For the third successive quarter, Vodafone have been named as the 'big eight' broadband provider that generates the most complaints.
The unwanted title comes from Ofcom's latest complaints report for the last quarter of 2019. They show what while the industry average improved from 14 to 12 complaints per hundred thousand customers, Vodafone's number rose slightly to 27. That's around a quarter more than the next worst 'big eight' performers, Plusnet and TalkTalk.
Once again, the standout suppliers were EE and Sky with just five customers having cause to moan. They, along with BT, were the only companies to achieve below average grievance levels. Virgin Media made the biggest improvement, with their level of disgruntled users dropping from 20 in the previous quarter, to 14.
The data covers the UK's eight largest broadband suppliers, which all have at least 1.5% market share. Here's how they rank:
The report covers October to December 2019. Its publication was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, and it also means that the data doesn't take into account the massive surge in broadband use during the lockdown. We'll have to wait and see what impact that had on customer satisfaction.
Speaking of which, Ofcom have also released their latest annual Customer Satisfaction survey. The report, for the whole of 2019, shows that an overall 85% of users are happy with the broadband service they get.
Of the 'big eight', Plusnet came out on top with an impressive 93% satisfaction rate. This is in spite of them performing pretty badly in a couple of areas. Over the year they had the second highest number of complaints, at 100 per hundred thousand customers. They also had the second longest call waiting time. Anyone phoning Plusnet for support would have to wait an average three minutes 48 for the call to be answered. By comparison, TalkTalk would answer in just 39 seconds.
This was a rare win for TalkTalk, who came out bottom of the satisfaction chart at just 78%. Only 44% of their users were happy with how complaints were handled, too.
The Customer Satisfaction report ranks the leading broadband providers across a range of categories. Here are the winners and losers:
Millions of extra homes in rural regions are set to be upgraded to full fibre broadband over the next three years.
Openreach have unveiled plans to extend their gigabit-capable broadband network to a further 3.2 million properties across 251 market towns and villages.
It forms part of a £12 billion investment they've already committed to upgrade the network for another 20 million homes by the middle of the decade.
BT-owned Openreach provide the broadband infrastructure for most of the major broadband suppliers. The areas they're targetting in the latest announcement are in the so-called 'final third' of the country, the regions most at risk of being left behind as the UK moves towards faster broadband.
Many of these places still only have spotty internet coverage. The extra expense of installing new technology in more remote areas, coupled with a smaller population using it, makes them less cost effective for providers. Around 2% of UK properties are unable to access services of 10Mb.
The new locations are across the whole of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, from Penryn in Cornwall up to Thurso in the Scottish Highlands. You can find out if your town is on the list here.
Work is expected to get under way in the next 12-18 months.
Industry regulator Ofcom have proposed changes to their own rules to help make Openreach's plan financially viable. They will allow BT to recover their investment costs from their customers (the networks) through a wider range of services, including the new fibre services and the older copper ones.
Upgrading UK broadband was a major policy for the Conservatives in the last General Election. They pledged £5 billion towards the works - again with a focus on the less competitive regions - and wanter to deliver nationwide gigabit broadband within five years. This is likely to include 5G as well as fibre. The public money will come in addition to Openreach's investment.
Around 12% of properties throughout the UK currently have access to full fibre broadband, and the country ranks outside the top 30 for broadband speeds worldwide. While the promised upgrade was long overdue, it's potentially even more urgent now given the likely rise in the number of people who will be permanently working from home.
Good news, then, for rural communities. But it's still some way off. In the meantime, if you're out in the country and struggling with poor internet access, take a look at our rural broadband guide to find out what are your best options.
On top of that, EE, Plusnet, Sky, BT and TalkTalk have also all agreed to make New Customer pricing available to their existing users when they upgrade. It guarantees them access to the most attractive deals.
The changes will result in price cuts worth £270 million each year for the UK's nearly nine million out-of-contract customers, slashing the half a billion pound excess they normally pay.
