What is an AltNet provider? About AltNet providers in the UK

Get to know the smaller competitors in the broadband market.

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You may not know what they are, but AltNet providers are just as important to the future of the UK’s broadband landscape as the major players in the industry.

Whether you are unsure of what they are and want to know or you have stumbled across an AltNet provider while looking for a deal on your broadband, we’ve got you covered with what you need to know.

Find out the important details as we answer the question, what is an AltNet Provider?

What is an AltNet provider?

An AltNet provider is a telecommunication company that offers broadband services using its own independent network infrastructure.

They differ from other providers as they don’t use already-existing copper or fibre optic networks. 

Many broadband providers use the BT-owned Openreach network - Sky, TalkTalk and Plusnet - while Virgin Media has its own large network, although they are not an altnet itself as it is a traditional provider and have partnered with altnet providers such as Nexfibre.

AltNet providers build their own networks from scratch, which allows them to monitor their connections better amongst a host of other benefits.

What does AltNet stand for?

AltNet stands for Alternative Network, which basically explains what it is. It is an alternative option to the standard networks used by many other providers, hence the name.

What are the benefits of AltNet providers?

We mentioned one benefit already, being that altnet providers have better control over their networks and can monitor them closer since they built them.

What’s more, many altnet providers prioritise building their networks in areas that are usually an afterthought to Openreach and Virgin Media. This means usually less-connected towns and cities can benefit from fast and reliable broadband.

AltNet providers will predominantly use fibre optic cables to deliver their broadband, meaning the vast majority of AltNets offer only ultrafast or even hyperfast FTTP full-fibre broadband. 

While they may not have as many packages on offer, the ones they will have are usually priced very competitively and are typically advertised with some sort of introductory offer or promotion to try to entice customers and make their services look more appealing.

As for customer service, you can expect to find an efficient and customer-centric service with agents who are more than capable and willing to assist you in any way they can.

How many UK AltNet providers are there?

In the UK, there are over 100 registered AltNets, with that number expanding rapidly. In 2022, the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) counted over 60 confirmed providers.

The reason for the growth of altnets in the UK is due to a number of reasons, but they all come back round to essentially building the future of broadband in the UK.

The UK is rather behind many other developed countries in terms of connectivity and access to ultrafast broadband.

Introducing more altnets to areas which won’t be reached by the government’s FTTP rollout is helping to ensure more of the nation is getting connected as the increase in demand continues to rise.

What is the market share of AltNet providers in the UK?

Trying to find an exact number for the market share of altnets in the UK is difficult to pinpoint; however, figures from ispreview.co.uk in February this year gave a good view of how they are managing to challenge the more established providers.

Virgin Media’s network services 15.6 million premises, while Openreach services 9.6 million. From the top 10 AltNet providers alone, they surpassed the 5.4 million figure in January this year, which is up from the 4.2 million that was recorded just seven months before in June 2022.

Bearing in mind that these numbers are from the start of the year so are more than likely rather different now, AltNets are certainly becoming more popular for customers who are made to think they can’t get ultrafast speeds because the traditional broadband providers don’t service their area.

Who is the largest AltNet provider in the UK?

Some of the biggest altnet providers in the UK by the number of premises they service are:

CityFibre cleared the two and a half million premises back in January so that number may even be over three million now. Unlike many AltNets who look to service specific areas, they are building a nationwide fibre optic network that will eventually cover over eight million premises.

With Broadband Finder, you can find packages from the likes of Community Fibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear, but you can also find other top altnets such as Hey! Broadband, Fibrus Broadband and KCOM.

Each of those three networks offers a brilliant service in their respective areas they provide.

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