UK’s best and worst broadband providers

The rise of superfast broadband speeds is making it easier for the UK’s start-up and small business community to work from wherever works for them.

It’s now available to 93% of premises and most standard broadband packages can be made faster with a simple upgrade.

But how fast do you really need your internet? Could you save with a broadband and phone package? And which are the best broadband providers in the UK today?

On the back of our popular page on the UK’s best mobile network providers, we’re bringing you our totally unbiased broadband provider comparisons, based on customer reviews and Ofcom’s latest surveys on customer satisfaction and coverage.

This page is designed to answer all your questions about broadband providers – and help you find the best deal.


In this article you will learn:

  1. Which are the best broadband providers in the UK?
  2. Who is the best broadband provider in my area?
  3. How fast do I need my internet?
  4. Where can I find the best deals?

WHICH?

Which is the best broadband provider in the UK?

Hit-and-miss connections, snail-pace internet speeds and lousy customer service are all things we can do without. The trick to finding your best match is in deciding what matters most to you, and our list will help you spot your top contenders.

To compile our list of the best broadband providers in the UK, we checked the most extensive (and reliable) findings from Ofcom’s annual surveys into the UK’s biggest broadband companies (Plusnet, Sky, Virgin Media, BT, EE and TalkTalk).

But because we know bigger doesn’t always mean better, we also did our own customer-focused investigations into the smaller broadband providers the Ofcom report didn’t cover (including Vodafone, Zen Internet and the Post Office).

To be a Startups chart-topper, the broadband provider needed to score highly in all of the three areas our start-ups tell us matter most to them:

  • Deliver the goods – Offer a fast, reliable internet connection
  • Care about your customers – Come running when things go wrong
  • Don’t rip us off – The price needs to be fair – and not spike every few months

This also helped us work out which internet providers small business owners should definitely avoid.

UK’s best broadband providers

The UK’s best broadband providers for 2018 are Vodafone, EE, Virgin Media, Plusnet, BT and Zen Internet. Here is how they compare.

Network Great for…? Prices from… Star Rating View online
Vodafone Vodafone Great deals and service £21 ★★★★ vodafone.co.uk
ee logo sq EE Some of fastest speeds £19 ★★★★★ ee.co.uk
Virgin business phones Virgin Media Top speeds and service £29 ★★★★ virgin-media.co.uk
plusnet resized Plusnet Cheap and flexible broadband £14.49 ★★★★★ plusnet.co.uk
bt logo BT UK’s best coverage £22.90 ★★★★ bt.co.uk
Zen Internet Zen Internet Top customer service £15.40 ★★★★ zen.co.uk

You can click any of the provider names to skip straight to their section, or you can check out their deals on their websites with the website links in this table.


UK’s worst broadband providers

And here are the UK’s worst broadband providers, according to Ofcom and our customer reviews:

Network Great for…? Prices from… Star Rating View online
Post Office Post Office Expensive and slow £29 ★★★★ postoffice.co.uk
Talk Talk TalkTalk UK’s worst customer service £19.95 ★★★★ talktalk.co.uk


WHO?

Who is the best broadband provider in my area?

As the UK’s biggest broadband provider, BT covers more of the UK than anyone else. But whilst Virgin Media has some of the fastest speeds, their broadband is only available to just over half the UK’s population.

To check if there’s good broadband where your small business is located, just pop your details into Ofcom’s coverage checker. You can get it for free on iPhone or Android.


HOW?

How fast do I need my internet?

Generally, you’ll choose between standard broadband speeds (up to 38Mbps) and super-fast fibre-optic broadband (usually up to 76Mbps – although with Virgin you can get up to 350Mbps).

So, the big question on many small business owners’ lips: are the standard broadband speeds of 38Mbps fast enough for my business? Or do I need to pay more for turbo-charged broadband?

To help you work it out, here’s a break-down of what you can and can’t do with standard broadband:

✅ Browsing the internet
✅ Checking emails
✅ Watching 4K videos
✅ Light gaming
✅ Connecting under 10 devices
❌ Running a large business server
❌ Watching multiple 4K videos
❌ Lots of uploading
❌ Connecting over 10 devices

That means if you’re running a small office with just a few computers and doing little more than checking emails and the odd upload, the standard broadband speeds will be just fine for you.