The measures are the latest part of the industry watchdog's ongoing plan to ensure that everyone gets the best deal on their broadband by avoiding the often hefty price rises that follow when a user's initial contract period ends.
The benefits of signing a new deal or switching providers are well known. Yet as many as 40% of all users are still on an out-of-contract deal, paying an average of £56 a year more than they should be.
Ofcom found that Virgin Media have the highest proportion of out-of-contract users, at a massive 61%. Sky and Plusnet are also above average, with 42% still on old deals.
But EE's out-of-contract customers pay the most, at an average of £7.90 extra each month - or nearly £95 per year.
Research shows that older and vulnerable users are the least likely to switch, so they've been a large focus of Ofcom's campaign. Only last week they called on the industry to treat vulnerable people - including those with disabilities, health or financial problems - more fairly, to identify them more quickly, and to increase staff training.
Ofcom say that around a million vulnerable customers should save as much as £70 each per year as a result of these new rules.
Don't pay more than you need to
Other Ofcom rules came into force in February that require your broadband supplier to contact you when your deal ends. They now need to tell you how much you'll be paying if you remain on the same deal, compared to what you could pay if you took on a new contract. But you still need to act on it.
Even if you're happy with your current supplier, you shouldn't simply remain on your old deal. Do that, and the price will go up. If you're willing to sign a new contract with them you'll be able to get a much better price. You might even get other perks, too, like a new router, a speed guarantee, extra data on your mobile plan, and so on.
If you're open minded about switching, use our postcode checker to see what broadband deals are available in your area. Prices rise by as much as 50% when your contract ends, so you should be able to find a far better price than what you would pay if you did nothing.
The average Brit is now spending over four hours a day online, according to a new Ofcom study.
The industry watchdog's latest Online Nation report shows that a combination of factors have caused internet use to surge to record levels, up by almost an hour a day in less than two years.
Inevitably, the coronavirus lockdown was part of the cause - the Zoom video conferencing app, for instance, has grown by nearly 2000%, from 659 thousand UK users to over 13 million in just four months. But it's not just that. The popularity of streaming services continues to grow, plus there's the emergence of video sharing sites like Twitch and TikTok. The latter has moved well beyond its initial teen user base, with 12.9 million UK adults now joining in.
Even as the lockdown begins to ease, it's unlikely that our online activity is going to decline. So the question is, is your broadband connection up to the demands of this "new normal"?
Signs that your service might be struggling include:
Downtime - we know that the internet infrastructure held up remarkably well during the lockdown, but if your connection keeps dropping, or you're being left without service for hours at a time, it's often a sign that it might be time to look elsewhere.
Slow downloads or uploads - your download and upload speeds will slow down when you've got more people sharing your connection at the same time. Speed problems can be especially noticeable when your usage patterns change - like when you're working from home and sharing large files or connecting to your office server.
Poor video performance - nothing ruins a boxset binge more than buffering, or even just seeing the picture quality plummet. Both are signs that your broadband can't keep up with the demands of your chosen streaming TV service.
Laggy gaming or video calls - speed problems can also ruin the picture or sound quality in your video calls, and render online games unplayable. Occasional lag is to be expected, but if you keep seeing it it might be time for an upgrade.
The best broadband upgrades
So what should you look for in an upgrade? Try and prioritise what you need. That could be a faster service generally, or more specifically faster uploads. Or perhaps a more reliable service, or better customer support.
The obvious upgrade, if you haven't already made it, is to go from standard broadband to fibre. An entry level fibre deal will triple your download speed and should only cost a few pounds extra each month. If you're upgrading to a new deal with your existing provider you might even be able to negotiate a better offer. Plusnet and SSE currently offer the cheapest fibre broadband deals.
The next step is from the basic fibre (around 36Mb) to the higher end fibre, with speeds around 63Mb. Vodafone and TalkTalk have the cheapest deals at this faster speed.
