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Guide to broadband installation and activation times for Sky, BT and more

Do you know how long it takes to get broadband installed? How having a phone line, or not, can impact installation or lead times? Or do you want to know the average broadband installation time or how much disruption it might cause to your home?

If you’re planning to get broadband for the first time, are moving house, or have recently gained the option for broadband in your area, the process can seem quite daunting. There are a lot of technical terms, lots of things to learn and consider when making your choices.

That’s why we put this no-nonsense guide to broadband installation together.

In this guide, we break down the entire process, from signing up for a broadband deal to having the engineer come to install it. We cover broadband installation from end to end and show you how long the leading broadband providers need to set up everything, and what’s involved in the process.

If you’re thinking of having broadband installed, this is the only guide you’ll need!

Broadband installation: the key points

  • It typically takes around 14 working days to set up a new broadband service. 
  • An engineer visit may not be required if you already have a phone, fibre, or cable line coming into your property.
  • There may be a charge for a new line, even if the deal offers free setup. But some providers offer free installation for new lines.

How does broadband installation work?

First, let’s cover the mechanics of broadband installation. What happens, how long it takes, and the installation process for both ADSL and fibre optic broadband.

Your choice of broadband provider is your own, but there are things out of your control that will have an impact on your decision. Are you in a Virgin Media cable area or not? Do you have a landline already? Can you get fibre optic broadband?

If you’re in a cabled area, you can consider Virgin Media as a potential provider. If not, you will not be able to have Virgin broadband.

And while fibre optic is now available to a majority of homes, not everyone can get it.

You can discover what kind of broadband you can get by entering a postcode here:

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If you already have a line, then setup and installation will be cheaper and quicker. If you don’t have a landline installed or the line is present but inactive, the entire process will take longer and cost more as additional work is required. Check out our guide to new phone line installation for more information.

For a Virgin connection, Virgin engineers will carry out the work.

Most other providers use the Openreach telephone network, so an Openreach engineer will attend. This is because BT Openreach owns the infrastructure, but other companies like TalkTalk or Plusnet buy access and resell it as their own. So if you buy broadband from another provider, don’t worry if BT Openreach suddenly calls asking for a time for an engineer to visit!

If you are lucky enough to be able to get an FTTP provider such as Hyperoptic or Community Fibre, their own engineers will attend to complete the installation process. 

The broadband installation process for any fixed-line broadband is similar, and goes something like this:

  1. Once you sign up with a provider, you will be given an approximate installation date. 
  2. Your provider will likely confirm the exact date and approximate time.
  3. The engineer will arrive and inform you they are working on your connection. They may not need access to your home immediately as they may have preparation work to do outside first. They will likely ask where you want your connection to enter your home.
  4. Once ready, the engineer may need access to your home to install a box on the wall. This box connects your house to the network.
  5. The engineer will check the connection, and perhaps provide a modem or router, which may also be tested. Some providers will send you the router before the visit.
  6. Once complete, you will be asked to sign for the work and to confirm everything is working. Don’t sign until you have seen for yourself that all is well.

The process is the same from a customer perspective whether you have fibre broadband or ADSL, and whether using Virgin Media, BT Openreach, or another network. Most of the work is done either outside in the street, leading up to your property, or in the network.

The actual installation time varies but should be between an hour and two hours depending on the property and what is being installed. Your engineer should give you an idea of how long it will take.

Openreach provider activation times

The following are some approximate broadband installation times and costs broken down for the major providers who use the Openreach network. Lead times are counted as the time between signing the contract and being connected.

BT installation and activation times

BT Broadband requires approximately two weeks lead time to set up broadband. It can be less if you have a landline, but if you need a landline installed as well as broadband, it could take around two to three weeks to arrange an engineer.

A new landline costs around £140 to install and BT fibre costs around £60 to install. There are often discounts to be found on these prices so that may not be the price you pay. BT TV also takes approximately two weeks for installation.

Sky Broadband installation times

Sky broadband uses the BT Openreach network and requires similar lead times to other providers.

If you have a landline already, installation takes approximately two weeks. If you don’t have a landline, it could take up to three weeks.

A new Sky Broadband connection costs £20 if you need a new landline and is free if you already have one. There may also be a setup cost depending on the bundle you choose; this is often around £9.95 to cover the delivery cost of your router.

Sky TV also takes around two weeks and will require a working phone line or broadband connection. The installation can happen at the same time. Installation can be free or cost up to £60 depending on your package.

Plusnet installation times

Plusnet also uses the BT Openreach network and requires similar lead times of around two weeks. If you already have a landline and broadband connection, the switch can happen remotely and no engineer may need to visit. If you don’t, a similar process as outlined above will happen.

