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How can I find cheap broadband deals?
With the sheer number of broadband deals out there, picking the perfect deal from the ideal provider isn’t easy. This section aims to equip you with the tools you’ll need to make those choices a little bit simpler. There are three main criteria to always keep in mind when weighing up your options.
This one’s simple - is that broadband deal available in my area? A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If you can’t access some broadband deals and a particular type of connection or broadband provider where you live, your options are automatically narrowed down.
Your budget will naturally influence your choice of broadband deals. Not everyone can afford the most expensive high-end connections and broadband deals. Your options can be restricted by your budget, but this doesn’t mean you have to settle for something sub-par to save money.
Balancing cost and output can be tricky. Broadband deals come in all shapes and sizes and what you value most may differ to the next person. Weigh up the performance of your key criteria against other deals to see which broadband package comes out on top.
Who is the best broadband provider in the UK?
As you may have guessed, there are lots of things to consider when deciding which broadband provider is the best. However, the most popular broadband providers are BT (includes EE and Plusnet customers), Sky Broadband, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Vodafone UK.
What makes the best broadband deal?
As you may have guessed, there are lots of things to consider when picking out the perfect broadband deal.
If you’re considering changing broadband suppliers, there are several vital things to consider. You can compare broadband deals by monthly cost, data usage limits, average speed and length of contract to find a package that works for you and your household. Below is a full breakdown of what to bear in mind when searching through broadband deals.
What to look for in a broadband deal
Not all connection types will necessarily be available in your area which will, of course, limit your options. If you live in a more rural location, you may have fewer broadband deals available than someone who lives in the city. The majority of broadband providers offer a postcode checking service so you can see if your area is covered.
Most contracts and broadband deals last 12 months, but this is always worth double-checking. Longer contracts could potentially make switching trickier with additional charges for cancelling mid-contract. Weigh up how long you are likely to want to commit to a broadband deal. Longer deals may well offer improved rates or perks but that doesn’t necessarily make them the right choice for you.
Your budget is a pivotal factor when choosing the best broadband deal for you. Shop around and compare broadband deals to get value for money. Not all deals will be within your price range but this doesn’t mean you have to settle for a less-than optimal broadband package. Expensive doesn’t always mean better, so make sure to carefully consider exactly what you’re getting for your investment.
Hopefully, broadband provider customer service isn’t something you have to deal with often. However, reading reviews to gain a better insight on customer experience is worth it if you do encounter any issues. If you have an issue with your provider, a strong customer support team can make all the difference. Avoid unpleasant or frustrating experiences by doing your homework before signing up to any deals.
Broadband speed determines how fast web pages load, files are downloaded, the time streaming video takes to buffer, and more. This can make or break how suitable you deem a broadband provider to be. Even with all the proverbial bells and whistles, a broadband provider delivering a slow connection speed is one to avoid. Compare the differences in advertised broadband speed and minimum speed and keep in mind just how significant a few megabits per second (Mbps) may be to your experience.
Broadband deals with unlimited downloads can be a great perk for many but isn’t a necessity for everyone. Checking for possible download limits is advised if your household is likely to download things often. It may be worth monitoring your average household monthly usage statistics before deciding which package suits you best.
Broadband deals in my area
Broadband deals vary across the UK and aren’t necessarily accessible in your location. For that reason, it is worth checking which internet providers you can get in your home.
Sadly, just because you come across a provider with fantastic download speeds, doesn’t mean you will be able to access them from your location. In general, broadband coverage is best in large towns and cities. However, these speeds can still vary significantly between postcodes. Factors such as type of cables and distance from telephone exchange can affect speeds. Usually, fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks provide the fastest speeds. This is due to cables running directly to your house.
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Types of broadband deals
Broadband deals might include packages that bundle broadband with extras such as a TV package or phone services which can bring down the total cost and save money. You may find that these bundles are less expensive than individual contracts. They are also more straightforward to pay for and more convenient and manageable for many customers.
Often, ISPs will pair broadband and line rentals into one package. However, some big-name providers do offer separate broadband packages for broadband and line rental. You might have less choice when it comes to comparing deals, but this may be worth considering if you aren’t looking to have a line rental included in your broadband package. Virgin Media is the most widely available broadband-only provider in the UK.
