Sky Broadband (2017) review: A great all-round internet provider, but not for ADSL

Sky Broadband (2017) review: A great all-round internet provider, but not for ADSL

Sky is one of the biggest suppliers of premium TV in the UK but, for a long time now, it’s also been among the biggest broadband ISPs, with a competitive offering to rival companies such as BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

You can get the best-value broadband offering from the firm if you combine a TV package with your broadband, but you don’t have to, and there’s a decent spread of packages on offer.

As with most providers, Sky’s offering consists of a selection of standard ADSL and fibre broadband packages, from the “up to 17Mbits/sec” Broadband Unlimited package right up to the super-speedy 76Mbits/sec Fibre Max offering. That’s where Sky’s broadband tops out these days, though, so if you want 100Mbits/sec speeds and more, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

For most people, 76Mbits/sec will be absolutely fine. Sky also offers fibre broadband at 38Mbits/sec, which should be fine if you're not a heavy internet user. It’s worth noting that Netflix recommends 25Mbits/sec for 4K video streaming.

Buy Sky Broadband now from Sky

Sky Broadband Unlimited

If you want to keep things cheap, you can get unlimited downloads for £19 per month and that includes line rental. That only gets you up to 17Mbits/sec, though, which isn’t fast enough for 4K streaming. On the plus side, BT’s 17Mbits/sec offering is more expensive at £30 per month for unlimited usage.

Sky charges a one-off fee of £10 for “router delivery” on this service, and the cost doesn’t include the latest Sky Q Hub router either. Instead, you get the older Sky Hub, which uses slower, single-band 802.11n technology and only has four 10/100 Ethernet ports at the rear.

It’s well worth upgrading this at the point of purchase to the Sky Q Hub (£60), as this has better wireless speeds and better range, although the downside is that it only has a pair of wired Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Sky Fibre, Fibre Unlimited and Fibre Max

I’d advise avoiding the next deal up the rung: Sky Fibre. It’s only £20 per month for the first 18 months (with a £49 upfront setup fee), but gets you up to 38Mbits/sec and includes line rental; however, it’s a capped service (limited to 25GB) so only choose this if your broadband requirements are light. If you watch a lot of Netflix or BBC iPlayer and you own an Microsoft Xbox One or Sony Playstation 4 console, you’ll sweep past the limit in no time.

Sky Fibre Unlimited is better value. Although it’s £10 more expensive per month – at £39/mth for the same speed (38Mbits/sec) – there’s no data cap. However, you might want to think about paying £5 extra per month for the top-whack Sky Fibre Max service, which gets you double the top speed (76Mbits/sec) and also gives you unlimited downloads.

Compared with BT’s offering, Sky's Fibre packages are a mixed bag. Sky Fibre Max is currently cheaper than BT’s top-speed equivalent, which currently costs £45 per month (before discounts or deals). However, for the middle packages, BT’s start to look better value at £35 per month and a higher top-speed of 52Mbits/sec.

If you want the very fastest downloads (assuming cable is available in your area), you’ll want to take a closer look at Virgin Media’s offering. Although speeds do tend to tumble at peak times, Virgin Media’s Vivid 200 package is still hugely fast and costs a mere £37 per month, including your phone line rental, and the setup fee is only £20 upfront.

One thing to bear in, though, is that, while Virgin Media’s download speeds are untouchable, its upload speeds aren’t generally as fast as those delivered by Sky and other FTTC services. Average speeds were 12Mbits/sec for the 200Mbits/sec Vivid 200 package, compared with an average of 16Mbits/sec for "superfast" FTTC connections.

Sky broadband prices and packages

 

Sky Broadband Unlimited

Sky Fibre

Sky Fibre Unlimited

Sky Fibre Max

Price per month, including line rental

£19 (for 12mths, then £29)

£20 (for 18mths, then £29)

£30 (for 18mths, then £39)

£35 (for 18mths, then £44)

Setup fee

£10

£49

£49

£49

“Up to” speed

17Mbits/sec

38Mbits/sec

38Mbits/sec

76Mbits/sec

Usage allowance

Unlimited

25GB

Unlimited

Unlimited

Contract length

12 months

18 months

18 months

18 months

Sky Broadband review 2017: Coverage

More than 16 million homes are able to get Sky’s fibre package across the UK, which is pretty good, and even if you can’t, you’ll almost certainly be able to access the ADSL offering.

You can use the availability checker on Sky’s website here to find out which services are available in your area. Suffice it to say, though, if you can get BT fibre you’ll be able to get Sky’s rival offering as well.

