Is Sky broadband any good?
THINK Sky and the first thing most of us think of is satellite TV.
Does that make Sky broadband just a bolted on service for their pay TV customers? Is Sky broadband any good?
We'll aim to find out - focusing on connection quality and value for money - in this full review.
First though, let's take a quick look at the latest deal Sky are offering on their most popular package, unlimited standard broadband:
Sky Broadband Latest Offers
Sky broadband in brief
Sky have five broadband options: 12GB, Unlimited, Fibre, Fibre Unlimited, and Fibre Max. The ADSL packages come with 12-month contracts; the fibre deals require a commitment of at least 18 months. All of them rely on taking Sky line rental, which costs £18.99 a month.
Readers who think they remember a completely free broadband package for Sky TV customers would be right: Sky Broadband 12GB replaced the old Lite package, which was Sky's truly "free broadband" deal, in summer 2016.
Lite came with the UK's smallest monthly download limit for home broadband - just 2GB per month - making it suitable only for those who do the odd bit of browsing and emailing.
By comparison, the new 12GB package offers a slightly more realistic data cap for £5 a month, although it is sometimes possible to get it free of charge with a special offer.
Broadband Unlimited is by far the most popular option, although more and more homes are taking fibre.
Anyone for whom 38Mb isn't fast enough should check to see if they're in an area where they can get Fibre Max, which is Sky's 76Mb service.
on Sky TV?
Now we've got the basics, let's take a closer look: we'll start off with prices, then move on to their speeds and usage limits (skip ahead), as well as extras like the free router and wi-fi (skip ahead).
Crunching the numbers: prices
Sky are fairly competitive on price, especially compared to their main rivals, BT and Virgin Media - and they frequently run a range of deals that bring their prices down further.
Here are some of Sky's current special offers:
For those who want to add Sky Broadband to Sky TV, the first thing to note is that all Sky's TV bundles now come with 18 month minimum terms - although customers should have separate contracts for each service.
Bearing that in mind, plus the fact that the Original Bundle usually costs £22 a month, here are the total monthly prices for Sky Broadband with and without the basic Sky TV service:
Compare more package options and check availability here.
Note the column for upfront costs.
There's usually a £9.95 for the delivery of the Sky Broadband hub; occasionally Sky offer it free of charge.
Otherwise there are no broadband-specific setup charges for those planning to take the 12GB or Unlimited Broadband deals, whether they're new to Sky or upgrading to add it on top of a TV bundle.
People who are completely new to Sky Broadband and going for fibre will pay £39; those who already have Sky Broadband and want to upgrade to fibre will be charged £50. Those buying TV at the same time may often benefit from reduced setup fees.
If there's a working BT-compatible phone line to the premises, switching from an existing supplier to Sky should be free. If there is a line, but it's not BT-compatible, or if an entirely new line is required, there's a connection fee of £20. Find out more here.
Not all of the packages above will be available to all households, especially the Sky fibre broadband deals.
Check availability by postcode and home phone number here:
Enter your phone number and / or postcode above to check availability in your area.
Sky don't offer the UK's cheapest standalone broadband or line rental (see who does here), but because of their flair for tempting upgrade offers, they may well be the cheapest option for those who want or already have Sky TV.
Adding in calls
As we've noted above, Sky broadband is only available to customers who are also willing to switch their home phone to Sky, a rule that almost all broadband providers have now.
Sky line rental is now £18.99 a month, the same as BT and Virgin Media charge - but unlike BT and Virgin Media, Sky don't offer a pay upfront option. Paying in a lump sum can knock at least 10% of the cost of paying month by month over the year, so it's often worth considering.
What's more, Sky also don't include any calls with their line rental, so anyone wanting a call package will need to pay for the privilege. The provider's call plans break down as follows:
|Pay As You Talk||Talk Evenings And Weekends Extra||Talk Anytime Extra||Talk International Extra|
|Free||£4 extra per month||£8 extra per month||£12 extra per month|
|No inclusive calls||Inclusive evening and weekend calls to UK mobiles and UK landlines, including 0845 and 0870 numbers||Inclusive anytime calls to UK mobiles and UK landlines, including 0845 and 0870 numbers; 2p per minute call rates to 22 international destinations||Inclusive anytime calls to UK mobiles and UK landlines, including 0845 and 0870 numbers; landlines in 50 countries, and mobiles in Canada, Hong Kong and the US|
Whichever call package we choose, Sky include calls to UK mobiles in their bundles. As with most other home phone providers, the length of inclusive calls with Sky is 60 minutes.
The connection fee for calls to UK landlines is 19p; we'll then be charged at 12.54p per minute.
Calls to mobiles will cost 19.35p per minutes during daytime hours, and 14.25p per minute at evenings and weekends. The access charge for calls to 08 numbers, 09, and 118 numbers is 11.5p per minute, but calls to 0800 and 0808 numbers are free of charge.
As mentioned above, any households needing a new phone line installed - the unsure should read this guide - will need to pay a £20 set up fee.
Up to speed?
