Is John Lewis Broadband any good?

john lewis store front

JOHN Lewis are obviously keen to retain their reputation with their basic phone and broadband deals.

Our Rating
Features:

Value for money:

Customer service:

Overall
3.5 out of 5

They keep it simple, with just three broadband packages and equally simple call plans, aiming to deliver "the excellent customer service that we are renowned for".

But how exactly do they compare? Find out below in our full review.

Customer service

As customer service is such a big part of the John Lewis brand, it's not surprising that when it came to broadband they chose to partner with Plusnet, using both their network and their support team, when they launched in 2012.

Plusnet have had something of a reputation for being "customer service superheroes"; they're regularly among Which's Recommended Providers, and they fare well in customer service reviews and polls.

Having said that, Plusnet's popularity has caused them some problems - in early 2014 there were long waiting times for people trying to contact customer services, and in 2015 they had a few issues.

Still, they have more than their fair share of awards for both their network and their service, and Ofcom regularly find them to be among the fastest standard broadband ISPs - take a look at our full review here for more detail.

Coming back to the John Lewis part of the broadband, there are some differences between them and their supplier. The most important of these is that John Lewis don't charge different prices depending on where customers live, nor do they charge activation fees.

As with most other ISPs, they offer a free PC security package, and a free wireless router.

Phone and broadband packages

When it comes to pricing, John Lewis aren't going to break any records for offering the cheapest broadband and phone.

Instead, however, they offer a simple pricing structure "with no hidden costs".

And as we've come to expect other providers to announce price rises and tweaks to their deals at least once a year, John Lewis have proven themselves to be what we call a 'quiet' provider.

In May 2016, some four years after they first started to offer broadband, they've just made the first major changes to both packages and pricing since they launched.

For 18 months from November 2014 they did make a slight change, by giving all new customers free broadband for an introductory period; standard broadband users got six months, while those taking fibre got three months.

It wasn't until spring this year that they really shook things up, however.

Having previously offered standard broadband with both a 20GB monthly limit and in unlimited form, and only selling fibre in capped form (admittedly with a generous 100GB allowance), they ditched the restrictions and embraced unlimited usage.

Keeping things simple, they announced that everyone would benefit from the move to unlimited data, and existing customers would actually see their monthly broadband bill come down in price.

Those prices - still in round numbers or multiples of 50p - seem all the more reasonable as a result, if not cheap:

Package Broadband Contract length Upfront price Monthly price
john lewis Unlimited + Evening & Weekend calls Up to 17Mb
Unlimited
12 months Free £22.50
for 12 mths,
then £26.50
john lewis Fibre + Evening & Weekend calls Up to 38Mb
Unlimited
12 months Free £32.50
for 12 mths,
then £38
john lewis Fibre Extra + Evening & Weekend calls Up to 76Mb
Unlimited
12 months Free £36.50
for 12 mths,
then £43

Contracts last a minimum of 12 months, and the emphasis on being good value rather than a bargain is seen in the continued inclusion of evening (7pm - 7am) and weekend calls.

Free calls include all 01, 02 and 03 numbers - but only some calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers are included.

Outside inclusive call times, calls to UK landlines and mobiles follow a simple - and comparatively cheap - pricing structure.

Calls to UK landlines cost 10p per minute at all times with a setup cost of 15p; calls to UK mobiles cost 12.5p per minute during the day and 10p per minute during evening hours.

Calls to other 08 numbers, 09 and 118 numbers have an access charge of 9.58p per minute; international rates vary depending on destination.

Basic voicemail is free; voicemail extra (including the ability to check it from any phone) costs £3 a month, and the ability to block anonymous calls costs £4.

All other paid for call features like international and premium number call barring, and call divert, cost £3; these features can be bundled for a maximum of £6 a month no matter how many of them we take.

Customers can add more calls as follows:

Anyone taking either of these add-ons can also benefit from the mobile bolt-on, which for another £5 a month gives them unlimited calls to UK mobile numbers.

John Lewis broadband

In terms of broadband speeds, it is possible to get an accurate picture of how fast John Lewis services are likely to be by looking at the stats for Plusnet services.

The Unlimited package uses Plusnet's ADSL2+ lines; based on Ofcom's most recent speed tests, published in March 2016 and looking at performance during November 2015, Plusnet offer the fastest average connection speeds for this kind of connection.

In reality, however, there's not much between the top five UK providers in speed terms; if getting a faster connection is important, the best thing to do is upgrade to fibre.

John Lewis, like Plusnet, use the BT Infinity network to provide fibre services - but Plusnet have enough customers of their own at both up to 38Mb and up to 76Mb to be included in Ofcom's tests in their own right.

Here's how those packages performed:

Broadband 24-hour average Peak (8-10pm weekdays)
plusnet Up to 17Mb 9.3Mb to 12.1Mb 9.2Mb to 12.0Mb
plusnet Up to 38Mb 32.3Mb to 34.2Mb 32.1Mb to 34.0Mb
plusnet Up to 76Mb 54.8Mb to 58.1Mb 53.8Mb to 57.1Mb

SOURCE: Ofcom, March 2016. Available here [pdf].

