Cheap broadband explained
Most people in the UK are paying far too much for their broadband, and you could be among them. Remember, there's more to choosing the cheapest broadband deal than just opting for the lowest price. Our handy guide breaks down everything you need to know about finding a cheap broadband deal.
In this guide...
Why choose a cheap broadband package?
- Switching has never been easier – you don’t even need to call your existing provider.
- You’ll likely be equally happy with an internet provider who charges you less.
- It's an easy way to lower your monthly bills.
- You may not require everything you’re currently paying for. Do you really need unlimited, superfast fibre?
- Cheaper doesn’t mean low quality – broadband is broadband.
How to get the cheapest broadband deal
Quick tips for blagging a great deal on your internet.
1. Always look at the first-year cost
Knowing what you’re paying across the first year – including hidden connection charges, makes it easy to see who’s really cheap, and who isn't.
Our own research shows that about half of UK broadband customers have never switched provider. This means that people often become customers for life once they’re through the door, so internet providers will use whatever tricks they can to get them there.
Our broadband comparison pages allow you to sort deals by first-year cost, cheapest first. In our comparison above, pay close attention to the first-year cost rather than the monthly price. Broadband providers love offering deals that seem so cheap they’re almost too good to be true.
2. Contract length and leaving fees
Consider the actual amount you’re paying each month, as well as how long you’re tied into your contract for. You can’t switch provider while still within the period of your contract, so remember that:
- Some broadband providers will charge you a fee for leaving
- Some will charge you the entire remainder of the lifetime cost of your contract
- Some will even charge an early exit penalty on top
It pays to make sure you’re happy with your chosen deal for the duration. Even moving house won’t let you escape for free (unless you can’t get the service where you're moving to).
3. Establish your needs and budget
Working out the best broadband deal for you is all about your household’s needs. The more people and devices in your household, the faster home broadband you’ll need, especially if those people stream or download movies, TV and games.
Needs come in under your budget? Drinks are on you!
4. Look for rewards and freebies
Cheap broadband deals, especially those from the ‘prime’ UK providers (BT, Sky, Virgin and TalkTalk) often come with enticing rewards to tempt you in. Some of these are substantial, such as £100 cashback or shopping vouchers.
You can filter by offers by clicking ‘offers’ at the top of the page.
5. Don't dawdle
What’s that they say about good things coming to those who wait? We’re afraid it simply doesn’t apply to getting a cheap broadband deal. Take it from us – we manually change the deals we display as they commence and expire. Great deals are happening every day.
Act fast if you see a deal you like, because it might not be there tomorrow.
6. Bundle up if you want a broadband deal with TV
If there’s even a slight chance you might want a TV deal to go with your budget broadband (you can add TV with Sky, Virgin, BT and TalkTalk), you should consider bundling the two together. You’ll pay less for both services and keep all your bills in one place. You can sometimes also add a mobile SIM to cut the cost even further.
7. Choose the most basic call plan if you mainly use your mobile
Landlines are a bit neglected these days, but they’re compulsory in most broadband deals, bar one or two pricey broadband only options from Virgin Media. If you mainly use your mobile, save money by choosing the most basic landline package available.
Most providers offer what’s called a ‘line rental saver’ plan. These plans allow you to pay for a year’s worth of line rental up front, but offer substantial savings in return.
8. Remember that standard broadband isn’t always cheaper than fibre
Both standard broadband (sometimes referred to as ADSL, or ‘copper’) and fibre broadband (often called ‘superfast’ or fibre optic) can be found at the core of cheap broadband packages.
Until recently, there was a marked difference between the cost of these two broadband types. If you averaged the cost out across all packages on the UK market today though, you’d likely see only a slight difference. In fact, it’s now not unusual at all to find fibre deals out-cheaping some standard broadband deals.
To stay on the ball, figuring out your needs before you get start looking for the cheapest deal is absolutely key.
Understanding the introductory period of your broadband contract
Bear the following in mind to keep one step ahead of your internet provider.
Cheap broadband might not be so cheap after 12 months
It’s almost the standard these days for broadband deals to be advertised as cheaper than they actually are. The providers get around what are often strict laws in other industries by advertising these prices, then adding in teeny-tiny small print ‘for the first 12 months’ (or wording to that effect).
This means that what looks affordable now may not be so affordable in 12 months’ time when you’re paying full whack. Prices post-honeymoon period often don’t go up just a little bit – sometimes they almost double.
