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The Main Differences Between Internet Service Providers

Consumers could be forgiven for thinking that the majority of offerings at the different levels in the broadband market are very similar, and that there is little to choose between them. After all, what could be the difference between a 16Mbps unlimited broadband offering from Sky and a 16Mbps unlimited broadband offering from Tesco phone and broadband. The answer, actually, is quite a lot.

Fairness and Transparency

The best providers in the market will have very fair and transparent marketing and fair usage policies. Their unlimited offerings will be unlimited in data, and so you will not have to be conscious of your activities. With other providers, unlimited can mean very limited data allowance. For example, TalkTalk has unlimited packages that offer a measly 40GB per month of usage allowance. After this, they consider your usage unreasonable and a threat to the network, and may well start slowing your speeds down.

To put this into context, 40GB could well end up being 10 high definition movies being streamed. This is certainly not excessive consumption, especially if multiple people are using the same connection.

Traffic Management Differences

A lot of providers prioritise certain traffic. For example, they will give gaming and VoIP priority as they require bandwidth in order to be able to function. They may also prioritise media streaming. Often put in the second priority tier are browsing Internet, FTP, and other such activities. Then, the third tier normally comprises Peer-2-Peer activities, with speeds limited during peak times. Other providers will not try toshape or manage traffic in any way whatsoever.

The Speeds Obtainable

It’s important to understand whether you can get fiber optic ADSL or ADSL2 when you are getting broadband connection. Fiber optic broadband will likely be well over 20Mbps and will be super fast. ADSL2 will likely be up to around 16Mbps and ADSL around 6-7Mbps.

The technology will make a dramatic impact on the connectivity you can get. It’s also important to do a postcode check to find out which are the best providers in your area. The different exchanges will have different providers that offer LLU, and if you can get LLU at a local exchange it will provide superior broadband to the standard ADSL. Your location will make a big difference in the connection that you are able to achieve.

Contract Lengths

Different providers have different contract lengths. You may be able to get rolling 1-month contracts, 6-months, 9-months, 12-months, 18-months, or 24-months. The duration of the contract may be important; especially if you have a limited stay at your current address. You will normally be able to take a provider with you as you move though.

Customer Service

The customer service on offer through different providers varies markedly. With some, they resolve over 75% of issues the first time you call. With others, it’s far below this.

Some of the best for customer service are Plusnet broadband, XLN, Bee, and Sky. Some that tend to come in for criticism include TalkTalk and Post Office broadband. Tesco phone and broadband have their customer service provided through cable and wireless, and are sometimes criticised for not escalating issues to BT Openreach as quickly as they should, but otherwise Tesco seem to provide a reasonable customer service experience.

Top Tip

Bear in mind that when you read reviews from customers online they tend to be more negative than positive. Human nature dictates we tend to seek out opportunities to complain more often than we seek out opportunities to praise. You’ll probably find that the majority of customer-driven reviews fall well below the expert industry opinion. Make sure you temper any customer reviews with a balanced view from elsewhere.

Phil Turner has a Tesco phone and wishes that their broadband service was available in Ireland. Even with a 100Gb a month limit he would have six times what he currently has on his satellite broadband connection.

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