One of the more noticeable, if not surprising, aspects of the UK’s broadband industry has been not just the presence, but degree of success, of alternative providers (altnets), and the annual study of the UK full-fibre broadband industry from Broadband Savvy has identified altnet Community Fibre as the UK’s leading provider.
To be included in the study, each fibre network provider has to cover at least 50,000 residential premises in the UK, as of the latest data released by the supplier. Broadband Savvy scored each provider based on a range of factors, taking into account current monthly costs for a 900-1,130Mbps connection, upfront costs (if any), premises covered, upload speed, number of contract length options, whether the provider can increase prices mid-contract, and how much monthly costs increase at the end of the contract.
And just as the UK government begins, slowly but surely, to advance full-fibre networks across the country, altnets are ramping up the pace of deployment – and, as the study showed, these are being taken up. The new top 10 comprises Community Fibre, Hyperoptic, toob, Lightspeed, Netomnia, CityFibre, Brsk, Zzoomm, Lit Fibre and Lightning Fibre. Virgin Media was just outside the top 10, while UK broadband leader Openreach was some way down the rankings.
Owned by funds advised by Warburg Pincus LLC, DTCP Railpen and NDIF, Community Fibre now claims to be the UK capital’s largest 100% full-fibre broadband provider. The altnet’s initial £400m investment in 2020, followed by a finance facility of £985m closed in October 2022, have enabled the company to continue to execute its rapid roll-out of a full-fibre broadband network to 2.2 million London homes by the end of 2024.
The provider has expanded its network footprint by as much as 75% over the past 12 months, and claims to have firmly established itself as a faster, more sustainable, more affordable broadband provider, with more than a million residential properties now able to connect to its gigabit broadband services.
In the study, Community Fibre was found to be the best gigabit broadband provider in the UK, in large part because of how price-competitive it is. Gigabit broadband costs £25.00 per month with Community Fibre – significantly lower than the average across all UK networks, which was found to be £43.40. For new customers, Community Fibre offers the choice of a 12-month or 24-month contract. When the initial agreement is over, the monthly cost rises to £27.00 – just an 8% increase – although Community Fibre has provisions in place to implement mid-contract price rises.
Significantly, and in a boost to users of video applications, users also get access to gigabit upload speeds. Although its tariffs do have an upfront cost, the £14.95 connection fee was found to be much lower than what most other providers charge.
Although not as cheap as Community Fibre, second place Hyperoptic’s broadband offering performs extremely well in other areas. Users get symmetrical download and upload speeds, and the service was by February 2023 available to 1.15 million homes, making the company the second biggest altnet in the country, behind CityFibre. Hyperoptic also offers the choice of a one-month, 12-month or 24-month contract with no upfront costs, and a promise of no mid-contract price rises.
Third place toob is currently accelerating gigabit broadband across the south of England, and the survey highlighted the company as the UK’s cheapest gigabit broadband provider. Users can buy a broadband package with a 900Mbps download speed and a 900Mbps upload speed for £25.00 per month, nearly a third of what some other providers are offering.