London-based TalkTalk or BT-owned, South Yorkshire-based Plusnet? Both providers are competitively priced, both have a decent array of offers across both standard and fibre broadband options and both, on the face of it, offer similar packages.
In this respect, it could still prove difficult to separate Plusnet and TalkTalk. Overall, TalkTalk has the cheaper price options but Plusnet has a very strong customer service record. So, does the cheapest deal always win the day or does reliability play an equally key role in your decision-making process? In a nutshell, you need to consider the following: does it work well? And is it offering value for money?
In terms of download speeds, because both Plusnet and TalkTalk use the Openreach network, they offer very similar speeds – with Plusnet being slightly faster on its top-end fibre package, with an average of 66Mbps against TalkTalk's 63Mbps. On upload speeds, there is also little difference. Both offer an upload speed of up to 1Mbps with standard broadband, and 19Mbps with the top-end fibre packages. On the entry-level fibre packages, Plusnet offers up to 9.5Mbps, but TalkTalk just pips this with up to 10Mbps upload speed.
However, it’s worth pointing out what all this speed actually means and whether an average household actually needs so much of it. Most families who surf the web and share photos should find even 1Mb sufficient upload speed for these requirements. Where it does begin to make a difference is families who have Xbox/PS4 fanatics amongst their throng who begin to throw teddies around the room when games take hours to upload.
Based purely on these statistics, this appears a victory for Plusnet by the slimmest of margins. Regardless of this, download and upload speed will continue to be a key factor for all providers as our continued desire to download videos and upload photos will only increase our need for speed. Our detailed Plusnet broadband review has more information on the provider.
Plusnet’s packages start with Unlimited – a standard broadband deal offering 10Mbps that comes on a 12-month contract and includes a free router. The Unlimited Fibre packages come with two speed options of 36Mbps and 66Mbps. Most of Plusnet’s broadband packages do not incur any set-up fees, with the exception of the 66Mbps Unlimited Fibre deal, which has a small one-off fee.
TalkTalk also has two core options. Fast Broadband offers 11Mb download speed and unlimited usage. Faster Fibre comes with 36Mbps download speed or 63Mbps and both offer unlimited usage. Fast Broadband is available on a 12-month contract whereas the Faster Fibre options are both on 18-month contracts. All packages come with a free router and none of the TalkTalk deals have any one-off or set-up costs.
All Plusnet and TalkTalk packages now include line rental as standard so the price you see advertised is the price you will pay.
As with speed, there really is little to choose between the packages here, apart from the fact that Plusnet holds a slight advantage with its 12-month fibre contract rather than the 18 months for TalkTalk’s fibre options. The pricing is generally only split by a matter of pounds each month – typically in favour of TalkTalk, but how much will reliability and customer satisfaction play a factor?
Plusnet’s customer service is available seven days a week, between 7.30am and 10pm. The helpline call centre is also UK-based. In 2017 Plusnet was awarded Broadband Provider of the Year, Best Value Broadband Provider and, for the third year in a row, Best Provider Customer Service at the uSwitch Broadband and Mobile Awards. Customers of MoneySuperMarket also named it Best for Customer Service in their online poll awards.
A winner of numerous Which? Awards for customer service in the past along with a host of other plaudits from a variety of comparison websites specifically in other areas such as reliability and value for money. All of this comes at no extra cost to you and is included with all Plusnet’s broadband deals.
TalkTalk’s customer service record leaves a lot more to be desired. The company has battled to regain a solid reputation ever since it received a heavy fine from Ofcom in 2011 following a billing error, which affected over 60,000 of its customers. A recent hack into its systems saw more unwanted headlines thrown its way, which put customer account details at risk. However, TalkTalk has never hidden away from its failings in this area and continues to make every effort to rebuild customer trust moving forward.
In a world where cyber crime becomes more prevalent, even the tightest ships are only one hack away from having their hard-earned reputation damaged. Plusnet definitely wins in this area but needs to remain vigilant and not take the goodwill of its customers for granted. You can read more about Plusnet in our Plusnet broadband review.
Not a huge amount to differentiate between each provider here. Both have made significant strides with their equipment over the last twelve months and both now have routers that appear to do their jobs well.
Plusnet packages come with their Hub One Router, which comes with four separate ports and wireless connectivity supporting both fibre optic and standard broadband. Activation fees (whch include outer delivery) vary from zero to £50 upfront, depending on the package and the contract length you choose.
All TalkTalk's broadband plans come with its brand new and improved Wi-Fi Hub router. TalkTalk also states this router provides the strongest signal and the fastest average wireless speeds it has ever been able to produce, allowing you to make the most out of your broadband connection throughout the home.
For extra reliability, the Wi-Fi Hub uses smart dual band technology, reducing wireless interference and dropped connection meaning you can enjoy a Skype or FaceTime session without it constantly cutting out.
Very little to give between the two here. Both providers are taking their router equipment seriously and have faith in their technology to back up their overall packages, recognising this as an area that would cause issues from a customer care position if they didn’t get it right. TalkTalk probably just sneaks this section due to Plusnet’s varying upfront charges.
With Plusnet, you’ll receive a security package called Plusnet Protect, powered by McAfee. Simply install the package on your computer and you’ll have all the anti-virus, anti-spam protection you’ll need from any rogue sites and junk email. It also sets boundaries for any youngsters in the household so you can feel safe that no malicious online content is creeping through.
Plusnet Protect is included in the price for the Unlimited Broadband and Unlimited Fibre Extra plans. Bizarrely, for the middling Unlimited Fibre plan, the cost is free for three months and then £2 a month thereafter.
Plusnet also offers a ‘Recommend a Friend’ scheme. Any successful referral you make for broadband products will result in a 75p reduction in your monthly bill and there is no limit to how many referrals you can make.
TalkTalk offers its own security package called HomeSafe Security. Included with all TalkTalk’s broadband plans at no extra cost, filtering your internet connection and protecting all your devices from suspicious and inappropriate content. It also has a neat time limit filter so you don’t have to haul the kids away from YouTube or Snapchat when there’s homework or chores to be done.
Both security packages look to have strong features and provide useful additions to your broadband packages. The reason to charge for the Unlimited Fibre Plan by Plusnet seems an odd decision, however it looks like a worthwhile scheme overall.
There really is very little to choose between these providers. Both offer attractive, competitive packages across the board. The crux really is what value you would put on customer service? For the sake of a few quid difference each month, the reliability aspect and confidence gleaned from Plusnet’s track record in this area pushes it in front of TalkTalk.