Is Sky broadband any good?
THINK Sky and the first thing most of us think of is satellite TV.
Does that make Sky broadband just a bolted on service for their pay TV customers? Is Sky broadband any good?
We'll aim to find out - focusing on connection quality and value for money - in this full review.
First though, let's take a quick look at the latest deals Sky are offering on their unlimited broadband:
Sky Broadband without Sky TV
Sky Broadband with Sky TV
Sky broadband in brief
Sky have six broadband options: Lite, Unlimited, Fibre, Fibre Unlimited, Fibre Unlimited Pro, and Connect. Each relies on taking Sky line rental, which from December 1st 2015 will cost £17.40 a month.
Connect is the broadband option for those people who don't live within Sky's broadband network area. We talk about it in more detail further down.
Lite is Sky's "free broadband" package. It comes with the UK's smallest monthly download limit for home broadband - just 2GB per month - making it suitable only for those who do the odd bit of browsing and emailing.
Broadband Unlimited is by far the most popular option, although more and more homes are taking fibre - and on contracts of just 12 months long, too.
Anyone for whom 38Mb isn't fast enough should check to see if they're in an area where they can get Fibre Pro, which is Sky's 76Mb service.
on Sky TV?
Now we've got the basics, let's take a closer look: we'll start off with prices, then move on to their speeds and usage limits (skip ahead), as well as extras like the free router and wi-fi (skip ahead).
Crunching the numbers: prices
Sky are fairly competitive on price, especially compared to their main rivals, BT and Virgin Media - and they frequently run a range of deals that bring their prices down further.
Here are some of Sky's current special offers:
And here are the prices for Sky Broadband with and without the basic Sky TV service; the Original Bundle usually costs £20 a month - and remember to add on the cost of Sky line rental.
Compare more package options and check availability here.
All Sky TV and phone contracts are 12 months long - and as mentioned above, so are all their broadband packages, whether standard or fibre.
Existing Sky TV customers who are upgrading to take Broadband Lite should be aware that there's a £60 set up fee - but new customers escape this charge.
Those wanting to join Sky Connect, or one of the Fibre packages, should factor in a £30 activation fee.
If there's a working BT-compatible phone line to the premises, switching from an existing supplier to Sky should be free. If there is a line, but it's not BT-compatible, or if an entirely new line is required, there's a connection fee of £20. Find out more here.
Not all of the packages above will be available to all households, especially the Sky fibre broadband deals.
Check availability by postcode and home phone number here:
Enter your phone number and / or postcode above to check availability in your area.
Sky don't offer the UK's cheapest standalone broadband or line rental (see who does here), particularly since broadband Lite is only available for new and existing Sky TV customers.
However, because of their flair for tempting upgrade offers, they may well be the cheapest option for those who want or already have Sky TV.
Adding in calls
As we've noted above, Sky broadband is only available to customers who are also willing to switch their home phone to Sky, a rule that almost all broadband providers have now.
As of December 1st 2015, Sky line rental will be £17.40 - cheaper than BT and TalkTalk, but still among the most expensive out there. The £1 increase and its timing is in keeping with previous price rises; Sky last raised line rental in December 2014.
Unlike BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, however, Sky no longer offer a pay upfront option. Paying in a lump sum can knock at least 10% of the cost of paying month by month over the year, so it's often worth considering.
What's more, Sky no longer include any calls with their line rental, so anyone wanting a call package will need to pay for the privilege. The provider's call plans break down as follows:
|Pay As You Talk||Talk Evenings And Weekends Extra||Talk Anytime Extra||Talk International Extra|
|Free||£4 extra per month||£8 extra per month||£12 extra per month|
|No inclusive calls||Inclusive evening and weekend calls to UK mobiles and UK landlines, including 0845 and 0870 numbers||Inclusive anytime calls to UK mobiles and UK landlines, including 0845 and 0870 numbers; 2p per minute call rates to 22 international destinations||Inclusive anytime calls to UK mobiles and UK landlines, including 0845 and 0870 numbers; landlines in 50 countries, and mobiles in Canada, Hong Kong and the US|
Note that Sky do include calls to UK mobiles, no matter which network we're calling, in their bundles. As with most other home phone providers, the length of inclusive calls with Sky is 60 minutes.
As well as line rental, call rates outside inclusive hours will increase from December 1st.
The connection fee for calls to UK landlines will be 16.9p; they'll then be charged at 11.5p per minute, up from 9.5p.
Calls to mobiles will get a little cheaper, from 12.7p per minute to 11.5p per minute - and to keep things simple, this is also the access charge for calls to other 08 numbers, 09, and 118 numbers. Calls to 0800 and 0808 numbers are free of charge.
As mentioned above, any households needing a new phone line installed - the unsure should read this guide - will need to pay a £20 set up fee.
Up to speed?