Before selecting your broadband deal, make sure to check a few key criteria such as:
- Monthly rental cost.
- Additional charges for exceeding allowances.
- Extra package features such as anytime calls or TV deals.
A popular type of broadband that utilises your pre-existing phone line. Nothing more than a phone line is needed to set up an ADSL connection. This type of connection is practical and commonplace across the UK but rural homes may encounter restrictions. ADSL broadband is the least expensive option and that will likely be reflected in connection speed.
Fibre (FTTC or FTTP)
Fibre optic connections are designed to be incredibly fast and stable. This is often the preferred choice for busy homes with many connected devices that require fibre speeds. Like ADSL, fibre optic connections are accessible across the country but rural homes may experience difficulties. The two types of fibre broadband packages are known as fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the premises (FTTP).
Just as it sounds - unlimited broadband connections have no cap on how much data you can use.
An unlimited broadband deal ensures that you can never use too much data but will cost more as a result.
While fibre broadband is offered by many ISPs to deliver superfast and ultrafast broadband speeds, cable broadband is something specific to key providers such as Virgin Media broadband who run on their own network.
Often chosen as an alternative to ADSL or cable for rural homes. Unsurprisingly, you’ll need a physical satellite dish installed in order to have a satellite broadband connection. The cost of satellite internet tends to be higher than fixed line broadband.
What broadband speed is best for me?
Not everyone needs the fastest broadband deals and speeds.
Generally, the more people using the internet, the slower your connection will become. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule and does depend on how many devices are connected to the internet at any one time. Let's compare broadband speeds:
This speed will suffice for smaller households with few devices simultaneously connected. Occasional buffering may occur during streaming.
This is the ideal speed for a standard household. It can cope with multiple people streaming or downloading at any given time. This bracket is likely to offer affordable prices and a suitably fast connection.
This final speed bracket is worth considering for households looking for lag-free connections for several devices. 50-100Mbs is a brilliant broadband option for streaming 4K and shouldn’t encounter any connection issues when gaming online.
If you want to know what your current broadband speed is, you can use a broadband speed tool. This is a great way to identify whether or not you are in need of an upgrade.
Broadband deals and advertised speeds
The way in which broadband deals advertise speeds changed drastically in May 2018. Thanks to the Advertising Standards Authority, broadband deals must now advertise their ‘average’ speed rather than their ‘up to’ speed.
In simpler terms, your speed is now more likely to match or even exceed the advertised broadband speed than it was a few years ago. In order to be referred to as ‘average’, more than 50% of users must receive these speeds between peak usage hours (8 pm to 10 pm).
Broadband providers can also still advertise their top speeds alongside their average speeds. However, bear in mind that these speeds are unlikely to match the speed you would receive should you sign up for that particular package or provider. Top speeds are only available to a select few.
Is there a minimum broadband speed?
There is no guarantee that you will get the advertised average speed for any of the broadband deals you see, so it is well worth checking what the minimum speed provisions are.
If, for whatever reason, your speeds do not stack up to this minimum speed, you may be eligible for money back or a free cancellation. Make sure to read through contracts with care. This will give you the best indication of what your broadband speed is likely to be and will provide information on your minimum expectations.
How fast is my broadband?
Get a reliable estimation of your broadband speed and check how it compares to other broadband deals.
What factors affect my speed?
There are several different factors that can slow down your broadband connection.
It isn’t always easy to work out what exactly is impacting your connection speeds. However, if you’re looking to boost your speed, look out for some of the following potential concerns.
Peak Time Usage
Broadband speeds are likely to slow between the hours of 5 pm and 11 pm when networks are at their busiest. Using your broadband connection outside of these hours can result in a faster connection. Understandably, this is not always possible or desirable.
Any problems with the provider will most likely be announced on social media, so be sure to check websites such as Twitter. Alternatively, use a downdetector to identify if this is an issue. Any problem with your internet service provider can often be sorted out by email or phone call, especially if the issue is not network-wide.
Rebooting your router can often be the solution to a slower-than-usual broadband connection. Turning it off then on again is an age-old trick but it may just be the solution to a slow connection. Make sure to follow the instructions provided with your Wi-Fi router if you choose to reboot it.
