“Good honest broadband from Yorkshire” sounds about as silly as tea from Yorkshire, but it hasn't stopped Sheffield-based Plusnet building a solid reputation since it launched in 1997 with a very up-front approach to the small print.
Rather than being hidden away, policies such as traffic management and the wholesale costs of its services are all easy to find and regularly updated.
Plusnet offers the UK’s cheapest standalone broadband, as well as competitive inclusive phone calls, and voice-over-IP (VOIP) phone calls using your broadband connection.
Standard broadband connections are up-to-16Mbps, with unlimited downloads, and you can choose from a 12-month contract or a rolling monthly contract.
Hybrid fibre is available on 18-month contracts at either up-to-38Mbps or up-to-76Mbps, with unlimited usage and uploads at up-to-19.5Mbps.
Premier League football fans with a Sky box can also get BT Sport for half price with Plusnet broadband.
At face value, Plusnet is just another broadband provider, with ADSL2+ up-to-16Mbps and hybrid fibre services up-to-76Mbps, but although owned by BT, its approach is far from typical.
Most importantly, it’s very up-front about its traffic management policy, and is one of the few UK ISPs to publish a full breakdown of its wholesale costs, as part of the Plusnet Broadband Blueprint.
As with most ISPs, there are no usage limits on Plusnet any more, so you can download and upload all you want, any time of day.
On its standard services, Skype-style voice and gaming get the highest priority, followed by streaming video, VPNs, download servers and FTP from Plusnet's own servers, then external FTP and download sites, with peer-to-peer traffic like file-sharing at the bottom. However, it’s possible to buy a Pro upgrade which will give priority VPNs and external FTP sites for working from home.
Standard ADSL broadband has a choice of a 12-month contract or a rolling monthly contract. Fibre broadband comes with an 18-month contract.
The 12-month contract comes with a free Technicolor 582n wireless router (£5.99 postage), but on the rolling contract you can either use your own router or buy one - the Technicolor 582n is £40 (plus P&P).
The Plusnet Protect powered by McAfee online security software is free with Unlimited Broadband and Unlimited Extra Fibre packages, but with Unlimited Fibre Broadband it costs £2/month after the first three months. It covers 7 machines, is PC-only and includes anti-virus, anti-spyware, a firewall, identity protection and parental controls.
Low cost areas
Most of the UK lives in low-cost broadband areas (also called Market 2 & 3) where there are at least two broadband providers including BT, and BT has to sell its services at competitive prices.
Many rural locations are in so-called Market 1 areas where BT is the only provider, and companies such as Plusnet buy their services through BT in a different way, and BT is allowed to charge more. It's harsh, but there you are.
Plusnet line rental costs £15.95/month, or if you pay in advance i';s £155.88 for a year (equivalent to £12.99/month).
You don't need have Plusnet line rental for their broadband-only packages, but if you do, your broadband will be £2.50/month cheaper. If you don't choose Plusnet, you'll need a landline from another BT-based provider and there's a £25 one-off activation fee.
Unlimited broadband at up to 16Mbps, with a choice of a 12-month minimum contract or a rolling monthly contract:
- 12 month contract: £12.49/month plus line rental (£19.99/month outside low cost areas).
- No contract: £14.99/month plus line rental (£22.49/month outside low cost areas).
There's a £50 activation fee, and you'll get unlimited downloading at either up-to-38Mbps or up-to-76Mbps, and up-to-19.5Mbps uploads.
- Unlimited Fibre (up to 38Mbps): £17.49/month plus line rental (£24.99/month outside low cost areas).
- Unlimited Fibre Extra (up to 76Mbps): £22.49/month plus line rental (£29.99/month outside low cost areas).
You'll need have Plusnet line rental for their broadband-and-phone packages, which come with inclusive calls to UK landlines, 0845 and 0870 numbers. You'll also get free calls to Plusnet Phone customers and Plusnet's 24-hour customer support.
There's a no activation fee with up-to-16Mbps copper broadband when you combine it with phone calls.
- 12 month contract: £9.99/month plus line rental (£17.49/month outside low cost areas).
- No contract: £12.49/month plus line rental (£19.99/month outside low cost areas).
There's no activation fee with fibre broadband when you combine it with phone calls. You'll get unlimited downloading at either up-to-38Mbps or up-to-76Mbps, and up-to-19.5Mbps uploads.
- Unlimited Fibre (up to 38Mbps): £14.99/month plus line rental (£22.49/month outside low cost areas).
