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Need more info? Read through some of our helpful guides for more hints and tips on comparing broadband deals, switching, and using broadband.
In this guide
When comparing broadband deals, consider how many users are hopping onto your home Wi-Fi and what they’re doing. A household full of binge-watchers and online gamers will need faster broadband than a home of occasional email checkers. Speeds are represented as megabits per second (Mbps) and the headline number will be the download speed.
Broadband installation can cost you money for the following reasons:
When comparing broadband deals you will find that there is plenty of choice for deals with no upfront costs. This means that you won’t have to pay anything to have your broadband set up and working in your home.
Broadband deals range from 30-day, rolling contracts to longer-term tariffs, lasting for 12, 18, or 24 months. You can save money and earn perks, including free setup, by signing up for a longer deal, but you’ll sacrifice flexibility.
Consider not only the monthly bills, but also any upfront costs, which can include equipment fees for routers. The full contract cost will total all of these fees over the length of the term.
Want to throw in a pay TV subscription? Consider the channels and streaming packages offered by the providers. Typically, Sky and Virgin Media have the best TV selections, but you can also go for a provider like Now Broadband, who bundle in their Now TV on-demand service.
Some providers give your signing bonuses, including cashback, gifts, or other rewards.
Check and see how well your considered providers perform on customer service league tables. You don’t want to sign a lengthy contract with an ISP known for billing errors, long phone waiting times, and connection problems.
It’s important to read the fine print of any contract, so you know what you’re signing up for. Look out especially for any information about exiting the contract, including penalties for leaving early and the circumstances under which you can duck out without fees.
The simple answer is yes! You can switch your broadband provider at any time. However, if you are still in the middle of your contract then you may incur an exit fee. This could be quite a large fee depending on how long you’ve got left on your contract, who your provider is, and which broadband deal you have.
If you wish to switch provider, then it may be better to wait until your contract ends before switching. Switching broadband deals will often save you money as introductory discounts are common. You will save money because the discount on your original contract may end, and you will have the benefit of an introductory discount with your new provider.
There may be cases where you can switch providers in the middle of a contract with no fees. This will be if your provider breaches the contract in any way, for example, raising your monthly bill in the middle of a contract, or if they are not providing the broadband speeds initially promised to you.
As the data appetites of British households have grown, the download limits ISPs used to enforce have fallen away. Most fixed broadband packages come without data caps, so you can stream and game to your heart’s content, but internet usage isn't entirely unrestricted.
Under ‘fair usage’ policies', some ISPs restrict speeds during peak times on the heaviest users. You’re unlikely to be curbed unless you’re downloading Blu-ray films for a month straight—and then only at high-traffic times in the evening.
Some providers still offer packages with download limits. These tend to have smaller headline costs, but once you exceed that limit the price can skyrocket. For instance, BT charges £1.80 per extra gigabyte of data consumed over your budget.
What broadband technology should you consider? How many gigabytes of data do you need? Which providers offer the best TV bundling options? And can finding a package without line rental save you money? Before you look through specific broadband options, you should know what type of deal you’re after—whether it’s a superfast connection with a TV package or a slower tariff with a download limit and lower costs.
Many ISPs bundle together broadband connections with live or on-demand TV packages. If you want more channels and streaming options than Freeview and a Netflix subscription can offer, you might want to consider a triple play (that’s broadband, landline, and TV) bundle from providers like Sky, Virgin, BT, TalkTalk, and NOW TV.
With the exception of some deals from NOW TV and Virgin, available on a 30-day rolling basis, you’ll usually need to sign up to a 12+ month contract to access these services. But after signing up you’ll typically get a set-top box, with the ability to pause, rewind, and record live TV, and access to dozens of channels, movies, and box sets.
You’ll want to cater your provider choice to your TV viewing habits:
Want the most channels possible, and the ability to view them on multiple devices simultaneously? Consider Virgin or Sky, which offer the most comprehensive TV packages.
Most broadband packages come with line rental fee, of around £15 to £17 a month, that technically covers your landline connection. You’ll usually have to pay this regardless of whether you ever make any landline calls.
Broadband deals without line rental are available, but they won't always be much cheaper than other plans. See our broadband only page for more.
Depending on your current provider and how far you are into your contract, you may have to pay an early termination fee if you want to cancel your contract before it ends. If your current contract is close to ending, you should pre-emptively compare broadband deals to see what you want to switch to next.
You should also be exempt from any exit fees if your provider raised its prices above inflation. If your current deal has ended, you should start comparing broadband deals immediately, as you will typically be paying higher out-of-contract prices and will almost certainly be able to find a better deal elsewhere.
The quickest, easiest and best way to find the cheapest broadband deals is to compare deals using our price comparison tool. All you need to do is enter your postcode, and you will be provided with a list of deals available to you, from all the providers who service your area.
Some of the best broadband deals come with no frills – they’ll often have slower speeds, suitable for the most basic internet users, and may even come with download limits. But the broadband market is constantly changing, and providers are starting to offer faster speeds and unlimited usage at lower prices. So, if it’s just broadband you’re after and no TV, mobile or landline, then there are still bargains to be found out there.
When comparing broadband deals, most people will look at two things – speed and price. The faster your broadband connection, then the smoother your overall browsing experience will be, especially when it comes to streaming movies or playing video games. And while it makes sense that the fastest speeds will cost the most, that’s not always the case.
Superfast broadband is becoming more widely available, and with relatively new entrants to the market such as Hyperoptic and Gigaclear increasing competition, prices for superfast broadband seem to be falling.
