The best internet providers in 2021

·7-min read
 (Pexels)
(Pexels)

Choosing a broadband provider can be a challenge, so we’ve done the research (June 2021) to recommend the five best fibre and five best full fibre broadband companies you can sign up with.

Best FIBRE broadband providers

 (BT)
(BT)

1. BT - 5/5 stars

Average download speed: 51Mbps

Average monthly cost: £27.66

Complaints per 100k subscribers: 50

Our verdict

BT has three fibre broadband tariffs with an average download speed of 51Mbps and average cost of £27.66 per month. Its Stay Fast Guarantee promises to fix any issues with speed within 30 days, or else pay you £20 cashback and allow you to leave your contract without penalty.

Its router, the Smart Hub 2 is among the best on the market and 86% of its customers were satisfied with the overall service it provided, according to research from Ofcom, the telecoms regulator.

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 (Sky)
(Sky)

2. Sky - 5/5 stars

Average download speed: 59Mbps

Average monthly cost: £28

Complaints per 100k subscribers: 21

Our verdict

Sky’s sole fibre tariff offers average speeds of 59Mbps for £28 a month, or 47p per Mbps. Ofcom says 86% of Sky broadband customers are satisfied with its service overall, adding that it received the lowest number of complaints (21) per 100,000 subscribers compared with any of the other major broadband providers. The dual-band Sky Hub router that comes with the package has an energy-saving mode for when it’s not in use.

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 (John Lewis)
(John Lewis)

3. John Lewis - 4/5 stars

Average download speed: 51Mbps

Average monthly cost: £27.50

Complaints per 100k subscribers: 100

Our verdict

Plusnet – part of the BT Group – provides the broadband for John Lewis. It offers two fibre tariffs with an average speed of 51Mbps and average price of £27.50 per month, or 54p per Mbps.

Tariffs come with a no-frills Zyxel router and John Lewis vouchers worth up to £70. Plusnet, the actual provider of the service, recorded the highest score in the 2020 Ofcom Customer Satisfaction Tracker at 93%.

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 (Plusnet)
(Plusnet)

4. Plusnet - 4/5 stars

Average download speed: 51Mbps

Average monthly cost: £30.32

Complaints per 100k subscribers: 100

Our verdict

With average speeds of 51Mbps and prices of £30.32, Plusnet offers good value for money broadband, but it’s worth noting that set up fees apply. Tariffs come with a compact Plusnet Hub Zero router and a pre-paid Mastercard loaded with £50 to spend. Ofcom’s Customer Satisfaction Tracker 2020 reported 93% of customers were satisfied with its overall service.

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 (TalkTalk)
(TalkTalk)

5. TalkTalk - 3.5/5 stars

Average download speed: 52.5Mbps

Average monthly cost: £23.50

Complaints per 100k subscribers: 87

Our verdict

TalkTalk download speeds average at around 52Mbps and cost £23.50 a month. This makes it one of the best value for money broadband providers, but the ISP was the only major provider to record a below-average score in Ofcom’s 2020 Customer Satisfaction Tracker.

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Best FULL FIBRE broadband providers

 (Virgin Media)
(Virgin Media)

1. Virgin Media - 5/5 stars

Average download speed: 466Mbps

Average monthly cost: £42

Complaints per 100k subscribers: 60

Our verdict

The 54% of homes eligible for Virgin Media’s cable broadband service can get some of the fastest broadband speeds available, and at 9p per Mbps (in other words, the average monthly cost divided by the average download speed), one of the best value services too.

Each tariff comes with the 11-antennae, dual-band Virgin Hub 3 router, or the Virgin Hub 4 version with its Gigabit tariff. Ofcom data puts Virgin Media bang on the national average for customer satisfaction.