Speeds dictate Sky broadband prices to a large degree, as follows:
|Up to 17Mb
Average 8.6Mb - 10.6Mb
|Up to 38Mb
Average 34.3Mb - 36.4Mb
|Up to 76Mb
Average 59.9Mb - 63.1Mb*
Fibre Unlimited: £20
|Fibre Unlimited Pro: £30|
Figures are averages over 24 hours, as reported by Ofcom in February 2015.
*Sky 76Mb data unavailable; BT Infinity figures used instead.
Fibre really does result in faster speeds. As always, the average standard broadband user will get considerably slower speeds than the up to 17Mb Sky advertise (there has been a gradual creep upwards since August 2013).
Sky ADSL and fibre broadband run on the BT network, although there are some differences between the providers. There's more on those differences here.
The above figures don't include results for Sky's Fibre Pro (up to 76Mb), as not enough people take it for the results to be reliable.
But in the past two sets of results, Ofcom note that among all the big providers, Sky's 38Mb fibre shows the least peak time speed degradation caused by contention.
We haven't included the Connect package, which is the only option available for non-LLU (read: rural) areas, above.
Connect is substantially slower than Sky's other broadband options. It offers speeds of up to 6Mb - which Ofcom suggested this time last year was below the minimum required for the average home - and it's subject to constant traffic management.
It's also much more expensive, because it costs more for Sky to pay BT to use these exchanges, and people in these areas are likely to have few other options.
As recently as the end of 2014, Connect also had a data limit, although at 40GB it was among the more generous capped packages available. The removal of the cap has made it slightly better value than previously.
With the exception of their Connect package, Sky don't impose any form of restriction on downloads on their unlimited deals. Customers are subject to no fair use policy, no traffic management and definitely no download cap.
Sky were the first to bring in this "truly unlimited" policy, though BT began offering a similarly unrestricted service in February 2013; TalkTalk's service is similarly unrestricted.
Read our network management article for more on how this actually affects broadband; most Sky unlimited users just seem to enjoy the peace of mind.
Get by on 2GB
As we said above, Sky Broadband Lite's 2GB a month limit is only suitable for households that only use their internet for browsing web pages and reading emails.
Watching iPlayer, downloading large files or even listening to the radio online reasonably regularly is likely to result in going over that limit.
Anyone who wants more guidance about whether they're likely to go over Sky's data limits - from 2GB on Lite to the 25GB allowance that comes with their entry level fibre - should read our guide.
Extras: free router, wi-fi and parental controls
All Sky broadband packages include a decent wireless router, which Sky claim has much better wireless reach than other ISPs' free routers.
Read our review of the router over here.
Customers taking anything other than Sky Broadband Lite also get free access to wi-fi hotspots from The Cloud.
There are thousands of hotspots across the UK, some in branches of big chains including Pret, Caffe Nero and Eat.
Like the rest of the big five broadband providers, Sky also offer all their broadband customers good, router level, parental controls, which we've reviewed in full here.
Support check: how's Sky customer service?
In years past Sky Broadband's customer service wasn't always held in high esteem.
More recently, however, they've really outdone themselves: in December 2014, Ofcom revealed that among the big providers, only Virgin Media had a higher satisfaction rating - and independent surveys also rate them highly.
In a Think Broadband survey, for example, 23% of Sky customers gave them five out of five for service, the top score of the big providers.
Sky offer 24/7 technical support (numbers here). Calls to their customer service numbers are free of charge when calling from a Sky landline; if it's the phone line that's the problem, Sky use an 03 number, so it should be included in most mobile call plans.
Existing Sky customers
We're aware that some people reading this article will be Sky TV customers wondering whether to add broadband to their existing deal.
Not wanting to leave anyone out when it comes to a special offer or two, Sky often run deals for existing customers who are thinking of upgrading. Currently those are as follows:
Sky Broadband with Sky TV
|Fibre Unlimited 12 months half price||£10 for 12 months, then £20 a month|
*As mentioned above, to take Sky broadband or fibre, customers must also take and pay for Sky line rental.
As we've seen, Sky are very focused on their pay TV business, so existing TV customers often get the best value for money and standards of care.
Take, for example, when Sky bought O2 and Be broadband and migrated their customers on to the Sky network. Many of them were unhappy with the change - even though Sky soon brought in very similar deals and offered low prices.
In addition, Sky have been investigated for customer service issues relating to their retention practises - or, as many frustrated customers would rather it was called, their refusal to let them leave.
Standalone customers should really look elsewhere first, particularly if they're looking for cheaper deals or simpler customer service.
Summing up Sky
All in all, Sky deliver much more than a basic add-on to their satellite TV: in fact, completely unlimited downloads and their improving technical support have made Sky's offerings some of the best liked and best value broadband deals around.
On the other hand, Broadband Lite and Connect do fit the add-on description pretty well. Aside from Broadband Lite being "free", they can be easily beaten elsewhere.
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