Plusnet Broadband review: Good customer service, middling prices


Plusnet Black Friday deals: Until midnight on Tuesday 5 December, Plusnet is offering £50 cashback if you sign up for its ADSL2+ service for 18 months at £19 a month; it’s also waiving the £10 activation fee. The total cost over eighteen months thus drops from £352 to £292, making this a temptingly cost-effective ADSL broadband option.

Or, if you sign up for the 38Mbits/sec service on an 18-month contract, you’ll get a free £100 Amazon gift card. Taking the gift card at face value, this cuts the total cost of your year and a half of service from £538 to £438. Again, the offer runs until close of play on Tuesday 5 December.

Plusnet Broadband review

Plusnet has been described as “one of Britain’s biggest small ISPs”. Just 3% of UK broadband subscribers are with Plusnet but the company is actually fully owned by BT – itself the UK’s largest ISP – so it has considerable technical and financial resources to draw on. Don’t think of it as a rebadged BT service, though. Plusnet operates as an independent business, with its own tariffs and support structures.

One distinctive thing about Plusnet is that the company doesn’t insist on bundling line rental with your internet service. If you have an existing phone line through BT (or a subsidiary phone provider), you can keep that arrangement in place and just pay Plusnet for your internet connection. Depending on how much you’re paying for your phone services, however, it may still work out cheaper to switch everything to Plusnet.

Plusnet also gives you a choice of signing up for 12 months or 18 unlike some ISPs, which insist on longer term tie-ins. We’ve focused on the 18-month packages here as they’re cheaper but this flexibility is a strength of Plusnet if you don’t want to make a long-term commitment. There’s even a no-contract option, where you pay relatively steep fees but can cancel at any time.

When it comes to the actual connection, however, Plusnet is more or less identical to other major providers. You can choose from an ADSL2+ service rated at up to 17Mbits/sec, or – assuming you live in an area with fibre-optic coverage – fibre services with nominal speeds of 38Mbits/sec and 76Mbits/sec. All are unlimited with no data caps or traffic shaping applied.

If you switch your line rental to Plusnet you can also choose to add a phone package to your broadband deal: options include £4 a month for free UK calls at evenings and weekends, or £8 a month for unlimited calls to UK mobiles and landlines. For the same price there’s also an international package which includes 300 minutes of calls a month to 35 countries.

Fibre customers can tack on TV services as well by buying a basic Plusnet YouView box for £7 or the more sophisticated YouView+ box, capable of recording 150 hours of HD video, for £58. A fiver a month then gives you access to all Freeview channels, various catch-up services like iPlayer and ITV Hub, and 20 “premium” channels, including Comedy Central, E!, MTV, Syfy and TLC, plus BT Sport Lite. The regular BT Sport channels can also be had in standard-definition for another fiver on top of that, or £8 a month in HD. Sadly, no matter how much you pay, there’s no way of getting Sky’s sport or entertainment channels through Plusnet.

Plusnet Unlimited

The “Unlimited” internet package is Plusnet’s basic ADSL2+ service and, as usual, it’s advertised with the promise of download speeds “up to 17Mbits/sec”. Once we started clicking through the ordering process however, this was finessed down to “10-17Mbits/sec”; a sensible bit of expectation management, because unless you live directly on top of the telephone exchange there’s no way you’re going to get anywhere near the maximum speed.

Even if you end up at the bottom end of the range, 10Mbits/sec is perfectly usable for everyday internet duties. You can browse the web, download all the games and videos you like and even stream video in HD from BBC iPlayer, Netflix and so on. It might not do if your family wants to watch high-definition TV in several rooms at once, however, or if you’ve splashed out on a 4K TV and want to stream ultra-HD video.

At £19 a month (including line rental) Plusnet’s ADSL2+ service is slightly more expensive than the likes of Sky, and there’s a £10 setup fee on top of that. However, if you already have a good deal on your line rental then you can buy the internet service on its own for £13.50 a month, plus a £35 activation fee.

You can also choose a contract-free ADSL2+ package: if you’re remaining with your existing phone-line provider this costs £15 a month with a £60 activation fee. If you move your line rental to Plusnet, the activation fee is slightly reduced to £50 but the overall package price goes up to £24 per month for the first twelve months, rising to £31.48 after that. It’s pricey, but it might make sense as a stop-gap if you’re planning to move home and don’t want to commit to a full year’s service.

