How to compare broadband deals
In this guide
- What is broadband?
- Are all deals unlimited?
- What’s better, wired broadband or WiFi broadband?
- How to compare broadband deals
- What are the best deals in my area?
- Which providers offer broadband deals?
- What internet speed do I need?
- What about business broadband?
- How do I change my ISP?
- What contract lengths are available?
- Should I get a cheap broadband deal?
- What about credit checks?
- Is it cheaper to get a broadband bundle?
- Can you get broadband without a phone line?
- Can I get any freebies?
- Frequently asked questions
This page will tell you everything you need to know about the basics of broadband and what’s currently available in the UK. It will also help you decide what’s right for your household, and will introduce you to some of the UK’s most popular providers.
What is broadband?
Broadband is a type of high-speed internet connection that has become the standard way in which we get online in the UK.
There are four main types of connection:
Standard or ADSL broadband
With a standard or ADSL connection, data is run along pre-existing BT copper phone lines. It’s the cheapest and most popular type of broadband on offer in the UK, and is great for singles or couples. It may not be fast or reliable enough for larger households or gamers.
Also known as superfast, data is run along fibre-optic cables rather than copper wires. As these can transfer more information in a given time period, and suffer from fewer interruptions, the connection is usually faster and more reliable than standard. This makes a fibre-optic connection the obvious choice for large and busy households.
Fibre broadband can be ‘fibre to the cabinet’ (FTTC) or fibre to the home (FTTH).
With FTTC, fibre-optic cables run to green cabinets located on street corners, followed by traditional copper wires that take the connection to your home.
FTTH also runs to the cabinet, but extends the fibre optic cables to your home, rather than using any copper wires - making it faster than a FTTC connection.
Only a couple of providers, including Virgin Media, can offer you cable in the UK. Virgin runs their own network that uses coaxial cables instead of copper wires. This provides a much faster connection than standard and FTTC, but isn’t quite as fast as a FTTP connection.
At the moment, you can only get a cable in some parts of the UK. For a deeper dive into the difference between FTTC and FTTP, read our guide.
A mobile broadband deal will deliver the internet to your devices while you’re on the move. It’s typically run through a battery powered portable router that’s much smaller than the one you have at home. Rather than using fibre cables or copper wires, it uses the SIM card inside this to connect to a mobile network. This means it can join the same 3G, 4G or 5G signals as a mobile phone, making it easy for getting SIM-free devices like laptops online when no WiFi connection is available.
Can I get fibre-optic broadband in my area?
Fibre is currently available to almost all areas of the UK. Use our quick fibre-optic checker to see what’s available in your area.
Are all deals unlimited?
It’s becoming the norm to sign up for an unlimited contract, as there are no worries about being charged for going over a monthly limit.
Limited deals, that put restrictions on the amount of data you can download to the devices in your home each month, have become very rare so it’s unlikely you’ll ever come across one. That said, they might pop up now and again so it’s worth checking the fine print before you sing up.
What’s better, wired or WiFi?
With a wireless router sending signals to every room in your house,WiFi makes it possible for you to access the internet from every room of your house, giving you more freedom than a wired connection.
WiFi deals have become the norm for most households, allowing for multiple devices to be online at the same time. It may not offer the same speeds as a wired alternative, however, which is something to consider if you need the highest possible performance from your internet connection.
How to compare broadband deals
There are several things to think about when looking for a broadband contract that suits your household:
- Price: Price is often a critical factor when choosing a new deal. If you’re currently on a contract, your provider is likely to hike the monthly price up significantly once the fixed-term ends. For this reason, Ofcom has made it compulsory for providers to remind you when your contract is ending, so you’ll have time to find a cheaper broadband deal . There’s usually a better price available if you shop around.
- Speed: The faster download speeds associated with fibre-optic (superfast) and cable allow for better quality streaming, but are usually more expensive as a result. Choosing a speed that’s fast enough, but isn’t faster than you need, is the best way of making sure you don’t pay over the odds. A cheap deal is a false economy if it doesn’t provide the speed your household needs. Not sure what speed will be enough? Our guide to broadband speeds will help you figure out what’s right for you.
- Length of contract: Although a few providers offer rolling ‘cancel anytime’ contracts , most deals are offered as 12, 18, or 24 month contracts. If you’re happy to sign up for a longer period, you’ll usually enjoy a lower monthly price. Students and renters in particular should check for any early exit fees that apply, as they’re more likely to need to cancel a contract part way through.
- Upfront costs: Keep in mind some providers require upfront setup costs, as these can offset any savings you make with a lower monthly price. These typically cover things like delivery of a router, installation charges, or activation fees. If you don’t want to pay any upfront costs, you should have a look at our broadband with no upfront costs .
