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1 year ago
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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 start to compare broadband deals and you should be able to switch free of charge. 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 is to compare deals using our price comparison service. All you need to do is enter your postcode, and you will be provided with a list of the best and cheapest broadband deals available to you, from all the providers in your area.
Some of the cheapest 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 speed, then the smoother your overall browsing experience will be, especially when it comes to streaming videos or playing 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. Use our broadband comparison service to see if you could save money by switching to a faster broadband package.
While slow internet 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. Use our broadband comparison service to find the best deals available in your area that you can switch to today.
When you comparing 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
British household consume, on average, 240 GB a month via their fixed line broadband connections—far in excess of the 12 to 50 GB 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 and 25 MB of data, one hour of streaming Netflix in HD eats up 3 GB, and one hour of online gaming gobbles up more than 40 GB, 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 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. Another way of describing speed is bandwidth—the number of megabits of data a connection can receive in one second. If internet browsers, or even gadgets and smart appliances, are sharing a connection, they’ll each receive just a slice of that bandwidth. Fibre optic connections ensure that there’s enough speed in your internet to divvy up—and keep family squabbling to a minimum.
Additionally, the lowest tier of fibre optic broadband can be purchased for just £5 a month more than ADSL connections. In fact, if you haven’t switched provider or tariff in a number of years, you may be paying more for your older standard broadband package than you would for a new, faster fibre optic deal.
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.
Need more info? Read through some of our helpful guides for more hints and tips on comparing, switching, and using broadband.
In this guide
In this guide
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 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.
As the data appetites of British households have grown—to 240 GB a month—the download limits ISPs used to impose on our connections have fallen away. Today, the vast majority of fixed broadband packages come without caps, to allow you to stream and game to your heart’s content. But that doesn’t mean your internet usage is entirely unrestricted. Under ‘fair usage’ policies, some ISPs impose speed restrictions during peak times on the heaviest users. But you’re unlikely to be curbed unless you’re downloading Blu-ray films for month straight—and then only at high-traffic times in the evening.
BT and Sky continue to offer packages with download limits, of between 12 GB and 50 GB per month. These can be the cheapest broadband packages on the market, by a few pounds a month, but customers should beware. It’s easy to exceed those allowances—streaming a single hour of Netflix in HD will eat around 3 GB—and you can then incur hefty fees for any overages. For instance, BT charges £1.80 per extra gigabyte of data consumed over your budget. Packages with download limits are therefore only suitable for the highest internet users, particularly older customers who use their computer just to check email and browse social media.
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.
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.
There are three speeds of fibre optic broadband, with average download speeds around 36 Mbps, 50 Mbps, and 67 Mbps. Upload speeds will be slower. The advertised speeds are averages and real-world results will vary, depending on how far you live from your street cabinet and network traffic. The lowest tiers of fibre optic broadband can be bought for around £20 a month, including line rental. Currently around 95% of homes can access superfast fibre optic broadband, up from just 70% five years ago. 42% of households with an internet connection use fibre optic connections, most of them FTTC.
Ultrafast broadband delivers average download speeds exceeding 100 Mbps. There are several broadband technologies that attain those speeds. Virgin Media uses coaxial cables, in speeds which start at 54 Mbps and go all the way up to 362 Mbps. Virgin connections are available to around half of UK households, although switching to and from them is more complicated than switching between other providers.
Alternatively, you can attain ultrafast speeds sometimes up to 2 Gbps (2000 Mbps) with full fibre or FTTP (fibre to the premises). Unlike FTTC fibre optic, these connections make the full journey on fibre optic cables, which means they can deliver dazzling speeds which don’t dwindle over distance, making them ideal for rural or remote locations far from telephones and street cabinets. As of summer 2019, just 7% of UK households can access full fibre (FTTP) connections, although the government has committed to achieving universal full fibre coverage by 2033.
G.Fast is another 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 is the original broadband network in the UK. It operates over the copper wires of the landline phone network and delivers average download speeds of between 10 and 11 Mbps. However, broadband speeds dwindle over distances on copper telephone wires, so the further your live from your local phone exchange, the slower the speeds you receive at home will be. ADSL connections are asymmetric, designed to offer faster download speeds than upload speeds, to reflect the way most people use the internet. You can expect upload speeds of around 2 Mbps on standard broadband connections. ADSL broadband is available to 99% of UK households—at any premise connected to the phone network—and is used by about 38% of households. 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.
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: A fan of the buzz-worthy US TV imports that typically land on Sky Atlantic? You’ll want to sign up for a bundle from Sky or one through NOW TV that packages some Sky channels. Want the most channels possible, the ability to view them on multiple devices simultaneously, to satisfy the whole family? Consider Virgin or Sky, which offer the most comprehensive TV menus.
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. Under an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rule, the cost of line rental must be included in any monthly fee ISPs quote you, so you won’t be hit with hidden costs. But you might be irked paying for a service you’re not using and wonder if you can find a broadband package with line rental. They are available, but won’t save you much money. Virgin Media connections don’t have line rental, because they bypass the landline network altogether, but aren’t any cheaper. And some ISPs, like Zen, might offer packages that technically don’t include a fee for line rental but again, they’re not any cheaper than competitors’ packages.