- Unlimited Fibre Extra (up to 76Mbps): £19.99/month plus line rental (£27.49/month outside low cost areas).
Anytime UK calls cost £5/month extra, or for £7/month you can have anytime UK calls plus 300 minutes of calls to 35 international destinations.
Plusnet Extra customers on DSL or fibre can change to a static IP address for £5.
Phone call packages are available from Plusnet if you take broadband and Plusnet’s line rental, and you also get a Broadband Phone option with every broadband package.
Line rental costs £14.50/month, but if you pay a year in advance it costs £131.38, which is the equivalent of £10.99/month. It includes UK evening and weekend calls, with £55 credit per month for other calls, which is charged back to your account each month. All call plans also include free calls to Plusnet Home Phone customers, and Plusnet support at all times.
Talk Anytime costs £5/month with a £75 credit, and includes a 25 per cent international call discount to the EU, USA, Canada, Australia (including the Christmas Islands & Cocos Islands), New Zealand (including the Chatham Islands).
Talk Anytime International 300 costs £7/month with a £75 credit, and includes 300 Anytime minutes to 20 international destinations and mobiles in the USA and Canada.
Evening & weekend calls means calls to UK landlines beginning with 01, 02, 03, 0845 and 0870, made Monday-Friday 7pm-7am and anytime on Saturday or Sunday. Anytime calls means calls to UK landlines beginning with 01, 02, 03, 0845 and 0870 at anytime. There’s a 120-minute limit on all free calls, after which charges apply.
All chargeable calls include a 12.5p connection fee. UK landlines beginning with 01, 02, 03, 0845 and 0870 cost 7.5p/min anytime. UK mobiles cost 12.5p/min daytime and 7.5p/min evenings.
If you need a new phone line installing at your property, there is a £49.99 installation charge.
Plusnet Broadband Phone is a voice-over-IP (VoIP) service that gives you an extra UK landline number but uses your broadband connection.
It operates through a headset, microphone or a SIP-compatible USB phone attached to your PC, or through a regular phone if you have a special router or adapter.
You can call UK landline numbers (01,02,03), international numbers, mobiles, directory enquiries, and Emergency Services (999, 112), but you can't call premium rate numbers or the operator.
Features include voicemail with custom answer messages, SMS voicemail notification, a web-based phone directory, customisable call divert, number withholding, and Fring compatibility to use with your mobile phone.
The pay-as-you-go option includes free calls to other VoIP providers with anytime calls for £4.99/month.
Plusnet User Reviews
"Really like plusnet so far so good, upto 40MB fibre which i approx get around 34MB (very happy with this) We get 40GB download usage a month, which is plenty for general browsing etc but any large downloads we take advantage of the midnight-8am no download limit. The price is awesome... we get fibre optic and phone line rental (which includes free calls to 0800 & 0845 and landlines) for £30 p/m. Much cheaper than sky & BT. Customer services is decent, get to speak to someone in a UK call centre who speaks fluent english (makes a change) cant fault the service so far."
"just moved to Plusnet FTTC package. Advertised at 38 Mbps but in reality I get about 25 Mbps on a good day. A little disappointed with that but otherwise the change over went smoothly."
"Good speeds, reliable, yes there's the occasional glitch but only very briefly. Great customer service, if you have a problem or a fault occurs then they're quick to help you and sort it all out so you're back online asap. Highly recommend."
"Disappointingly limited in the range of services offered given the pricing of packages compared to providers like Sky and Virgin. However, the service is OK if a little patronising providing you know what you're about. Got to watch the introduction of new packages as can leave long term customers on inferior packages paying more money than new customers."
"Can be really slow at times and I feel not value for money."
"Excellent service at a good price and you get to speak to someone whom you can actually understand!!"
"Really good deal - been a customer of Plusnet (via Force9) for over 10 years, broadband for over 7 years. Never had any problems really good supplier."
"I am sick of their speed and download limits, they promised me a 20 Mb speed but i am unable to get 2 Mb even... the only good reason is that I do not come under any contract co i am ready to leave their service this month but waste of money co connection... "
"cheap and has never dropped out. Sorted a minor fault quickly and effortlessly"
"The main thing which keeps me with plusnet rather than switching to one of the special cheaper deals with another provider is the excellent, friendly and non-patronising customer service, and speed with which they deal with any problems. Ive had an ongoing problem with my broadband connection which 3 previous providers have failed to sort out, but which has now been rectified, thanks mainly to their ongoing persistence in sorting out where the problem lay. Honest, upfront about any charges, incredibly friendly and great value."
