Who offers the best broadband in Brighton

simon chandler
By Simon Chandler

broadband speed race

BRIGHTON offers many attractions to residents and visitors alike, yet there's one thing in particular it has over most other parts of the UK: above average broadband speeds.

That's right, because while the national average (mean) download speed sits at around 27.4Mb, the average for Brighton is a more impressive 34.2Mb.

Yet just because the broadband speeds of a city or area are higher than average doesn't necessarily guarantee that someone signing up to a new broadband service will automatically get higher than average speeds.

That's why this feature will look at the different broadband providers and services available in Brighton & Hove and surrounding areas (e.g Lewes, Portslade, Seaford), providing a review of what's on offer and who's most worth the customer's money.

First, a warning

Section menu
Check postcodes before you buy
What are the Openreach providers like?
Virgin Media: how good are they?
Registering for Hyperoptic broadband
What about the other areas?
4G broadband: who's best in Brighton?
Some concluding remarks

While the average given above for Brighton as a whole was 34.2Mb, this was in fact calculated on the basis of two separate averages, for the separate parliamentary constituencies of Brighton Pavilion and Brighton Kemptown.

The difference between their respective average download speeds - 37.8Mb and 31.4Mb - isn't massive, yet it nonetheless underlines the differences in availability that exist throughout the Brighton & Hove area.

For example, Brighton Pavilion's superior average speed is helped by the fact that it has greater Virgin Media coverage, with Virgin's network available to 93.4% of premises in the constituency, as opposed to only 69% in Brighton Kemptown.

As such, it should be remembered that not every provider listed in this feature is available absolutely everywhere in Brighton and its surrounds, so it's worth using the postcode checkers provided below.

That said, here are the main providers available, organised according to the network they use.

Openreach

When it comes to Brighton Pavilion and Kemptown, both areas have roughly the same high level of coverage from Openreach, standing at 98.3% and 97.7% respectively.

This guarantees that the vast majority of Brighton has access to superfast speeds in excess of 24Mb or even 30Mb, and it also guarantees that the city has access to large number of the most well known internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK, starting with BT.

BT

The biggest ISP in the country in terms of subscriber numbers (coming in at somewhere around 9.2 million), it's little surprise that BT's broadband is available virtually everywhere in Brighton.

And as our guide on the provider makes clear, they offer a very competitive internet service overall, with plenty of features thrown in, a regular number of special offers for new customers, and an excellent wifi router (the Smart Hub, which comes with their Infinity packages).

Added to this, they offer superfast speeds well in advance of the national average of 27.4Mb, as the table below illustrates.

Package Broadband Contract term Upfront price Monthly price
bt Unlimited Broadband + Weekend calls Up to 17Mb
Unlimited
12 months £9.99 £26.99
for 12 mths,
then £40.99
bt Unlimited Infinity 1 + Weekend calls Up to 52Mb
Unlimited
12 months £9.99 £31.99
for 12 mths,
then £47.49
bt Unlimited Infinity 2 + Weekend calls Up to 76Mb
Unlimited
12 months £9.99 £44.99
for 12 mths,
then £53.99

To see prices in full and by postcode see our BT broadband search here.

Of course, it's all well and good advertising speeds of "up to" 76Mb, yet it's another thing actually delivering on them. Luckily for customers who want to see how well BT actually do, Ofcom compile average speeds for each major provider, with their most recent study showing the following performance for BT.

Average download speed during period
Advertised speed 24 hours Peak time:
8-10pm weekdays
bt Up to 17Mb 9.1Mb to 10.8Mb 9.0Mb to 10.6Mb
bt Up to 52Mb 47.7Mb to 48.6Mb 46.9Mb to 47.9Mb
bt Up to 76Mb 57.9Mb to 60.7Mb 57.0Mb to 59.8Mb

SOURCE: Ofcom, November 2016.

This shows that BT don't quite always deliver on the "up to" speeds they advertise, yet aside from this being the case for basically every provider, it's also mitigated by what else customers receive as part of the price of subscription.

Namely, Infinity customers receive the Smart Hub, which not only scans regularly so as to switch to the least busy wifi channel, but also offers the widest wifi coverage of any router from any major provider, according to BT.

And to top this off, customers also get access to all of BT's nationwide wifi hotspots, free cloud storage, and also the option to add BT TV and BT Sports, which are increasingly coming to rival Sky as one of the best television services on offer in the UK.

One other thing that should be mentioned, however, is reliability, and here it's worth pointing out that BT have the occasional outage and disruption each year, although just to be clear, so too do the other ISPs using the Openreach network.

Sky

Perhaps the most prominent of these other ISPs is Sky, who in combining broadband with their largely unparalleled TV service transform themselves into a very attractive prospect for television and broadband lovers.