But the more employees you add, the more they’ll slow you down. As a rule of thumb, three’s a crowd, so once you hit that magic number, it’s worth looking to upgrade (although you won’t quite need 350Mbps until you’re competing with Amazon).


THE BREAK-DOWN

Top business mobile phone plan providers in the UK today

Vodafone Broadband

Hard-to-beat broadband deals and great service

Vodafone PROS – Some of the cheapest fibre broadband deals around, no upfront fee
CONS – Some less urban customers have had issues with reliability

Speed and coverage ★★★★
Customer support ★★★★
Value for money ★★★★★

Vodafone have only been offering broadband since 2015, but they’re already making waves for their super cheap broadband deals. And if you’re a Vodafone mobile customer, you can get an even bigger saving.

Speed and coverage

Some of the top speeds – and most of their customers agree

As a leading network provider, you can expect good coverage with Vodafone – and 80% of their customers agree. To help, Vodafone only offers super-fast broadband speeds of 38Mbps or 76Mbps.

You can check your broadband availability and speed on their website here.

Customer support

More control over your broadband

Compared with many broadband providers, Vodafone really go the extra mile. They’ve got a free app which gives their customers more control – you can easily change wifi passwords, choose when people can get online and even boost the speeds for your priority devices.

Vodafone Internet pricing

Three quarters think it’s great value for money

Vodafone is one for value for money – three quarters of their customers find it excellent. With average monthly totals of around £20 (and no line rental), small businesses can save hundreds in a year compared with most other providers.

Should I join Vodafone?

Absolutely, if you’re big on getting a great deal. Vodafone really are hard to beat on price, and their customers are generally happy with them.

You can find a cheap broadband package or see how their prices compare with Virgin, Sky, BT and TalkTalk here. Just note these prices are for their mobile customers.

Or check out their even cheaper business broadband and phone deals here.


EE Broadband

Fastest broadband speeds, surprisingly affordable

ee logo sq PROS – Competitive prices, great extra perks for EE mobile customers
CONS – Average customer satisfaction

Speed and coverage ★★★★
Customer support ★★★★
Value for money ★★★★

EE offers some of the fastest broadband speeds around at a price that might surprise you. It’s not quite as cheap as Vodafone, but considering their slightly stronger coverage and service, it’s a great value provider.

Speed and coverage

Jaw-dropping speeds

EE broadband gets top marks for reliability and only 14% had connection failures (which is actually one of the lowest ratings).

You can choose between standard internet speeds (up to 17Mbps) and EE’s fibre-optic cable (up to 38Mbps or 76Mbps). After that, you can even stretch to EE’s fibre max broadbands with jaw-dropping speeds of 145Mbps and 300Mbps.

You’ll also get to connect to BT’s many wifi hotspots when you’re on the go.

You can check your broadband speeds with EE using their coverage checker here.

Customer support

Some of highest Ofcom ratings

In Ofcom’s latest report on customer satisfaction for UK broadband providers, EE scores some of the highest ratings. They have some of the lowest numbers of complaints and the happiest customers for how complaints are handled, with six in ten satisfied.

EE customers also enjoy the shortest wait time when they call customer service – most get through to someone in just 48 seconds (with Plusnet, you’d be waiting a whole eight minutes).

Overall, 80% of EE broadband customers are satisfied – that might not sound like much, but it’s industry average.

EE Broadband pricing

Monthly prices from: £19

EE don’t have their own specific business broadband service – they share it with BT which you can check out here.

That said, we find their regular broadband deals a good option for most small businesses – they cost between £19 and £47 a month, depending on your need for speed and the contracts last 18 months.

Should I join EE?

EE offers a great mix of value for money and decent broadband speeds. The only downside is it’s less flexible than some others – you need an EE fixed phone number and (as with many providers) the contracts are all 18 months.

If you’d like to switch to EE, they’ll give you a £50 credit. To find out more about EE’s broadband packages, here’s the information you need on their website.


Virgin Media Broadband

Top speeds and service, even without a phone line

Virgin business phones PROS – Lightning speed and reliable internet, flexible package options, no phone line needed
CONS – Expensive compared to rivals

Speed and coverage ★★★★
Customer support ★★★★★
Value for money ★★★★★

Virgin Media offers one of the fastest and most reliable broadbands in the UK – if it’s available in your area and you don’t mind paying a bit more for it.