Speeds dictate Sky broadband prices to a large degree, as follows:
|Up to 17Mb
Average 9.5Mb - 11.2Mb
|Up to 38Mb
Average 34.4Mb - 36.4Mb
|Up to 76Mb
Average 58.3Mb - 65.2Mb
Fibre Unlimited: £20
|Fibre Max: £25|
Figures are averages over 24 hours, as reported by Ofcom in March 2016.
Fibre really does result in faster speeds. As always, the average standard broadband user will get considerably slower speeds than the up to 17Mb Sky advertise - so the ISP now include the "average UK download speed" customers can expect for comparison.
Sky ADSL and fibre broadband run on the BT network, although there are some differences between the providers. There's more on those differences here.
A few years ago, Sky customers were among the most likely to escape peak time speed degradation caused by contention - but now, according to Ofcom, those with Sky's standard broadband connections are the worst affected.
Sky don't impose any form of restriction on downloads on their unlimited deals: no fair use policy, no traffic management and definitely no download cap.
They were the first ISP to bring in this "truly unlimited" policy, though BT began offering a similarly unrestricted service in February 2013; TalkTalk's service is similarly unrestricted.
Read our network management article for more on how this actually affects broadband; most Sky unlimited users just seem to enjoy the peace of mind.
Get by on 12GB
As we said above, Sky Broadband 12GB is an improvement on the old 2GB cap that came with Lite, but it's still only suitable for households that don't do a huge amount of browsing, and certainly not the right choice for anyone who likes streaming audio or video.
Watching the odd bit of iPlayer should be okay, but more regular streamers - including those who use any of Sky's on demand TV services - could well find themselves going over that limit.
Anyone who wants more guidance about whether they're likely to go over Sky's data limits - from 12GB to the 25GB allowance that comes with their entry level fibre - should read our guide.
Extras: free router, wi-fi and parental controls
Sky now offer two different wireless routers. Customers getting Sky Broadband on its own will be offered their standard router, pictured to the right.
Those getting their broadband with TV (now sold with the Sky Q equipment as standard), or ordering Sky Fibre Max, will get the newer Sky Q hub free of charge. As well as looking a little sleeker, it works with other Sky Q devices to provide a better wi-fi signal all over the house.
Read our review of the routers over here.
Customers taking anything other than Sky Broadband 12GB also get free access to wi-fi hotspots from The Cloud.
There are thousands of hotspots across the UK, some in branches of big chains including Pret, Caffe Nero and Eat.
Like the rest of the big five broadband providers, Sky also offer all their broadband customers good, router level, parental controls, which we've reviewed in full here.
Since July 2016, all new customers will have found these controls switched on automatically for them. Their browsing will be restricted to sites suitable for those aged 13 and under until 9pm at night when the filters are lifted.
Anyone wanting to change these settings can do so by logging in to their account - which they'll be prompted to do if they try to access a filtered site.
Support check: how's Sky customer service?
In years past Sky Broadband's customer service wasn't always held in high esteem.
More recently, however, they've really outdone themselves: this time last year, Ofcom revealed that among the big providers, Sky had surged ahead of Virgin, their nearest competition in terms of customer satisfaction.
The two often swap first and second place in Ofcom's ratings, but after being narrowly beaten by Virgin in December 2014, Sky now have an 80% customer satisfaction rating, compared to 70% for Virgin.
Ofcom aren't the only ones to rate them: Sky do well in independent surveys as well.
In a PC Pro survey, for example, Sky got a 62% customer service rating - not the highest, but of the biggest ISPs only Virgin and Plusnet beat them.
Sky offer 24/7 technical support (numbers here). Calls to their customer service numbers are free of charge when calling from a Sky landline; if it's the phone line that's the problem, Sky use an 03 number, so it should be included in most mobile call plans.
Existing Sky customers
We're aware that some people reading this article will be Sky TV customers wondering whether to add broadband to their existing deal.
Not wanting to leave anyone out when it comes to a special offer or two, Sky often run deals for existing customers who are thinking of upgrading.
At present they're offering cheaper fibre connections for those who have Sky TV but don't already have Sky Talk or Sky Broadband:
|Offer||Additional monthly price|
|£8.99 a month off the cost of any Sky Fibre package for 18 months, with Sky TV||From £20 to £35 a month|
As we've seen, Sky are very focused on their pay TV business, so existing TV customers often get the best value for money and standards of care.
Take, for example, when Sky bought O2 and Be broadband and migrated their customers on to the Sky network. Many of them were unhappy with the change - even though Sky soon brought in very similar deals and offered low prices.
In addition, Sky have been investigated for customer service issues relating to their retention practises - or, as many frustrated customers would rather it was called, their refusal to let them leave.
Standalone customers should really look elsewhere first, particularly if they're looking for cheaper deals or simpler customer service.
Summing up Sky
All in all, Sky deliver much more than a basic add-on to their satellite TV: in fact, completely unlimited downloads and their improving technical support have made Sky's offerings some of the best liked and best value broadband deals around.
In fact, they've impressed us so much in the past year that we awarded them Best Overall in our first ISP Awards:
On the other hand, Broadband 12GB does fit the add-on description pretty well, and can be matched or easily beaten elsewhere.