If even that isn't enough, you can get over 100Mb speeds from a number of ISPs. The most widely available are from Virgin Media, who offer speeds up to 516Mb on average. Other big name providers like Vodafone and BT also offer ultrafast packages, but only in certain areas. These faster speeds will give you much better upload speeds as well as downloads.
If reliability and customer service are a bigger priority, the best way to check what you can expect from each provider is to read their customer reviews. Dig into our thousands of reviews for help on deciding your next move.
Ready to start shopping for a new internet deal? Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband offers where you live.
After a three month delay the Premier League season is finally set to return. It kicks off again on 17 June with a double header including the Man City - Arsenal game. With no fans allowed in the stadiums, all the remaining 92 matches will be shown live on TV, across a mix of free-to-air and premium channels.
Here's how you can watch.
How to watch Premier League games for free
For the first time ever, Premier League games will be shown live on free-to-air TV. There will be 33 free matches in all, spread across three channels.
BBC: The BBC will be showing four matches, starting with Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace on 20 June. The Beeb will also have their usual FA Cup coverage when the competition resumes on 27 June.
Amazon: Amazon have also got four games, which begin with Palace against Burnley on 29 June. You'll be able to watch these even if you aren't a Prime subscriber (although you probably will need a normal Amazon account).
Pick: The remaining 25 free games are on the Pick channel. "What is Pick?", you ask. Good question! It's a channel owned by Sky that you can watch for free on every platform. You'll find it on Freeview channel 11, Freesat channel 144, Sky channel 159 and Virgin Media channel 165.
Don't assume that it's just the less fashionable games that will be available for free. Pick will be showing the Merseyside derby on Sunday 21 June, which could be the night that Liverpool are finally confirmed as champions.
How to watch Premier League football on Sky Sports and BT Sport
If the free coverage isn't enough for you, now's the perfect time to subscribe to a premium sports channel. If you've got broadband from the likes of Sky or BT you should be able to add the channels to your existing deal, or you could even consider switching providers and making a saving on a bundle.
Sky Sports have got 39 exclusive matches (they'll also be showing the games on Pick), which begins with Aston Villa vs Sheffield Utd at 6pm on 17 June. They've got the pick of the big fixtures. They will also be covering the Championship, currently slated to resume on 20 June.
BT Sport will be showing 20 games - 12 more than they originally had - with the first seeing Watford take on Leicester at 12.30pm on 20 June. They've also got the rights to the Champions League, although there's no date yet for when that will come back.
There are four main ways to sign up to watch Premier League football on Sky Sports and BT Sport.
Sky: The most obvious way to get Sky Sports is direct from Sky, via a dish, and you can add BT Sport to your package as well. You can sign up to Sky regardless of what internet provider you use, although you should be able to save on your monthly bill by taking it as part of a bundle with Sky broadband.
BT: BT now offer a full BT TV service to their broadband customers. This gives you a choice of channel packages, with the sports offerings including BT Sport along with all the Sky Sports channels streamed through NOW TV. What we like about BT TV is that even though you have to take a 24 month contract, your choice of channels is flexible. So, you can sign up for the football now, then when the season ends you can switch to a movie package instead.
Virgin Media: You can get Sky Sports and BT Sport through Virgin Media both as a standalone service or as part of a bundle with Virgin Media broadband. Virgin offer some of the fastest broadband plans that are widely available, with speeds up to an average of 516Mb.
NOW TV: With the streaming service NOW TV you can watch Sky Sports without a dish. It can work out a little more expensive than getting it through Sky, but that's because you don't need a contract - you can cancel at any time. NOW TV doesn't offer BT Sport. You can make further savings by getting the service with a NOW Broadband bundle.
We're a month into a lockdown introduced to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic which has disrupted the activities of every household and business in the country. That disruption hasn't spared broadband providers, with Openreach, the BT Group company that maintains telephone exchanges, lines and street cabinets, putting a halt to all non-essential home engineer visits until at least June. Other providers, such as Sky, have also announced delays to home television installations and other in-home services.
