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Best broadband deals for 2012

PC Advisor Home Broadband Survey 2012

Best broadband deals: PC Advisor Home Broadband Survey 2012, the results

By far the largest number of responses we received were from Virgin Media cable-broadband customers. More than 22 percent of our survey respondents are Virgin Media customers, with a further 3 percent using Virgin Media’s ADSL service.

BT, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband were the next most popular broadband service providers, which reflects the size and availability of each of these major ISPs in the UK.

For our reporting purposes, we split BT’s connection services into ADSL broadband and fibre-optic (Infinity). However, BT Yahoo still exists as a separate entity, with 4.1 percent of survey respondents identifying it as their broadband provider. Combined, the three BT products represented 20.1 percent of the total results, five percent behind Virgin Media’s 25.3 percent overall share (ADSL and cable).

At the other end of the scale, we had single-figure responses from readers who depend on Eircom, UTV, Manx Telecom and Wight Cable to get online. We were unable to draw firm conclusions about the service provided due to the small number of responses for each entity.

Readers shared their experiences of a total of 70 UK ISPs. We had sufficient data on 13 of them to share here.

Best home broadband deals

Best mobile broadband deals

Best broadband deals: Be Broadband

Be Broadband

Reliability satisfaction: 88.9%
Peformance (download speeds) satisfaction: 88.9%
Tech support satisfaction: 93.1%
Customer satisfaction: 91.7%
Overall satisfaction: 95.8%
Would recommend: 86.1%

Be Broadband is an ADSL2+ ISP that appeals to customers who want a fast web connection and don’t require a landline or any other service from the same company. This scenario is true for 85 percent of the Be Broadband customers who took part in our survey.

The price paid per month is between £15 and £20 for unlimited broadband. Most Be Broadband customers should be enjoying services promising between 15- and 30Mbps download speeds, but 30 percent said the actual speed was some way off.

This didn’t stop Be from being highly regarded – almost 96 percent of customers declared themselves happy with the service. Solid customer service and tech support show that speed isn’t the be all and end all.

Be is also popular with Mac users: 18.5 percent of customers described themselves as Mac-only users, with a further 15 percent using both Mac and Windows PCs at home. Between two and four PCs share the connection in the average household of a Be Broadband customer.

Best broadband deals: BT Broadband

BT Broadband

Reliability satisfaction: 86.6%
Peformance (download speeds) satisfaction: 72.2%
Tech support satisfaction: 83.6%
Customer satisfaction: 82.4%
Overall satisfaction: 88.6%
Would recommend: 70.8%

BT Broadband customers pay between £15 and £25 a month for their web connection, with two thirds combining this with a landline telephone service. VoIP phone calls are enjoyed by 8.4 percent – something that’s promoted as a cost-saving service by BT.

Connection speeds are steady, with 5- to 8Mbps being the most common service chosen. BT offers faster speeds via its Infinity fibre-optic technology. For the longer-established BT Home Broadband, reliability doesn’t get a great write-up.

BT has managed to keep its customers on average for more than five years – almost 50 percent are long-standing customers of at least four years. Connection speed was the most popular reason for considering migrating to a new provider, however.

Many of BT’s customers live in rural locations where ADSL connections are limited to around 2Mbps. With little or no choice of ISP, BT is seen as both expensive and poor value compared to the speed urban dwellers are able to achieve.

Sweeteners for those customers able to access them are BT Openzone WiFi hotspots and BT Openzone.

BT customers tend to spend a below-average amount of their leisure time using the web: around 10 to 20 hours per week is typical, though almost as many said they are online for longer. By contrast, 48 percent of Virgin Media users spend at least 20 leisure hours online, and 44 percent between 10 and 20 hours per week.

General web use and email were the most popular activities, with BBC iPlayer, other streaming and downloading tasks and social networking are under-represented by BT Broadband customers. Online shopping is enjoyed by 83.5 percent, and online banking was cited by 73.7 percent of BT customers.

Based on our results, and with the exception of Plusnet, Mac users are more likely to choose a package from BT than any other ISP.

Best broadband deals: BT Infinity – BEST SUPER-FAST BROADBAND

BT Infinity

Best super-fast broadband

Reliability satisfaction: 95.3%
Peformance (download speeds) satisfaction: 95.2%
Tech support satisfaction: 93.1%
Customer satisfaction: 91.9%
Overall satisfaction: 97.3%
Would recommend: 89.9%

Infinity is the fibre-optic product offered by BT. A replacement for limited-speed copper ADSL connectivity, it’s been rolled out to UK homes and businesses over the past two years.

