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

Fibre broadband deals
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There are technically hundreds of internet service providers (ISPs) here in the UK, which offer different broadband packages to millions of consumers each and every day. These range from large corporations all the way through to small independent firms, but it's fair to say that some companies are undeniably more popular than others. 

However, while we can judge which one is the 'most popular' purely by customer numbers, it's not an exact science for determining the most popular - and therefore 'best' - ISP. This is because what ISPs provide covers a variety of different areas, including things like broadband speed, quality, and of course, value for money. 

Instead, it's better to assess these three key areas in closer detail, so you can get both a clearer idea of why certain ISPs have so many customers and to help give you an indication of which firms to look at for the best broadband deals.

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) - 9,300,000 subscribers
  • Sky Broadband - 6,200,000 subscribers
  • Virgin Media - 5,653,800 subscribers
  • TalkTalk - 4,200,000 subscribers
  • Vodafone - 1,158,000 subscribers
  • Shell Energy - 595,000 subscribers
  • Glide - 400,000 subscribers (apparently mostly students)
  • Hyperoptic - 250,000 subscribers
  • Zen Internet - 175,000 subscribers
  • KCOM - 139,700 subscribers

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 Virgin Media. Through its own cable network, Virgin can get speeds in excess of 1.1Gbps, and to date, it can be accessed by over 15million properties. Although, if we're going to get technical about it, Community Fibre is said to offer the fastest speeds of 3Gbps, but this is only to a select number of properties in London. 

However, it's also worth us highlighting that a number of other major ISPs - including BT and Sky - are starting to rollout gigabit-capable broadband packages. So in a few years, it might be that Virgin are superseded in popularity by another firm.

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 to see what the situation is here. Based on its study of 'complaints per 100,000 customers' from Q4 2022, the provider who fared the best is Sky

Sky received just five complaints per 100,000 customers and this was closely followed by EE (seven) and Plusnet (10). 

If we look at the flip side of all this though, the broadband provider who got the most complaints was Shell Energy with 27 - Vodafone (19) and TalkTalk (18) were ranked second and third worst, respectively. Shell also saw its average number of complaints rise again, suggesting continued customer issues with its services.

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. But 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.