What are altnets?
As broadband customers feel the squeeze to get maximum speeds at the best price, the market is becoming much more competitive. New broadband providers known as ‘altnets’ are popping up to challenge the big names and deliver ultrafast fibre broadband deals to UK homes.
These alternative network providers are smaller in scale and less well-known, so can they be trusted?
This is often a common concern, and we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll first explain what an altnet is before taking you through some example providers. We’ll finish off with some pros and cons to expect from their broadband services and take a look at what switching to an altnet involves.
Altnets: the key points
What is an alternative network provider?
We’ve already learned that an altnet is an alternative, but an alternative to what? Well, it’s really referring to being a different choice to ‘the big 4’ broadband providers we know best.
BT, Plusnet, Sky and TalkTalk are also all part of the Openreach network, the largest landline network infrastructure installed across the country.
Altnets rival these providers to bring superfast broadband in certain locations. They might have less familiar names and a more localised service, but they can be important for bringing coverage to remote rural areas. But you’re just as likely to find altnets popping up in built up towns and cities, too!
What is Openreach?
Openreach is the company that maintains the former British Telecom Network used for the majority of broadband and phone services. If a repair or installation is required, it’s Openreach who will send an engineer, not your provider.
More than 650 service providers using the Openreach network. That’s the majority of the UK’s broadband providers. This includes Sky, TalkTalk and BT. The exception to this is Virgin Media - it uses its own, separate cable network.
What are the top altnets?
Broadband Genie deals checker
Add your address into our deals checker, and you might see packages available from altnets including:
BeFibre offers three full fibre packages ranging across 150, 500 and 900Mb broadband speeds (‘Be150’, ‘Be500’ and ‘Be900’). Contract lengths are 24-months and that includes unlimited access and free installation with a bundled Linksys router. BeFibre offers symmetrical upload and download speeds, which really stands it out from some of the bigger names.
A Northern Irish altnet, Fibrus is a full fibre provider offering 150Mb, 300Mb and 1000Mb packages. Household coverage is boosted by wifi 6 technology powered by Amazon’s eero routers.
One of the better known altnets, Hyperoptic provides full fibre optic deals ranging from 57Mb download speeds to a ‘Hyperfast’ gigabit (1 Gb) connection. Contracts are available on 12, 24 or rolling monthly durations with phone bundles also possible.
Community Fibre claims to be London’s ‘fastest full fibre network’ thanks to its quick 3Gb broadband package. You’ll need a wired Ethernet connection to hit those rates, though. If you use a Wi-Fi router, those speeds will be maxed at 800Mb. Community Fibre’s prices and setup fees are very competitive.
See also: 'Broadband deals in London'
Gigaclear’s main four full fibre packages range from 200Mb to 900Mb with symmetrical upload and download rates, on minimum 18-month contracts.
Trooli offers either a 150Mb, 500Mb or 900Mb full fibre home package. Unlike many larger providers, Trooli has made a pledge never to raise a price mid-contract.
To see how this compares to other providers, check out our guide to price increases in 2023.
YouFibre's broadband packages go up to an incredible 7000Mb average download speed. It also offers a very cheap 150Mb full fibre deal at under £20. Rolling monthly contracts are available.
Are smaller providers reliable?
In short, the answer is yes! While smaller providers are lesser known, this doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t deliver a good service. For example, in Broadband Genie's 2023 Broadband Awards, the likes of Hyperoptic and Gigaclear ranked higher than some of the big names for Customer Care.
All are subject to Ofcom regulations, and many also give 30 and 60-day satisfaction guarantees for added peace of mind. If download speeds or reliability fails to meet expected levels, then customers can walk away with their money back.
Any best broadband or telecoms awards for altnets are a good place to see which are performing well. You can also check social media. See if there are any issues regularly being raised by customers. And, more importantly, how well customer services are replying.
Advantages and dis-advantages of signing up to an alternative network
Switching to an altnet
There are a few things to think about before making a switch to an altnet provider.
Customers must notify an old provider themselves because it isn’t a switch within the same network. Things aren’t as simple as switching between two providers who are both on the Openreach network.
This normally lets the new provider do all the admin for you, but won’t apply here until the delayed ‘One Touch Switch’ legislation comes in force. Providers usually ask for 30 days notice when switching.
Switching credits is also worth noting here for mid-contract customers. Sometimes altnets offer schemes to pay your early termination fees and switch early. Hyperoptic’s ‘Switch Now’ incentive is a good example.
Altnets are nothing to be wary of! They offer a great alternative to the bigger names in broadband.
Availability can be an issue, though. Before getting your heart set on an altnet, use our deals checker to see who serves your immediate area.
By rolling out new 100% full fibre networks, they can be independent of Openreach and offer superfast speeds on competitive deals. Lower monthly prices are also often joined by the promise of no mid-contract rises and money-back guarantees for poor service.
We think an altnet is definitely worth considering when you're ready to switch broadband providers.
Why do we need your address?
We need your address to show you the broadband deals available at your home. This information is gathered in partnership with thinkbroadband.