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TalkTalk Broadband

TalkTalk Broadband (2021) review: Always cheap, often fast but rarely reliable

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
19
inc VAT, per month

TalkTalk can be very fast and very cheap but service and reliability let it down

Pros 
Great range of fibre packages
Excellent fibre routers
Low costs
Cons 
Poor customer service scores
Reliability issues
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TalkTalk is one of the UK’s biggest ISPs, and while it’s not as big as BTSky or Virgin Media, it’s still a major player, with around 4.2 million broadband customers and over half of those on fibre. Yet it doesn’t have the best track record for speed, reliability or customer service. In last year’s Expert Reviews Best Broadband Awards 2020 survey it came last out of the seven biggest UK ISPs on all three counts. It’s repeated the same trick this year. What’s more, only 62% of TalkTalk customers would recommend it to someone else.

This is a shame, because TalkTalk has some very attractive offers, particularly when it comes to fast fibre broadband services at rock-bottom prices; its cheapest Fibre 35 service starts at only £22 per month. Its ultrafast deals are equally intriguing, with 145Mbits/sec G.Fast services from only £28 per month. There isn’t a huge amount of competition in Ultrafast services and what does exist is nowhere near that cheap.

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TalkTalk review: Fast Broadband

TalkTalk’s cheapest broadband package gives you an unlimited ADSL2+ connection with an average download speed of 11Mbits/sec for £24.50 on an 18-month contract. If you check a little further down this review, you’ll soon notice that this is more expensive than TalkTalk’s cheapest fibre deals, so it’s only worth considering in areas where Fibre isn’t available. Users will be sent TalkTalk’s Super Router – a pretty basic Huawei-made effort that includes dual-band 1750Mbits/sec 802.11ac Wi-Fi and four Gigabit Ethernet ports.

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TalkTalk review: Fibre 35 and Fibre 65

TalkTalk’s fibre services start with the Fibre 35 package, with average speeds of 38Mbits/sec for a very competitive £22 a month on a two-year contract. The £4.95 P&P charge nets you TalkTalk’s Wi-Fi Hub Black, a tweaked version of the Wi-Fi Hub we awarded a Recommended back in 2018. This brings you 4x4 MU-MIMO for vastly improved Wi-Fi performance and a pre-configured VDSL modem, along with four Gigabit Ethernet ports and an external WAN port. At the time, it was one of the fastest routers we’d seen and it’s still speedy by 801.11ac standards today.

The average speed of 38Mbits/sec is fast enough for most users and you’ll only have issues if you’re planning to watch multiple 4K video streams or double-screen HD programmes and movies while someone else is downloading the latest triple-A game. Find an extra £2 a month and you can make the jump to the 67Mbits/sec Fibre 65 package, which comes with the same router. It’s one of the cheapest higher-speed fibre packages from a major provider, with only Vodafone’s 63Mbits/sec Superfast 2 package coming in any cheaper.

TalkTalk review: Fibre 150, Fibre 250 and Fibre 500

If 67Mbits/sec still isn’t enough for your bandwidth-hungry household, TalkTalk has a couple of ultra-fast options for you. Fibre 150 and Fibre 250 are based on Openreach’s G.Fast technology, giving you speeds of up to 145Mbits/sec and 290Mbits/sec respectively. These come with the original Wi-Fi Hub – still an excellent router – and expert installation to get things up and running.

Confusingly, TalkTalk also offers a couple of FTTP ultrafast options: Fibre 150 – Data Only; and Fibre 500 – Data Only. As the name suggests, these come without a phone line – they’re a pure data connection, nothing more – and have to be installed by an Openreach engineer. This Fibre 150 is, on average, 2Mbits/sec faster than the standard G.Fast version, while Fibre 500 – Data Only triples the speed for an extra £8 a month.

Both services are only available in areas where Openreach’s FTTP services have been rolled out, and there you might find one final TalkTalk option more intriguing.  

TalkTalk review: Ultra Fibre Optic

TalkTalk is now rolling out services based on Openreach’s Gigabit FTTP technology, with speeds averaging out at 900Mbits/sec or more. What’s more, these start out at £27.50 per month on an 18-month contract with no setup fees, which is by anyone’s yardstick an incredibly attractive initial deal. TalkTalk will also throw in one of its TV boxes and access to TalkTalk TV for an additional £2 a month. 

18-month plans

Fast BroadbandFibre 150 (Data only)Fibre 250Fibre 500 (Data only)Ultra Fibre Optic
Price per month (inc line rental)£24.50£32£40£40£27.50
Upfront cost£9.95£4.95£4.95£4.95£4.95
Average speed11Mbps147Mbps290Mbps441Mbps900Mbps
Usage allowanceUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Contract length18 months18 months18 months18 months18 months

24-month plans

Fibre 35Fibre 65Fibre 150
Price per month (inc line rental)£22£24£28
Upfront cost£4.95£4.95£4.95
Average speed38Mbps67Mbps145Mbps
Usage allowanceUnlimitedUnlimited Unlimited 
Contract length24 months24 months24 months

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TalkTalk review: Coverage

TalkTalk operates over Openreach’s UK network so its fibre services are available in the same towns and cities as BT’s or EE’s. That means roughly 96.6% of the UK population is in reach of a fibre service, although access to the faster G.Fast and FTTP services will be more restricted. Currently, only 2.8 million premises can get G.Fast fibre, while Openreach’s FTTP network covers around 3.5 million and counting. Outside major towns and cities, you’re likely to be in for a long wait.

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TalkTalk review: Performance and Customer Satisfaction

The majority of TalkTalk customers can expect very respectable speeds. Ofcom’s latest broadband performance figures put TalkTalk’s standard fibre services slightly ahead of the industry average, although its ADSL2+ performance isn’t as impressive.

In our 2021 Best Broadband Awards survey, more than a quarter of TalkTalk customers were Very Satisfied with their broadband speeds. Unfortunately, another quarter were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, while a further 29% were dissatisfied; only Vodafone had worse results.

This, sadly, reflects TalkTalk’s overall performance in our survey. For Customer Support and Reliability, TalkTalk trails the pack, with fewer satisfied customers than the competition, and more dissatisfied customers than anyone else, although Vodafone clawed into last place here on Reliability. TalkTalk’s low prices mean that it escapes the same fate on Value for Money but even here it lags behind Zen Internet, Plusnet, EE, Vodafone and Sky. The fact that more than a third of customers wouldn’t recommend it can’t be taken as a good sign.

Ofcom’s survey figures back our results. TalkTalk has the lowest figure for overall satisfaction and, with 800 complaints per 100,000 users, TalkTalk has more complaints than most of the major ISPs. Only 44% of TalkTalk users with a reason to complain were satisfied with the way their complaint was handled. TalkTalk hasn’t had the best history of customer service and support and it’s clear its struggles aren’t over yet.

Ofcom’s results are now incorporated into the scorecards issued by Ofcom in alliance with other regulators from the water, energy and banking sectors. The cards are designed to help customers make an informed choice. As you can see, TalkTalk is well below the industry average on every count, while its Net Promoter Score is quite abysmal, tracking into minus figures.

AverageTalkTalk
Satisfaction85%78%
NPS12-5
Complaints to Ofcom per 1000 subscribers5287

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TalkTalk review: Verdict

TalkTalk’s low costs and high speed are creating more than a few happy customers and if you’re after fast broadband on a budget, its prices are hard to beat. The problem is that its low customer service scores and reliability results leave too many questions over whether this is an ISP you can trust. As long as TalkTalk fails to fix these issues, we’ll continue to recommend you look elsewhere.

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