Plusnet broadband review
PLUSNET sell themselves as customer service superheroes with super low prices. But do those claims stack up? We've taken a look to find out.
Plusnet gained the "UK's cheapest broadband" crown on the strength of their old Essentials package, which had a 10GB download limit. But with most providers moving towards unlimited data, Plusnet withdrew Essentials in June 2014.
In a bid to keep the crown, however, they occasionally run a variation of their basic Unlimited deal at a reduced cost - for at least part of the initial contract.
Read on for Plusnet's latest special offers and their current package prices, or use the menu to the right to jump down for more detail.
Plusnet special offers
Plusnet regularly offer introductory discounts and joining incentives for new customers on their broadband deals. Here are their latest special offers available by signing up below:
Plusnet broadband prices
Plusnet are among the cheapest compared to the other budget providers, here is how much Plusnet broadband costs at the moment:
Since October 2016, the price of a provider's line rental is no longer immediately obvious; all broadband deals must be advertised at their total price.
For those who are interested, Plusnet's line rental currently stands at £17.99 a month although this will soon increase to £18.99 when Plusnet implement their price increases on 29th June 2017.
As a rule of thumb, they're usually about a year behind the other big providers in terms of price: look at what BT were charging this time last year, and that'll be roughly what Plusnet customers will be paying now.
We look more closely at Plusnet's home phone service below.
Having said that, unlike other providers Plusnet do allow customers to take their broadband without having to take their phone service.
|Package||Broadband||Contract terms||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|Unlimited||Up to 17Mb
|Unlimited Fibre||Up to 38Mb
|Unlimited Fibre Extra||Up to 76Mb
But we still haven't answered the question: are Plusnet still among the cheapest in the UK?
Well, here's how they compare to their biggest standard broadband rivals:
Usually their offers help to significantly drive down overall costs, helping Plusnet retain their cheapest supplier crown. But even when they don't run offers Plusnet are still amongst the cheapest around.
Plusnet home phone (if you want it)
While the price for stand alone broadband may look cheaper at first glance, bear in mind that line rental is still required from another provider to secure the line.
Also with Plusnet, when opting for the line rental and broadband service customers get a reduced activation fee, which is sometimes even free of charge.
If these reasons aren't tempting enough, it's also worth mentioning that Plusnet's home phone service actually offers pretty good value.
Phone packages and extras
It used to be the case that anyone who took a Plusnet phone line would automatically get weekend calls, but like TalkTalk and Sky, Plusnet have removed the inclusive call element of their basic phone package.
Even fibre customers have to pay more to get any kind of inclusive calls.
There are two basic bundles to choose from, both including calls to UK landlines and mobiles, as well as to 0845 and 0870 numbers. The Evening & Weekend calls bundle costs £4 a month; the Unlimited UK, anytime version will cost £8 extra a month.
There are limits to the amount of mobile calls customers will be able to make. For the Evening & Weekend plan calls are only free for the first 60 minutes, between the hours of 7pm and 7am Monday to Friday and all day on weekends, and there's a fair use restriction of 1,000 minutes a month. While the Unlimited plan has a monthly limit of 2,000 minutes for free mobile calls.
For those who need or want international calls, there's a third option. Anytime International allows 300 inclusive minutes to all landlines listed in Plusnet's top 35 international destinations, plus a couple of international mobile numbers. This is on top of inclusive UK landline calls and calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers but does not include any free mobile calls.
However, customers can add a mobile bolt-on for £3 which will give them 300 inclusive minutes for calls to UK mobiles.
|Call plan||You get||Price per month|
|Evening & Weekend UK & Mobile
(7pm to 7am Mon-Fri, all Sat & Sun)
|Calls to UK landlines
0845 and 0870 numbers
1,000 minutes to UK mobiles
|Unlimited UK & Mobile||Calls to UK landlines
0845 and 0870 numbers
2,000 minutes to UK mobiles
|Anytime International||Calls to UK landlines
0845 and 0870 numbers
300 minutes to landlines in 35 international destinations + mobiles in US and Canada
|Mobile bolt on||100 anytime minutes to UK mobiles||£3.00|
For more details on how total costs change with any of the call plans - search Plusnet's deals here.
