Don’t want to sign-up with BT or Virgin Media? Here are the alternatives
If you’re looking to upgrade your home broadband connection, it might be worth looking beyond the usual big brands like BT, Virgin Media, and Sky. While these vast national players offer some fast speeds and great bundles with paid-for television and free calls, you might be able to get a better deal from a smaller brand.
A number of newer firms have been able to roll-out next-generation gigabit-capable fibre faster than more-established players. While BT is hoping to bring the improved infrastructure to 25 million premises by the end of 2026, it has only managed 5.5 million homes so far. Virgin Media has managed to connect 12.8 million homes to its faster cables, which can manage download speeds of more than 1,000Mbps (the UK average is 70Mbps).
If you’re not lucky enough to be in an area with gigabit-capable, it might be worth checking to see whether a smaller, more local broadband company has beaten BT and Virgin Media to the punch. And even if you’re not simply looking for eye-watering speeds, a number of these brands offer other perks, including mesh Wi-Fi systems, fast upload speeds, and rolling monthly contracts.
If you’re looking to switch, Express.co.uk has picked out four of these new rivals to give an idea about some of the fibre broadband plans out there. Of course, none of these are available nationwide, although in fairness, neither are BT and Virgin Media’s 1Gbps plans. You’ll need to enter your postcode to make sure the service is available in your street before cancelling your existing internet package.
First up, YouFibre. This company recently started to deploy gigabit-capable fibre broadband in County Durham. Like a number of these newer challengers, YouFibre needs to stand-out from ISPs (Internet Service Providers) with better brand recognition and bulging wallets for glitzy advertising campaigns during prime-time television.
To do that, YouFibre seems to be using price to attract customers.
YouFibre is offering subscribers the chance to bag its gigabit speeds for £50. For comparison, Virgin Media charges upwards of £62 a month for its Gig1 package and BT charges £59.99 a month. Of course, both of these brands regularly offer promotions to drop that cost, but YouFibre is considerably cheaper – a saving of £216 over the course of your 18-month contract.
YouFibre claims its top-end fibre speeds are around 900Mbps. Admittedly, that’s slower than those available from Virgin Media’s Gig1, which offer on 1,104Mbps average download speeds. YouFibre is, however, much more affordable. Your mileage may vary, but for our money, that’s worth more than the extra 200Mbps or so.
And YouFibre includes a mesh broadband system as standard with its bundles. The broadband supplier will send you Amazon’s excellent Eero mesh network. Rather than relying on a single Wi-Fi router squirrelled away in the back of a cupboard managing the internet connection of every device in your home, you’ll have multiple smaller nodes dotted around the house.
Although it’ll still look like a single Wi-Fi network in the settings app on your phone, behind the scenes, these nodes will be shuffling devices around as you move about your house so that you’re always connected to the node closest to you for the strongest Wi-Fi signal. It also means devices will be distributed evenly across the network, so you can have more devices connected to the Wi-Fi without sacrificing reliability or speed. Each Eero node can support more than 100 separate devices, so with a few dotted around your home – you’ll have no issues connecting a jaw-dropping 350-odd gadgets to your home Wi-Fi network.
Of course, both Virgin Media and BT offer similar mesh-style gadgets… but none of these are included as standard as part of your monthly subscription fee.
Next, Swish Fibre is another company trying to get you to sit-up and listen. Swish Fibre is all about speed. Plans with Swish Fibre state from 400Mbps – around six times faster than the UK average download speed. If you’re buying for a business, Swish Fibre offers up to 8,000Mbps – that’s around 114x faster than what most UK households have plumbed in.
But what really sets Swish Fibre apart from its rivals is the Wi-Fi router. As standard, the Wi-Fi router bundled with its speedy plans includes software that automatically tweaks the wireless performance behind-the-scenes to optimise for the gadgets in your home. You can also access insight about your speedy Wi-Fi to help you get the most from your connections. The router, which offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, packs six internal antennas with beam-forming technology.
The full-fibre internet supplier also offers customers the chance to keep their current landline number, with calls able to be automatically forwarded to your mobile.
If you’re struggling with black holes in your Wi-Fi signal, Swish Fibre does offer an optional mesh system to boost Wi-Fi throughout your home.
Swish Fibre is pretty confident that you’ll like its offering. In fact, it’s so confident that it lets any customer leave by giving only 8 working days’ notice before their next monthly billing date. For comparison, Virgin Media contracts start from 18-months. And BT will lock you into its monthly plans for two years as standard.
If you do decide to stick around, Swish Fibre will power-up your connection with an extra 100Mbps boost after 12 continuous months with Swish Fibre – taking you to either 500 Mbps (for those who pay for the 400Mbps plan) or 1,000 Mbps (compared to the 900Mbps standard plan).
Hyperoptic is one of the better-known providers on this list. This relatively new Internet Service Provider (ISP) offers speeds between 50Mbps and 1Gbps. The latter costs £60, although HyperOptic often runs promotions. In the past, we’ve seen that 1Gbps plan plummet as long as £35 a month for a 24-month contract. There’s no set-up fee either, so you don’t need to worry about any extra costs.
But one of the real benefits of picking Hyperoptic is the firm’s pledge to not raise praises throughout the duration of the contract.
By comparison, BT warns customers signing-up to its broadband plans that customers can expect CPI-linked price rises each March. So, the price that you sign-up to might not be the one you end-up with some 18-months into your contract. These CPI rises aren’t huge – this year saw prices rise 3%, for example. However, that’s still extra cash to spend that you could avoid coughing up.
Hyperoptic also has a price match feature that will lower your broadband cost if you find a comparable offer elsewhere.
There’s also Automatic Compensation for missed engineer appointments (£25 in bill credit) and delayed activation (£5 credit each day it’s delayed). Hyperoptic also says, “If you lose service completely, please let us know as soon as you can. If we’re unable to get you back online within 2 working days of the outage being reported to us, we’ll give you £8 bill credit for each following day you’re without service. ”
Last – but definitely not least, CommunityFibre. Like Swish Fibre, this supplier offers both home and business broadband, so more flexible if you’re looking to keep the family happily streaming, downloading and video calling as well as ensuring your business is always online.
Monthly plans from CommunityFibre start from 50Mbps and top-out at 3Gbps (3,000 Mbps – more than 42x faster than the UK average broadband speed), which should be more than enough bandwidth to keep-up with online multiplayer gaming, 4K streaming, group video calls, backing-up your photo library …all at the same time!
So, what does CommunityFibre offer that other traditional broadband firms cannot match? Well, for a start, the firm doesn’t charge any set-up fees or line rental. While Virgin Media and BT occasionally drop set-up fees as part of seasonal promotions, for the most part, these are charges you’ll have to live with if you decide to opt for one of their broadband plans. Line rental shouldn’t apply to any full-fibre connection, so that’s not particularly unique – but still nice to enjoy.
But the biggest pull of Community Fibre is the free mesh-compatible router with all of its plans.
If you’re struggling to video call or stream from certain rooms of the house, it might not because of poor speeds coming into your house – it could simply be because the Wi-Fi signal is struggling to reach every corner of the home. Walls, floors, fish tanks and microwaves are just a few things that can seriously reduce your signal… mesh networks work by using small nodes across the house to boost the signal.
That should mean you’re always streaming with the maximum bars of signal – whether you’re in the attic, basement or back of the garden.
As standard, CommunityFibre includes the Linksys Tri-Band Intelligent Mesh with all our packages. Or, if you opt for the 1Gbps package, the firm will throw two routers in for free to ensure you get better coverage over big distances.
Like Hyperoptic, CommunityFibre promises no surprises increases over the duration of your contract.