- Bundle deals: Many broadband packages include additional services like landline phone call plans, TV subscriptions, and even mobile phone contracts. A broadband and phone deal , or a broadband and TV bundle deal , can save you cash along with offering the convenience of dealing with one provider.
- Incentives: To sweeten deals, many providers offer rewards and incentives like cashback, bill credits, shopping vouchers, or free gifts . These can enrich your package, but shouldn’t form the basis of your decision when choosing which option you want. They’re also often limited-time offers, which can make you feel pressured to buy before you’re ready.
We make it easy for you to compare broadband deals. Use the drop down to sort by price, speed or most popular and then filter based on what really matters to you. It’s that simple.
What are the best deals in my area?
Not all types of broadband are available in all areas, which can restrict your options when choosing a deal that’s right for you. Enter your postcode into our quick checker to find out what’s available where you live.
Which providers offer broadband deals?
Here’s a rundown of the UK’s most popular ISPs, and what they can offer.
BT: BT won’t be the cheapest option, but look out for regular sales, cashback offers, and vouchers for the likes of M&S, Amazon, and BT Reward - usually between £50 and £120 in value. Contract lengths can be on the longer side. Read our BT review
Direct Save Telecom: Direct Save Telecom have made a name for themselves as a budget provider offering some of the cheapest basic broadband on the market. The brand offers low-cost options with no credit checks required - perfect for securing fast and affordable home broadband. Read our DST review
EE: Largely known as a mobile provider, EE also offers both standard and fibre, and has the fastest 4G mobile connection in the UK. There’s also an option to sign up for EE TV, which is currently only available with an EE broadband deal. Read our EE Review
Hyperoptic: It might sound like a generic term, but Hyperoptic is a brand in its own right that’s built its own network using only fibre optic cables. With Hyperoptic, average speeds can reach a staggering 1GB, and the brand scores very highly for excellent customer service and internet quality. Read our Hyperoptic review
John Lewis: John Lewis brings its trustworthy reputation to the telecoms industry with broadband and phone packages that come with no activation charges or usage caps. With John Lewis, there’s always an emphasis on value, simplicity and service. Read the John Lewis review
NOW Broadband: NOW Broadband, partner to NOW TV, is owned and operated by Sky. With a NOW Broadband, you’ll enjoy competitively priced fibre and standard connections, usually with a 12-month contract that’s ideal for students and home renters. Read the NOW Broadband review
TalkTalk: One of the UK’s most popular and biggest providers, a TalkTalk deal will give you access to affordable monthly rates combined with incentives like gift cards from retailers like Amazon, Tesco, and Argos - though these must usually be spent on broadband products. Read the TalkTalk review
Virgin Media: Look out for incentives like bill credits of between £50 and £150, price discounts, free gifts, and free installation with Virgin Media. The brand also regularly runs flash sales lasting anywhere between three days and a week, giving you a small window of opportunity to grab a great deal. Read the Virgin Media
Vodafone: Best known as a mobile network, Vodafone also offers a great choice of mobile broadband and phone contracts. With fibre-optic provision, Vodafone can offer speeds as high as 76Mbps. Read the Vodafone review
What internet speed do I need?
Broadband speeds are usually quoted in megabits per second, written as Mbps. This refers to the amount of data you can download or upload in a second.
The internet speed you need depends on a number of factors, including how many people you live with, how often you’re all online, and the types of things you do when browsing. Those of us who work or run a business from home may also need to consider a faster connection.
The higher the speed, the faster you can download files and the higher quality your streaming content will be. Our guide to broadband speed can help you determine what speed will meet your household needs. In the meantime, we’ve listed a few things for you to consider.
Singles and couples: If you live alone or as a couple, and don’t use the internet for much more than web browsing, you’ll need a connection speed between 0-30Mbps. ADSL should work for you, with typical download speeds of 10Mbps.
Average-sized families: If you live in a household of three or more, where multiple people use the internet at the same time, you’re likely to need speeds between 30-60Mbps. This is especially true if you’re playing games or streaming video online. A fibre internet connection is a sensible choice, as you can expect a more consistent, reliable service.
Student sharers and serious streamers: For larger households like student sharers, or for serious streamers, you’ll need a steady connection to avoid issues like buffering. Aim to have at least 63Mbps to ensure everyone can enjoy streaming film and TV, playing games, and downloading large files at the same time. A faster unlimited option won’t set you back much more than a standard connection and worth the extra expense for heavier users.
Home workers and heavy downloaders: If you or any of your household work or run a business from home, and need to download lots of large files, a connection of 100Mbps or higher is advised. Faster home broadband is needed if you make regular conference calls.