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 (BT)
(BT)

2. BT - 5/5 stars

Average download speed: 448Mbps

Average monthly cost: £49.99

Complaints per 100k subscribers: 50

Our verdict

BT offers full-fibre tariffs with an average monthly cost of £49.99 and average speed of 448Mbps, giving you a cost-per-Mbps value of 11p. As with its standard fibre tariffs, the Stay Fast guarantee will get any speed issues resolved in 30 days or pay you £20 and allow you to exit your contract without penalty.

Ofcom’s 2020 Customer Satisfaction Tracker found 86% of BT customers were satisfied with its service.

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 (EE)
(EE)

3. EE - 5/5 stars

Average download speed: 448Mbps

Average monthly cost: £48.67

Complaints per 100k subscribers: 22

Our verdict

The mobile network cum broadband provider EE scores very highly for customer satisfaction, and with an average tariff price of £48.67 and average download speed of 448Mbps, it matches BT in value for money.

Each tariff comes with an EE Smart Hub router. The dual-band, seven-antennae hardware promises to manage connections intelligently and reach every room of your home.

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 (Zen internet)
(Zen internet)

4. Zen Internet - 5/5 stars

Average download speed: 450Mbps

Average monthly cost: £51.74

Complaints per 100k subscribers: Data not available

Our verdict

With speeds and prices to rival that of EE and BT in terms of value for money, Zen Internet is a strong contender. Tariffs start at £38.99 for speeds of 100Mbps and each come with a FRITZ!Box 7530 router that allows visitors to use your connection without having to share your wi-fi password.

Ofcom hasn’t published any customer satisfaction data for Zen Internet, but it scores well above average for broadband on TrustPilot at 4.1 stars.

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 (TalkTalk)
(TalkTalk)

5. TalkTalk - 4/5 stars

Average download speed: 272Mbps

Average monthly cost: £36

Complaints per 100k subscribers: 87

Our verdict

TalkTalk is the cheapest full fibre broadband provider on our list, but it does offer the lowest average speeds. Its two tariffs cost £32 and £40 per month respectively, and offer average speeds of up to 272Mbps. Subscribers get a D-Link router.

TalkTalk scored 78% in the overall satisfaction category of the Ofcom 2020 Customer Satisfaction Tracker, below the national average of 85%.

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Methodology

We ranked the major broadband providers according to the value for money, on average, their tariffs represented. This meant dividing average tariff price by the average download speed. We also looked at customer satisfaction using data from the telecoms regulator, Ofcom.

What to look for in a broadband provider

Price and download speeds are the two main things to look for in a broadband provider. Generally speaking, the faster your connection the better – but there’s no sense in paying for top speeds if you’re only a light internet user.

If, however, you want to stream video in 4K, play games online or upload a lot of high quality content, you’ll want as fast a connection as you can get.

You should also consider factors like customer satisfaction, because nobody likes a battle to get problems resolved as and when they crop up. Helpfully, the telecoms regulator Ofcom publishes plenty of data on this subject every year.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between fibre and full fibre broadband?

With a full fibre connection, data is transmitted over fibre optic cable from their source to your property. With a fibre connection, data is carried over fibre optics from their source to your nearest telephone exchange, with copper cables completing the final leg of the journey. Resistance in the copper cables slows data transmission down and limits your download speeds.

How are download speeds measured?

In megabits per second (Mbps). The smallest unit of data is a bit, and is expressed as a 0 or a 1. Strings of these zeroes and ones form the computer language known as binary. A megabit is equal to a million of these ones and zeroes, and Mbps represents the number of them that can be transferred per second. For reference, the average UK broadband speed is 64Mbps, roughly equating to enough data for two audio tracks. At that speed, you could download a 12-track album in six seconds.

Are download speeds guaranteed?

Since there are so many external factors that can speed up or slow down your connection, the best that broadband providers can do is tell you what speed customers receive on average. Your actual speed could be above or below average, but several providers have signed up to an Ofcom compensation scheme that issues automatic reimbursements for dissatisfied subscribers.

Related: Compare Our Best Broadband Deals

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