Check how soon after the introductory period you can switch
Pay attention now, 007, because we’re going to do a little broadband deal maths. We assure you, it’s simple and well worth your time:
- Take a look at when the introductory (low price) period ends
- Deduct that from the total length of your contract
- The result is how long you’re going to be paying full price for
If it’s a short period (low price for 12 months, full price for six) you only have six months paying top dollar, after which point you’re free again to switch and take advantage of another new customer deal from another provider.
Remember, you’re only likely to be offered introductory pricing from the same provider once
Seem obvious, but another thing to bear in mind is that if you do become a frequent switcher and at some point return to a provider you’ve already been with, you’re no longer a new customer in their eyes (unless you have been away for at least a year or two).
How much money could I save by switching to a cheaper broadband deal?
You could save up to £252 per year. This is because so many of us have kept the same broadband contract for years. Broadband has become cheaper, and by not switching we’re failing to reap the benefit.
Most people in the UK are paying more than they have to
Back in May 2015, Cable conducted a survey among 2,000 UK broadband customers to find out how many of us had switched broadband provider. The findings revealed that over half of us had never switched provider.
This means that millions of customers are paying far more than they need to for their broadband, and missing out on exclusive offers, rewards and freebies.
What is a limited broadband deal?
On some cheap broadband deals, you may notice a number, followed by ‘GB’ in the spot where ‘unlimited’ is written for certain others. This denotes a ‘limited’ broadband deal, and what that limit is.
A limit is a cap on the amount of data you can use in a month. You need to decide for yourself whether your household’s usage will come in under the bar by the end of the month. As a rough guide, a 20GB limit will provide all the surfing, social media and emailing you could possibly achieve in a month, while a 40GB limit will also allow you to stream the odd movie or TV show.
Those who stream or download a lot across the month should steer clear of limited deals altogether.
Are limited broadband deals cheaper?
Limited broadband deals are cheaper on average than unlimited ones. However, this isn’t always the case at an individual package level.
Sometimes providers offer cheap unlimited broadband deals to new customers that blow pretty much everything else out the water, so keep your eyes peeled for the best deals available right now.
What happens if I go over the limit?
Like banks, internet providers, tend to charge an arm and a leg for exceeding your limits – some even charge you per extra gigabyte used. Yikes!
Be aware, though, that providers will always notify you if you’re approaching your limit. BT, for example, will send you an email when you’ve used up 15GB of a 20GB limit. You can then plan how to use the remainder of your usage until the limit resets at the end of the month.
Do budget broadband deals offer rewards like cashback, vouchers and other freebies?
Usually not. Budget providers tend to be smaller, and therefore struggle to build relationships with supermarkets and other outlets who could provide them with vouchers at a discount.
Budget broadband providers also have very low profit margins – that’s why the cheapest broadband deals tend to offer just the bare bones.
For rewards, choose a deal from a 'prime' provider
You can still get a really cheap broadband deal with cashback rewards, shopping vouchers or even free hardware, but you should stick to Virgin Media, Sky, BT or TalkTalk.
Use our comparison tools to instantly see available offers
Once you’ve entered your postcode and been presented with a list of cheap broadband deals where you live, just click the word ‘offers’ at the head of the page. This will re-sort the list to favour deals that have vouchers, cashback and other types of reward.
Can I still get cheap broadband if you have a poor credit rating?
Yes – providers will offer you a deal no matter how poor your credit rating is. Policies vary and change over time, but there’s no reason to assume you won’t get a cheap deal from your chosen provider.
Of course, there is still some chance you might be turned down, but don’t worry. UK broadband providers only ever conduct what’s called a ‘soft search’ of your credit profile. That means that no matter how many providers you apply to, your credit rating will not be affected.
Cheap broadband providers we compare
- BT – BT offers home broadband, phone and TV packages in the UK, along with a mobile service. Its fibre optic service reaches up to 76Mbps. BT TV uses BT broadband to deliver programmes.
- TalkTalk – TalkTalk supplies a range of well-priced fibre and standard broadband packages, available with a choice of TV and phone plans. TalkTalk TV is only available with TalkTalk broadband.
- Virgin Media – Virgin Media provides the fastest widely available broadband in the UK – up to 350Mbps – along with a range of TV packages to rival Sky. The Virgin Mobile service operates on the 4G EE network.
- Sky – As well as broadband and phone services, Sky offers TV packages that can be adapted with a variety of extra channels, such as Sky Cinema and Sky Sports. It also now offers Sky Mobile.
- EE – Largely known as a mobile provider, EE also offers standard and fibre broadband, and EE TV, which is only available with EE broadband. The EE network offers the fastest 4G mobile connection in the UK.
- NOW Broadband
- First Utility
- John Lewis