Calls outside inclusive times are now charged at the same rates as they are by BT: the call connection fee is 19p, and calls to UK landlines and mobiles cost 12.54p per minute.
Note that 0845 and 0870 numbers count as UK landlines within inclusive periods; otherwise they're treated like other 08 numbers, and like calls to 09 and 118 numbers, will incur an access charge of 9.58p per minute.
All packages also offer free basic voicemail, and free anytime calls to Plusnet support and other Plusnet phone customers.
Extra features - like caller ID and a more advanced voicemail service - cost from 99p to £4 a month, although most are around £2.50.
|Voicemail Extra||Caller Display||Anonymous call reject||Reminder Call, Call waiting, Call divert, Ringback|
It's worth noting that Plusnet allow customers to bundle call features. Taking two will cost £3.00 extra a month, and each extra service will add £1.50 to the total bundle price, up to £7.50 for five.
Ringback and Reminder call services are also available on a pay per use basis, at 20p per time.
Plusnet are currently set to implement a price increase of £1 on all services which will take effect this summer. This puts them ahead of the bulk of ISPs for price rises, and will have the effect of making them look less cheap comparatively for a short period of time until the others catch up.
But as they're a little cheaper than the Big Four to begin with, they usually regain their edge within a few months - as happened in 2014 when a rash of rivals announced their price rises just in time for Christmas.
It used to be the case that canny customers could benefit even further from Plusnet's upfront line rental deal, which brings down the equivalent monthly cost of line rental. Up until September 2015 it cost just £155.88 a year, equivalent to £12.99 a month.
Now, however, it costs £185.88 a year, or £15.49 a month - which makes it one of the cheaper line rental deals around as long as we're happy to commit.
Plusnet are among the cheapest available when it comes to fibre services too, and it's often a fight between TalkTalk and Plusnet as to which of them offers the very cheapest deals.
Even so, Virgin Media (who we look at in more detail here) aren't that much more expensive.
Finally, note that, historically, Plusnet have kept prices low by only passing the biggest discounts on to those in the most competitive areas, which are the cheapest to supply. The UK's exchanges used to be split into three categories, known as Markets 1, 2, and 3, in order of increasing competition.
Until July 2012, Plusnet reserved their cheapest prices for those in Market 3 areas, but after this they extended their reach to those in the then Market 2 exchanges.
A couple of years back, Markets 2 and 3 were reclassified as Market B, and Market 1 became Market A - and as competition has increased, some Market A exchanges have been reclassified as Market B.
The result of all those changes now means that Plusnet's best deals are broadly available to just as many customers as those from other providers - including many who until recently were still missing out on lower prices.
In June 2015 customers whose exchanges had been reclassified as more competitive began to receive refunds to cover the difference in what they had been paying.
For those who really are served by the least competitive exchanges - in the most rural areas, for example - might want to consider John Lewis (see our full review here), who resell Plusnet but don't apply geographical pricing.
Yes, Plusnet are still one of the cheapest ISPs out there - but they're no longer always the cheapest.
So what else have they got to offer?
Youview TV on Plusnet
Trials had been running for some years, but in May 2015, Plusnet finally unveiled their Youview TV service.
Only available to their fibre customers, it comes with a minimum 18 month contract - but prices start at just £5 a month, regardless of whether customers opt for the basic Youview box or the Youview+ box.
The basic box is small and neat, and allows users to pause or rewind live TV for up to 30 minutes for SD programmes and up to 15 minutes for HD programmes.
Youview+ is a larger box - to accommodate the 500GB hard drive that can store about 125 hours of HD content, or 300 hours of SD TV.
Both boxes are free to subscribers, although the better box comes with a £50 activation fee, and a £7.99 postage fee applies to both.