Switching from another provider to Plusnet takes around ten days. Installation of a landline and broadband installation takes approximately 14 days. A further five days will be needed to connect your broadband.

Plusnet charges £49.99 for a new landline but is free if you already have one. There may also be a £9.95 setup cost depending on the package.

TalkTalk installation times

TalkTalk activation times are the same as Plusnet, Sky and BT as they also use the BT Openreach network. That means a lead time of around two weeks on average if you have a landline and three weeks if you don’t.

Switching from another provider to TalkTalk takes around 15 days and can be done without an engineer visit if you already have broadband.

TalkTalk charges up to £60 for a new landline if one is required. There is usually no setup fee, depending on the package you choose.

Other Openreach broadband provider installation times

There are dozens of other broadband providers who utilise the BT Openreach network to provide services. Some include EE, First Utility, iTalk, Post Office, NOW Broadband, and John Lewis Broadband. As they all use BT Openreach, the installation times are similar. Typically, that would be two weeks lead time for an engineer visit if one is necessary.

Setup charges vary by provider. Some charge nothing for new customers while others like John Lewis, for example, charge £49.99. Any setup or installation charge should be clearly outlined before you sign up.

Virgin Media installation times

Virgin Media has its own network, but installation times are similar to Openreach network providers at approximately 14 days for a new customer.

However, if you have an existing Virgin Media connection they offer a self-service package called QuickStart. You can have it posted to your home or collect it from a Collect+ store, and set up your own connection just four days after placing an order.

Installation fees for Virgin Media depend on your package but are typically £40 for a new connection and £20 for activation.

Virgin Media does offer broadband without a phone, but this doesn't mean you can avoid having a physical line as it's still required for the broadband service.

What to watch out for with broadband installation

The broadband installation and activation process have undergone changes over the past ten years. What used to be a painful and complicated process is now as easy as switching gas or electricity provider. You shop around, decide on a package that’s right for you and the provider handles everything else.

There are things that can delay broadband installation though:

  • No landline. As described above, having a new landline installed can delay your connection. Much depends on the provider, how busy they are and how many engineers they have on hand.
  • Rented accommodation. As broadband installation can require invasive work, you will need permission from your landlord or agency before it takes place. The disruption is minimal, a small hole drilled into a wall and a box fitted, but you should still seek permission in writing before any installation.
  • Flats. Some flats can provide a challenge for broadband installation depending on whether they were purpose-built or converted. Your flat may be considered a non-standard installation which may incur extra costs. It makes sense to discuss this when you’re signing up for your deal.
  • Self-build or new build properties. If you’re a self-builder or have just moved into a brand new house, the Post Office and either BT or Virgin Media may not have yet caught up. You need a postcode for any installation and not having one can delay things slightly.

Do you always need an engineer for broadband installation?

No, you don’t always need an engineer visit. If you’re switching broadband providers within the same network, (between BT Openreach providers, for example) and have all the connections in place, the switch can happen remotely. If you have an existing Virgin Media connection and it just lapsed, you may not need an engineer visit either.

Usually, an engineer will need to visit if new equipment needs to be installed, like the wall box, Sky TV, or Virgin Media TV. Your provider should tell you at the time whether an engineer will need to visit or not.

How to speed up broadband installation

The typical activation process is relatively fast and very straightforward. There are a couple of things you can do to ensure a quick broadband installation, though. 

  • Make sure you’re home. Staying home and being available when the engineer is due to visit may sound obvious but lots of people forget or have other obligations. Someone over the age of 18 needs to be present to let the engineer into your home and sign off the work. Missing the appointment can cause weeks of delay and perhaps extra costs.
  • Clear the way. The installation of a new phone line, Virgin Media cable, or Sky TV is minimally invasive but does require a hole to be drilled in your outside wall and a box fitted to house the connection. If you can ensure both the inside and outside where the box will go is clear, it will save the engineer a lot of time.

Frequently Asked Questions about broadband installation

  • Can you cancel before installation?

    If your circumstances change and you need to cancel your broadband installation before it is installed, you can cancel. You can use the cooling-off period to cancel installation within 14 days of the provider agreeing to your contract; this is usually counted from the moment you press Submit on the order form or said yes to the customer services rep. Different services also offer different cooling-off periods, so it pays to check with the provider. The cooling-off period is a statutory right and no provider can ignore that.

  • Can you get a router sent to a different address?

    Typically, the router for your broadband connection will need to be sent to the billing or installation address. Most providers will not send your new router to a different address.

  • Do you need to be at home for the engineer?

    Yes, you do need to be at home. You will need to allow them access to the property, show them where you want the connection box fitted, verify the connection once tested and sign off their work before they can leave. If you cannot be present, a nominated adult should be enough.

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