Since they use the Openreach network, they're just as available as BT, and once again they suffer mostly the same frequency of network issues, as the two maps below from downdetector.co.uk depict.

Sky outages

Source: downdetector.co.uk, Sky Broadband disruptions in Brighton on August 29th, 2017

BT outages

Source: downdetector.co.uk, BT Broadband disruptions in Brighton on August 29th, 2017

It's worth pointing out here that the outages highlighted in the maps above are both very minor, with BT's outage - presented using more of reddish colour - slightly more extensive than Sky's, in orange.

Yet both are very small, and they both give an indication of problems on only single day, so they're hardly representative of what happens day in, day out, and from one year to the next.

Still, they might serve as a rough guide to the kind of difference in reliability customers might expect, although more distinct and consequential comparisons can be found in other areas.

Chief among these is customer service, with Sky regularly receiving the best ranking of all major broadband providers on Ofcom's quarterly complaints tables.

In other words, Sky receive fewer complaints for their broadband service than anyone else, with the most recent rankings as of writing (published in June 2017) revealing that they received 8 complaints per 100,000 customers, compared to BT's 34.

broadband complaints

Source: Ofcom, Latest telecoms and pay-TV complaints, June 28th, 2017

That said, another benefit of taking broadband from Sky is that they offer a wide range of broadband packages at competitive prices, particularly when compared to their main rivals.

Package Broadband Contract terms Upfront price Monthly price
sky Broadband 12GB + Talk (only available with Sky TV) Up to 17Mb
12GB
12 months £9.95 £23.99
sky Fibre + Talk Up to 38Mb
25GB usage
18 months £59.95 £28.99
sky Fibre Unlimited + Talk Up to 38Mb
Unlimited
18 months £59.95 £38.99
sky Sky Fibre Max + Talk Up to 76Mb
Unlimited
18 months £59.95 £43.99

Compare more package options and check availability for Sky broadband here.

And if this choice of broadband + talk packages weren't enough, there's also the option of adding a TV bundle into the mix, creating a number of different packages, including the following:

Package Contract terms Upfront cost Monthly price
sky Broadband Unlimited + Talk 12 months £9.95 £20
for 12 mths,
then £28.99
sky Fibre Unlimited + Talk 18 months £59.95 £38.99
sky TV Original + Broadband 12GB + Talk 18 months £29.95 £43.99
for 18 mths,
then £45.99
sky TV Original + Broadband Unlimited + Talk 18 months £39.95 £38
for 12 mths,
then £50.99
sky TV Original + Fibre Unlimited + Talk 18 months £39.95 £50
for 18 mths,
then £60.99

Compare more package options and check availability for Sky here.

Taken together with the enviable customer service, such choice makes Sky a recommended option when it comes to broadband, which perhaps comes as no surprise given that we awarded Sky the Best Overall prize in our first Choose ISP Awards.

TalkTalk

Another major ISP using the Openreach network is TalkTalk, who despite difficulties in the past involving a high profile cyberattack have been making a very concerted effort recently to make themselves attractive as an ISP.

For one, they've been running a number of limited-run special offers for new customers, including a recent offer (now expired) involving discounts on Sky TV packages.

Yet added to this, the normal price of their broadband packages often beat those of BT and Sky, as revealed below.

Package Broadband Contract term Upfront price Monthly price
talktalk Fast Broadband Up to 17Mb
Unlimited
12 months Free £19.95
for 12 mths,
then £25.50
talktalk Faster Fibre Up to 38Mb
Unlimited
18 months Free £26.50
for 18 mths,
then £32
talktalk Faster Fibre (up to 76Mb) Up to 76Mb
Unlimited
18 months Free £31.50
for 18 mths,
then £37

TalkTalk therefore offer considerable value for money. However, they let themselves down slightly on (national) average download speeds, since while those they provide are roughly comparable to BT's, for instance, they're not quite as fast.

Average download speed during period
Advertised speed 24 hours Peak time:
8-10pm weekdays
bt Up to 17Mb 8.6Mb to 10Mb (BT: 9.1Mb to 10.8Mb) 8.6Mb to 9.9Mb (BT: 9.0Mb to 10.6Mb)
bt Up to 38Mb 30.8Mb to 32.8Mb 30.6Mb to 32.6Mb
bt Up to 76Mb 54.6Mb to 57.7Mb (BT: 57.9Mb to 60.7Mb) 53.9Mb to 57Mb (BT: 57.0Mb to 59.8Mb)

SOURCE: Ofcom, November 2016.

These caveats aside, TalkTalk are nonetheless a decent ISP, having learnt from their past mistakes, and having learnt how to provide reasonably priced (fibre) broadband that comes with a few helpful extras (e.g. their free security package, HomeSafe).

Plusnet

Yet TalkTalk aren't the only "budget" ISP in Brighton, since Plusnet are also available via the Openreach network.