While slow broadband speeds may be down to your provider, there are some external factors that you should be aware of before you compare broadband deals. There might be an issue with your router, or maybe it’s your clogged-up computer that’s slowing things down.
You should use our online speed test tool to check your broadband speeds, and then compare this with what your provider advertised to you.
If they don’t match up, you can complain to your broadband provider. Under Ofcom rules, if your real broadband speed isn’t what was offered to you, then you should be able to switch broadband provider free of charge.
When you compare broadband deals, speed is one of the most important factors to consider. While superfast broadband sounds like an attractive option, for some it might not be worth it, and you don’t want to pay for something you don’t need. Faster average speeds allow you to download and upload things quickly, stream videos and play games smoothly, and use multiple devices simultaneously without issue.
If you live alone or with one or two other people, and you only use the internet for simple things like checking emails and social media, then the most basic download speed should meet your needs. But if you love binging Netflix shows, downloading games on your PS4 or you have a large family that all like to use the internet at the same time, then you should consider going for a faster package.
The most common type of broadband in the UK is ADSL, which delivers your internet via copper cables. With this type of broadband, your speeds are affected by how far your home is to the telephone exchange and how many people in your area are using the internet at the same time.
Superfast broadband speeds are usually delivered on fibre optic cables, which transfer data at a much faster rate than ADSL copper cables. Fibre optic comes in two forms – fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the premises (FTTP). While FTTC uses fibre cables to the telephone exchange and then copper cables to your home, FTTP delivers your broadband via fibre cables all the way to your home and is thus more reliable.
Other, less common types of broadband are cable, wireless and satellite connections.
Fibre optic broadband delivers internet over fibre optic cables. Superfast broadband connections (available from quite a few different broadband providers) with download speeds of over 24 Mbps, are usually FTTC broadband, or fibre to the cabinet.
These connections use fibre optic cables between the local phone exchange and your street cabinet, but make the final leg of the journey, to your doorstep and router, on the copper wires of the telephone network.
A few providers offer ultrafast broadband, which delivers average download speeds exceeding 100 Mbps. Ultrafast broadband isn't available everywhere in the country, and tends to cost more than standard fibre. If you're a heavy user, however, it can be worthwhile.
G.Fast is a fibre optic/copper phone line hybrid, which uses different frequencies to deliver internet over the same infrastructure FTTC does, at speeds of up to 300 Mbps. However, G.Fast connections are only available to a small percentage of UK homes. A postcode search will tell you if these ultrafast connections have reached your neighbourhood.
ADSL, or standard, broadband operates over the copper wires of the landline phone network and delivers average download speeds of between 10 and 11 Mbps.
ADSL plans are the cheapest broadband deals on the market, starting at around £17 a month including line rental. But the speeds they offer typically won’t be sufficient for heavy internet users or households with multiple people and devices sharing the network.
British households consume, on average, 240GB a month via their fixed line broadband connections—far in excess of the 12-50GB allowances on limited tariffs. So unless you are an exceptionally light internet user, you’ll probably need unlimited downloads.
Consider that one hour of web browsing uses between 10-25MB of data, one hour of streaming Netflix in HD eats up 3GB, and one hour of online gaming gobbles up more than 40GB, and you can see how quickly those allowances can go.
In fact, with so few providers offering packages with limited downloads, you’ll have to go out of your way to find one, and they likely won’t save you that much money (likely just £2 to £5 a month). And those savings can easily be eroded if you go over your allowance and incur excessive usage fees.
Just under half of internet-connected households in the UK use fibre optic broadband. But these superfast (and faster) connections are best suited to the way we use the internet today: streaming TV programmes, uploading images to social media, logging on via multiple devices at once. Only fibre optic connections provide the bandwidth necessarily to comfortably watch HD content and game online.
Additionally, fibre optic connections are essential if you have multiple users, or just devices, sharing a network. Fibre optic connections ensure that there’s enough speed in your internet to divvy up—and keep family squabbling to a minimum.
Essentially all national ISPs (broadband providers) offer FTTC fibre broadband.
Only a few offer faster full fibre (FTTP) connections, however. This includes those using Openreach’s network, such as BT and Zen. You can also explore connections from alternative networks providers, like CityFibre, Gigaclear, and Hyperoptic, which specialise in full fibre and lay their own networks.
TalkTalk, Sky, and Virgin—along with BT, the UK’s largest ISPs—have yet to offer FTTP connections.
There are two flavours of fibre optic broadband on the market. FTTC, or fibre to the cabinet, broadband is more common, available to 95% of UK premises. It uses fibre optic cables for most of its journey, but then covers the ‘last mile,’ from your street cabinet to your door, on the copper wires of the landline phone network. It comes in three speeds, with download speeds averaging 36 Mbps, 50 Mbps, and 67 Mbps.
FTTP stands for fibre to the premise: internet connections that make the whole run to your home on fibre optic cables. That means dizzying speeds of up to 2 Gbps, in some cases, but speeds under 500 Mbps are more common. But these connections—also called full fibre—are more expensive and time-consuming to install, so they’re currently only available to 7% of UK households. A postcode checker will tell you whether yours is one of them.
Did you sign up for a broadband contract and then change your mind, perhaps because you’ve shopped around more and found a better deal? Concerned about a line item in the broadband contract you’ve signed?
You have 14 days after signing a broadband contract online or over the phone to cancel it without penalty. However, you will be liable for any charges incurred during that 14-day period, including the pro rata cost of the broadband and line rental and any call charges.
You’ll likely also need to return hardware, such as routers and set-top boxes, to the ISP or face charges for them. Find the right broadband package for your household by using our broadband plans comparison service.