Best broadband 2020: The UK internet providers worth your money in 2020

Picking the best broadband provider isn’t easy. You’ll need to consider things like contract length and line speed, whilst also navigating a vast range of packages – at extremely variable prices – from an equally vast range of internet service providers. 

We’re here to clear up the confusion. Every year, we carry out a comprehensive review of internet packages offered by all the major UK ISPs. We’ll help you ensure you don’t get locked into a lengthy broadband contract you aren’t happy with, or don’t pay over the odds for a slow service.

What’s more, this year we’ve conducted extensive research to find out what users think of the biggest ISPs. We looked at customer satisfaction, speed, customer service, reliability and value for money – and handed out awards to the providers with the top scores in each category.

READ NEXT: Expert Reviews Best Broadband Awards 2020

Below you’ll find our helpful how-to guide for choosing the best broadband provider for you. And, below that, our top picks of the best UK broadband providers and deals in 2020.

Best broadband deals in your area

How to choose the best broadband provider for you

Check your coverage

When it comes to getting the best broadband, location makes a big difference. The speed and reliability of both fibre and ADSL connections will depend on the quality of the line between you and the nearest streetside cabinet and the distance between your home and the local exchange. Faster fibre connections may or may not be available, depending on whether the necessary cabling has been installed in your area. This makes checking your coverage essential.

All major ISPs have a page on their website where you can enter your postcode and check which services and speeds you can expect to receive. Do this before you start shopping in earnest or you may be disappointed.

Be aware of contract length

Some broadband contracts still last 12 months, but ISPs are increasingly trying to push new customers towards 18-month or even two-year deals. That might be fine if you’re happy with the service, but if you want to jump ship to a faster or cheaper provider, you could be looking at a long wait.

However, Ofcom regulations mean you can now back out of your contract if your provider fails to deliver a promised minimum speed and most providers will allow you to back out of your contract within the first month if you’re not getting what you pay for.

Work out the total cost of signing up

All ISPs will bill you on a monthly basis but if you’re comparing different packages it’s smart to tally up how much you’re going to be paying in total over the course of the contract, including the upfront setup fee.

If you’re shopping around for a new ISP, it’s a good idea to review prices regularly, as the market is highly competitive and deals frequently come along that can dramatically reduce the cost of certain contracts.

Keep an eye on what happens after your initial contract term ends, too. Some ISPs hike the price up after your first year, although this is often negotiable if you phone them up and say you’re planning to move to a different provider.

Speeds are crucial, but don’t be fooled

ISPs are nowadays obliged to advertise average download speeds for their internet packages. These give you a good idea of which packages are faster than others but it doesn’t tell you much about how consistent or reliable the service is.

To get a clearer view, we combine the results of our reader-voted Best Broadband Awards survey with Ofcom’s annual broadband customer-satisfaction report, which brings together customer surveys and user-recorded data such as average download and upload speeds and connection reliability.

This allows us to see how the different providers stack up across the board. Just remember that the speed data from the Ofcom survey refers to the connection speed between the ISP and your router – if your laptop or smartphone is connected over Wi-Fi, that could slow things down.

One bit of good news is that monthly data caps and traffic shaping are now more or less extinct, so you don’t have to worry about burning through a monthly usage allowance or having your connection slowed down at peak times.

What else do I need to look out for?

Most ISPs also offer phone and TV services. It’s now fairly difficult to sign up just for broadband without getting line rental thrown in, although you’ll still have to pay for calls or a weekend/evening or all-day calling package.

The major providers are still going big on bundling in TV, too, although some smaller players are retreating from the ‘triple-play’ market. Still, if you’re interested in Virgin, Sky or BT TV services, a bundle could save you money. Some providers also offer special deals on mobile data, which is worth bearing in mind if you’re also in the market for a new mobile phone contract.

