Cheapest broadband deals March 2014
Compare the cheapest broadband deals in the UK. Find cheap broadband packages including calls, line rental and Internet from the cheapest providers.
Buyers guide to cheap broadband
You may be tempted to choose the cheapest broadband deal you can find, but is it always the right thing to do? Focussing exclusively on cost could leave you stuck with a package that isn’t right for your needs – which in turn could lead to frustration, being left out of pocket or even worse, without broadband at all.
Our guide explores everything you need to consider when comparing cheap broadband packages including usage limits, extra charges and limitations so you can find the best deal without any nasty surprises.
Why choose the cheapest broadband?
Cheap broadband packages are aimed at consumers that require a basic service at the lowest possible price. Bargain broadband packages often lack some of the features of more expensive options, but for general browsing and emailing they will usually suffice.
Cheaper broadband packages are less suitable if you're a serious internet user, especially if you download lots of music and streaming movies, on-demand TV, or if you share the connection with your family.
How to choose the right package
Don’t fall for false economy when comparing the cheapest broadband deals. It’s vital that you look beyond the cost to understand all of the features and limitations of each package to make sure that the one you choose will be suitable for your needs.
If you purchase a package with a slower connection speed this can lead to problems when everyone in your home is online at the same time, and if you choose a low usage allowance you may find yourself being penalised for overuse.
Take the time to think about your online habits and make sure you focus your search on packages that can deliver the service you need at the lowest possible price.
Lower broadband speeds are okay for browsing the web and other lightweight tasks, but for downloading movies and playing online console games a higher speed is preferable.
The download speed you’ll get will depend upon your location and the broadband technology you’re using. Use our postcode checker at the top of this page to find out your estimated line speed, as this will give you a realistic idea of the actual speed you'll get – and you should ignore the speeds quoted by the providers.
The cheapest broadband packages often have a lower monthly usage allowance than more expensive options. This is fine if your online activities are limited to browsing and social networking, but they won’t be as suitable for more demanding tasks.
Going over your usage limit more than once can result in a fine, a slowing of your download speed for the rest of the month or an automatic upgrade to a more expensive package with a higher or unlimited allowance.
To help you work out the monthly usage limit you’ll need bear in mind that with a 10GB package you could download:
- 10 standard definition movies, or
- 15 hours of BBC iPlayer programmes, or
- 2,500 MP3s
Keep an eye out for the use of a fair usage policy that limits the amount of data you can download each month, and the use of traffic management that can see some activities slowed down during peak times - which may well be when you need your connection to be at its best.
Line rental & other costs
With the exception of Virgin Media broadband only packages you’ll need an active landline and to pay line rental. Having a new line connected can cost £100 or more, while having an old line reactivated can cost as much as £50. If either situation applies to you we recommend keeping an eye out for deals that include free or reduced connection or reconnection.
Line rental can add up to an extra £15.99 onto your monthly broadband bill, but the good news is that many providers offer a discounted Line Rental Saver scheme. You’ll pay a full year’s line rental in advance with your credit or debit card, and save yourself £40 a year or more depending on the provider.
Keep an eye out for installation and/or activation charges that are often applied to the cheapest broadband deals in order to keep the monthly cost down, as are surcharges for paper bills and non-Direct Debit payments.
Six essential questions before you buy
- Have I carefully considered how I will be using my broadband?
- Have I selected the most appropriate monthly usage allowance?
- Have I taken line rental into account?
- Are there any other charges such as for installation or activation?
- Will I need to switch my line rental?
- How long will I be tied into my contract?
When switching from one provider to another it’s important to request your MAC code, as doing so will not only to ease the transition of service but also help you avoid a fine from your current ISP. Not every provider levies such a fee but it’s definitely worth being safe rather than sorry.
Call the relevant number from the list below to request your MAC code:
- AOL 0844 499 5555
- Be 0808 101 3425
- BT 0800 328 6738
- Eclipse 0845 1224 111
- O2 0800 230 0202
- Orange 0844 873 8586
- Plusnet 0800 432 0200 or 0345 140 0200
- Post Office 0845 600 3210
- Primus Saver 0800 036 3839
- Sky 08442 411 653
- TalkTalk 0870 444 1820
- Tesco 0845 650 8000
- Virgin Media 0845 454 2222
Most budget providers will insist on you switching your landline when you take up their broadband and you should check if this is going to be the case. Don’t worry, the provider will handle the whole switching process and they can usually transfer your phone number too.
The limitations of the cheapest broadband deals
Broadband is one of those things where you get what you pay for. With the cheapest packages you may not get as good a service as you would if you were willing to spend a little more each month, and you might have to pay for your wireless router.
If something goes wrong you may have to deal with a call centre outside the UK, which can lead to problems due to the language barrier. And if your service goes down altogether it’s unlikely that your issues will be given much priority, which can result in weeks without broadband.
Also make sure you know how long you’ll be tied into the contract for your new broadband package as leaving early can result in fines for early termination. In a nutshell, if you can’t commit to the full length of the stated minimum term you shouldn’t be tempted to sign up.
The bottom line is to make sure you know what you’re getting into when you sign up for cheap broadband, and to understand all of the limitations that can accompany budget options. If you do there’s little reason why you shouldn’t be one of the millions of consumers who subscribe to cheap broadband without any problems.