Sky Broadband review 2017: Performance, speed and ADSL problems

I have Sky Fibre Unlimited broadband (38Mbits/sec) running at home and my experience with it over the past 12 months has been positive. So far, I’ve experienced no downtime, and it’s always been fast enough for the needs of my small, four-person household. It isn’t the fastest broadband package around, but it’s good enough for 4K streaming without buffering and, having come from a far faster Virgin Media connection, that’s notable.

However, my personal experience doesn’t count for as much as that of thousands of users across the country, and that’s why Ofcom carries out regular surveys – so you can see, on average, how all the big broadband suppliers perform across the country.

The most recent survey was carried out over the course of November 2016 and Sky performed well.

One of the most important measures is the average speed experienced by users as a proportion of the ISP's stated maximum speed. In effect, this measure tells you how close, on average, your speed is likely to be to the advertised "up to" figure during the slowest peak time periods.

Advertisement 

Remember, broadband speed varies depending on how many people are using the service in your area simultaneously. That’s why, typically, it’s slowest at peak times. In the case of ADSL users, it’s also affected by how far away you are from the fibre cabinet or exchange.

During the period of the 2016 survey, around 90% of Sky customers experienced minumum speeds that were 80% of headline speeds. That’s for customers on the 38Mbits/sec and 76Mbits/sec packages fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) services, and it’s right up there with the best its rivals can offer.

Sky’s slower ADSL offering wasn’t quite as impressive, however. Its slower ADSL broadband package only delivered 80% of its maximum stated speed or above to just above 60% of customers on average. That makes this package good value, but the slowest of the major providers on test.

Sky Broadband review 2017: Verdict

Sky’s broadband offering remains a strong one in 2017 – as strong as it has been for some time – and by and large it’s a good-value offering and a decent performer as well.

Top speed can’t match that on offer from Virgin Media, and the router you get with the service as standard isn’t great, but the prices for the other packages are more than competitive. Plus, for all but the basic broadband offerings, Ofcom’s figures peg performance at a similar level to other fibre broadband ISPs.

What might just tip the balance for you might not be a few pounds here or there, however, but customer service, and on this front, Sky is winning the battle. In the 2015 survey it recorded the fewest customer complaints of the big providers along with Virgin Media, while BT, EE and TalkTalk, among others, were recorded as having above-average levels of complaints.

So, while not perfect, Sky’s broadband is a good all-round line-up. It’s fast, good value and customer service is solid. Only on standard broadband speeds does it fall short.

Buy Sky Broadband now from Sky

Sky is one of the biggest suppliers of premium TV in the UK but, for a long time now, it’s also been among the biggest broadband ISPs, with a competitive offering to rival companies such as BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.


You can get the best-value broadband offering from the firm if you combine a TV package with your broadband, but you don’t have to, and there’s a decent spread of packages on offer.

As with most providers, Sky’s offering consists of a selection of standard ADSL and fibre broadband packages, from the “up to 17Mbits/sec” Broadband Unlimited package right up to the super-speedy 76Mbits/sec Fibre Max offering. That’s where Sky’s broadband tops out these days, though, so if you want 100Mbits/sec speeds and more, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

For most people, 76Mbits/sec will be absolutely fine. Sky also offers fibre broadband at 38Mbits/sec, which should be fine if you're not a heavy internet user. It’s worth noting that Netflix recommends 25Mbits/sec for 4K video streaming.

Buy Sky Broadband now from Sky

Sky Broadband Unlimited

If you want to keep things cheap, you can get unlimited downloads for £19 per month and that includes line rental. That only gets you up to 17Mbits/sec, though, which isn’t fast enough for 4K streaming. On the plus side, BT’s 17Mbits/sec offering is more expensive at £30 per month for unlimited usage.

Sky charges a one-off fee of £10 for “router delivery” on this service, and the cost doesn’t include the latest Sky Q Hub router either. Instead, you get the older Sky Hub, which uses slower, single-band 802.11n technology and only has four 10/100 Ethernet ports at the rear.

It’s well worth upgrading this at the point of purchase to the Sky Q Hub (£60), as this has better wireless speeds and better range, although the downside is that it only has a pair of wired Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Sky Fibre, Fibre Unlimited and Fibre Max

I’d advise avoiding the next deal up the rung: Sky Fibre. It’s only £20 per month for the first 18 months (with a £49 upfront setup fee), but gets you up to 38Mbits/sec and includes line rental; however, it’s a capped service (limited to 25GB) so only choose this if your broadband requirements are light. If you watch a lot of Netflix or BBC iPlayer and you own an Microsoft Xbox One or Sony Playstation 4 console, you’ll sweep past the limit in no time.

Sky Fibre Unlimited is better value. Although it’s £10 more expensive per month – at £39/mth for the same speed (38Mbits/sec) – there’s no data cap. However, you might want to think about paying £5 extra per month for the top-whack Sky Fibre Max service, which gets you double the top speed (76Mbits/sec) and also gives you unlimited downloads.

