Compare smaller broadband provider's offers
With millions of customers and huge sums of money to invest in infrastructure, major players BT, TalkTalk, Sky, Virgin Media and Plusnet dominate the UK broadband market.
But that's not to say that biggest is always best. Smaller providers have a lot to offer too. And for reasons we'll look at here, may be more apt for your needs than their larger rivals.
In this section we take a look the major pros and cons of choosing a smaller providers to help you make the best possible buying decision.
Why do some people choose small broadband providers? We outline the main reasons below.
1) Better customer service
Disappointing levels of customer support were for many years a fact of life in the broadband industry. Things have improved a lot since then.
But it's still the case that major providers often don't provide the kind of customer care you'd expect from companies with such large resources at their disposal.
Conversely, small broadband providers perform much better than you might. Not least Zen Internet, which consistently scores highly in independent studies and surveys conducted by the official telecommunications regulator, Ofcom.
One of the reasons small broadband providers often give better customer support is down to the fact that because they have fewer subscribers they can prioritise those they have and give a more personal service.
But it's also likely that smaller providers have identified customer support as a way to score points over larger providers with whom they may otherwise struggle to compete. And for that reason, small broadband providers make looking after customers more of a priority.
2) Flexible service of the sort that larger providers don't offer
Smaller broadband providers often carve out a niche with a specialised service that simply isn't available with bigger broadband suppliers, whose packages are much more tailored towards the mass market.
Relish is by no means a typical broadband provider, for instance, and offers a far from mainstream product.
Touted as a replacement for fixed line broadband, its 4G service is a ground-breaking product that lets you use mobile internet as a substitute for your home broadband. That's completely unique in the UK and means you won't have to pay for a landline.
It also offers no lengthy contract and, if you're in central London, you can get free, next-day installation.
3) You're not paying for sweeteners you may feel you don't need
Small providers usually offer a stripped down service, largely focused on broadband and calls.
That means that, unlike with some bigger broadband suppliers, you're not paying a higher monthly premium that includes the cost of 'free' services such as priority ticket booking, sports channels or subsidised movie downloads.
4) Keen prices
Direct Save Telecom touts itself as offering the UK's cheapest line rental. If you pay a year in advance, it works out the best part of £5 cheaper than some providers.
As part of the same broadband and home phone package, Direct Save Telecom also offers fibre broadband for less than £2 per month, meaning it's monthly rates are comfortably among the UK's lowest.
5) Satellite broadband
Satellite broadband, which enables you to get online anywhere in the world irrespective of coverage or network infrastructure, is a service solely offered by smaller providers.
For some people, when it comes to broadband providers big is best. Below, we look at what larger providers can offer you over smaller ones.
1) Fastest speeds in the UK are exclusive to larger providers
If you want the UK's very fastest speeds, such as Virgin Media's high-end 156Mbps service or the limited-availability BT Infinity 160Mbps product, you'll need to sign up for a larger carrier.
Although some smaller carriers use BT's fibre infrastructure, which enables them to offer speeds of up to 76Mbps, the fastest speeds that BT can offer are only available to BT customers.
2) There's less scope to bundle together multiple services and save money
Sign up for a larger provider and you can bundle your TV with your broadband, home phone and mobile phone and you'll pay less for each service than if you signed up for them from individual providers.
Small broadband providers' range of services is much more limited, however, so there's less chance to make those sort of savings.
At the time of writing, no small provider offered bundles that include TV.
3) Smaller providers haven't got the financial muscle to offer much in the way of sweeteners
As detailed above, if you sign up with a small broadband provider, you shouldn't expect incentives, such as EE's FilmClub or free BT Sport with BT.
You're also less likely to get money-off introductory periods and free vouchers when you sign up, both of which are common promotions used by large providers.
But that's not to say that sweeteners don't exist at all with small providers.
Pop Telecom, for instance, offers its customers Pop Privilege Cards, which entitle them to discounts with Hewlett Packard, Philips, Sharp and Apple. It also includes 2 for 1 entry at Legoland and discounted RAC membership.
Eclipse customers who recommend their service get £30 bill credit.
Can't see the provider you're looking for? For a more complete look at all the large and small providers on the site, take a look at our broadband providers page: Broadband providers
LGA: State should offer financial help to pay for fast broadband.
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