A final point of differentiation between ISPs is the quality of the router that’s provided with your service. Some, such as BT and TalkTalk, offer good-quality, high-speed hardware. Others are more basic: they’ll do the job, but you can expect better Wi-Fi speeds and more features if you use your own third-party router instead. Read our best wireless routers round-up to learn more.

To help bring a bit of transparency and clarity to the performance of the best broadband providers, Ofcom recently joined forces with regulators from the water, energy and banking sectors as part of the UK Regulators Network (UKRN) to release performance scorecards for their respective industries.

The scorecards are designed to help customers choose the best providers based on metrics from the Institute of Customer Services UKCSI and net promoter scores (NPS), among others. You can see how the broadband providers below scored here and we’ve included the latest scorecard information below each entry in this list.

The UK’s best broadband providers 2020

1. Plusnet: Reliable, fuss-free internet for a great price

Plusnet is the big winner in this year’s Best Broadband Awards, winning in the Reliability and Value for money categories and claiming the Overall award. 88% of the Plusnet customers we surveyed would recommend the service to a friend, while 62% of them were very satisfied with their service’s reliability. And while Plusnet falls behind Virgin Media and EE on speed, its users are generally satisfied with their service’s performance and value for money.

Plusnet keeps things simple, with just one ADSL package and two Fibre packages, and if you’re looking to go beyond the basic fibre services provided by OpenReach, you’re barking up the wrong tree. But if you just want good, solid, reliable ADSL and fibre broadband, both Ofcom’s reports and scorecards and our survey data positioned Plusnet as one of the top options.

Read our Plusnet review

Get Plusnet Broadband now

Packages compared Plusnet Unlimited Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra
Price per month inc line rental £20 £23 £27
Setup fee £5 £10 £10
Average speed 10Mbits/sec 36Mbits/sec 66Mbits/sec
Usage allowance Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Contract length 18 months 18 months 18 months

Ofcom Performance Scorecard

Plusnet Industry average Scorecard
Customer satisfaction 83% 86%
Net Promoter Score 12 25
Complaints 58 101

2. Virgin Media Broadband: For those who feel the need for speed

Virgin Media is another popular provider with our readers, placing second for overall customer satisfaction with over 78% of users saying that they’d recommend the service to a friend. But, if that’s not enough to convince you, then Virgin’s speeds will.

Not only were its customers the most satisfied with their ISP’s performance, but Ofcom’s research rates it as the fastest. Of course, its super-speedy 108Mbits/sec to 516Mbits/sec services aren’t available everywhere, but where they are they’re in a different league. And that goes double for its cutting-edge 1104Mbits/sec Gig1 option.

The only problem with Virgin is that even its cheapest services come at a high price. Its M100 and M200 services are actually pretty good value but once you reach the 362Mbits/sec M350 option you’re looking at £32 per month plus a £35 setup fee and the prices rise dramatically from there. If you need the speed, it’s arguably worth it, but if you’re simply watching Netflix or downloading the odd game or movie, they might be overkill.

Read our Virgin Media broadband review

Get Virgin Media Broadband now

M50 M100 M200 M350 M500 Gig1
Price per month inc line rental £37 £27 £32 £37 £89* £62
Setup fee £35 £35 £35 £35 £35 £35
Average speed 54Mbits/sec 108Mbits/sec 213Mbits/sec 362Mbits/sec 516Mbits/sec 1,104Mbits/sec
Usage allowance Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Contract length 12 months 12 months 12 months 12 months 12 months 18 months

* As part of Ultimate Oomph bundle

Ofcom Performance Scorecard

Virgin Media Industry average Scorecard
Customer satisfaction 83% 85%
Net Promoter Score 12 19
Complaints 58 51

3. EE Broadband: A great selection of competitive packages

EE might be best known as a mobile phone operator but don’t rule it out as a broadband provider. It did well across the categories in our Best Broadband Awards, and managed to scoop up a win in the customer service category. Nearly 80% of its customers were satisfied or very satisfied with this aspect of their service, while fewer than 4% were dissatisfied – significantly lower than any other provider.