And unlike TalkTalk, Plusnet have a somewhat cleaner record when it comes to cybersecurity, as well as doing slightly better on the customer service front, at least according to the Ofcom table pasted above.

With regards to price, however, they're basically the same, with Plusnet charging the following fees for their three broadband packages.

Package Broadband Contract terms Upfront price Monthly price
plusnet Unlimited + Line Only Up to 17Mb
Unlimited
18 months Free £18.99
for 18 mths,
then £27.98
plusnet Unlimited Fibre + Line Only Up to 38Mb
Unlimited
12 months Free £24.99
for 12 mths,
then £32.98
plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra + Line Only Up to 76Mb
Unlimited
12 months Free £29.99
for 12 mths,
then £37.98

To see prices in full and by postcode see our Plusnet broadband search here.

While the monthly fees listed above are almost exactly the same price as TalkTalk's, one thing that should be noted is that TalkTalk often sell their broadband packages with 24-month contracts.

This means that customers are protected from price rises for two years, whereas it's generally the case that Plusnet customers are protected only for one year.

Virgin Media

Now that the main Openreach ISPs are out of the way, it's time to turn to Virgin Media, who offer the second biggest network in Brighton & Hove.

Once again, it's worth underlining that, while around 93.5% of Brighton Pavilion has access to Virgin's network, only 69% of premises in Brighton Kemptown can say the same.

As such, customers are advised to use the postcode checker below to confirm availability, otherwise they may end up being disappointed.

Postcode:
Enter your postcode above to check availability in your area.

Once the issue of availability is settled, the next order of business is to comment on how Virgin Media offer broadband speeds that are generally superior to those offered by their main, Openreach-using rivals.

Advertised Speed Average over 24 hours Average at peak times
(8-10pm weekdays)
bt Up to 52Mb 47.7Mb - 48.6Mb 46.9Mb - 47.9Mb
virgin media Up to 100Mb 87.7Mb - 95.2Mb 72.6Mb - 86.1Mb
bt Up to 76Mb 57.9Mb - 60.7Mb 57Mb - 59.8Mb
virgin media Up to 200Mb 169Mb - 177.2Mb 143.7Mb - 155.4Mb

The data used in this study was gathered during November 2016 by Ofcom.

Unsurprisingly, while high average speeds are all well and good, they usually require customers to pay a little bit more each month, so it comes as little surprise that Virgin are a tad more expensive than others.

That said, they do offer a 50Mb option, which makes things more affordable.

Package Broadband Contract term Upfront price Monthly price
virgin media Vivid 50 + Talk Weekends Up to 50Mb
Unlimited
12 months £20 £27
for 12 mths,
then £40
virgin media Vivid 100 + Talk Weekends Up to 100Mb
Unlimited
12 months £20 £34
for 12 mths,
then £45
virgin media Vivid 200 + Talk Weekends Up to 200Mb
Unlimited
12 months £20 £39
for 12 mths,
then £50
virgin media Vivid 300 + Talk Weekends Up to 300Mb
Unlimited
12 months £20 £44
for 12 mths,
then £55

In addition to the above broadband and phone deals, they also offer the rare option of receiving broadband without a landline, which can often work out cheaper in the long run.

It's also important to mention that, in addition to providing generally superior speeds, Virgin also have a solid reputation for customer service.

While they're generally outperformed in this respect by Sky, they nonetheless tend to outrank every other major ISP, as shown by Ofcom's complaints table (above).

That said, they do experience their fair share of technical hitches and outages, with the downdetector.co.uk website showing the present minor disturbance for Brighton (and Worthing).

Virgin Media outages

Source: downdetector.co.uk, Virgin Media disruptions in Brighton on August 30th, 2017

Nonetheless, as we've written in the past, occasional broadband outages are almost a way of life now (since they're part of the UK's infrastructure), and while Virgin has experienced some issues in the past, these haven't really been significantly more frequent than with other providers.

Which is another way of saying that, if speed is what a customer is after, they'd well to go after Virgin Media.

Other providers

Admittedly, there are providers in the UK who offer faster broadband than Virgin, yet unfortunately for the denizens of Brighton and its environs, it's nigh-on impossible to get broadband from them at the time of writing.

That's because fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband is available to only 1.7% of Brighton Pavilion, while in the Brighton Kemptown and Hove (& Portslade) constituencies, the respective percentages are only 0.4% and 0.2%.

Put differently, very few customers have the chance to subscribe to gigabit speeds, the kind of which are supplied by Hyperoptic and other "alternative networks" (or alt nets).

Postcode:
Enter your postcode above to check availability in your area.

Nonetheless, Hyperoptic are operating in Brighton, and customers can register their interest by visiting the provider's website, making it likelier that Hyperoptic extend their Brighton network to the desired address.