Plusnet Unlimited Fibre

As with the Unlimited package, Plusnet’s 38Mbits/sec fibre-optic service is a touch on the pricey side: you’re looking at £28.50 a month for 18 months, plus a £25 activation fee. If you don’t want to switch your phone-line provider you can get the internet service on its own for £17.50 a month, but there’s a steep £50 activation charge on top of that. Plusnet doesn’t offer a contract-free option for its fibre packages.

Although you almost certainly won’t see the full 38Mbits/sec, this standard fibre connection is easily fast enough for you to watch multiple HD videos and should happily stream 4K media, too. Choosing the fibre package also makes you eligible for one of Plusnet’s YouView packages, as described above, although the limited channel choice means you might be better off with a standalone Now TV box.

On the subject of boxes, the included Hub One router is more or less identical to the old BT Home Hub 5. That’s not a bad thing: it supports fast dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and has four Gigabit Ethernet sockets, plus a USB connector so you can share devices such as USB flash drives, cameras or even printers over your network.

Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra

The Unlimited Fibre Extra package is identical to the regular fibre service, except for the headline speed, which is doubled to 76Mbits/sec. The monthly charge on an eighteen-month contract goes up by a fiver, to £33.50 a month, while the activation fee remains at £25.

If you want to keep your existing phone-line provider and order the internet service on its own from Plusnet then, once again, it’s a fiver a month on top of the regular fibre service. That works out to £22.50 a month, on top of a £50 activation fee.

Plusnet broadband review: Prices and packages

Plusnet Unlimited Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra
Price per month, including line rental £18.99 £28.50 £33.50
Setup fee £10 £25 £25
“Up to” speed 17Mbits/sec 38Mbits/sec 76Mbits/sec
Usage allowance Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Contract length 18 months 18 months 18 months

Buy Plusnet broadband from Plusnet

Plusnet broadband: Coverage

Since Plusnet is wholly owned by BT, it’s no surprise that the company runs its services over the BT Openreach fibre-optic network. That means more than 27 million UK homes and businesses can get Plusnet fibre broadband.

You can find out whether your home is covered using the Openreach availability checker at openreach.co.uk. Or, simply visit the Plusnet website (www.plus.net) and click on the package you’re interested in. You’ll be prompted to enter your postcode and the number of your existing landline, if you have one; this will enable Plusnet to give you instant confirmation of coverage, along with an estimate of the real-world connection speeds you can expect.

Plusnet broadband: Performance and customer service

Ofcom’s last comprehensive review of ISP performance was published in November 2016, and Plusnet’s results were mixed. Its ADSL2+ service wasn’t the fastest – that turned out to be EE, whose customers saw average speeds of 9.4-11.7Mbits/sec over a 24-hour period. However, Plusnet was very close behind, with average download rates of 9.6 -11.4Mbits/sec. That puts it slightly ahead of its parent company BT Broadband, whose daily average speeds maxed out at 10.8Mbits/sec.

Plusnet’s 38Mbits/sec fibre package fared less well. Its maximum speed of 34.8Mbits/sec was pretty respectable, though once again EE pipped it with a top speed of 35.9Mbits/sec. However, Plusnet users also experienced the slowest speed dips, with minimum download rates of 27.6Mbits/sec.

And while “76Mbits/sec” services never come close to that theoretical maximum speed, Plusnet’s fastest service fell a long way short, with average daily speeds ranging from 54.6Mbits/sec to 57.7Mbits/sec. That put it a whisker ahead of EE, but a step behind BT and EE, whose averages hit 60.7Mbits/sec and 60.8Mbits/sec respectively.

While Plusnet isn’t a winner in the performance stakes, it’s not too far off the pace, especially on the 38Mbits/sec fibre service. In everyday use you won’t feel a difference between Plusnet and BT or EE; it’s only a real concern if you’re taxing your internet connection to the limit.

It’s also worth noting that you’re less likely to have a customer service issue with Plusnet than with BT. BT is, according to Ofcom’s latest consumer complaints figures, the UK’s most complained-about ISP, accounting for 34 out of every 100,000 complaints received in the first quarter of 2017. Plusnet attracted only 25 complaints per 100,000 in the same period, which is a vote of confidence of sorts. It’s not as good as Virgin or Sky, however, who accounted for just 13 and 8 complaints per 100K respectively.

Plusnet broadband review: Verdict

Plusnet delivers acceptable performance, a capable router and a flexible selection of contract options. Prices aren’t quite as low as the market leaders, however, and performance and customer service standards aren’t exceptional either. Factor in that rather limited TV offering and it’s hard to see a compelling reason to pick Plusnet over a faster or more competitively priced ISP.



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