EE home broadband: our review
EE have an interesting history when it comes to their home broadband.
As Orange, they had more than their fair share of customer service problems and when they relaunched as EE they lost popularity by withdrawing free broadband and various discounts for Orange, T-mobile and EE mobile customers.
They made up for that in some respects by widening their availability to everyone, not just existing customers - and now they're part of BT, the UK's biggest broadband network.
For the time being they seem keen to keep their separate identity, complete with their own clever little TV service.
Is it worth joining them? Read on to find out.
Prices: how cheap is it?
Let's start with the basics: here are the standard costs of EE's three broadband deals, all of which come with free weekend calls.
Now that EE come under BT's umbrella, they no longer charge extra for customers who would have been considered "off-net" in the days of Orange Broadband. That's a welcome change, as it cost £15 a month more, and came with a 20GB limit.
As their fibre is resold BT Infinity, at the time of this update it should be available in just over 90% of the UK.
Still, it's worth checking whether the service is available using our postcode checker here.
If it is, there are usually a few offers available - and for those who are fed up with their existing ISP, EE offer up to £50 towards exit fees:
EE Home Broadband Latest Offers
So that's the prices covered. But here are four other things we think are worth knowing:
- Users must take EE line rental: As with most providers, it's not possible to go elsewhere, but at least weekend calls - those made on Saturday or Sunday, not Friday evening or early Monday morning - are inclusive. Getting more will cost from £6.50 a month - more below. But there is a pay upfront line rental option, which lowers the price: more here.
- EE mobile customers get an extra 5GB of data on their plan: Back in their early days, EE broadband came with a discount for existing EE (or Orange/T-mobile) mobile. In June 2014 they replaced that perk with more mobile data - but only for customers with 4G phones and contracts - that is, people with EE, not legacy Orange or T-mobile customers.
- There are connection fees: Standard broadband doesn't require a sign up fee but people taking fibre face a charge of £25. Customers who have a BT-compatible line (i.e. those moving from Sky or TalkTalk) will be transferred free of charge, but those who need a completely new line for some reason will need to factor in a £60 charge.
- There are cheaper ISPs: For a while EE were almost the UK's cheapest ISP, with low line rental compared to the big providers, made even cheaper by a highly competitive upfront deal. But as they've grown they've become more expensive, so now there are cheaper options.
Here's how they compare to the other main providers:
As we said above, EE line rental is mandatory and, without paying more, only weekend calls - midnight Friday to midnight Sunday - are inclusive.
Upgrading home phone to unlimited anytime UK landline calls, 1,500 minutes of calls to UK mobiles and up to 1,000 minutes of calls to 40 international landline destinations costs from £6.50 a month.
Alternatively, the International Extra bundle gives customers another 500 minutes of international calls (that's 1,500 a month in total) to another 42 countries (a total of 82 call destinations), plus 30% off calls to all other international landlines, also for £6.50 a month.
- Anytime Mobile calls: £6.50/month
- International Extra: £6.50/month
- Anytime mobile calls + International Extra: £13/month
For those who stick with weekend-only calls, "inclusive" includes calls to UK landlines starting 01, 02, and 03 for 60 minutes at a time. Calls to 0800 and 0808 numbers are free at all times.
During inclusive periods, EE will cover the access charge part of the cost of calling 084, 087, 09, and 118 numbers, but users will pay the service charge portion. Outside inclusive periods, calls to these numbers will incur an access charge of 11p per minute.
There's a 20p call set up charge for non inclusive calls; calls to landlines will then be charged at 12.5p per minute, while calls to mobiles will cost 15p per minute.
Although it's not obvious from the above tables, line rental from EE now costs £18.50 a month, which puts them at the expensive end of standard.
It's not all that long ago that EE were among the cheapest providers when it came to line rental, because of their upfront payment option.
While some providers have scrapped upfront line rental with the move to all-inclusive pricing, EE still offer it: £199 for 12 months (the equivalent of £16.58 a month) or £299 for 18 months (£16.61 a month).
Weekend calls are still included, unlike with some other providers' upfront deals.
How's the broadband?
Orange broadband didn't have a great reputation for reliability and speeds.
The LLU network sputtered along for a few years before throwing in the towel and switching over to the BT Wholesale network. The deal was signed in April 2010 and the exchange switch was completed in November 2011.
Since then, service has improved somewhat, though EE are still by no means topping any tables.
EE fibre is also a BT Wholesale product.
