Broadband, TV and phone deals – everything you need to know about bundles
By Dan Howdle | Friday, May 17th 2019
In this guide
- What is a bundle?
- Types of broadband, TV and phone
- Important factors when buying
- Providers of bundles
- Benefits of bundling your services
- Frequently asked questions
There are fewer providers of broadband, TV and phone when bought as a complete bundle than there are those who will supply you with broadband on its own. Sky and Virgin Media share the limelight for best TV packages, with the latter also providing the country's fastest widely available broadband.
But there are other options. BT TV now puts in a very good showing, and there are basic subscription TV services also available with your broadband and phone package from EE, Plusnet and TalkTalk. How to choose? Let's take a look.
What is a broadband, TV and phone bundle?
A broadband TV and phone bundle is a package from a single provider that contains broadband, a subscription TV service with some sort of set-top box, and a home landline. Usually, money can be saved bundling this way, provided you do indeed require all three of these services.
- Broadband – Brings you the internet into your house, allowing you to browse the internet, stream movies and TV, download games and apps and whatever else your household uses digital connectivity for. Broadband comes in several varieties, which we'll cover in section two
- TV – A subscription TV service, which you pay for monthly and offers something beyond regular terrestrial or Freeview TV. This may arrive via a satellite dish, a cable, or through the internet
- Home phone (landline) – This is your basic landline. It's actually pretty hard to find a deal that doesn't have a landline included – that's because this is how your broadband arrives, over the same wire. So you must have your landline supplied by the same provider as your broadband in all but a few special cases
- Some providers also let you bundle a mobile SIM – The biggest providers also now offer mobile phone and SIM deals and some will let you bundle SIMs into your package
The different types of broadband, TV and phone service
We do make things a lot easier with our comprehensive comparison tools (see top of this page). However, it should be borne in mind that there are many different options, different technologies and different things included when it comes to broadband, TV and phone.
It's not essential to know them all and how they differ from one another, but there can be no harm in having a broad understanding of what it is you're buying when you choose a specific service from a specific provider.
Types of broadband
- ADSL – Also sometimes called 'standard broadband', this is broadband delivered to your home via the copper wire you use for your landline. Copper is not the best material for transferring data at high speeds, which is why ADSL broadband is the slowest available, usually averaging around 10-11Mbps. This is plenty for surfing, streaming TV and movies and whatever else, but it won't be enough for a busy household
- Fibre broadband – This is an umbrella term used to describe broadband whose cables are fibre-optic (glass) for at least some of the span connecting your home to the internet. Fibre broadband can be FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet: Fibre as far as the cabinet, copper the rest of the way to your home), FTTP (Fibre To The Premises: 100 per cent fibre optic all the way), or cable broadband, which is a part-fibre solution that utilises the existing cable TV network (Virgin Media only)
- Cable broadband – This type of broadband uses a part-copper, part fibre network that is composes primarily of the old cable TV network. Only Virgin Media offers this in the UK. Cable TV cabling is particularly good at delivering fast broadband, which is why Virgin Media broadband is so much faster than anyone else
- Satellite broadband – Not to be confused with satellite TV (which receives signal only), satellite broadband is the 'if all else fails' broadband solution some have to turn to if where they live is particularly remote and they cannot get any other type of connectivity. Satellite broadband is expensive, and the amount you can download or upload will have a set limit, depending on how much you are willing to pay
- Mobile broadband – This is broadband delivered via one of the four UK mobile networks: EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone. It can be a good solution if you're away more than you are at home, or if you can't get fast broadband by any other means
- FTTP – Stands for 'fibre to the premises' and describes broadband that is 100 per cent fibre right the way to your door. It is extremely rare right now, with almost no one offering it. This will change in future, though – FTTP can theoretically deliver speeds up to 10Gbps (that's 10,000Mbps)