Whichever box subscribers pick, they get more than 70 Freeview TV and radio channels - and 20 "premium" entertainment channels as standard:
|Alibi*||Animal Planet*||British Eurosport 1*||British Eurosport 2*|
|BT Sport 1*||Comedy Central*||Crime and Investigation*||Discovery Channel*|
|Discovery: Investigation||E!*||History Channel*||Lifetime*|
|MTV*||National Geographic*||Nat Geo Wild*||Sony|
*channels available in HD for £3 a month; see below.
Note the inclusion of BT Sport 1 in that list. Users can upgrade to the full BT Sport pack, including BT Sport Europe, for an extra £5 a month.
Customers can choose to add a couple of other channel bundles to their package, for £3 a month each. In terms of extra channels, there are two to choose from:
|Entertainment Plus||Comedy Central Extra, MTV Music, Movies 24, H2, TCM, Eden, Good Food, Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo|
|Kids||Disney Channel, Disney Jnr, Disney XD
Nickelodeon, Nick Junior, Nick Toons
Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Cartoonito
Or there's the HD pack, which offers HD versions of the starred channels in the Entertainment pack above, as well as Dave (included in the free to view channel line-up). Anyone who has the full BT Sport pack will also get all those channels in HD as well.
As with other Youview providers, the channels' own catch-up services are included - that's BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, and My 5, as well as Milkshake!, UKTV (for Dave, Really and Yesterday), Quest, and where applicable, STV Player and S4C.
While it took BT and TalkTalk a while to be able to offer Netflix, it's been available from the start on Plusnet's boxes. Existing subscribers can simply log in; those wanting to join can sign up through their TVs.
Customer service superheroes
Plusnet's reputation for customer service has, for a long time, beaten that of most of the larger providers.
They've made it their focus by providing:
- a free customer service line from a Plusnet landline, and a 0800 number if the problem is the landline, which is charged at a standard rate even from a mobile - and therefore comes under most people's inclusive minutes;
- an online ticket system for tracking and resolving non urgent problems, which means multiple call centre staff can easily collaborate and co-ordinate; and
- text updates.
The provider's own polls obviously show high levels of customer satisfaction, but independent surveys also rate them highly, especially compared to the other big providers - and they rank in our top five for customer service.
However, as they've grown larger we've, perhaps inevitably, heard more complaints regarding the quality of the support on offer.
In early 2014, we reported that Plusnet customers had been experiencing long waiting times to get through to customer services. Plusnet told us that's been resolved by opening a second call centre. Yet a recent report by Ofcom found that of all providers, Plusnet had the longest waiting times.
They also came in for criticism over the way they handled a serious service outage in autumn 2015.
They do work hard to put things right though, and their reputation for service is still pretty good, but "heroes" might be pushing it these days.
Although Plusnet prices and their broadband - see below - make them a good provider in many ways, there are better providers out there for service.
The nitty gritty: broadband
Finally, let's get into the details: broadband speeds, usage limits and contracts.
Plusnet's standard deals are now advertised as up to 17Mb. According to figures released by Ofcom in April 2017, the ISP's actual averages are:
|24-hour average||Peak (8-10pm weekdays)|
|Up to 17Mb||9.6Mb to 11.4Mb||9.5Mb to 11.3Mb|
SOURCE: Ofcom, UK Home Broadband Performance, April 2017. Available here [pdf].
For a while in 2013 they were the UK's fastest provider for up to 16Mb, and after slowing down in 2014, they regained their fastest ADSL2+ title again last year. Yet it seems they've slipped again, losing out to Sky and EE, who achieved 24-hour averages of 10.1Mb to 11.5Mb and 9.4Mb to 11.7Mb, respectively. But there wasn't much between them.
Also speed may not be everything. According to our own, highly scientific tests, Plusnet's high speeds come at the cost of increased variability; TalkTalk may be slower, but their speed is more consistent. See how they compare with each other in more detail here.