Speed and coverage

Virgin Media broadband is 99.9% reliable

Virgin Media is the only broadband provider Ofcom found to report above-average customer satisfaction for speed. They are able to offer super-fast speeds using their very own broadband network – or as they put it, their magical high-tech cable.

With Virgin, your options are superfast or superfast. Right now you can get speeds of up to 50Mbps, 100Mbps, 200Mbps, 300Mbps and they have just released the UK’s fastest speed of 350Mbps.

Sadly, their coverage isn’t quite there – Virgin Media broadband is only available to just over half the UK population. But you can easily find out if you’re covered by popping your postcode into their website here.

Customer support

Virgin Media customers recommend it

Virgin Media is known for its stellar customer service – and Ofcom backs it up. Virgin broadband customers are some of the most likely to recommend the provider to a friend.

Virgin Media pricing

Monthly prices from: £29

Virgin Media isn’t for you if your goal is to save on your broadband because they don’t offer standard (non-fibre) broadband packages at a reduced rate. That makes their starting prices more expensive, though there’s often an introductory offer.

But if like many small business owners, you’re after a provider that’s fast and reliable, Virgin’s prices are competitive for super-fast broadband.

Virgin is also one of the best (and only) options for broadband-only deals because they’re not reliant on BT’s phone line. But you can actually pay even less when you combine your broadband with their range of phone bundles – and even throw in a TV extra.

The contracts last 12 months (rather than 18 for most other broadband providers) and you can even go for a 30-day rolling contract if you’re a young start-up – it just tends to cost a bit more.

Should I join Virgin?

We definitely think Virgin Media broadband is a great option for small business owners in the UK – they offer good value for money if you’re looking for super-fast and reliable internet and they have some of the most flexible packages if you’re not quite ready to commit.

You can find out more about what they’re offering here on their website.


Plusnet Broadband

For cheap, flexible and easy broadband

plusnet resized PROS – Super cheap broadband packages (even fibre), flexible contracts, easy set-up, broadband-only options
CONS – Longest wait times

Speed and coverage ★★★★
Customer support ★★★★
Value for money ★★★★★

With decent prices and great coverage, Plusnet are Ofcom’s best rated provider and are taking good care of many of the UK’s small business owners.

Speed and coverage

Speedy, reliable internet

Nearly all Plusnet’s customers find the internet fast and reliable. With their standard broadband package, you can enjoy speeds of up to 17Mbps, and with their fibre cable it’ll be closer to around 38Mbps and 76Mbps.

Customer support

Ofcom’s best rated broadband provider

Ofcom’s survey says Plusnet’s broadband customers are the most satisfied, with 86% happy with the provider. They also have the lowest complaints rate at just 13%.

That’s a good thing because their customers also have the longest wait times (just shy of eight minutes on average), though most customers were happy when they eventually did get someone on the line. It’s a UK-based call centre, which may help to explain the delay.

Plusnet pricing

Monthly prices from: £14.49

You’ll be hard pressed to beat Plusnet’s cheap broadband deals. They start at under £15 a month for standard broadband only, but you can even get fibre-optic broadband from under £20 a month. Usually, you can get the Plusnet router for free too.

Just note that even if you don’t want a broadband plus phone package, you’ll still need a landline to get internet, so it can make sense to combine both anyway. Plusnet’s line rental tends to be around £18.99 a month.

Should I join Plusnet?

Plusnet are one of the only providers in the UK to offer broadband-only deals, so if that sounds like you, we cannot recommend them enough.

And even if it’s a combination package you’re after, we’re finding it hard to do better than Plusnet with their Ofcom-leading customer service, reliable internet and some of the cheapest broadband packages around.

To explore all your options with Plusnet, you can find their best deals on their website here.



BT Broadband

The UK’s best internet speeds and coverage

bt logo PROS – Top network availability, free nation-wide wifi hotspot access
CONS – Expensive, poor tech and customer support

Speed and coverage ★★★★★
Customer support ★★★★★
Value for money ★★★★★

BT was ranked the Best Business Broadband at the last Cable.co.uk Awards and their killer speeds and coverage make them perfect for business broadband. You just need to combine an internet and phone package, so if you don’t want both you’ll find cheaper elsewhere.