If you're not getting everything you need from your broadband service and need to switch to something better suited for lockdown homeworking or the demands of an entire stay-at-home family, then you may well be anxious that these disruptions are going to prevent or seriously delay your switch.
Thankfully, as with capacity and performance, the reassuring message from most broadband providers at this point is that it's 'business as usual' for the vast majority of switches.
If you currently have broadband from one home broadband provider and you're simply switching to another on the same telephone line then you'll most likely be able to 'self-install', with the vast majority of cases being as simple as swapping your existing provider's router with the new provider's replacement.
Things may become a little more complicated if you're moving into a new home and need a new telephone line to be activated. The same may be true if you're currently using a broadband technology, such as full fibre from providers like Hyperoptic or cable from Virgin Media, that doesn't use the copper telephone lines. In these cases, if you're switching to a part-fibre technology such as most providers' fibre offering, with speeds averaging 38Mb or 68Mb or less, then you'll need to have a working BT-compatible telephone line in your home.
However, even in these cases, if there's a BT or Openreach telephone master socket already in your home, it's highly likely that it will be possible for this to be reactivated without an engineer visit being needed.
So, barring faults, only those who live in new build homes with only a fibre to the premises (FTTP) connection provided, or flats only provided with a cable broadband and telephone connection, are likely to be in a situation where there technology they currently use will prevent them from switching to other providers until the lockdown restrictions allow a home engineer visit in order to install the a telephone line.
Whether those who are currently on telephone line broadband can switch to providers and technologies that use full fibre or cable to the home will vary on a provider-by-provider basis. BT seem to have halted new installs of their own FTTP product, but similar ultrafast products using a different technology are available but with potential delays.
The best advice at this time is to speak to advisors, such as via live chat on product pages, before you sign up.
If you're switching between a non-Openreach provider such as Virgin Media and an Openreach provider that does use a BT-compatible phone line, or vice versa, then it's recommended that you don't cancel your current service until your new broadband service has been fully installed and confirmed as working. Non-Openreach providers don't need a BT-compatible phone line to work, so can be run in parallel with another service that does use that phone line. At this present time, it's safest to allow some overlap, especially with the strong chance of additional delays due to the lockdown.
However, we would suggest that you should always check with your existing provider that you're not still tied to a minimum contract period and won't be liable to large exit charges should you switch before that period ends.
Even if you fall into the 'business as usual' category, it's best to expect a greater chance of additional delays, simply because of higher than normal demand for customer services and employees having to do technical jobs remotely from home. See our recent post on improving your broadband without disruption to service for tips on how to ensure that you have a working backup connection, should that happen.
With millions of people now having to work from home there's been a lot of speculation about whether the UK's broadband infrastructure will be able to handle a massive surge in demand.
Well don't worry, because the expectation is that it can. That's the word from BT, who say they've got "more than enough capacity…to handle mass-scale home-working in response to COVID-19".
Last week, the company shared some data to demonstrate just how well their network was able to cope with higher levels of usage. They showed that in the previous week a couple of major video game releases and Champions League football had combined to hit new record levels of traffic for BT - to the tune of 17.5 terabits per second (Tbps) - without the network buckling under the strain.
The increase in home working meanwhile, has seen daytime traffic increase by as much as 60%, but still remains well below the record at around 7.5Tbps. Of course, with schools now closed, it's likely that traffic will go up further during the day, but the industry is confident that it will be able to handle it.
Our own speed test data, compiled from thousands of speed tests each month, supports the view that broadband connections aren't slowing down as well. We pulled the average home broadband speed results from the middle of February, and they were 44Mbps. The period between the 8th and the 14th of March saw average speeds of 43.9Mbps, while between the 15th to the 23rd of March, average speeds were 44.7Mbps. The speed differences displayed are of no real significance, and we're happy that people shouldn't be seeing any negative impact on their connection, despite the current change in UK working arrangements.
