Consumer ISP Choices on Openreach’s UK FTTP Broadband Network

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One of the most common questions to grace our inbox centres around the still evident confusion over ISP choice on Openreach’s (BT) Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based “ultrafast broadband” network, which usually occurs once people realise that it’s not available (yet) from most of their usual haunts.

Historically people have tended to assume that all of the major providers, except Virgin Media, will support Openreach’s latest technologies but that isn’t the case with FTTP. Several reasons for this exists, although the key issues relate to availability (it’s currently only available to around 1.5 million premises), capacity (some ISPs have to upgrade first) and the cost / time required to adapt related admin / ordering systems etc.

NOTE: Many of the queries we get stem from people who are aware they could get FTTP from BT but want to pick another ISP, usually due to a dislike of the largest provider.

The other big factor in all this has been the often complicated debate over market competition. Some of the big ISPs, like TalkTalk and Vodafone, are already involved with building their own alternative networks (altnet). Meanwhile others have concerns about the wholesale cost of Openreach’s network, which is more expensive than many of the newer altnet rivals (hard to avoid due, in part, to Ofcom’s model of regulation).

Nevertheless none of the ISPs can afford to ignore Openreach’s significant commitment to deploy FTTP to 4 million premises by March 2021 and then 15 million by around 2025 (here). At present this represents a build that is several times largely than any of their rivals have planned (e.g. both Cityfibre and Hyperoptic aspire to reach around 5 million each within a similar time-scale).

All of these competing interests have resulted in some internal confusion among major ISPs over their future strategies, which has in turn conspired to slow the introduction of new Openreach based services. Despite this both TalkTalk and Sky Broadband have said they will soon make FTTP services available via Openreach’s network, although they’ve also signalled their intention to examine, partner or deploy alternative platforms.

NOTE: Openreach is about to drop their wholesale FTTP prices for ISPs (here).

What are the FTTP ISP options on Openreach?

Suffice to say that many consumers have been left feeling confused about what their choices are and so we’ve extracted a few of the more consumer friendly options from our UK ISP Listings to help. In order to narrow this list down we’re only covering those ISPs that offer “ultrafast broadband” packages based off Openreach’s 160Mbps download / 30Mbps upload tier at more consumer affordable prices.

On top of that we’ve also excluded some of the more expensive business focused providers, as well as those that lacked enough package detail, failed to clearly display whether their prices included VAT or where we couldn’t be certain whether or not the packages were even Openreach based. We have not taken a view on the service quality of any of these providers so this should NOT be taken as a table of recommendations.

Something else to note is that we aren’t highlighting any of the other value added features that may come with some packages, such as cloud backup, static IP addresses, access to public WiFi hotspots, phone services and so forth. This table is merely intended as a quick guide.

ISP Summary of 160Mbps Packages (Openreach FTTP)

Now a few points about the above packages. BT’s post-contract price rises to £59.99 per month. Spectrum Internet only tends to sell their FTTP packages to parts of Wales and South West England. Freeola will give you a discount if you pay for a full year in advance (equivalent to £47.30 per month) and Zen Internet hide their FTTP packages behind an availability checker (otherwise you’ll just see their similar speed G.fast options).

We also found that you had to go deeper in AAISP’s ordering system before the 160Mbps option is shown (oddly this only comes after you first pick an 80Mbps tier). Sadly several of the ISPs also do not allow you to order their FTTP packages online (e.g. Zen Internet) and instead force you to go through the tedious hassle of ordering over the phone.

A number of ISPs were excluded from our list for various different reasons and the most common were: 1) We couldn’t be sure whether the FTTP packages were Openreach based or not, 2) the ISP lacked a 160Mbps tier, 3) the ISP was too expensive, 4) the provider was too business centric or 5) key package / price details weren’t shown.

The excluded providers (these are often still worth consideration) included Unchained ISP, Aquiss, Jibba Jabba, Gradwell, BitStreme and I Need Broadband. Otherwise the prices above were all valid at the start of August 2019. We have not included Sky’s Ultrafast service above as at the time of writing those are G.fast based, even though some people do seem able to order FTTP (the latter is not yet fully implemented).

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