Speed and coverage

The best availability in the UK

BT has the UK pretty well covered (better than any other network), so if you’ve had problems with another provider, BT are bound to be able to serve you. You also get to benefit from their five million nationwide wifi hotspots when you’re out of office.

BT’s speeds are also some of the best in the UK.

Customer support

Slightly higher than average complaints, but the fastest internet repairs

BT customers have an okay customer satisfaction score on Ofcom – it’s 80% which is industry average. The wait times are also fine (between one and two minutes), but they do get quite a few complaints (the third highest number).

Yet what many customers don’t know is BT actually do prioritise their customers by paying for quicker repairs on the Openreach network. That means your internet will be fixed faster than with any other provider – within two days on average.

BT pricing

Monthly prices from: £22.90

You can choose between a broadband and office phone deal, or whack a TV sports package on top too for just £7 a month extra.

Should I join BT?

We’d consider it. BT’s business broadband is award-winning and they have the best broadband coverage in the UK. Though they just don’t offer a broadband-only deal, so you’ll need to pay for a BT phone line rental on the side (for £18.99 a month).

But if you were interested in a broadband and phone deal anyway and like the sound of being with the UK’s biggest network provider, you might like to take a look at what BT is offering. Here are BT’s best rates for small businesses.


Zen Internet

Top customer service, less value for money

Zen Internet PROS – Friendly and helpful customer service, choice of flexible contracts
CONS – Expensive fibre broadband compared to rivals

Speed and coverage ★★★★
Customer support ★★★★★
Value for money ★★★★★

Zen’s popularity shows you don’t need to be a big player to offer great customer service. It’s just a shame the same isn’t true on price.

Speed and coverage

Nearly everyone can get Zen’s standard broadband coverage

Over 99% of the UK can enjoy Zen’s standard ADSL broadband service, with download speeds of up to 17Mbps. They can usually also fit your premises with fibre broadband that’ll get you download speeds closer to 38Mps or 76Mbps, depending on your contract.

Customer support

Zen say their customers rave about the company

Zen are not quite big enough to be covered by Ofcom’s unbiased survey on the UK’s broadband providers, but they have some of the best customer reviews on TrustPilot.

Zen Internet pricing

Monthly prices from: £15.40

We were impressed with how flexible Zen’s broadband packages were. You can go for broadband only (if you already have a mobile with another network) and can sign up for just one-month contracts with their standard internet speeds (though fibre broadband has a minimum contract of 12 months).

That said, don’t expect any incentives to sweeten the deal – or discounts for paying upfront. What’s more, prices from £15.40 may seem cheap, but as most small business owners will want faster fibre broadband the rates are no longer competitive.

Should I join Zen?

Zen really do as their name suggests – they keep their customers happy and feeling taken care of. They also have good coverage and speeds and if you’ve been tearing your hair out with other providers and just want a stress-free broadband, we think Zen is a top choice.

But you can save a bundle on fibre-optic broadband elsewhere. If you care more about value for money than customer service, you might like to consider some of our other broadband providers like EE and Virgin Media which are also well rated for reliability and customer support.

Or to find out more about Zen, you can check out their website here.


Worst business mobile phone providers in the UK

Post Office

There’s a reason why you haven’t heard of their broadband

Post Office PROS – Cheap standard broadband packages, fixed prices
CONS – Low customer ratings, expensive packages, slow speeds

Speed and coverage ★★★★★
Customer support ★★★★★
Value for money ★★★★★

We think the Post Office should stick to delivering mail until they can get more competitive internet speeds, customer service and value for money.

Speed and coverage

Snail-paced broadband speeds

You can get either standard (up to 17Mbps) or fibre broadband (up to 38Mbps and up to 76Mbps with the Post Office.

But a whopping one in four Post Office broadband customers aren’t impressed with their internet service – they say it’s unreliable and slow.

Customer support

Some of the unhappiest broadband customers in the UK

The Post Office tends to leave its customers waiting on the phone, but when you do get through the customer support team is friendly and helpful.

That said, we don’t think one in four customers rating them poorly is good enough, and 7% would even rank them very poor.

Post Office pricing

Monthly prices from: £29

The Post Office only offers broadband and phone combo deals for standard or fibre internet. Some perks include all-you-can-eat data and free landline weekend calls.