Check other websites or programmes to see if they are also running slowly. If not, the issue is likely not on your end. However, if other things are also running slowly, the issue is likely to be client-side and can be more easily identified and fixed with the help of your internet service provider.
Broadband speed can be severely affected by malware and viruses on your device. Make sure to run a scan in order to make sure this is not an issue. Antivirus software is a good way to keep your devices free of potentially dangerous viruses which could reduce your connection speed among other things.
Living at a distance from your phone exchange can slow down your broadband connection speed. There isn’t a lot you can do about your household’s location but you can choose the best connection types to suit your circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is traffic management?
The term ‘traffic management’ refers to the system used to create a hierarchy of internet traffic. In other words, slow background processes like the download of a large file may run slower in order to prioritise online streaming services.
Broadband providers use traffic management to allow for stable internet connections across the board. This is achieved by tweaking upload and download speeds.
Multiple users with many connected devices can be very demanding for a network’s capacity. This is where traffic management comes into play. When managing heavy traffic, a network provider will prioritise certain tasks, effectively placing them in the ‘fast lane’. Meanwhile, tasks deemed to be less important will be slowed down to avoid negatively affecting the broadband connection speed. However, the overall speed will primarily be affected by the number of household broadband users at any given time.
Traffic management will only occur during ‘peak times’. Most commonly, this will be evenings and weekends when people are most likely to be at home using the internet. Naturally, this is when the biggest strain is placed on a broadband connection. Traffic management is becoming less common thanks to improving technology and network capacity.
Things that need a stable internet connection in order to operate correctly will be prioritised. This includes streaming TV, video calls, and online gaming. On the other hand, things such as file sharing, software updates, and instant messaging are likely to be slowed down when traffic management occurs.
How can I improve my broadband speed?
There are several different things you can do to potentially improve your broadband connection speed.
- Testing your speed
Start off by gauging your connection speed and assessing whether there is much room for improvement. It is a good idea to carry out multiple tests across several days at different times to get an accurate reading.
- Updating and upgrading - Having the latest version of your web browser can help speed up your connection effortlessly. Simply check any updates are available and access potentially faster speeds in minutes. Additionally, upgrading your router to the newest model may reduce disconnections. This is worth speaking to your internet service provider about.
- Turning it off and on again - The age-old trick of turning it off and on again can be a simple and easy solution to boost your speed.
- Moving your router - The location of your WiFi router is important and can affect your speed significantly. Find the ideal location for your WiFi router and try to set it up as close to that place as possible.
- Cleaning up your computer - Malware and viruses can negatively affect your speed so make sure your computer is clean when trying to optimise your broadband connection.
- Eliminating router interference - There are several things that can interfere with your router’s performance. These include but are not limited to halogen lamps, stereo speakers, computer monitors, fairy lights, and electrical dimmer switches. Signal-emitting devices like baby monitors and cordless phones can also cause problems. Keep your router away from these possible interferences, ideally on a shelf or table.
- Securing your network - A secure network will prevent other unauthorised devices from connection and slowing down your connection speeds. It will also provide protection against potential security risks. Check if your network is secure by looking for a padlock icon beside your network name in the list of available connections. If you do not see a padlock icon, make sure to set up password protection. Use a secure password with a variety of characters, numbers, and cases for maximum effectiveness.
- Switching from wireless - Switching to a wired connection can be another effective way to improve your speed. Plugging in an ethernet cable directly to your computer could provide a faster and more reliable connection.
- Switching providers - Sometimes, the best course of action is to reconsider your broadband deal and switch broadband provider. Make sure to familiarise yourself with the broadband deals available in your area so you know you're getting the best speeds and price.
The majority of broadband providers have signed up to the Broadband Speeds Code of Practice. If you choose to get in contact with your provider, they must comply with a set of rules relating to speed and contractual termination.
What type of broadband deals are available in my location?
If you’re looking to compare broadband deals in your area, our search tool is a great place to start. Simply filter by location and see what broadband deals from all the major broadband providers are accessible in your postcode.