To help things along, TV streaming companies have agreed temporary measures to slash the amount of data they use by as much as a quarter. Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ are streaming their content at a lower bitrate, while YouTube now defaults to an SD stream - although you can still manually set videos to play at a higher resolution if you want to. The BBC also seems likely to make a change in the not too distant future.
Will you notice the difference? Possibly not, although it depends what you're watching. Streaming at a lower bitrate means that the video is more heavily compressed. With the way video compression works it's more noticeable in busy scenes with lots of fast movement, where the image may become blocky or distorted. In slower scenes, you'll have to look pretty closely to see any effect.
As for streaming in SD, as with YouTube, that might not look great if you watch on a massive 4K telly, but for viewing on a smaller screen like a tablet it should be just fine.
How to pause your Sky Sports and BT Sport subscriptions
In other news, Sky and BT have taken the decision to allow customers to pause their sports channel subscriptions for as long as there's no actual sport taking place. You can do this at sky.com/pausesport or at bt.com/tv. Unfortunately, you can't pause these channels if you've got them through Virgin Media.
BT have removed data caps on all their broadband products. This won't affect most people, since most of their plans are already unlimited. But if you're on an older deal you'll no longer have to worry about managing your usage.
And lots of broadband providers have issued statements to explain their COVID-19 plans, including what happens if you need a callout from a technician to solve a problem. You should have received this via email, but if you haven't you can read them online from BT, Sky, Virgin Media, EE, Vodafone and Plusnet.
The Government has reaffirmed its plan to extend the UK's gigabit-capable broadband network nationwide.
In the Spring budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak unveiled £5 billion of funding to roll out better broadband in the hardest-to-reach areas of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This covers around 20% of the country, with a particular focus on rural areas.
He also announced the next seven areas that will receive funding from the existing £1 billion Local Full Fibre Challenge. These are North of Tyne (£12 million), South Wales (£12 million), Tay Cities (£6.7 million), Pembrokeshire (£4 million), Plymouth (£3 million), Essex and Hertfordshire (£2.1 million) and East Riding of Yorkshire (£1 million).
The Government said that it has rolled out full-fibre broadband to over 370,000 premises to date, and announced their intention to legislate to ensure that new build homes have access to gigabit-capable broadband.
The plan started life as part of Boris Johnson's Tory leadership campaign, when he set an ambitious target of rolling out full-fibre to everyone by 2025. This was subsequently watered down to "gigabit-capable", which means that mobile broadband over the 5G network is likely to be needed to take up some of the slack.
The Government's investment is designed to cover the parts of the country where the spending on infrastructure is less commercially viable. The private sector will be required to fund the rest of the project.
The Internet Services Providers’ Association welcomed the announcement, but also restated their existing concerns about being able to meet Downing Street's deadline.
"Increased funding alone will not allow the industry to get the job done," they said. "Broadband rollout is largely privately funded and in order to provide industry with a chance to meet the Government’s 2025 ambition, today’s announcements needs to be backed up with further reform on wayleaves, new build legislation, action on street works and further investment into digital and engineering skills."
Do you know when your broadband contract ends? If you don't, you aren't alone. Millions of people have no idea about the status of their deals.
Many are already out of contract - and it's leaving them out of pocket.
Industry watchdog Ofcom are introducing new rules this month to tackle the problem. They'll force broadband providers to be a whole lot more proactive about making sure you know your options, telling you when your contract ends, and also what better deals they could give you.
Currently, research shows that around one in seven users don’t know whether they're still tied to their original deal, and a further one in eight believe they are still in contract, but have no idea when it ends.
The reason why this matters is that if you stick with a deal after the initial agreement is over a so-called "loyalty penalty" kicks in and you end up paying, on average, 20% more than you should be for your internet access. That figure rises to a hefty 26% if the deal includes a pay TV bundle.
