list, or that many people’s scope of recognition, but definitely recommended
- Aguiss – very well rated by most users
So now you can take your pick from some of the best broadband internet providers for 2011! However it’s definitely worth noting that ISPs change their services regularly, and if you are canny enough you can take advantage of offers and promotions when they arise to really get the best deal. But always keep an eye out for some of the things people forget when looking to buy a broadband connection: service, data caps and additional charges!
Via – ISP review