Compared with BT’s offering, Sky's Fibre packages are a mixed bag. Sky Fibre Max is currently cheaper than BT’s top-speed equivalent, which currently costs £45 per month (before discounts or deals). However, for the middle packages, BT’s start to look better value at £35 per month and a higher top-speed of 52Mbits/sec.

If you want the very fastest downloads (assuming cable is available in your area), you’ll want to take a closer look at Virgin Media’s offering. Although speeds do tend to tumble at peak times, Virgin Media’s Vivid 200 package is still hugely fast and costs a mere £37 per month, including your phone line rental, and the setup fee is only £20 upfront.

One thing to bear in, though, is that, while Virgin Media’s download speeds are untouchable, its upload speeds aren’t generally as fast as those delivered by Sky and other FTTC services. Average speeds were 12Mbits/sec for the 200Mbits/sec Vivid 200 package, compared with an average of 16Mbits/sec for "superfast" FTTC connections.

Sky broadband prices and packages

 

Sky Broadband Unlimited

Sky Fibre

Sky Fibre Unlimited

Sky Fibre Max

Price per month, including line rental

£19 (for 12mths, then £29)

£20 (for 18mths, then £29)

£30 (for 18mths, then £39)

£35 (for 18mths, then £44)

Setup fee

£10

£49

£49

£49

“Up to” speed

17Mbits/sec

38Mbits/sec

38Mbits/sec

76Mbits/sec

Usage allowance

Unlimited

25GB

Unlimited

Unlimited

Contract length

12 months

18 months

18 months

18 months

Sky Broadband review 2017: Coverage

More than 16 million homes are able to get Sky’s fibre package across the UK, which is pretty good, and even if you can’t, you’ll almost certainly be able to access the ADSL offering.

You can use the availability checker on Sky’s website here to find out which services are available in your area. Suffice it to say, though, if you can get BT fibre you’ll be able to get Sky’s rival offering as well.

Sky Broadband review 2017: Performance, speed and ADSL problems

I have Sky Fibre Unlimited broadband (38Mbits/sec) running at home and my experience with it over the past 12 months has been positive. So far, I’ve experienced no downtime, and it’s always been fast enough for the needs of my small, four-person household. It isn’t the fastest broadband package around, but it’s good enough for 4K streaming without buffering and, having come from a far faster Virgin Media connection, that’s notable.

However, my personal experience doesn’t count for as much as that of thousands of users across the country, and that’s why Ofcom carries out regular surveys – so you can see, on average, how all the big broadband suppliers perform across the country.

The most recent survey was carried out over the course of November 2016 and Sky performed well.

One of the most important measures is the average speed experienced by users as a proportion of the ISP's stated maximum speed. In effect, this measure tells you how close, on average, your speed is likely to be to the advertised "up to" figure during the slowest peak time periods.

Advertisement 

Remember, broadband speed varies depending on how many people are using the service in your area simultaneously. That’s why, typically, it’s slowest at peak times. In the case of ADSL users, it’s also affected by how far away you are from the fibre cabinet or exchange.

During the period of the 2016 survey, around 90% of Sky customers experienced minumum speeds that were 80% of headline speeds. That’s for customers on the 38Mbits/sec and 76Mbits/sec packages fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) services, and it’s right up there with the best its rivals can offer.

Sky’s slower ADSL offering wasn’t quite as impressive, however. Its slower ADSL broadband package only delivered 80% of its maximum stated speed or above to just above 60% of customers on average. That makes this package good value, but the slowest of the major providers on test.

Sky Broadband review 2017: Verdict

Sky’s broadband offering remains a strong one in 2017 – as strong as it has been for some time – and by and large it’s a good-value offering and a decent performer as well.

Top speed can’t match that on offer from Virgin Media, and the router you get with the service as standard isn’t great, but the prices for the other packages are more than competitive. Plus, for all but the basic broadband offerings, Ofcom’s figures peg performance at a similar level to other fibre broadband ISPs.

What might just tip the balance for you might not be a few pounds here or there, however, but customer service, and on this front, Sky is winning the battle. In the 2015 survey it recorded the fewest customer complaints of the big providers along with Virgin Media, while BT, EE and TalkTalk, among others, were recorded as having above-average levels of complaints.

So, while not perfect, Sky’s broadband is a good all-round line-up. It’s fast, good value and customer service is solid. Only on standard broadband speeds does it fall short.

Buy Sky Broadband now from Sky

Paul Andseron is an independent Technology Journalist who is based in London and writes for various publications including technewseurope.com. His articles are always superbly detailed and his years of experience of reviewing tech products always shine through.

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