Which are the most popular internet service providers in the UK?

Wi-Fi modem in home
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Across the UK, hundreds of internet service providers are in operation. At times it feels like they all claim to offer the best broadband deals on the market, unbeatable customer service and the widest range of speeds available. 

While some of these broadband providers operate across the country, others only work in small local areas. Plus, while many only specialise in internet connections, others have a wide range of packages, including broadband and TV deals

Of course, some of these providers are more popular than others. But, which is the most popular and why? Here, we've taken a look at the 10 biggest broadband providers in the UK in terms of customer size and analysed what each offers in terms of cost, speed and customer service. 

Best broadband provider: UK customer numbers

To first give you a clear idea of the most popular providers by the estimated number of customers, recent data from ISPreview shows that the top 10 providers are:

  • BT (including Plusnet & EE) - 9,000,000 subscribers
  • Virgin Media - 5,708,100 subscribers
  • Sky Broadband - 5,700,000 subscribers
  • TalkTalk - 3,800,000 subscribers
  • Vodafone - 1,331,000 subscribers
  • Shell Energy - 595,000 subscribers
  • Glide - 400,000 subscribers (apparently mostly students)
  • Utility Warehouse - 354,118
  • Hyperoptic - 300,000 subscribers
  • Zen Internet - 186,000 subscribers

These are the stats as of 13th February 2024. However, Shell Energy UK was purchased by Octopus Energy in December 2023. As part of this deal, Octopus recently announced that it will be selling all 595,000 of its newly acquired broadband customers to TalkTalk within the coming months. 

As a result, once the switch is complete, these numbers will change significantly and TalkTalk will be home to almost 4,500,000 customers. 

Broadband download speeds

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Best broadband provider: UK fastest download speeds

One of the key determining factors in the popularity of an ISP is its selection of broadband speeds - and often the top average download speed it can offer is what can really turn heads.

So if we look just at max speeds, the best/most popular option in the UK that's widely available is now EE. Last October, EE became BT Group's flagship broadband provider. At the same time, the company announced a new 1.6Gbps per second package

EE may now be the fastest provider, but it's not the only operator who will provide you with a package that crosses the 1Gbps average download speeds barrier. For example, through its own cable broadband network, Virgin Media can provide speeds in excess of 1.1Gbps. 

Although, if we're going to get technical about it, Community Fibre actually offers the quickest download speeds on the market at 3Gbps. However, this particular package is only available at a select number of properties in London. 

Although these three packages are mighty quick, it's also worth highlighting that a number of other major ISPs now offer ultrafast broadband speeds that come close to matching the above: 

  • Sky - ‘Gigafast’ - 900Mbps
  • BT - ‘Full Fibre 900’ - 900Mbps
  • Vodafone - ‘Full Fibre 900’ - 910Mbps
  • TalkTalk - ‘Full Fibre 900’ - 900Mbps
  • Plusnet - ‘Full Fibre 900’ - 944Mbps
  • Hyperoptic - ‘Hyperfast’ - 900+Mbps

UK broadband providers ranked by complaints

Another key area for popularity is the overall quality of service given by an ISP and a good reflection of this is by the number of (but more appropriately the lack of) customer complaints. In other words, fewer issues consumers appear to be having with one can help make a provider more appealing.

We can turn to the most recent data by the UK communications regulator Ofcom  (January 2024) to see what the situation is here. Based on its study of 'complaints per 100,000 customers' from Q3 2023, the provider who fared the best is Sky

Sky received just five complaints per 100,000 customers and this was closely followed by EE (nine) and then BT and Plusnet (11). 

If we look at the flip side of all this though, the broadband provider who got the most complaints per 100,000 customers was Virgin Media, with (32). They were quite far ahead of the next worst, which was NOW Broadband (18). 

Woman is frustrated with customer service connection over VoIP phone

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Cheapest broadband provider

Being able to find good value for money is another big factor when it comes to ISP popularity and as we've discussed in our cheap broadband deals guide, the top provider when it comes to pure affordability is often Plusnet

That said, our guide also explains how different types of broadband packages can be cheaper across different providers. Here are a few examples of where you might be able to grab a great deal on a specific tariff type or broadband bundle:

Fibre broadband deals

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How to choose your new broadband provider

With the above you should now have a better understanding of which broadband providers are the most popular and a few of the key reasons why they're held in such high regard. 

This is also information you can use to aid your search for a new broadband provider, plus we can also support you with our guide to the best broadband deals on the market right now.

However, a final thing to consider is that features like download speed and affordability can be affected by whether or not your property can access a particular ISP's network. It might be the case that your household will still need ‘Full Fibre’ installing, or that ADSL connections are no longer available to you.

However, we can also help with this, as you can enter your postcode into our widget below and we'll show you specifically what broadband deals can be available in your location.  

Richard Hart

Rich is a freelance copywriter and content strategist with over 10 years' experience. His career has seen him work in-house and in various agencies, producing online and offline content marketing campaigns and copywriting for clients in the energy industry.