How fast is my connection?
You can use our quick broadband speed test while you’re at home and connected to your WiFi to find out the download and upload speeds you currently have.
If you’re happy with your current speed, use the reading to search for broadband deals that match it. If you’re finding your internet connection is slow or patchy, if streamed content is constantly buffering, or if things are taking a long time to download, look for something faster to resolve these issues.
Will I get advertised speeds?
The speeds that you see advertised are averages, measured at peak times during the evening, when the highest number of users are online. This means that you won’t be guaranteed to get that speed every time you use the internet.
By law, average speeds must be available to at least half of users, meaning you have a 50/50 chance of getting a speed either above or below the average advertised.
What can affect my broadband speed?
Many factors can have an effect on the speed of your internet service.
Type of connection: Fibre is usually faster and more reliable than standard / ADSL provision.
Distance from the cabinet: How far away your house is from the cabinet or exchange (green boxes usually found on street corners) can affect your broadband speed, and FTTC provision is usually much slower than FTTH, as it relies on the use of traditional copper wiring, which could be in poor condition. For more information about the impact the distance from the cabinet has on your broadband speed, read our guide.
Where your router is located: Sometimes, simply moving your home router can improve your internet speed. We often hide these behind furniture, or put them in drawers, which can slow down your connection - especially if it’s blocked by walls or metal. Keeping your router in a visible, central location within your home is best. It’s also preferable to keep it away from other electronic devices, to avoid interference. We’ve got some great advice on how to set up your WiFi, so you can get the best signal.
Time of day: The internet has peak times, which are usually during the evening between 8pm and 10pm. There can also be busy periods, such as during national holidays. This issue mainly affects users on an ADSL connection.
Fair usage: Some providers have Fair Usage Policies which are activated when other users in your area aren’t getting a fair share of access. If you’re concerned about fair usage policies and traffic management, you can learn more about them in our guide.
What about business broadband deals?
Modern businesses are reliant on fast and efficient internet provision, especially with the increase in remote working and online services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether you’re a freelance worker, or you run a company employing thousands of people, you need fast internet with a reliable connection to ensure your company never spends a second offline.
Most UK providers offer reasonably priced superfast broadband for business use, with packages tailored to meet the unique needs of your company.
Business deals differ from home broadband packages in a number of key ways, including technical support provision, integrated web hosting, static IP addresses, and faster upload speeds.
How do I change my ISP?
If your contract has come to an end, you can switch providers quickly and easily at any time, without any early-exit charges.
If you’re part way through your agreement and moving house, it may be possible to move your contract with you to your new home.
If you’re part way through a contract and simply want to switch to a new deal, you may have to pay up your agreement or pay an early termination charge. Your provider will be able to tell you what policy applies to your existing deal should you want to cancel your internet contract.
What contract lengths are available?
Although a few providers offer rolling ‘cancel anytime’ contracts, it’s most common in the UK to sign up for 12 months.
Some providers also offer longer contracts lasting 18 or 24 months, and if you’re happy to sign up for an extended period, you’ll often enjoy a lower monthly rate. If you decide to go for a longer contract, you should check for any early exit-fees that might apply, in case you want to cancel part way through.
If you’re a student, you might be interested in a contract that will see you through term-time. Some providers offer 9 month broadband deals, so you won’t have to pay for provision during the summer holidays. You’re more likely to find them during August or September when students return to university.
Is no contract broadband available?
If you only need internet provision in the short term, some providers offer no contract deals, though you’re likely to pay much more than if you sign up for 12, 18, or 24 months.
What are my alternatives?
If you’re not ready to sign up to a long-term agreement and you’re not sure a rolling contract is right for you, there are a couple of alternatives you might choose.
Phone tethering: Most mobile phone contracts allow you to use your data allowance to create a ‘hotspot’ that will enable you to access the internet using your laptop or other internet-enabled devices.
Mobile broadband: If you sign up for a dongle or MiFi on a one month rolling contract, you can cancel with only 30-days notice with the added bonus of being able to take your internet connection wherever you travel.
What’s an ‘end of contract notification’?
By law, your broadband provider must let you know when your contract is coming to an end. This is to prevent suppliers from making large price hikes when contracts come to an end without telling customers.
Your provider can contact you by letter, phone, or email, and must tell you what date your contract ends, and what other comparable deals they have available.
Should I get a cheap broadband deal?
Not everyone wants to spend a fortune for their internet, and regardless of price, it’s possible to secure reliable provision and excellent customer service without paying over the odds.
While a deal may look affordable on paper, it’s also important to consider any costs in addition to your monthly payments, such as installation costs, along with the length of contract you’re tied into, and what charges you might incur if you wish to end the contract early. The type and speed of your internet connection also plays a role, as what’s included with a cheaper option may not be fast or reliable enough for your needs.