And if a Brighton-based customer is lucky enough to find that Hyperoptic do supply their building, not only will they be able to enjoy full fibre broadband capable of 1Gb speeds, but they'll also be pleasantly surprised by Hyperoptic's prices.

While they're obviously above those set by superfast ISPs, they're surprisingly competitive, and even beat Virgin Media in certain cases.

Package Broadband Contract term Upfront price Monthly price
hyperoptic 20Mb Fibre Broadband & Phone Up to 20Mb
Unlimited
12 months Free £19
for 12 mths,
then £25
hyperoptic 100Mb Fibre Broadband & Phone Up to 100Mb
Unlimited
12 months Free £29
for 12 mths,
then £38
hyperoptic 1Gb Fibre Broadband & Phone Up to 1Gb
Unlimited
12 months Free £49
for 12 mths,
then £63
hyperoptic 20Mb Fibre Broadband Up to 20Mb
Unlimited
12 months £40 £18
for 12 mths,
then £22
hyperoptic 100Mb Fibre Broadband Up to 100Mb
Unlimited
12 months £40 £28
for 12 mths,
then £35
hyperoptic 1Gb Fibre Broadband Up to 1Gb
Unlimited
12 months £40 £48
for 12 mths,
then £60

Other areas

Besides surveying the kind of broadband available in the constituencies of Brighton Pavilion, Brighton Kemptown, and Hove (& Portslade), it's also worth mentioning the digital landscape in surrounding towns.

To begin with, Lewes - which as a constituency covers Seaford and Newhaven as well as Lewes - has a profile similar to Brighton & Hove when it comes to availability, with 93.5% superfast coverage, and even 1.5% coverage from Openreach's FTTP offering.

That said, given that Virgin Media is available to precisely 0% of the area, it perhaps isn't a shock to hear that the average download speed is only 20Mb, which also indicates that take up of superfast broadband isn't particularly high.

A slightly faster average speed is found in Eastbourne, which benefits from greater superfast availability at 98.6%, and Openreach FTTP available to 0.84% of the premises in the constituency.

Having said that, Virgin Media is once again available to a paltry 0.02% of the constituency, which would perhaps explain the 21.7Mb average download speed.

However, an improved picture emerges from East Worthing and Shoreham, which has Virgin Media coverage at 92.2%, superfast coverage at 98.8%, and Openreach FTTP coverage at 0.02%. Accordingly, its average download speed is a healthy 37.7Mb.

Mobile broadband

Finally, it would be helpful to close this guide by surveying the current state of mobile broadband in Brighton and beyond, given that an increasing number of people are connecting to the internet via their phones.

Well, the first thing to mention is that, in contrast to fixed broadband, Brighton & Hove isn't so lucky when it comes to the mobile version, since a recent OpenSignal study found that it has the lowest average 4G download speeds of the UK's 20 largest cities.

The highest ranked city - Stoke-on-Trent - recorded average speeds of 26.6Mb, while it clocked in at a lacklustre 17.6Mb, despite having 75% 4G coverage.

To be fair, the poor average speed might have something to do with the variability in coverage provided by each of the four main mobile operators.

As the below images - provided by OpenSignal - show, some 4G networks are more extensive than others.

EE 4G coverage

Source: OpenSignal, EE 4G coverage

Three 4G coverage

Source: OpenSignal, Three 4G coverage

O2 4G coverage

Source: OpenSignal, O2 4G coverage

Vodafone 4G coverage

Source: OpenSignal, Vodafone 4G coverage

Based on the above graphs, it would seem that O2 just about have the most extensive 4G network in Brighton, with EE not very far behind, and with Vodafone and Three coming up from behind.

Yet EE would most likely have the best performing network overall, since national studies from RootMetrics have repeatedly found their network to be the best nationwide in terms of data, speed, texts, calls and reliability.

On the other hand, when it comes to customer service, EE don't always fare so well, since while Ofcom's complaints tables now show that they attract relatively few complaints, they've had problems with customer issues in the past.

mobile complaints

Source: Ofcom, Latest telecoms and pay-TV complaints, June 28th, 2017

Conclusions

With all the foregoing in mind, it's time to draw some conclusions.

Firstly, the ISP customers go for all depends on where exactly in the Brighton & Hove area they live.

If they live in Virgin Media-served areas, and they want higher speeds, they might want to go for them.

That said, if they're in more of an Openreach area, Sky are often the best overall, particularly if customers want television added to their broadband bundle. Then again, TalkTalk or Plusnet may be better for those who want to save a bit of money.

And as we just saw, EE are generally the best when it comes to 4G coverage and performance, although customers looking for extras and special deals may be more tempted by O2, for example, whose O2 Priority service grants customers deals on tickets and various cultural events.

Regardless, it's always recommended that customers read our reviews for each provider before committing to any one in particular. That way they can be sure they're getting something they really want.


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