Plusnet fibre broadband is now taken by enough people to be counted separately in Ofcom's figures. In Ofcom's last survey, they measured up like this:
|24-hour average||Peak (8-10pm weekdays)|
|Up to 38Mb||31Mb to 33.5Mb||30.1Mb to 32.7Mb|
|Up to 76Mb||54.6Mb to 57.7Mb||53.9Mb to 57Mb|
In the up to 38Mb category, Sky and EE have once again outperformed Plusnet with 24-hour averages of 33Mb to 34.6Mb and 33.6Mb to 35.2Mb, respectively.
In addition Sky, EE and BT all beat them with faster speeds in the 76Mb category. Sky achieved a 24-hour average speed between 54.3Mb to 59.9Mb, while EE was between 56.3Mb to 60.8Mb and BT's between 57.9Mb to 60.7Mb.
Overall it looks like the speed differences in both the 38Mb and 76Mb categories were slightly bigger than those in the 17Mb one.
Plusnet have previously ranked as one of the fastest ISPs for upload speeds, with their up to 76Mb fibre service offering average speeds above 16Mb, yet according to Ofcom's latest report they've slipped on this figure too.
However, we must admit that there isn't a big difference between the providers overall for uploads and Plusnet are still up there with the fastest.
Although speeds may have dropped recently, all in all Plusnet still rank as one of our top four for fibre broadband in the UK.
More on traffic management
Plusnet are unusual in that they take considerable effort to explain their traffic management system, so it's worth mentioning here.
All traffic management aims to keep speeds up by prioritising the activities that we need to keep running quickly and smoothly as we go about our day-to-day online business - like browsing the web, for example - and slowing others, like downloading files.
There's also a limiting system that restricts certain activities - such as P2P file sharing and streaming - at peak times.
Plusnet's traffic management system is slightly different from others, however, in that it does all this on a house-by-house basis - no Plusnet home will be slowed down for the sake of another. Instead, it's the traffic within the house itself that's monitored and controlled.
Traffic is prioritised simply enough, using High, Medium and Low classifications:
- High: VoIP and gaming
- Medium: Browsing and email, streaming, VPN, FTP, "all other online activity"
- Low: Updating software, P2P
While it's not immediately obvious to casual browsers of the Plusnet site, customers can select a Pro add on at a cost of £5 a month, which appears in the Add-ons section of the members' area.
For this, customers are promised lower latency and ping times. Their online usage is all given High or Medium priority:
- High: VoIP and gaming, VPN, FTP, "all other online activity"
- Medium: Browsing and email, streaming, software updates, P2P
This is worth knowing about, especially for those looking at fibre: often when we say we want fast broadband, actually we want something more like broadband that doesn't stall.
That's what Plusnet are going out of their way to try to offer here.
Plusnet users used to pay based on monthly usage but, since June 2014 all their deals have come with unlimited data. Considering they only started to offer unlimited packages in 2012, that's a quick turnaround.
They're also one of only a handful of providers to offer a no contract option, with a minimum term of 30 days on their standard broadband plus phone package.
Note that while some providers now sell fibre broadband on flexible terms, Plusnet don't - and if we want their flexible ADSL, we also have to take their home phone line.
The price of that flexibility is usually £30.48 - but Plusnet sometimes offer their flexible deals on promotional terms for new customers: recently it's been showing as £22.99 a month for the first 12 months.
While contracts at least a year long are standard practice in the broadband world, Plusnet's flexible contracts mean that customers can leave at any time with 30 days notice and no penalties.
This might be useful, for example, for student house shares. We've looked at these savings, as well as other short term packages, in our student broadband guide here.
To get more on flexible contracts visit our guide here.
All in all: the best Plusnet deal
All in all, Plusnet broadband deals have a number of unique features - from geographical pricing to a unique traffic management policy - which have seen them slowly garner customers over the years and keep them, even in spite of some rough months in terms of service.
They also remain one of the UK's cheaper ISPs.
Don't forget to keep an eye out for Plusnet's special offers, which are frequently changed.
For more compare all Plusnet's deals here.