"Positives: Far more reliable than other ISPs I've used, good price, offered me a discount on my line rental if I paid for 12 months upfront, unlimited downloads between midnight and 8am, good customer service, clear record of my usage on their website for monitoring, good website. Negatives: doesn't give a high upload speed (usually about 30mb/s) and my plan limits me to 10GB a month for daytime use (but I could pay more to get more). Speed is not that great imo but it was about the same with other ISPs. Overall, compared to my ex ISP TalkTalk, Plusnet is a lot better. "
"great all round,the customer support is tops. never let me down yet"
"Network speed is a little patchy but this may not be their fault. Top account provides only 60Gb per month before additional charges are incurred. In this day and age, this is a bit mean and, personally, I would pay £5 a month more for unlimited bandwidth. My phone deal includes all calls and, overall, I save over £20 per month compared to my old BT bill. What really annoys is that Plusnet are part of the BT family."
"Like many here, I live a fair distance from the exchange so struggle to even get 1mb. Despite their low price, they have always been incredibly friendly and helpful on the phone, and have bent over backwards to ensure I'm getting the best I can from my (poor quality) line. Good stuff!"
"I can't fault their broadband provision. Since we live so far from the telephone exchange that we can only get 2mbps with any provider, it's really not worth our while to pay more. I love the free downloads between midnight and 8am as I have an internet radio and listen to programmes from Canada and the USA then. My only carp is with the telephone provision, which has a cap on the usage even though we pay by Direct Debit. Also, it's not possible to use override numbers when phoning abroad, which makes my husband's calls to Cuba very expensive. However, all my queries and complaints have been dealt with promptly and politely and I would definitely recommend them."
"Excellent Online site. Very quick and easy to change packages"
"very good can't complain at the service provided. When i did have cause to complain, it was delt with quickly by email and a rebate was included which just showed that customer support does exist."
"Won 12 months free broadband - 60Gb useage allowance means you have to keep an eye on your useage if you surf/iPlayer a lot, but haven't gone over it yet. Friendly, efficient and clear customer service, would definately recommend to others. (transferred from TalkTalk and the difference is clear to see)"
"We have been with Plusnet from their original incarnation as Force9 back in 1998. Its a great service with brilliant customer support. The only black mark I would give them is not notifying us when there was a cap on the line. Other than that, I would recommend them to anyone."
"Changed from Virgin Broadband & BT phone as too expensive. Was worried that the broadband speed would be a lot slower, but no need to worry as just as good. Paying half the price than I use to as got a deal. Really pleased. Great having call centre in Yorkshire. Really good service. Smooth transition when I changed over."
"I can't speak for any of their current packages, because we've been with Plusnet for probably over 10 years now, and have remained on an old legacy package. But in that time we've have seen the service develop to become a stable connection that one can just take for granted. And it's great that I still see the same names among the support staff. All the information you need is available on the website, though perhaps sometimes hard to find. But if one has any further questions, there's CS, plus the Plusnet forums and newsgroups, plus a very knowledgeable Usergroup. There are very useful account tools available, such as for monitoring Usage, including traffic types."
"I can't fault the product or the price. You won't find cheaper broadband. They have a variety of packages that will suit from occassional users to full on users. What let them down was not automatically upgrading packages when they changed their packages even though it was the same price for a better deal, leaving me to pay for a lesser product than they offer new customers. Great overall though. You won't be disappointed."
"brilliant price, consistent speeds, relatively quick customer service. Been with plusnet for 18month and have only once had a drop in connection. That was easily fixed when I reconfigured the router. Other than short term deals it seems to be the best priced option."
"I'm currently using their lowest package, on broadband only. While the 10GB cap is unfortunate, you definitely get value for money. The speeds are fast as you would expect. However, even for the lowest package, in this day and age you might want a bit more than a 10GB cap. It's only £5 for an additional 5GB, but it is quite easy to "overflow" into this. Despite the stingey data cap, I've not had a single problem with the service itself and am generally happy with it. The one problem I have had is with the router. The one that they supply isn't of great quality, and signal will not reach the other side of the house. I only live in a small bungalow! So 10/10 if it was fully based upon the great service, but that poor router really does let it down. The service is incredibly cheap, but if you offset the cost of a new router, you may as well pay for a slightly better package."
"Its a good price for what it is, but you do get what you pay for. But if your not bothered about huge speeds, then this is perfect."