Types of digital TV service
- Digital terrestrial (Freeview) – This is TV delivered over the digital airwaves, and beyond requiring a TV license, it is free to everyone. You only need a compatible TV or Freeview box to access it. Freeview typically offers dozens of channels, from mainstays such as BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to newer entries such as Dave, Yesterday and Film 4
- Satellite – Only Sky delivers satellite TV in the UK (okay, there's Freesat too, but that's pretty niche). Satellite TV typically delivers hundreds of channels to the set-top box supplied with your contract. In the case of Sky, that's Sky Q
- Cable – Only Virgin Media supplies cable TV in the UK. The technology, like satellite, delivers hundreds of channels to your Virgin TV set-top box, the Virgin V6. One of the main advantages – and something that appeals to quite a few – is that with cable you get a Sky-like service, but don't need to stick an ugly dish onto your home
- IPTV (streaming) – All these abbreviations! IPTV is basically any TV service delivered over the internet. So, Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Apple TV (iTunes), NOW TV, ITV Player – these are just a few examples of IPTV
Types of home phone (landline)
- Pay as you go – If you choose a bundle with and pay as you go landline, you will pay the going rate for each call you make. It's cheapest this way if you never use your landline to call out, but if you do, you are almost certainly better off with one of the following free calling packages
- Free weekends – Calls are free during weekend hours. Keep in mind that each provider may have slightly different 'rules' which determine what is free and what isn't, even during your supposedly free period, so it's worth checking exactly what you can and can't call for nothing
- Free weekends and evenings – Same as weekends (above), but also includes evenings during the week
- Free anytime calls – Numbers you can call for free now apply any time in the day or week
- International discounts – Most landline providers will allow you to bolt on one or more international calling packages, for a small monthly cost, that will heavily discount calls from your phone to certain countries
Important factors when buying a bundle
Finding what you want when it comes to a broadband, TV and phone bundle shouldn't be all that hard in reality. Our comparison tools make things much, much easier in fact. However, if you really have no clue what you want or where to start, here are some things you should think about.
- Household broadband use – The broadband speed you choose should be determined by two factors: How many people there are in your household who use the internet, and what exactly they use it for. As a general rule you should allow at least 10Mbps for each internet user, double that for anyone who streams to their own TV (in their bedroom, say) and triple it for each gamer. This should give you plenty of overhead so you won't hit the ceiling during busy times when everyone is online
- Household viewing habits – Do you have kids in the house? If so, you're going to need a TV package with plenty of kids' channels. Do you like documentaries? Movies? Do you need to see all the football? These considerations will ultimately determine the TV package you choose
- How much you use your landline – This really does vary a lot from household to household. Think about how much you use your landline, when it gets the most use and where you're typically calling to choose the right inclusive call plan
- Your budget – Wouldn't it be lovely if we could all just opt for the 'everything' package from Sky or Virgin Media: Fastest broadband, most channels, anytime calls. But of course, around £100 a month is more than most of us can either afford, justify or both. So we have to look for deals that give us at least most of what we want at a price that won't hurt us too much. Think about your budget before making your choices
- Do you need multiroom TV? – If you want your subscription TV service in more than one room, you're going to have to opt for a multiroom option. We don't include these in our listings, so you will have to choose it at the checkout after you've chosen the deal you want. Bear in mind, adding boxes for multiroom will always add cost. Lucky for you we have a great guide on multiroom TV and how it works with the various providers
Providers of broadband, TV and phone bundles
Not every provider of broadband offers TV, but every provider of TV does offer broadband and phone. Read that sentence another time it you have to. What we're left with, then, is a shorter-than-usual list of providers. Here we'll give you a brief overview of what each offers.