In the last Ofcom speed tests, published in March 2016, EE had reached the stage where they have enough customers taking each of their three products to provide reliable results for all of them.
Their ADSL broadband is at the faster edge of standard - but the difference is less than 1Mb between them and most of their competition. Their up to 38Mb fibre is also pretty standard in comparison.
But their up to 76Mb fibre is the fastest on average in Ofcom's tests, beating closest rival BT by a good 2-4Mb even at peak times.
|Broadband||24 hours||Peak time: 8-10pm weekdays|
|Up to 17Mb||8.9Mb to 11.5Mb||8.7Mb to 11.3Mb|
|Up to 38Mb||33.3Mb to 35.2Mb||32.9Mb to 34.8Mb|
|Up to 76Mb||59.9Mb to 64.7Mb||59.2Mb to 64.0Mb|
This is despite EE's fibre broadband basically being the same product as BT Infinity. Head over to our review for more.
EE broadband is completely unlimited - not a fair use policy in sight.
But while they've ditched the old fair use policy, peer to peer users or other heavy downloaders should note that EE do manage traffic on their ADSL network - and their definition of peak hours is rather broad.
Good free routers
Like pretty much every big broadband provider, EE offer a free router. There are two versions: the EE BrightBox for ADSL and the BrightBox 2 for fibre connections.
Both BrightBoxes are among the better free routers on the market. They have twin aerials and automatic wireless channel hopping, which can help increase speeds and reliability throughout the home.
In addition, BrightBox has four 100Mb Ethernet ports and one USB 2.0 port.
BrightBox 2 has three Ethernet ports, a USB port, and a one gigabit Ethernet port - but this isn't what really differentiates it.
The BrightBox 2 works with the 802.11ac protocol, which will give faster speeds and greater wireless range, as well as including a VDSL2 modem so fibre customers only need the one box.
In addition, EE say the wi-fi signal from the Bright Box 2 is twice as strong as that from its predecessor - and it was awarded Best Buy 2014 by Which? for ease of use.
How's their TV?
In October 2014, EE launched what they called "the UK's most advanced television service", free of charge for people who took both their broadband and mobile services.
The service is still only available to EE customers, and while the basic package hasn't changed, the price has.
It's now being advertised on EE's website as being available from £5 a month - on top of the cost of our broadband and line rental - despite only being a supercharged Freeview box.
We say supercharged, because it has four tuners and a 1TB hard drive - better than most standard set top boxes from other pay TV providers - and it can stream channels or recordings to up to three different devices at the same time.
With the latest update to the box and app, it's also possible to download recordings to our mobile devices to keep and take with us.
When it was launched it was basically a new way of getting Freeview, giving users access to more than 70 digital TV channels and the usual seven day catch-up services.
Now, however, it's got a few extras added: customers can add a premium channel bundle featuring 25 paid-for channels for £4.99 a month, and among the on demand services are Now TV and Wuaki.TV, giving users access to TV box sets, films, and sports events without subscription.
How's the service?
Orange broadband's customer service was infamous down the years, at least among broadband reviewers, for never quite delivering on its promises.
A couple of years ago the head of Orange broadband even apologised for the poor service customers had received.
"Our objective is to get to a point where we are no longer ashamed of what we are doing to our customers - or, to put it positively, where we are proud of what we are doing to our customers," he said.
So have EE turned things around?
We don't want to jinx things for them, but they do appear to be heading in the right direction.
Ofcom figures looking at complaints up until the end of September 2016 show that EE have recovered significantly from their position as the most complained about broadband provider among the biggest ISPs.
Fixed line broadband complaints per 100,000 customers
SOURCE: Ofcom Telecoms and Pay TV Complaints, December 2016. Available here [pdf].
That's testament to the commitment they made in September 2015 to improve customer service, following several years when they were, as their customer service officer Francoise Clemes put it, "simply not good enough".
Even during their worst moments, however, many EE customers have had a decent and hassle free service - and customer numbers continued to rise.
All in all
EE started out as a budget broadband provider, with very nearly the cheapest broadband deal in the UK.
They're no longer at the cheaper end of the market, but they do offer decent upgrades on their basic deal - and their customer service, once a serious concern, now shows signs of being much better.
That said, it'll be interesting to see how they continue to fare now they're a part of BT, given their new owner's own chequered customer service record.
Most people reading this will have had some contact with EE already as mobile phone customers - and we think it's generally fair to base any judgements on that.