TalkTalk Broadband review: Some unbeatable prices, but you get what you pay for

TalkTalk is one of the UK’s biggest ISPs, maybe not as big as BT, Sky or Virgin but, with around four million subscribers, it’s still very popular. All the same, it’s falling behind its rivals in key areas, according to our Best Broadband Awards 2020 survey. It came forth out of the seven most popular ISPs for overall customer satisfaction but last for customer service, reliability and speed.

That’s a shame, because on paper it’s very attractive, offering a full range of ADSL and fibre broadband services at very wallet-friendly prices, with fibre for as little as £22 a month. TalkTalk is also selling ultrafast services based on Openreach’s technology in some areas, not to mention talk and TV bundles.

You can add unlimited UK mobile and landline calls to any package for £12 a month – or £9.50 with the current deal – or 1000 landline and mobile minutes to 50 international destinations for £10 a month. TV packages start at £4 a month with either a free TV box or a £25 TV Plus Box recorder and you can add different entertainment and cinema packages for between £6 and £18 a month, with those including the major Sky entertainment, Sky Sports and Sky Cinema channels.

TalkTalk Unlimited Broadband

TalkTalk’s Unlimited Broadband package is an ADSL2+ service promising average download speeds of 11Mbits/sec. For many people that might well be enough: it’s fine for downloading apps and TV shows, and you should even be fine to stream HD video from Netflix and other sources. For 4K video, however, Netflix recommends at least a 25Mbits/sec connection.

The whole thing is priced quite competitively at £20 a month all in – as long as you’re willing to commit to a two-year contract. Still, there’s no data cap and, according to TalkTalk, no traffic management except to prioritise video streaming, so your shows shouldn’t stutter if you’re double-screening.

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TalkTalk Unlimited Fibre Broadband

TalkTalk’s entry-level fibre-optic service claims average speeds of 38Mbits/sec. The headline price is £21.95 a month including line rental, which is definitely less than you’ll pay anywhere else – although to get that rate you have to sign up for a two-year contract. As with the ADSL service, there are no caps or traffic-shaping policies.

TalkTalk also sells a 67Mbits/sec Superfast Fibre package which, at the time of writing, is the exact same price but may be more expensive when you read this.

In both cases there’s no setup fee and TalkTalk guarantees your monthly rate won’t increase during those two years. What’s more, these packages include TalkTalk’s Wi-Fi Hub, which isn’t bad at all: it’s tastefully designed, and offers both excellent Wi-Fi speeds and a full complement of four Gigabit Ethernet ports.

TalkTalk Faster 150 and 300 Fibre Broadband

Like EE, TalkTalk has recently started rolling out services, providing much higher speeds than regular fibre without the need to physically run new cables into your home. TalkTalk coyly says that these services are right now available only in a “selection of UK towns”, and as the rollout appears to be stalling, there’s a possibility that this won’t change anytime soon.

The Faster 150 Fibre package promises average download speeds of 140Mbits/sec, with no throttling or usage caps, for £40 a month including line rental and equipment. The Faster 300 service more or less doubles that, to 290Mbits/sec, for £50 a month. Unlike TalkTalk’s regular fibre offerings, these contracts don’t lock you in for two years – the standard length is a slightly more reasonable 18 months.

Note that if you’re looking for the very fastest connection, Virgin Media’s Vivid 350, M500 and Gig1 fibre packages give you a significant speed boost over TalkTalk’s top-end package, with average speeds of 362 to 1,104Mbits/sec. These also cost less and only require a twelve-month commitment. However, Virgin’s upload speeds are slower, at 21M to 36Mbits/sec versus TalkTalk’s 40Mbits/sec.

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TalkTalk broadband prices and packages

TalkTalk Unlimited Broadband TalkTalk Unlimited Faster Fibre TalkTalk Unlimited Superfast Fibre TalkTalk Faster 150 Fibre TalkTalk Faster 300 Fibre
Price per month, including line rental £20 £22 £22 £40 £50
Setup fee None None None None None
Advertised speed 11Mbits/sec 38Mbits/sec 67Mbits/sec 140Mbits/sec 290Mbits/sec
Usage allowance Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Contract length 24 months 24 months 24 months 18 months 18 months

TalkTalk broadband: Performance, reliability and customer service

TalkTalk didn’t score highly for reliability in our Best Broadband Awards 2020 survey. Only 29% of readers who responded felt very satisfied with the reliability of their connection, while over a fifth were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied – the highest percentages of any of the major ISPs we covered.

Things weren’t much better in the speed category, where around a quarter of users surveyed were dissatisfied with their performance. To balance that, nearly 24% were very satisfied and over a third were satisfied, but TalkTalk still falls behind most rival ISPs.

Looking at Ofcom’s most recent published figures (for November 2018), TalkTalk was the slowest ADSL ISP for average speed across a 24 hour period, although the performance of its fibre packages is more average than bad, with TalkTalk matching the likes of Plusnet and EE for its low-end package and beating them with its 67Mbits/sec option.

TalkTalk’s biggest issue, however, is customer service. While almost half of the users we surveyed described themselves as satisfied, a quarter were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, with 17.5% in the latter category. No other ISP came away with such poor scores.

Ofcom’s survey results weren’t any more favourable. Only 79% of TalkTalk users Ofcom surveyed were satisfied with the overall service, leaving TalkTalk well behind other ISPs. While TalkTalk were quick to respond to customers with a problem – over a minute ahead of the industry average – only 44% were happy with the solutions offered, again leaving TalkTalk languishing in last place.

TalkTalk broadband: Verdict

TalkTalk can deliver good services at extremely competitive prices and it has enough happy customers and decent speed results to prove that. Unfortunately, the poor reliability and customer service results show that you’re taking a risk in opting for this ISP and may not get the great, reliable connectivity you’re looking for. Until TalkTalk builds on its strengths and improves on its weak points, we’d recommend you look elsewhere.

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