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 deal Sky are offering on their most popular package, unlimited standard broadband:
Sky broadband in brief
Sky have six broadband options: 12GB, Unlimited, Fibre, Fibre Unlimited, Fibre Max, and Connect. Each relies on taking Sky line rental, which costs £17.40 a month.
Five of these packages are available both with and without Sky TV:
Note the inclusion of Connect, the out of network option, in that list; until recently it was only available to those who also had Sky TV. We talk about it in more detail further down.
The other package, Broadband 12GB, is still only available to those who also have Sky TV:
|Package||Broadband||Contract terms||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|Broadband 12GB + Talk||Up to 17Mb
Readers who think they remember a completely free broadband package for Sky TV customers would be right: Sky Broadband 12GB replaced the old Lite package, which was Sky's truly "free broadband" deal, in summer 2016.
Lite came 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.
By comparison, the new 12GB package offers a slightly more realistic data cap - but introductory offers aside, it'll cost £5 a month.
Broadband Unlimited is by far the most popular option, although more and more homes are taking fibre - and usually on contracts of just 12 months long.
Anyone for whom 38Mb isn't fast enough should check to see if they're in an area where they can get Fibre Max, 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 total monthly prices for Sky Broadband with and without the basic Sky TV service; the Original Bundle usually costs £20 a month.
Compare more package options and check availability here.
Note the column for upfront costs.
Everyone needs to factor in £9.95 for the delivery of their Sky Broadband hub.
Otherwise there are no setup charges for those planning to take Broadband 12GB or Unlimited Broadband, whether they're new to Sky or upgrading to add it on top of a TV bundle. Those wanting to join Sky Connect, however, face a £30 activation fee.
People who are completely new to Sky Broadband and going for fibre will pay £39. However, those who already have Sky Broadband and want to upgrade to fibre will be charged £50.
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 12GB 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.
Since December 2015, Sky line rental has been £17.40 - the cheapest charged by the Big Four, 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 also don't 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 whichever call package we choose, Sky 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.
The connection fee for calls to UK landlines is 16.9p; we'll then be charged at 11.5p per minute - as we also will for calls to mobiles.
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 9.5Mb - 11.2Mb
|Up to 38Mb
Average 34.4Mb - 36.4Mb
|Up to 76Mb
Average 58.3Mb - 65.2Mb
Fibre Unlimited: £20
|Fibre Max: £25|
Figures are averages over 24 hours, as reported by Ofcom in March 2016.
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.
A few years ago, Sky customers were among the most likely to escape peak time speed degradation caused by contention - but now, according to Ofcom, those with standard broadband connections are the worst affected.
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 8Mb - which in December 2014 Ofcom suggested 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.
Prior to 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 12GB
As we said above, Sky Broadband 12GB is an improvement on the old 2GB cap that came with Lite, but it's still only suitable for households that don't do a huge amount of browsing, and certainly not the right choice for anyone who likes streaming audio or video.
Watching the odd bit of iPlayer should be okay, but more regular streamers - including those who use any of Sky's on demand TV services - could well find themselves going over that limit.
Anyone who wants more guidance about whether they're likely to go over Sky's data limits - from 12GB to the 25GB allowance that comes with their entry level fibre - should read our guide.
Extras: free router, wi-fi and parental controls
Sky now offer two different wireless routers. Customers getting Sky Broadband on its own will be offered their standard router, pictured to the right.
However, since April this year, they've been able to request the newer Sky Q hub, at a cost of £20.
Those getting their broadband with TV (now sold with the Sky Q equipment as standard), or ordering Sky Fibre Max, will get this hub free of charge. As well as looking a little sleeker, it works with other Sky Q devices to provide a better wi-fi signal all over the house.
Read our review of the routers over here.
Customers taking anything other than Sky Broadband 12GB 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.
Since July 2016, all new customers will have found these controls switched on automatically for them. Their browsing will be restricted to sites suitable for those aged 13 and under until 9pm at night when the filters are lifted.
Anyone wanting to change these settings can do so by logging in to their account - which they'll be prompted to do if they try to access a filtered site.
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 January 2016, Ofcom revealed that among the big providers, Sky had surged ahead of their nearest competition in terms of customer satisfaction.
The two often swap first and second place in Ofcom's ratings, but after being narrowly beaten by Virgin in December 2014, Sky now have an 80% customer satisfaction rating, compared to 70% for Virgin.
Ofcom aren't the only ones to rate them: Sky do well in independent surveys as well.
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.
Each of the offers below is available to anyone who doesn't already have Sky Talk or Sky Broadband, whether they have Sky TV already or not:
|Offer||Additional monthly price|
|£5 off Broadband Unlimited (with or without TV) for 12 months||£22.40 for 12 months, then £27.40 a month|
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.
In fact, they've impressed us so much in the past year that we awarded them Best Overall in our first ISP Awards:
On the other hand, Broadband 12GB and Connect do fit the add-on description pretty well, and they can be matched or easily beaten elsewhere.