Plusnet and Sky both offer decent broadband services but come from vastly different starting points. One is proud of its Yorkshire roots and support for the local community around Leeds and Sheffield, while the other is a massive global brand.
Plusnet was formed in the mid-90s offering dial-up broadband in the UK, while Rupert Murdoch bought Sky broadband to these shores in 2006. Both are fierce rivals when it comes to speed, customer service and pricing, but how do they really measure up?
With the recent introduction of the Advertising Standards Agency ruling, which states that providers must advertise speeds that are available to at least 50% of their customers, it is easier to see who is really offering what. Plusnet customers can get speeds averaging 66Mbps on its broadband deals – ahead of Sky, which only offers an average of 63Mbps with its top fibre package. When it comes to the entry-level fibre package, Plusnet and Sky are neck-and-neck, both offering average speeds of 36Mbps.
Although both Sky and Plusnet operate over the Openreach network, Plusnet just has the edge on speed here – particularly on the top-end fibre package.
Plusnet offers three packages. You can get Unlimited broadband, Unlimited Fibre and Unlimited Fibre Extra. Its Unlimited package offers speeds averaging 10Mbps (previously advertised as up to 17Mbps). Customers can choose a 12 or 18 month contract or a more pricey rolling contract with no fixed term. All offer line rental, unlimited usage and you can add your own call plans.
Sky provides two packages, albeit with less flexibility on contract length. Sky Broadband Essential offers unlimited usage and download speeds of 10Mbps, whereas Sky Broadband Superfast comes in at an average 59Mbps and is also unlimited. Quite the gap between the two. All Sky broadband deals come with an 18-month contract and pay-as-you-talk as standard.
Plusnet wins by offering attractive packages that give customers an option on contract length.
Plusnet has a trophy cabinet bursting with rewards for customer service. It provides support 365 days a year from a UK contact centre.
Plusnet broadband customers are regularly found to be less likely than broadband customers overall to have reasons to complain, according to industry regulator Ofcom . Plusnet also provides live information about answering times on its website, allowing customers to make an informed choice about when to call. You can contact Plusnet through live chat or over the phone between 7.30am and 10pm daily.
Sky also ranks highly for customer satisfaction and wins awards for its services as well as recognition for how complaints are handled when issues arise. It operates a seven-days-a-week service with two-hour flexible appointments as well as live chat online between 7am and 11pm and a telephone contact centre available between 8am and 9pm.
Sky goes a step further for new customers. It operates a Sky Switch Squad that will manage the move for you. This means there are no awkward phone calls with the provider you are leaving. The switch is simply managed by Sky. This works with all suppliers except Virgin Media.
Sky will also refund your service charges if you are not happy and want to leave in the first 30 days after activation.
Another close one. Plusnet deserves a special mention for telling customers how busy their lines are so you can work out the best time to call. But Sky just pips it on a photo finish with its Switch Squad that manages all the hassle of moving for you.
Plusnet’s broadband customers can use an existing router if it is found to be compatible or fibre users will be sent the Plusnet Hub One. This comes with four Ethernet ports and two wireless antennas for 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz wi-fi connections. Unlimited Broadband customers, however, will get a more basic Hub Zero.
Historically, Sky broadband customers would have received a Sky Hub, which offered four Ethernet ports and allowed up to 32 devices to be connected wirelessly at the same time. It only had a 2.4Ghz antenna though.
However all new Sky customers now get a Sky Q Hub, that has two ethernet ports, a 2.4GHz and 5GHz antenna, plus you can connect up to 64 devices.
Sky Hubs are designed to save energy and will automatically switch to low power mode when not in use.
Sky takes the crown on technology and equipment as all customers will receive the same level of kit, unlike Plusnet which makes a distinction between those on broadband and those using fibre.
All Plusnet packages come with online parental control without you needing to download any software. The service is called Plusnet Safeguard and lets you block access to certain websites and select others as safe. You will also get Plusnet Protect security and anti-virus software powered by McAfee. Once installed on your PC, Plusnet Protect will provide anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam protection from malicious software, malicious social networking links and junk email. It uses two-way firewalls to prevent remote hacking access to your PCs and provides protection for up to seven computers.
There are also perks for current Plusnet customers who refer others. Plusnet encourages you to recommend and refer friends and family and will take money off your monthly bill in return. You can earn 75p a month off your bill for recommending someone else to Plusnet. There is no limit to the amount of people you can refer, you just need to have lots of friends and family and obviously be happy to recommend the service or you may well end up annoying some of your peers.
Sky customers also get security features. You will receive a McAfee Internet Security Suite trial for 12 months as well as the Sky Broadband Shield that lets you filter websites and customise your privacy settings into age categories. There is also a nifty watershed feature that allows you to set age rating restrictions depending on the time of day.
Sky customers also get access to the Sky WiFi app. This gives you free and unlimited wi-fi in thousands of popular places across the UK such as coffee shops. It can be used on six registered devices. Many public places will already offer wi-fi by using Cloud hotspots but this gives you an added option where there is less availability.
Both are pretty similar on safety and security. Plusnet differentiates itself with its refer-a-friend service but you would need to recommend a lot of people before the rewards actually make a significant dent in your bill. You can’t put a price on wi-fi on the move though so this aspect makes Sky a winner when it comes to the extras.
Plusnet can be proud of its award-winning customer service, but Sky offers a more all-round package with modern technology and a broader choice of broadband speeds. Sky customers can also benefit if they use its TV services as there are often discounts for signing up to broadband.