- Up to 24Mbps ADSL2+ broadband
- Ofcom-rated for consistent speed and service
- Upload speeds up to 2.5Mbps
- Special services for power users
- Above-average cost
- Router doesn’t do WiFi ‘n’
- Must be close to local exchange
- No phone options on short contract
BE uses O2’s broadband network, but it’s very much marketed as the broadband user’s broadband service, aimed at gamers and professionals who demand reliability and low latency, and don’t mind paying a small premium to get it.
It’s the UK’s newest broadband network, based on ADSL2+, with a focus on high quality of service, low contention ratios so you’re not fighting with other users for capacity, and unlimited downloads. BE’s 24Mbps fast service is rated by communications regulator Ofcom as the fastest consistent copper-based service of any DSL carrier, with the lowest latency and packet loss.
For gamers and professionals who need good upload speeds, BE’s entry-level package averages at 1.1Mbps, 30 per cent higher than the average for DSL broadband, while its premium product is 150 per cent higher at 2.5Mbps.
BE’s also the only consumer ISP which lets you combine two landlines to double your broadband speeds, and static IP addresses - essential for running home or small office servers - are available on all packages.
The supplied broadband modem is also a high quality device with four Ethernet connections as well as WiFi, although it doesn’t have the latest high speed WiFi N standard.
While BE’s broadband prices are slightly higher than average because you’re paying for high standards, line rental is cheaper than and phone calls are competitive.
There’s a very simple pricing structure with three tiers of broadband and three tiers of phone calls, plus a few extras, but you won’t get bogged-down choosing a package.
BE has three packaged products, but you can also create a customised package to meet your needs, and even combine two phone lines to get faster speeds. BE uses ADSL2+, the fastest version ADSL today, provided you’re close to the local exchange.
Most importantly, there’s no download or upload cap on any BE Broadband services, and it describes as a ‘very’ fair usage policy that’s really just in place to stop idiots spoiling the service for other users.
There’s also free 24/7 support via online chat, phone, email and the BE user forums, which BE promotes as a way to find experts among its own community who might get answers faster than their own support staff.
The BE Box - an ADSL2+ wireless modem - is supplied as standard, which includes a four-port 10/100Mbps Ethernet switch for hard-lined connections and a 54Mbps 802.11 B/G wireless interface.
The entry-level product is BE Value, which costs £17/month over 12 months, with download at speeds of up to 12Mbps and upload at up to 1.3Mbps.
BE Unlimited is the top package for consumers, running up to 24Mbps down and 1.3Mbps up. It costs £22/month on a 12-month contract, or £25/month plus a £25 connection fee on a three-month contract.
Small businesses and gaming addicts can sign up to BE Pro for £27/month for 12 months, or on a three month deal at £30/month with a £25 connection fee. It runs at up to 24Mbps down, and up to 2.5Mbps up, and comes with a single static IP address for improved gaming connections or running a server. A further 4 static IPs can be rented for £4.60/month, up to a maximum of 14.
You can also add static IPs to a BE Unlimited account - the first is free and the rest cost £4.60/month for four, up to a maximum of 14.
Ofcom’s 2011 broadband speeds report found that BE Unlimited was faster than any other ADSL2+ service, and averaged a higher speed during peak time (10.1-11.7Mbps) and experienced the least slowdown, while burst speeds came closest to the maximum speed. BE Unlimited also had the best average upload speeds of ADSL2+ providers, at 1.1Mbps, and the lowest latency of any provider, including cable and fibre services.
If 24Mbps isn’t enough, BE offers Line Bonding, where you can join two lines together for an up to 44Mbps downstream connection with up to 5Mbps uploads. It costs £65/month on a 12-month contract, plus an £85 connection fee. Currently the first three months are free and there’s no connection fee. You also get a dual ADSL2+ bonded router with four 10/100 Ethernet Ports and two standard USB ports, and an 802.11g Wireless LAN access point.
You’ll need a second BT line for Line Bonding, which costs around £130 to get installed, plus line rental, and while this is being fitted BE will reserve capacity for the extra line at your local exchange for 30 days for £25.53.
If you only use your phone line for broadband, then it might make sense to get BE Broadband’s Basic Landline line rental, which is £10/month. Calls to UK landlines (starting with 01, 02, or 03) are charged at 4.6p/minute for every call, plus a 12.8p connection fee on all calls.
The Evening & Weekend package is £11/month including line rental, and includes calls to UK landlines from 6pm to 6am during the week and all weekend.
The Anytime package costs £14/month and includes all calls to UK landlines, mobiles in the USA and Canada, 22 international country landlines and 0845 and 0870 numbers.
Free calls must be no longer than 60 continuous minutes or you will be charged at the UK Landline rate. Most mobile numbers are charged at at 12.2p/min daytime and 7.2p/min evenings, 0845/0870 numbers at 4.1p/min daytime and 1.1p/min evenings. Calls to BE member services on 0808 101 343, 0800 and 0808 numbers are free on all packages.
BE’s line rental and phone packages are only available if you take a 12-month contract.
Be User Reviews
"I switched to Be from Sky about eight months ago. No regrets. The speed is better, I've had zero - count that, ZERO - downtime and the only thing that lets Be down is the router that comes as standard. It's poorly constructed and doesn't make the most of your line. Either upgrade to a better router from Be or buy one elsewhere, it's worth it."
"The place to BE! Seriously though, I never get any problems with my connection - 14meg 2km from the exchange. The price may seem high but you can offset it with a referral... The router that comes from Be did not offer Wireless-N, but the forum is full of people who will help you choose and set up an alternative. Indeed, they will be happy to help you solve any problem with your setup. The only thing that niggled me how long you can stay logged into the forum, inactive, before being kicked out. Highly Recommended"
"I switched to BE after 10 years with another provider, whose customer service and reliability had become astonishingly poor. BE was a breath of fresh air. The router is reliable and rarely requires restarting, and my service hardly ever goes down - if they are doing maintenance, I am notified by text message, and problems are announced on their Twitter feed. Service is fast, even at peak times, and there are no caps/ traffic shaping etc. as far as I've noticed. The two times I have contacted customer service have been excellent - got speaking to a real person quickly, they were easy to communicate with, seemed knowledgeable and sorted me out on the first call. Yes, it is more expensive than other providers, but for me it is worth it for the quality and reliability of service."