Plusnet Broadband review: Straightforward, simple and safe

£19
Price when reviewed

Plusnet is a bit of an oddity. It’s owned by BT, but it operates as an independent business with its own broadband packages (which actually compete directly with BT’s own-brand offerings).

A few other things make it stand out. For one, while you can only sign up to most other internet services if you also let the ISP take over your phone line, Plusnet gives you the option of sticking with your existing phone provider and adding a Plusnet internet connection on top. That’s great if you’re on a specific landline deal that you don’t want to lose, but Plusnet does offer its own competitive phone packages, which may sway you, and there are TV options, too.

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While most broadband contracts now run for a minimum of 18 months, Plusnet also offers 12-month options (although these are a bit more expensive). For maximum flexibility there’s even a month-by-month option which, predictably, is even more expensive, but does give you the option to cancel at any time.

All of Plusnet’s internet packages come with its Hub One router, which is a decent bit of kit supporting fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi and four Gigabit Ethernet sockets. It even has a USB connector, which you can use to share files or a printer over your home network.

READ NEXT: Our BT Broadband review

Plusnet Broadband review: The packages

Plusnet UnlimitedPlusnet Unlimited FibrePlusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra
Price per month, including line rental£19£24.50£28
Setup fee£5£5£5
Advertised speed10Mbits/sec36Mbits/sec66Mbits/sec
Usage allowanceUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Contract length12 months12 months12 months

If you’ve had enough of trawling through lengthy lists of internet options, Plusnet will come as a breath of fresh air. It offers just three services: a 10Mbits/sec ADSL service that runs over your phone line, and fibre options with average speeds of 36Mbits/sec and 66Mbits/sec.

The entry-level ADSL service is called “Plusnet Unlimited”, in reference to the fact that it comes with no traffic limits, throttling or other restrictions. To be honest that’s something you can largely take for granted these days, but the reassurance doesn’t hurt. If all you want to do is surf the web and stream the odd video, its 10Mbits/sec bandwidth is plenty. It might not be able to cope with multiple HD streams at once, though, and it’s not fast enough for 4K streaming; Netflix recommends at least a 25Mbits/sec connection for that.

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Plusnet Unlimited broadband costs £19 a month on an 18-month contract, which is a pretty fair price – especially since Plusnet guarantees that the price won’t go up during that period, and there’s no automatic rise at the end of it, either. At the time of writing, you also receive a £50 Mastercard gift card when you sign up, which helps offset the overall 18-month cost of £342. The 12-month option is a little less attractive, at £22 a month, plus a £10 setup fee – and no gift card.

Then there are Plusnet’s two fibre services. As you’d expect, these operate over the BT Openreach fibre-optic network, so it serves most areas of the UK. You can confirm which services are available to you using the broadband availability checker on Plusnet’s website.

Assuming you’re covered, you can pay £24 a month for the 36Mbits/sec Unlimited Fibre package, or £28 a month for the 66Mbits/sec Unlimited Fibre Extra option. Either is fast enough to stream multiple HD videos and to play 4K media without hiccups, although obviously the latter will give you faster downloads and more headroom. Again, there’s no activation fee, no price hikes during your contract and no automatic rate rise afterwards. You get a £50 gift card with the Extra package, too, though the card that comes with the standard 36Mbits/sec is worth only £30.

Note that the prices above all assume that Plusnet’s taking over your phone line. If you prefer to keep your existing provider, adding Plusnet’s ADSL service will cost you £13.50 a month on either a 12-month or 18-month contract – plus an initial £35 activation charge. The 36Mbits/sec fibre service costs £17.50 a month over an existing line, while the 66Mbits/sec option comes in at £22.50, and in both cases there’s a relatively steep £50 activation fee.

READ NEXT: Our Virgin Media Broadband review

Plusnet Broadband review: Phone and TV options

If you do switch your landline to Plusnet, you can optionally pay £4 a month for a basic call plan that gives you free UK calls at evenings and weekends, including 1,000 minutes of calls to mobiles. Step up to the £8 a month plan and you get unlimited anytime calls to UK landlines, with up to 2,000 minutes of calls to mobiles. There’s also an international package, which again costs £8 a month; this includes 300 minutes of calls to 35 countries, although calls to mobiles cost extra.

Customers on one of Plusnet’s fibre packages can also sign up for TV services. It’s up to you whether you want to pay a one-off fee of £7 for a basic YouView box, or splash out £58 on a YouView+ box, which includes a hard disk that can record 150 hours of HD video. Either way, a fiver a month gets you all the Freeview channels, a selection of catch-up services including BBC iPlayer and All 4, and 20 premium channels, including Comedy Central, E!, MTV, Syfy and TLC, plus BT Sport Lite. You can add the full-fat BT Sport HD channel for an extra £8 a month, but no Sky services are available.

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Plusnet Broadband review: Performance and customer service

Ofcom monitors the performance of the various UK ISPs, and in its last report (published in November 2017), Plusnet came out very well. In the ADSL stakes, Plusnet proved to be the fastest provider in the business, with its “10Mbits/sec” service actually delivering average daily download speeds of 10.7 to 12.9Mbits/sec. Reliability was good, too: Plusnet never dropped below 9.8Mbits/sec, while customers of last-place TalkTalk saw speeds occasionally fall as low as 7.8Mbits/sec.

Plusnet’s fibre performance was similarly solid. The 36Mbits/sec service delivered real-world download speeds ranging from 33.7 to 34.9Mbits/sec, while the 66Mbits/sec package served up daily speeds between 59.7 and 62.5Mbits/sec.

And again, consistency was a particular strength. On the 36Mbits/sec line, Ofcom reported a minimum download speed of 31Mbits/sec. Sky and TalkTalk, by comparison, slowed to 30.1Mbits/sec at times, and EE dropped to 29.9Mbits/sec. On the 66Mbits/sec service, the minimum download rate was 55.9Mbits/sec, which was a long way in front of Sky (51.6Mbits/sec) and TalkTalk (49Mbits/sec).

Plusnet also won praise in Ofcom’s latest customer satisfaction survey, published in May 2018. A whopping 86% of Plusnet customers said they were satisfied with the overall service, which was more than for any other ISP (the joint runners-up were Sky and Virgin, who each achieved 83%). Only 13% of customers said they’d had to make a complaint about Plusnet in the past year, which is, again, the best score in the industry.

The shine does come off a little when you note that only 48% of customers were happy with the way their complaint was handled; both EE and Sky did better in this respect, with satisfaction scores close to 60%. Still, Plusnet is ahead of both TalkTalk and Virgin Media, which scored 40% and 46% respectively on this count.

READ NEXT: Our EE broadband review

Plusnet Broadband review: Verdict

Plusnet ticks a lot of boxes, but it has its limitations. Prices are good but not stunning, and while the gift card is a nice sweetener, it doesn’t beat properly valuable add-ons like EE’s mobile data bonus. Plusnet’s TV packages are more limited than you’ll get from the likes of Virgin Media, and while 66Mbits/sec is fast enough for most homes, Plusnet has nothing to offer data-hungry customers who demand more.

Even so, there’s a lot to like about the straightforwardness of Plusnet’s offering, with its simple choice of three internet packages and flexible contract options. Independent reports of speeds and customer satisfaction ratings are very encouraging, too, making this a great choice if you’re looking for a fuss-free ISP.

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