Ever eager to ensure customers can access the best deals possible, Ofcom's new rules come into force on 15th February.
From that date onwards your broadband supplier will have to:
warn you between 10 and 40 days before your contract is due to end, by letter, email or SMS
inform you of the price you pay today, and what you will pay after your contract ends
tell you of any other changes that will happen to your deal
give you information about any notice period needed if you want to switch providers
show you the best deals they currently offer, including prices usually reserved for new customers
continue informing you of their best prices every year you remain on your old plan
What to do when your broadband contract ends
But even with this help, the broadband market can be difficult to navigate. The wide range of deals available can be confusing, and it's not always clear what the best choice is.
We've also set up a helpline you can call to get advice on what your next steps should be. If you're unsure what the right choice is, need help choosing a provider, or have questions about contracts or the switching process, our impartial advisors are on hand to help. Give us a call on 0800 093 0405, or you can arrange for us to call you if it's more convenient. We're open from 9am to 8pm weekdays, and 9am to 6pm on Saturdays.
Vodafone home broadband have once again topped industry watchdog Ofcom's list of shame as the most complained about of the 8 biggest broadband suppliers. By contrast, EE and Sky have shared the glory as the least complained-about providers.
Ofcom complaint figures for the 3rd quarter of last year show that Vodafone garnered 26 complaints per every 100,000 customers between July and September 2019. This was an improvement on the 30 per 100,000 they hit in the previous quarter, but was still close to double the industry average. Almost 4 in 10 of the grievances related to faults and service issues.
In a difficult period, Vodafone also topped the chart for the most landline complaints (18 per 100,000) and were joint top for mobile (7 per 100,000, with Virgin Mobile).
Of the rest of the Big Eight, Plusnet, TalkTalk and Virgin Media also generated an above average number of complaints. At the end of 2018 Plusnet were by far the most complained about provider with a whopping 43 complaits per 100,000 subscribers, but they have improved every quarter since and are now equal to TalkTalk. Meanwhile Virgin Media saw the biggest rise in complaints across 2019, having started at 10 per 100,000 in the first quarter. Across the board, the main causes of the gripes were complaints handling (32%), faults and service issues (31%), and billing problems (20%).
Meanwhile, EE and Sky were shown to be the Big Eight providers that left their users feeling happiest. Their 5 complaints each per 100,000 customers was nearly two-thirds less than the overall industry average and less than a fifth of the complaint levels received by Vodafone Home Broadband.
Here's the full rundown of the Big Eight's broadband complaints per every 100,000 customers:
Ofcom's Telecoms and Pay TV Complaints report is released quarterly, and covers providers with a market share of over 1.5%. It counts complaints received by the regulator, but doesn't include those sent directly to the provider or any other body.
The report also covers landline (worst performer: Vodafone; best performer: EE), mobile (worst: Vodafone and Virgin Media; best: Tesco Mobile), and pay TV services (worst: Virgin Media; best: Sky).
How to compare smaller broadband providers
Ofcom's research comes in very handy when you're shopping for a new broadband provider, as it gives you a good overview of the general performance of each company. But it does exclude the smaller providers who often offer interesting services, such as the no-contract deals from NOW Broadband or the near-gigabit internet from Hyperoptic.
So what can you do if you're considering one of these companies? Our broadband listings measure overall user satisfaction levels for each provider, as well as their performance on customer service, speed and reliability issues. You can see their most recent ratings or a historic figure for all time, allowing you to judge whether their performance has worsened over time. Zen Broadband currently top our rankings.
Along with the ratings we've got over 20,000 user reviews across all the providers. It gives you an unmatched insight into the kind of experience you'll get with each company, and what issues you may or may not have with them.
You can see all the scores on our Broadband Reviews page, and just click through to read the feedback for each broadband. We'd also encourage you to leave a rating and review of your own, even if you have no complaints. The more information we share, the easier it becomes to choose the right broadband provider.