EE does the usual ADSL and 36Mbits/sec to 67Mbits/sec fibre services and the prices aren’t extravagant, either. Its big strength, however, lies in its 145Mbits/sec and 300Mbits/Sec Fibre Max services, although these are only available in areas with support for BT’s G.Fast fibre tech. Outside these areas, speeds can be slightly mediocre but if you’re looking for reliable broadband backed up by strong support, look no further.

Read our EE Broadband review

Get EE Broadband now

EE Standard Broadband EE Fibre Broadband EE Fibre Plus Broadband EE Fibre Max 1 Broadband EE Fibre Max 2 Broadband
Price per month inc line rental £19 £23 £27 £36 £43
Setup fee Free Free Free Free Free
Average speed 10Mbits/sec 36Mbits/sec 67Mbits/sec 145Mbits/sec 300Mbits/sec
Usage allowance Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Contract length 18 months 18 months 18 months 18 months 18 months

Ofcom Performance Scorecard

EE Industry average Scorecard
Customer satisfaction 83% 87%
Net Promoter Score 12 9
Complaints 58 36

4. Sky Broadband: Consistent performance with attractive headline prices

Sky didn’t win any awards from our Best Broadband survey but it came highly commended for reliability and speed, while 77% of the customers we surveyed would recommend Sky to a friend. There’s room for improvement on the customer service front but Sky’s still a few steps ahead of BT, Vodafone and TalkTalk in this area.

In terms of speed, Sky delivers some of the best ADSL services but Ofcom’s data suggests that its basic 59Mbits/sec fibre service lags slightly behind the best of the competition, including Virgin, Plusnet and EE. However, Sky now offers Ultrafast in some areas, with average speeds of 145Mbits/sec so if performance matters and you’re attracted by Sky’s bundles, you might not have to go without.

Read our Sky Broadband review

Get Sky Broadband now

Sky Broadband Essentials Sky Superfast Sky Ultrafast
Price per month inc line rental £20 £29 (for 18mths, then £32) £39
Setup fee £19.95 £19.95 £39.95
Average speed 11Mbits/sec 59Mbits/sec 145Mbits/sec
Usage allowance Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Contract length 18 months 18 months 18 months

Ofcom Performance Scorecard

Sky Industry average Scorecard
Customer satisfaction 83% 83%
Net Promoter Score 12 13
Complaints 58 20

5. BT Broadband: A fast, consistent service with plenty of extras

BT hasn’t come out from our Best Broadband Awards covered in glory, with customers unimpressed by their performance, customer service and value for money, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it.

On the one hand, its higher-end fibre services are actually pretty speedy, especially if you live in an area where you can enjoy its Ultrafast fibre packages. On the other, BT does some excellent bundles, throwing in cashback offers, free BT Sport, free Google Stadia game streaming and other goodies.

At the lower end it faces stiff competition and doesn’t do enough to justify a premium price, but once you get above 67Mbits/sec it’s more attractive. Just make sure you check out what the four other ISPs above are offering before you sign up.

Read our BT Broadband review

Get BT Broadband now

Standard Broadband Superfast Fibre Essential Superfast Fibre Superfast Fibre 2 Ultrafast Fibre 100 Ultrafast Fibre 250
Price per month inc line rental £27 (for 24mths, then £35) £28 (for 24mths, then £36) £32 (for 24mths, then £40) £35 (for 24mths, then £48) £40 (for 24mths, then £48) £50 (for 24mths, then £53)
Upfront cost £30 £30 £10 £10 £10 £10
Average speed 10Mbits/sec 36Mbits/sec 50Mbits/sec 67Mbits/sec 145Mbits/sec 300Mbits/sec
Usage allowance Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Contract length 24 months 24 months 24 months 24 months 24 months 24 months

Ofcom Performance Scorecard

BT Industry average Scorecard
Customer satisfaction 83% 80%
Net Promoter Score 12 5
Complaints 58 79

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