Zen Internet review after 9 years

Zen Internet offers fast, reliable fibre broadband backed up by a UK-based support centre. I had one major outage that wasn't Zen's fault but otherwise 99.9% reliability.

Zen Internet logo. I have been with Zen Internet since October 2010. I upgraded to fibre in April 2015 and moved house in January 2016, and I remained with Zen Internet throughout.

I had been with many other ISPs before that, going way back to the 90s. I seem to remember Tiscali was my first, although my memory isn’t good enough to be totally sure.

I originally went with Zen because they offered a package with a better upload speed than most ISPs. I was doing internet-based work at the time which involved a lot of uploading and this was a major factor as to why I chose Zen.

Zen are a little more expensive than other ISPs but I think it’s worth it for the speed and reliability.

They currently offer six packages for home users:

Name Mths Cost Activation Down Up
Standard Internet (ADSL)
Unlimited 12 12 28.00 19.99 10 1
Unlimited 1 1 32.99 0.00 10 1
Superfast Fibre (FTTC)
Fibre 1 12 31.99 19.99 35 6
Fibre 2 12 38.99 19.99 66 17
Ultrafast Fibre (FTTP)
Fibre 3 12 49.99 55.00 145 30
Fibre 4 12 59.99 55.00 300 50

Prices are quoted in pounds sterling per month, upload and download speeds are in megabits-per-second and those speeds represent an average. All packages are truly unlimited and include the phone line rental fee.

My router stats, 9:30AM 22 August 2019. I have the Superfast Fibre 2 package and my modem/router reports I get 48.9 Mbps down and 11.5 Mbps up, so I’m below the quoted average but it’s still plenty fast enough.

Many things can determine that actual broadband speed you get and distance from the roadside cabinet is a major factor with the ‘Superfast’ fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) connection I have. Such connections are only fibre from the exchange to the roadside cabinet, it then goes by standard copper wire from the roadside cabinet to your home and this is the bit that slows everything down.

So-called ‘Ultrafast’ broadband is fibre all the way to the premises (FTTP) and you can expect 3x to 6x the speed of FTTC with that or 15x to 30x standard (ADSL) broadband speeds. Alas FTTP is only available to a tiny percentage of UK users through the BT OpenReach network and I don’t expect it where I live for a long time as I’m out in the sticks a bit. Virgin of course has its own FTTP network and that’s rolled out to many more homes, although mainly in cities and large towns.

Either way, the speed you get at your modem/router is unlikely to be the speed you experience at your actual device because most people then distribute their broadband via an internal network (wired or wi-fi) to a number of different devices.

In my case it goes to my laptop, phone, iPad, TV and other things via a wireless network and mesh system. The speed at my laptop according to the Which Broadband Speed Test is as follows:

Which Speed Test, 9:30AM 22 August 2019.
Which Speed Test, 9:30AM 22 August 2019.

So the speed I experience is nowhere near the speed advertised by Zen, but that would be true of all ISPs if I remain the same distance from the roadside box and operate the same in-home network configuration. Such things are outside the control of the ISP.

From my point of view I never receive “buffering” messages with internet TV or video, which is encouraging, but it’s probably more important to talk about reliability.

Zen has been very good in that respect. Connection drops are rare. I’ve maybe had half a dozen in the nine years I’ve been with Zen and they’ve always been brief (but see the next paragraph).

I have had one severe problem since I’ve been with Zen. When I transferred from ADSL to fibre I lost my connection for six weeks. My next-door neighbour allowed me to piggyback off her wireless network for the duration otherwise it would have been extremely inconvenient. The problem was not Zen’s fault. It’s down to BT OpenReach to do the work on the roadside box and they screwed it up. It took them an unaccountably long time to get a replacement part for my roadside box.

BT OpenReach seem completely unaccountable to residential customers, who they appear to care little about, and they operate as a law unto themselves. This is something the regulator needs to fix.

Zen kept me informed throughout via their UK-based call centre and I was compensated for the downtime. I understood the problem was not theirs and there was little they could do about it other than pressure BT OpenReach, but I pay Zen for the connection, not BT OpenReach, so I’m going to have to take a star off my rating just for this incident.

In every other respect, Zen Internet have proven to be an excellent ISP. I was just unlucky with the major problem I had and I would not hesitate to recommend Zen to anyone.

If we remove that one incident, I’ve had 99.9% uptime with sufficient speed and their UK-based call centre is populated with people who can solve problems rather than read from a script.