You’ll be able to compare the best broadband deals for you in just three simple steps:
- Enter your postcode
- Choose your address
- Select your current broadband provider
Having entered the above information, you’ll see a list of available broadband deals in your area. You can easily compare your current plan against those available to you
Speeds will vary depending on several factors including how much fibre optic cabling exists in your area. Remember, the fastest, or indeed cheapest broadband speed isn’t necessarily the best option for you. Consider your specific household needs when deciding on whether to switch broadband deals.
Can I get fibre broadband deals?
If you live in the UK, the likelihood is that ‘yes, you can use fibre broadband’. Approximately 96% of the population has fibre broadband availability and 18% of households can access full-fibre broadband deals.
Full-fibre broadband goes one step further than standard fibre broadband by connecting a fibre optic cable straight to your front door. This can elevate download speeds when compared to street cabinet fibre broadband connections.
Fibre broadband deals, in general, is far more affordable than it once was. The majority of the UK now have the option to consider a fibre broadband connection as it is not prohibitively expensive. Nonetheless, there are around 200,000 homes that cannot access fibre broadband deals at this time. Our broadband postcode checker can help you discover the best fibre broadband deals are available to you.
How can I switch broadband deals?
Switching broadband doesn’t have to be as tricky and tedious as it may sound. Waiting until the end of your current contract may facilitate things but it isn’t a necessity.
Early-exit fees apply with most providers if you choose to ditch your current deal ahead of expiration. However, given the savings you could make or the level of upgraded connection you may be receiving, you might decide that this fee is worth incurring. Make sure to always compare these early-exit fees when weighing up whether or not to switch mid-contract.
For those switching as a result of a mid-contract price increase, early-exit fees are unlikely to apply. This is also true if you are looking to leave due to unfulfilled promises on minimum connection speed. However, this may vary case-by-case so do make sure to get in touch with your provider to verify your particular situation.
What is a usage limit?
A ‘usage limit’ is a provider-initiated cap that limits how much data you can receive and use. Exceeding your agreed limit before the end of the month can result in additional charges or your connection being temporarily paused.
Therefore, usage limits are an important consideration when choosing your ideal broadband package. Depending on your needs, usage limits can be a deal-breaker when shopping around for a broadband deal to suit you. The vast majority of broadband deals no longer have monthly usage limits, meaning you won’t be capped on your monthly downloads.
However, on the cheaper end of the broadband deals scale, usage limits do still exist. If you opt for a broadband contract with an included usage limit, make sure to have a good idea of your average usage to avoid unwelcome surprises.
What happens when my contract expires?
If you would like to find out the status of your broadband contract you can ask your internet service provider. Alternatively, you may be able to log into an online account to view the details of your account.
Your broadband provider is legally obliged to tell you if you are still contracted to them and when your contract ends. Additionally, you can find this information by accessing your provider’s dedicated app or an up-to-date bill. Knowing if you’re out of contract or not is important as you may be eligible for cheaper rates.
When your contract is due to end, your provider will send over an end-of-contract notification. This will be done via letter, text, or email. Your end-of-contract notification will include information regarding your end day and any upcoming charges. Other deals that may be available will also likely be included in this notification.
Ofcom statistics report that approximately 20 million people in the UK are currently outside of their minimum-term contracts and could switch to a more affordable alternative broadband. This could be achieved by switching broadband deals with your existing providers or considering moving over to a new provider.
What happens when I switch broadband deals?
Switching over to a new broadband provider may be a smart move in the long-term but you may experience a loss of service when you first make the change. Having said this, the chances of this happening are diminishing as the process becomes smoother over time. Switching to a provider operating on a different network may cause some delays and is likely to take a little bit longer.
It is advisable that you have an alternate means to accessing the internet is necessary on the day of your switch. This is due to the fact that your new connection is likely to drop. However, this should not last more than approximately one hour.
Switching broadband deals may come with additional set-up costs. This information is available to view before making your agreement and your prospective provider will tell you all the details if you ask them. Set-up costs usually include router delivery, installation, and activation charges. Even with set-up costs, it can still be worth changing broadband providers from a financial standpoint.
If broadband connectivity has become even more important during the pandemic, switching providers may help alleviate some of the issues you might be encountering. Migrating to a new broadband provider remains as easy as ever but call centres are likely to experience increased congestion. Make sure to find out if your current/prospective broadband provider’s customer service team is easily reachable.