What to consider when comparing broadband deals:
Broadband download speed:
When comparing broadband deals, consider how many people will be using your home Wi-Fi connection and what they’ll be doing. A household full of binge-watchers and online gamers will need faster internet than a home of occasional email checkers.
Broadband speeds are represented as megabits per second (Mbps) and the number you see advertised will be the download speed.
- Basic, 10-11 Mbps: Ideal for occasional or light internet users and single person households.
- Superfast, 24-99 Mbps: Ideal for frequent internet users, especially those streaming videos, playing games, and downloading content, and for households with multiple users and devices sharing a network.
- Ultrafast, 100-499 Mbps: Ideal for heavy internet using households, especially multi-person households, in areas where these connections are available.
- Hyperfast, 500-999 Mbps: Ideal for heavy internet users, especially those living in remote or rural areas where speeds are eroded on other connections over great distance.
- Gigabit, 1 Gbps +: Ideal for internet superheroes.
Most customers will want to get faster speeds than they currently have when switching broadband providers. If you’re not sure what speed your current connection provides, you can find this out easily with our broadband speed test.
Broadband contract length:
Internet packages available range from 30-day rolling no contract broadband, to longer-term tariffs lasting up to 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 or installation fees.
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 broadband providers.
Typically, Sky and Virgin Media have the best TV selections, but if you’re on a budget or you’re after flexibility you should go for a provider like Now, who offer rolling TV memberships as an add-on to their broadband service.
Some providers will offer free gifts as an incentive, including cashback, reward cards, subscriptions, or free tech. For more information on this, please see our broadband deals with free gifts page.
Check and see how well each provider performs on customer service league tables. You don’t want to sign a lengthy contract with an Internet Service Provider known for billing errors, long phone waiting times, and connection problems. For more information, check out our page on the best and worst broadband providers in 2020.
Terms and conditions:
It’s important to read the fine print of any contract, so you know exactly 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 paying any fees.
Broadband download limits: Are the best broadband deals always unlimited?
As the data appetites of British households have grown, the download limits ISPs used to enforce have fallen away. These days, most fixed broadband packages come without caps, so you can browse, 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. But you’re unlikely to be curbed unless you’re downloading 4K films for a month straight - and then only at high-traffic times in the evening.
Some providers do still offer packages with download limits. These tend to have smaller monthly 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, which can add up pretty quickly.
If you are unsure about this aspect of broadband selection, be sure to go to our page on unlimited broadband.
Types of broadband connection
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.
Superfast fibre optic broadband:
Fibre broadband delivers internet over fibre optic cables. Superfast broadband connections (available from most 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 existing telephone network.
Ultrafast & G.Fast broadband:
A few providers offer now ultrafast broadband, which delivers average download speeds exceeding 100 Mbps. Ultrafast broadband isn't yet 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 that 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, also known as 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 typically the cheapest broadband deals on the market, starting at around £17 a month including line rental. But the speeds they offer won’t be sufficient for heavy internet users or households with multiple people and devices sharing the network.
Broadband & TV bundle deals:
Many ISPs bundle together broadband connections with live or on-demand TV packages. If you want more channels and streaming options than what 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 Media, BT, or NOW.
With the exception of some deals from NOW and Virgin Media, 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 your provider to cater 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 that packages some premium Sky channels.
Want the most channels possible, and the ability to view them on multiple devices simultaneously? Consider Virgin Media or Sky, which offer the most comprehensive TV packages.
To find a broadband and TV bundle deal that suits you, head over to our broadband and TV page.
Broadband and line rental:
Most broadband packages come with a line rental fee, which is typically included in the monthly cost of your broadband connection. You’ll usually have to pay this regardless of whether you ever make any landline calls.
Some packages come with free calls included at certain times (evenings or weekends), but the cheapest deals will be pay as you go. To find a broadband and home phone package that’s right for you, head over to our broadband and phone page.
Broadband deals without line rental are available, but they won't always be much cheaper than other plans, and your choice of providers may be more limited. See our broadband only page for more.
Frequently asked questions about switching broadband deals
Will I lose my connection/ have downtime?
You’ll usually have a short amount of down time before your new connection is set up. If your old contract ends on the day your new one starts, and you don’t need an engineer to install it, then this downtime may last just a matter of minutes.
But if you’re moving into a new property, you may need to wait for a few days or weeks after setting up the contract for your router to arrive. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get this sorted as far in advance of your moving date as possible.
Will an engineer need to visit?
If you’ve switching to a new type of connection (e.g. from ADSL to cable), you might need an engineer to visit your home in order to physically set up the new line. This can delay things a bit, so it’s worth getting this sorted as early as possible.
Can I keep my landline number?
If you’re staying in the same house, but just changing provider, you should be able to keep your existing landline number.
Do I need technical knowledge?
The short answer is no. Even if you choose a self-install option, which involves your provider simply sending a new router in the post, the instructions to set it all up will be clearly provided.
Why can’t I see any deals from my preferred provider after entering my postcode?
Unfortunately, not everyone has a full range of choice when it comes to choosing their next broadband provider. This is because not all providers cover the whole of the UK yet.
BT, and other providers who use its Openreach network, should be available to the vast majority of postcodes. However, Virgin Media is currently available in just over 44% of UK households, while providers like Hyperoptic and Gigaclear cover even smaller areas. To see which providers operate where you live, simply enter your postcode into our broadband comparison tool.
Last reviewed: 17 June 2021
Next review: 17 July 2021