What about credit checks?
Not all providers perform credit checks when you sign up with them. If you’re worried about your credit history, Direct Save Telecom are one brand who don’t perform credit checks on customers.
Is it cheaper to get a broadband bundle?
Broadband isn’t the only service you can access through a telecoms provider. Many now offer phone and TV packages, which means you can say money and have the convenience of a single bill each month.
Can I combine my broadband and phone?
One of the most common bundles is a broadband and phone package. Since most providers require you to have a landline, combining the two makes a lot of sense, especially if you make a lot of calls.
If you sign up for an internet and phone package, you’ll have the option to include weekend and evening calls. Choose add-ons such as international calls or unlimited minutes if you regularly use your landline. If you don’t use your phone very often, you might find it’s cheaper to use your mobile instead.
What about broadband and TV?
Combining your broadband and TV makes a lot of sense and can save you money on your monthly bill. They’re available from the following providers:
BT TV – Perfect for sports fans, all BT packages come with free BT sport, along with basic Freeview channels. You can upgrade this to include premium content for an additional fee. Find out what’s available to watch on BT TV
EE TV – With an EE bundle, you’ll get an Apple TV and access to loads of apps such as Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV.
Virgin Media TV – When you sign up with Virgin, you’ll have access to seriously fast broadband and a huge choice of channels to keep you entertained. Find out what’s available to watch on Virgin Media
If you would normally pay for any of these services individually, it could work out cheaper to combine them, along with being more convenient to manage.
Can you get broadband without a phone line?
People usually look for a broadband without a landline when they know they won’t use their phone once it’s installed. They may also believe that going without a landline will get them a discount on their monthly broadband payments. Unfortunately you’ll still have to pay line-rental because that’s how the internet is delivered to your home from the exchange.
The only ISP that’s widely available and doesn’t require a phone line to deliver your broadband is Virgin Media. Other providers use the Openreach network and require an active phone line.
Can I get any freebies?
You’ll find there are several providers who regularly offer free gifts or incentives. Some of the most popular offers include:
No set up costs – Providers will offer incentives like free installation or free equipment like routers to sweeten the deals they provide. You’re more likely to find these on 12, 18 or 24 month contracts.
Free gifts – Some options include bonuses like free gifts to encourage new customers to sign up. These might include things like shopping vouchers from the likes of Amazon, Tesco, or M&S along with rarer items like games consoles. Free gifts are great, but you should always consider all aspects of a contract carefully before signing up.
Black Friday – Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping events in the UK calendar where prices on many different items and services are slashed by retailers. Broadband provision is no exception, with a wide range of offers such as cashback on monthly payments to free gifts and no upfront costs. Black Friday happens a few weeks before Christmas, with the date changing each year, so keep your eyes peeled for bargains.
Frequently asked questions
What is broadband?
Broadband the name given to describe the connection between the device you’re using and the internet. It allows you to stream your favourite shows, be social on social media, or do the online grocery shop.
What broadband speed do I need?
Generally speaking, the faster the speed the more you can do online regardless of how many people are connected. That said, you should allow for 10Mbps for each person in the house that uses the internet at the very least. You need at least 1.5Mbps – 3Mbps for standard streaming services like BBC iPlayer or All 4. If there are gamers or household members who stream 4K (ultra-high definition) films and TV shows, you should double their allowance.
Who is the best broadband provider?
The best internet service provider is entirely dependent on what’s important to you. We’ve had a look at speed, reliability and price.
- Best provider for speed – Virgin Media has some of the fastest internet speeds in the UK
- Most reliable provider – EE and Sky have fewer complaints than any other supplier according to Ofcom’s latest telecoms report.
- Price – cheap deals change week to week, TalkTalk, SSE, Plusnet and NOW Broadband offer some of the most competitive packages. Offers start from £18 per month.
Are there any restrictions for switching broadband?
You can switch your supplier any time you want if your contract has ended. If you leave before the end of the contract, you’ll have to pay a fee and this varies with each provider.
If you have a problem with your supplier, such as an unexpected price hike or consistently low speeds, you may be able to get out of the contract early. Our broadband cancellation guide will help you out.
How do I know if my broadband contract has ended?
Your internet service provider will send you an end of contract notification. By email, text or letter 10-40 days before your contract ends. ISPs are required by Ofcom to notify their customers when their contract is coming to an end. This includes:
- The date the contract ends
- How much you pay for the service you have
- What you’ll have to pay after the contract ends
- What their best deals and prices are, including those only available to new customers
- The notice period required to end the contract