- Virgin Media – Delivers all of its services via a cable. It offers by far the fastest widely available broadband in the UK. Its current top speed averages well over 500Mbps – more than seven times faster than its closest rival. On the TV front, Virgin Media is no slouch either, offering the best free set-top box of any provider, and hundreds of channels and bolt-on options to choose from
- Sky – Delivers its services via a combination of your home phone line and a satellite dish, which you will have to have installed on your home. It delivers an average top internet speed of 59Mbps, as well as hundreds of channels and bolt on options when it comes to TV
- BT – Delivers all of its services over the internet, via your home phone line. It offers broadband speeds up to 67Mbps and nearly 200 channels via BT TV. Which sounds like a lot, but it really is a long way behind Sky and Virgin Media. To get BT TV you have to be a BT Broadband customer
- TalkTalk – Few have heard of TalkTalk TV, but if you're a TalkTalk broadband customer, you can get it. It's a pretty bare-bones, predominantly Freeview-based service with its own set-top box(es), which would suits someone who just wants to expand their viewing options a little beyond terrestrial digital. TalkTalk broadband has a top speed averaging 63Mbps
- EE – Similar to TalkTalk TV, you have to be an EE Broadband customer to get it. And, also similarly, what you get is mainly Freeview-focused. EE offers a top internet speed averaging 67Mbps
- Plusnet – If you go for Plusnet, you can also add on Plusnet TV. It's pretty basic, but will suit those who just want a cheap way to watch regular Freeview stuff with the option to bolt on things like Sky Sports, BT Sport and Sky Cinema. Plusnet's top broadband speed averages 66Mbps
The benefits of bundling broadband, TV and phone bundles
So why bundle in the first place? Surely to get the best services, you're better off hand-picking each service from the provider who does it best? Not so. On balance, bundling will always deliver more, thanks to…
- Cost – You save a lot of money bundling. While you can get broadband and TV on their own from various providers, getting them from the same provider is going to cost you significantly less
- Convenience – Getting all your services from one provider means fewer bills, and fewer bills means fewer complications
- Special offers – Getting your broadband, TV and phone from one company means you will be able to take advantage of their very best new-customer offers. Often these will include cashback, vouchers, gifts or just flat-out discounts
Frequently asked questions
Can I get broadband and TV without line rental?
No. Only Virgin Media offers the option to not have a home phone (landline) in your bundle, but since your broadband and TV will be coming down the same 'line' you will absolutely still have to pay line rental. The only way out of line rental is satellite or mobile broadband, but they are slow, limited, expensive and you won't get a TV package.
Is a bundle always better?
If you're getting broadband, TV and phone at the same time, then yes, a bundle is absolutely always better. You will pay less, and there will be fewer potential obstacles or problems.
What's the best broadband?
Virgin Media. Definitively. It has by far the fastest most reliable broadband in the UK. Downside is not everyone can get it. Virgin Media only currently serves around 60% of UK homes.
What should I look for in a TV package?
All TV packages from providers of broadband and other services will allow you to add on Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and BT Sport. So if that's what you're after, take your pick. If it's a lot of channels and a lot of variety you're after, though, you should start by looking at Virgin Media and Sky, and then potentially BT, which is quickly catching up with them.
Is it easy to switch TV and broadband provider
Yes and no. If you already have a TV and broadband provider – let's say it's Sky, for example – switching means giving up your set-top box where all your shows are recorded, and it means making the dish on the side of your home redundant. Your new provider, Virgin Media say, will have to install new equipment and you will need to start again recording your favourite shows.
These are what are called 'sticky factors' when switching. Switching broadband is easy. Switching broadband and TV less so, but it all depends on how attached you are to your current equipment, because the actual act of switching is 10 minutes of your time at most.
Which TV bundle is the best deal?
It really depends what you're after. There is no good answer to this beyond: The one that most closely meets your needs and falls within your budget.
Who has the cheapest broadband, TV and phone package?
This changes regularly. For the cheapest right now, you only need head to the top of this page. Just remember that cheapest is very different from best value, or getting the most for your money.
What is the best broadband, TV and phone package?
Virgin Media's V.VIP Bundle is the best bundle in existence at the time of writing. You'll get similar channels and features, as well as Sky Atlantic, from Sky, but Virgin Media's broadband absolutely trounces Sky's. Plus, with the V.VIP you get two full-blown V6 set-top boxes as standard. It isn't cheap, but it is inarguably the best.