John Lewis have only just introduced their 76Mb package, but we should expect it to offer similar speeds as listed above.

There's more on the various providers who sell fibre on the BT network here.

John Lewis vs Plusnet

If John Lewis Broadband is just a repackaged version of Plusnet, why not just cut out the middle man and get Plusnet - especially given that the (now discontinued) capped packages from John Lewis cost more than the unlimited deals from Plusnet?

Here are the Plusnet deals and prices, for comparison.

Package Broadband Contract terms Upfront price Monthly price
plusnet Unlimited + Line Only Up to 17Mb
Unlimited
12 months £6.99 £25
for 12 mths,
then £27.98
plusnet Unlimited Fibre + Line Only Up to 38Mb
Unlimited
18 months £6.99 £27.50
for 18 mths,
then £32.98
plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra + Line Only Up to 76Mb
Unlimited
18 months £6.99 £32.50
for 18 mths,
then £37.98

It could well be customer service. John Lewis Broadband has the power of the brand behind it, even though both sets of customers are being served by the same team within Plusnet HQ.

Adding to the strength of that argument is the fact that with John Lewis Broadband it's not possible to save money on the cost of line rental by paying for it upfront - but then, until recently, they almost didn't need to.

Before May this year, John Lewis line rental was just £13.50 a month, far cheaper than all the big ISPs, even taking any upfront saver deals they may offer.

Even with the discount afforded by their upfront deal, Plusnet line rental costs the equivalent of £15.49 a month - which only just beats what John Lewis have been charging since they raised their prices.

What's more, for the penny extra a month, John Lewis Broadband customers get a generous helping of inclusive calls, which is becoming all the more rare these days. There's more on features like this, and other ways to keep home phone prices down in this guide.

Hopefully the above makes it clear that while John Lewis Broadband is aimed toward customers who prioritise customer service or package features over price, that doesn't necessarily mean that getting "good value" always costs more.

If the cost is a concern, people living in an area with plenty of competition can always opt for Plusnet (here's that link to our review again), who offer more or less the same thing - and some generous, if changeable, introductory deals.

For people in more rural areas, however, John Lewis could well prove to be cheaper, as they don't use Plusnet's geographical pricing model, under which only those in more competitive areas can get their cheapest prices.

In conclusion

There is definitely a place for John Lewis in the UK market.

With simple package choices - only three each for phone and broadband - simple pricing, and a solid reputation for customer service they're sure to find plenty of customers.

Comments

1
23 February 2016
James

We'll have been with John Lewis for three weeks tomorrow, and still have no broadband. Avoid like the plague - they are utterly rubbish.

2
18 January 2016
Jess

Do NOT switch to John Lewis for your broadband. Customer service worse than Sky. My elderly parents decided to switch to John Lewis, ironically, because of their customer service. That was meant to happen on December 15th...it never took place. Roll on a month they have lost the phone number they have had for nearly 50 years and now have no phone line at all. They have been battling this ever since and not even the so called 'senior' customer service manager seems to be able to sort it out.

3
6 August 2015
Fedup

John Lewis customer service is just as bad as any other broadband provider. If you want to talk to customer services you wait ages on hold listening to the most appalling racket, and get treated badly by incompetent operatives. The only difference between John Lewis and Plusnet is that the person in the Plusnet call centre knows you are a John Lewis customer. Why pay less when you can pay more for the same rubbish service?

4
7 July 2015
Sinjut Williamson

I would agree with the user below who posted 8 months ago. I am living in a village 6 miles from a main town and I can't get the cheap rates advertised by going direct. It's actually cheaper to use John Lewis (free delivery of router and no excess fee for being rural). On this basis, it is cheaper and although I am using Plusnet indirectly, I have more faith in the John Lewis brand if the brown hits the fan. Unlike BT, Plusnet offer a fixed IP which BT don't offer and considering every IP issued by BT is blacklisted, this is definitely the way to go. I have 12 months with John Lewis (big saving compared to Zen Internet) and then I am moving to Gigaclear for pure fibre, installing later this year. Thumbs up for John Lewis who offer fair and transparent pricing.

5
5 November 2014
Matt

The prices shown for Plusnet are not available if you live outside of the "low cost" areas. If your exchange has not been unbundled from BT then John Lewis are probably the cheapest ISP you can get. They are certainly the cheapest I can get, my choices being limited to BT, Plusnet and John Lewis. No one else! No fibre, no cable, no 4G.
Please don't assume everyone lives in a metropolitan area.

6
18 January 2014
Redwardo

Poor service, waited nearly a month to get connected. It seems that they just don't know what they are doing half the time, and on one occasion I got some guy with attitude. This is NOT representative of John Lewis. I will be switching at the first opportunity.

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