Prices start at £18 a month for a 40Mbps connection with a 40GB download limit and 2Mbps uploads. A BT phoneline is also required, adding £11.50 to the bill. Hardware installation is also involved, attracting a £25 activation fee.

The 2.6 percent of survey respondents who use BT Infinity judged it to be a pretty good deal. Most said they were paying £25 to £40 a month. Rather unfairly, those who aren’t in an Infinity-enabled area instead have to stump up £16 a month (plus phone costs) for a connection speed varying from 3Mbps to 20Mbps, and then get only a 10GB monthly download limit. Thankfully, BT’s Infinity service continues to be rolled out across the UK.

More than a third of BT Infinity customers were already with BT (and had been for at least five years) and had switched from ADSL to fibre-optic broadband when it was offered in their area.

Most customers chose the fastest connection speed they could: 40Mbps in most locations, but a few places enjoy up to 100Mbps broadband. Speed-reliability figures were exceptionally high at 89 percent, while connection reliability was a solid 95.3 percent.

As a result, 89.9 percent would recommend the service, and 30 percent wouldn’t consider changing to another ISP.

A typical comment: “BT Infinity is so much faster than anything else available in my area. With an integrated phone contract with free calls it’s a very good deal”. One complaint that came up several times, however, was that new customers seem to get preferential deals.

Best broadband deals: BT Yahoo

BT Yahoo

Reliability satisfaction: 89.6%
Peformance (download speeds) satisfaction: 70.3%
Tech support satisfaction: 84.6%
Customer satisfaction: 83.3%
Overall satisfaction: 90.1%
Would recommend: 70.6%

BT Yahoo customers are casting an envious eye over other BT customers who are enjoying far faster connection speeds. The average BT Yahoo user has been with the same provider for at least five years, so let’s hope their loyalty pays off and fibre-optic broadband comes their way soon. A staggering 43 percent say they can’t get anything like the promised speeds, and most are on an up to 8Mbps package. Another sizable tranche are on the promise of up to 20Mbps connectivity and are paying up to £25 a month for this luxury; downloads are generally unlimited.

A cautious lot, BT Yahoo customers make grateful use of the McAfee software that comes as part of the broadband subscription and make plenty of use of wireless connections. As with BT itself, some of the speed issues with BT Yahoo are likely to be down to the ISP offering a service in an area that others don’t. Overall, 70.6 percent would recommend BT Yahoo for broadband.

There’s a fair number of Mac users (16 percent) among the BT Yahoo customer base. In most cases, there are two or three laptops or PCs vying for the same home broadband connection and poised for online shopping. Email and general web surfing are popular but, given the reported poor connection speeds, it’s perhaps no surprise that more bandwidth-intensive activities such as downloads, video streaming and social networking are under-represented.

Best broadband deals: Demon


Reliability satisfaction: 88.9%
Peformance (download speeds) satisfaction: 73.9%
Tech support satisfaction: 87%
Customer satisfaction: 84.8%
Overall satisfaction: 89.1%
Would recommend: 65.2%

Demon all-but disappeared for a couple of years, but re-emerged in 2010 with a determination to get stuck into fibre-optic broadband provision. As with other mid-sized broadband service providers, it’s been frustrated by BT’s dominance of this market. Nevertheless, it continues to make in-roads in the home-broadband market.

Almost all of Demon’s customers are on a £20 or £25 monthly tariff for broadband only. A few receive a faster connection and pay £35 a month. We had a number of complaints stating that Demon is poor at passing on improved deals to existing customers, and that its service is more expensive than others. Customer service issues were also highlighted by survey respondents.

Web use is split evenly between light users who go online for less than 10 hours a week and those who use it an awful lot more. Connections are of the familiar up to 8Mbps and up to 20Mbps ADSL variety. Actual connection speeds fall below those promised, however, as our poor recommendation and download performance figures show.

Demon customers are sufficiently confident of their broadband connection to use it to run websites and make use of remote-access services, as well pure social activities. Streaming music, internet radio and video appeals to just under 50 percent of Demon customers, but entrepreneurial web use is just as big a pull. Almost half those who responded to our survey have access to an Apple computer at home.

NEXT PAGE: more ISP reviews >>

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