Their line rental is not bad (£16.99 – just under some of their rivals), but considering how poor the internet quality and service is, we still don’t think it’s cheap enough.

Should I join the Post Office?

We really don’t see any good reason to sign up for the Post Office’s broadband and phone packages. They rate poorly for everything that matters to small businesses: speed, customer support and value for money.

But you’re always welcome to check them out for yourself on their website here.


TalkTalk

Terrible customer service and slow speeds

Talk Talk PROS – A good range of broadband deals to suit most budgets
CONS – Worst rated Ofcom provider, tech troubles, unhappy customers, not transparent pricing

Speed and coverage ★★★★★
Customer support ★★★★★
Value for money ★★★★★

As one of the UK’s biggest broadband providers, TalkTalk is able to offer some attractive prices. But the deal calculator tends to make you pay more than you thought and most TalkTalk customers still wouldn’t recommend them.

Speed and coverage

Doesn’t cut it for business use

TalkTalk customers aren’t impressed with their slow internet speeds and some have found the wifi can be down for up to two hours at a time.

With TalkTalk, you can either go for standard broadband (up to 17Mbps) or pay a little extra for fibre broadband (either around 38Mbps or closer to 76Mbps).

Customer support

It’s a thumbs down from Ofcom

TalkTalk customers are some of the least satisfied on Ofcom, with just over two thirds happy with their provider. Many find the broadband patchy and 60% didn’t like how their complaints were handled.

TalkTalk pricing

Monthly prices from: £19.95

TalkTalk’s broadband packages are fairly reasonable and we like how they guarantee no mid-contract price rises. You’re able to add a TV package to get a better deal, but this may be less useful for small businesses.

TalkTalk’s router is free, though you’ll need to pay £9.95 postage. What’s not so good is how you find the right deal for you – you plug in your details and they recommend a monthly package (with a price often much higher than £19.95). We think it’s better to have transparent pricing and let the customer choose.

Should I join TalkTalk?

We really wouldn’t recommend TalkTalk to our readers. They have some of the worst internet speeds we tested and the UK’s least happy broadband customers.

On paper, their prices seem fine, but when you go to check-out, you usually find you’re on track to pay much more than you thought.

Still interested? You can have a go on their website here and see if you can do better. Otherwise, we’d suggest picking a better deal elsewhere.


BEST UK BROADBAND PROVIDERS: IN A NUTSHELL

We know broadband providers don’t have the best reputation, but our reviews should help you find the one that’ll tick your boxes, whether that’s super speeds, coverage, customer support or value for money. Here are the best providers for each category:

  • Top speedsVirgin Media takes the crown, with EE a close second
  • CoverageBT have the UK’s best coverage
  • Customer supportVirgin‘s customers are the happiest
  • Value for moneyPlusnet are very hard to beat on price

Though our top providers will offer a combination of all these must-haves for busy business owners. And just remember when you’re comparing providers to look for the same internet speeds.

Take Virgin – they can seem pricey compared to the others, but that’s because they only offer the fastest broadband (at great value). We only gave the Startups thumbs up to networks which offered value for money, so you should get a good deal with any of our top rated providers.


WHERE NEXT?

To explore for yourself our top rated broadband providers in the UK, you can tap any of the links below:

Network Great for…? Prices from… Star Rating View online
Vodafone Vodafone Great deals and service £21 ★★★★ vodafone.co.uk
ee logo sq EE Some of fastest speeds £19 ★★★★★ ee.co.uk
Virgin business phones Virgin Media Top speeds and service £29 ★★★★ virgin-media.co.uk
plusnet resized Plusnet Cheap and flexible broadband £14.49 ★★★★★ plusnet.co.uk
bt logo BT UK’s best coverage £22.90 ★★★★ bt.co.uk
Zen Internet Zen Internet Top customer service £15.40 ★★★★ zen.co.uk

Were you paid to write this?

Startups is proud to provide free buyers’ guides to help our readers make sure their small businesses and start-ups are in the best of hands. Our reviews are 100% unbiased and no company can pay to get their rating bumped up.

To keep our pages free, we sometimes receive commission if any of our readers sign up using one of our links, but any potential business relationship happens far away from our researchers and writers and never has any influence on our content.

We hope you found this page useful and good luck finding a broadband provider you’ll be happy with.