Who's best for fibre broadband?

fibre broadband©iStock.com/kynny

There are more fibre broadband providers in the UK than ever.

If you're trying to choose between the big, mainstream fibre ISPs, this is the guide for you.

Read on for our top four choices or click through to skip ahead to:

Our winners

So far, seven national ISPs have launched fibre broadband packages on the BT network which launched in January 2010. Virgin Media run their own fibre network.

Our top four fibre providers are:

You can see how each of the eight providers performed in the table below.

Speed Usage Fair Use Customer
Router Monthly
virgin media 50Mb, 100Mb, 200Mb Unlimited fair starstarstaremptyempty starstarstarstarempty £19 to £32
plusnet 38Mb, 76Mb Unlimited very fair starstarstaremptyempty starstarstarstarempty £14.99 to £19.99
sky 38Mb, 76Mb 25GB, Unlimited very fair starstarstarstarempty starstarstarstarstar £10 to £30
bt 52Mb, 76Mb 25GB, Unlimited very fair starstarstaremptyempty starstarstarstarstar £21 to £30
talktalk 38Mb, 76Mb Unlimited fair starstaremptyemptyempty starstarstarstarempty £17.50 to £22.50
ee 38Mb, 76Mb Unlimited fair starstaremptyemptyempty starstarstaremptyempty £19.95 to £29.95
zen internet 38Mb, 76Mb 50GB, Unlimited N/a starstarstarstarstar staremptyemptyemptyempty £19.50 to £30
john lewis 38Mb, 76Mb Unlimited N/a starstarstarstarempty starstarstaremptyempty £22.50 to £27.50

For more on the ratings we've used please see our guides to:

BT Wholesale: spot the difference

Virgin Media, who have been providing fibre optic broadband since they took over NTL Telewest in March 2006, don't have to share their network.

BT have always shared their fibre network with their competitors - although in October 2010 Ofcom published regulatory guidelines that would stop them ever going back on that commitment.

"This statement is reassuring in that Ofcom agrees that we have been providing suitable unbundled access to our fibre for some months now," said BT at the time.

While the guidelines prevent any anti-competitive behaviour, such as exorbitant prices or restricted access, BT remain free to price wholesale access to their fibre network. So what's the difference between these BT fibre providers?

Clue: it's traffic management

At the time of this update, there's an obvious difference between the products offered by BT and those offered by most of their rivals in the table above: speed.

BT are in the process of upgrading all their entry level fibre customers from the 38Mb connections we're all used to, to a new mid-level fibre tier offering downloads of up to 52Mb and uploads of up to 10Mb.

This newest tier only became available to both BT and their resellers in early 2016, and we shouldn't be surprised that the only ISP offering packages using it so far are BT themselves.

Once we get beyond that difference, Ofcom's guidelines state that BT have to offer "virtual unbundled local access" to their fibre product. In other words, ISPs will be given a "wires only" product: BT can't set any network management on the line.

Additionally, as TalkTalk confirmed to ISPreview new fibre broadband providers can use their own engineers to connect customers, meaning they don't have to rely on BT Openreach.

"The wholesale product that BT and Openreach must offer must be designed to allow ISPs such as TalkTalk more flexibility to develop their own products.

"In particular, the product should be uncontended, unmanaged and not artificially capped, provided on a wires only basis and must be unbundled so that ISPs can provide the installation themselves rather than having to use an Openreach engineer," TalkTalk said.

We can understand why.

Not only does freedom to set their own traffic management and usage policies allow ISPs to establish unique selling points for their packages, but reliance on BT Openreach has often been behind many customer gripes.

The ISPs that have unbundled exchanges for normal copper phone line broadband (ADSL2+) have often gone on to establish a good reputation and opinion for their customer service - although that's not always the case.

As we reported in May 2012, fibre quickly proved to be profit making for the ISPs who took it up. Market competition is strong, which means prices have come down and providers have been encouraged to introduce more deals.

Surprisingly, the differences in traffic and network management have also caused some speed differences between the providers.

The best fibre broadband speeds

Ofcom's biannual report into real world broadband speeds looks at average speeds across the UK on the main network's ADSL2+ and fibre broadband connections.

Their last report, released March 2016, included more providers offering 76Mb fibre than ever before as the faster connections become available more widely, and BT's rivals find it more commercially viable to offer their own version of the service.

It was also the first showing for Virgin Media's newest top deal, offering up to 200Mb.

The result of the last speed test is below, with the providers listed alphabetically, alongside the current cost of their deals.

