Most Reliable Broadband Providers

Top Picks

Best Security Features

BT Broadband Logo
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BT is the most reliable broadband provider in terms of availability and network size. They are among the top three major providers in the UK in Ofcom customer ratings. As of 2022, the company has extended gigabit-capable full fibre service to more than seven million locations. 80% of BT customers gave favourable overall satisfaction ratings in the most recent Ofcom consumer experience report.

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Best Budget Option

Plusnet Logo
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Plusnet is a good deal in terms of pricing compared with their primary competitors, BT and Virgin Media. While their customer service ratings are high, the broadband service delivered has lower speed test ratings (#10 compared with BT's #2 and Virgin's #1). The Wi-Fi equipment defaults are also more dated, resulting in issues extending Wi-Fi in larger homes.

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Best Broadband Speeds

Virgin Media Logo
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Virgin is a good broadband choice for customers who need an alternative to phone line broadband and are willing to pay a little extra to get it. While typically £5–15 above the monthly cost of basic broadband, the speed and reliability is worth it for homes with multiple people or home offices.

Read Virgin Media Review

The average home in the UK has to dozens of broadband providers over 1–3 individual wired networks (Openreach, CityFibre, or Virgin Media).

To understand which is best, you need to consider overall performance as well as the network quality offered in your specific area.

How we evaluated the best broadband providers

There are three things that make a broadband provider reliable for home use:

  1. High speeds with low downtime.
  2. Robust Wi-Fi equipment provided by default.
  3. Strong security & parental control options for families.

To determine the best broadband providers in the UK, we’ve gathered hundreds of rows of data on each factor to compare apples-to-apples features and performance for each provider. The biggest dataset handled here is consumer speed test data, which we’ve pulled from Measurement Labs and Ookla.

We’ve also hand-tested connections for each of the providers with the most promising feature sets, and collected hundreds of user reviews to produce a three-layer review: raw data, customer sentiment, and editorial review.

Summary of key features

FeatureBTPlusnetVirgin Media
Speed range (advertised)20–900 Mbps20–80 Mbps100–1,000 Mbps
Speed range (tested)35–72 Mbps17–70 Mbps98–213 Mbps
Speed ranking2nd10th1st
Security featuresStrongMid-tierMid-tier
Parental controlsStrong, but off by defaultGood, but off by defaultMid-tier, off by default

The biggest differences between BT, Plusnet, and Virgin come down to speed and the type of line used to deliver service.

BT operates both phone-line and full fibre networks. Plusnet uses the same network, but widespread access to full fibre has been slow to roll out. Virgin Media has their own network entirely, a privately owned and operated coaxial cable network.

Speed & Coverage comparison

ProviderTop speed (download)Top speed (upload)UK coverage
BT900 Mbps300 Mbps99%
Plusnet80 Mbps20 Mbps99%
Virgin Media1,000 Mbps50 Mbps55%

Most Reliable Overall: BT Broadband

In terms of reliability, BT is the winner because they have both a wide coverage footprint, the largest full fibre network in the UK, and the largest customer base.

This makes them very easy to move from home to home when moving without being subject to early termination fees.

Does BT own Openreach?

BT owns Openreach, the heavily network provider underpinning most of the UK broadband market.

In theory, thanks to the regulation, they do not get special treatment when it comes to traffic prioritization, or prioritization of outage fixes and customer service issues.

In practice, customers who are concerned about these issues tend to choose BT anyway, since they have oddly high performance scores in consumer speed tests and reviews in spite of the regulatory requirements.

Best Budget Option: Plusnet

Plusnet is our pick for the best budget broadband provider because their plans are consistently priced £5–10 lower than equivalent plans from BT, and even more when compared with premium providers like Zen Internet or Andrews & Arnold.

What makes a provider “fast?”

When comparing providers that share an underlying network, such as BT and Plusnet, differences in performance are more often due to Wi-Fi equipment provided with the plans than with the network itself.

Plusnet is the best budget option, but it comes with a trademark in this department. The router provided with service is a re-branded BT router, and in many cases is an older model no longer used by BT.

Plusnet customers can get the best of both worlds by paying to upgrade their router to a more modern model, like the Plusnet Hub Two (a re-branded BT Smart Hub 2).

Most customers don’t know this, and opt for the cheap or free default router; and their speeds suffer as a result.

Best Broadband Speeds: Virgin Media

Virgin Media is the fastest provider in the UK, in no small part, because they do not interact with the phone line system for any part of their service area.

This is a stark contrast against BT, Plusnet, Vodafone, and virtually every other ISP in the UK market. Reliance on Openreach, CityFibre, and similar leased network providers is the norm, thanks to a pro-competition regulatory policy called “local loop unbundling.”

This policy has historically forced BT and Openreach to share lines with other providers, allowing dozens of providers to compete for last-mile service to consumers without building their own lines.

Virgin Media is the outlier, having bucked the trend and bet that building their own network would lead to faster speeds and a strong customer base. The bet was correct; so much so that the core issue facing their network is oversubscription, with slowdowns due to congestion during peak use hours being the most popular complaint seen in user reviews.