Advertised speed 24 hours Peak time
8-10pm weekdays
Monthly cost
ee up to 38Mb 33.3Mb - 35.2Mb 32.9Mb - 34.8Mb £10
for 18 mths,
then £16
plusnet up to 38Mb 32.3Mb - 34.2Mb 32.1Mb - 34.0Mb Free
for 6 mths,
then £14.99
sky up to 38Mb 33.3Mb - 35.6Mb 33.1Mb - 35.4Mb £5
for 12 mths,
then £10
talktalk up to 38Mb 31.7Mb - 35.1Mb 31.3Mb - 34.7Mb £10
for 12 mths,
then £19.50
virgin media up to 50Mb 28.9Mb - 30.7Mb 27.5Mb - 30.1Mb £12
for 9 mths,
then £19
bt up to 76Mb 57.4Mb - 61.1Mb 56.9Mb - 60.5Mb £30
ee up to 76Mb 59.9Mb - 64.7Mb 53.8Mb - 57.1Mb £18
for 18 mths,
then £22
plusnet up to 76Mb 54.8Mb - 58.1Mb 53.8Mb - 57.1Mb £10
for 6 mths,
then £19.99
sky up to 76Mb 56.6Mb - 63.5Mb 55.6Mb - 62.4Mb £30
virgin media up to 100Mb 93.3Mb - 98.2Mb 81.6Mb - 90.6Mb £17
for 9 mths,
then £24
virgin media up to 200Mb 168.0Mb - 179.9Mb 148.0Mb - 164.4Mb £25
for 9 mths,
then £32

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

*BT Infinity 1 speeds reflect those for up to 38Mb, the standard speed at the time. The price shown is for the up to 52Mb service.

Many of these packages come with introductory discount offers for new customers, which we'll look at in more detail below.

Ofcom's research found that, along with the speed results shown below, EE's up to 76Mb fibre deal had the fastest upload speed of all providers, averaging 17.1Mb.

Largely, that's because fibre over BT's network has much faster upload speeds - advertised as up to 19Mb - compared to Virgin Media, who even on their fastest package only advertise upload speeds of up to 12Mb.

Fibre offers

Finally, as we mentioned above, many of the fibre providers are competing for new business by offering introductory discounts.

However, some providers are also offering deals and incentives which we thought were worth listing here in full.

Here are some of the currently available offers from the biggest fibre providers:

Virgin Media

What's on offer? When you join online for:
virgin media Money off TV, broadband and phone for 12 months + free set up worth £49.95 + 6 months free NetflixOne of Virgin Media's Big Bundles
virgin media Save over £180 on broadband and phone + free set up Virgin Media broadband
(with a Virgin phone line)
virgin media Exclusive offer: 50Mb broadband + phone £5 a month for the first 6 months (then £17.50)This exclusive 50Mb broadband and weekend calls deal only

For more on Virgin Media and to search for packages see our review here.


What's on offer? When you join online for:
bt Online Exclusive: Unlimited broadband just £5.99 for 12 months (usually £18/mth)
Hurry! Offer ends tomorrow!
21 July 2016
BT Unlimited broadband up to 17Mb
bt Online Exclusive: Infinity 1 up to 52Mb (25GB usage) + TV Starter just £10 for 12 months (usually £25/mth)BT Infinity 1 up to 52Mb fibre broadband (25GB usage) + TV Starter
bt Online Exclusive: Unlimited Infinity 1 + Entertainment Plus TV just £22.50 for 12 months (usually £35/mth)BT Unlimited Infinity 1 up to 52Mb fibre broadband (25GB usage) + TV Entertainment Plus
bt Free phone line installation or reconnection worth £130With any BT Broadband package

For more on BT and to search for packages see our review here.


What's on offer? When you join online for:
sky Half price TV for six months + £25 Prepaid MasterCard
Hurry! Offer ends 28 July 2016
Any Sky TV bundle (excluding Sky Q)
sky Sky Unlimited Broadband £5 for 12 months (then £10/mth) + £50 Prepaid MasterCard
Hurry! Offer ends 28 July 2016
Sky Unlimited broadband
(without Sky TV)
sky Sky Unlimited Broadband £5 for 12 months (usually £10/mth)Sky Unlimited Broadband
(as a new or existing Sky TV customer)
sky Sky Fibre just £5 a month for 12 months (then £10/mth)Sky Fibre (25GB usage)
(without Sky TV)

For more on Sky and to search for packages see our review here.

Do you have an opinion on who is best for fibre broadband? Let us know in the comments below.


16 October 2015
Mark Atkins

Who gave the Sky Hub 5 stars? Seriously, it deserves half a star as the wireless drops to 5Mb across the room, let alone in a different room!

18 March 2015

I should add that I did not choose TalkTalk - Pipex were bought by them (long history of acquisitions) so I ended up a customer by accident. I pity Virgin's customers in the same boat now.

2 April 2014

OK - here's one to get you started. Fibre was available from our local cabinet a few weeks ago. Yesterday I was upgraded to fibre with Talk Talk Business about an hour after the same BT Openreach engineer upgraded a friend 200 meters away for BT and then went to a business over the road to upgrade another business we are good friends with. Friend (as the engineer confirmed) 80 Mbps Download & 20 Mbps Upload. Me 46 Mbps best so far Download & 8.2 Mbps Upload - not speeds I should accept (as the engineer confirmed - he told me to escalate as a problem). Checking over the road tomorrow. Been fighting Talk Talk Business doing unnecessary speed tests for 24 hours since. You be the judge.

29 August 2014

They've clearly put you on a 40/10 FTTC profile, not 80/20!

1 May 2014

I sympathise - you went with Talk Talk, that's the problem :)

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