Dan Howdle | November 22nd, 2023
In this guide we'll cover budget providers – who they are, if you can get them, and whether they really represent good value for money. We'll go over how and when you can get budget broadband from more premium providers. We'll talk you through whether choosing the minimum broadband speed will still save you money. We'll take a brief look at social tariffs. And finally, we'll look at the cheapest, and even somewhat sneaky way of getting you home online without even signing up to a broadband deal! Let's go.
There are a number of providers who supply so-called 'budget broadband', and on the whole they can be a little cheaper than premium providers like Sky, Virgin Media and BT. All of them are nationally available, so you have very strong chance of being able to get them where you live. To be sure of what you can get you should use a broadband postcode checker, which will list the providers and packages available in your area.
Here's a quick overview of some of the more popular budget broadband providers:
|Direct Save Telecom
|Shell Energy Broadband
Pricing correct at time of publishing. Use 'check availability' button below to see latest pricing
There are a number of things you should be aware of when it comes to budget providers:
The table above provides an easy reference for what's on offer from providers who class themselves as either 'budget' or 'cheap'. That is, they tent to compete for the cheapest deal spot throughout the year. Providers like BT, Virgin Media and Sky have no interest, broadly, in providing the cheapest deal. Rather, these so-called 'premium' providers tend to focus on value for money – offering high-quality equipment, service and extras for the money you pay.
If you've had trouble with credit in the past such as missed payments and you're aware your credit rating isn't good, neither Plusnet or NOW Broadband carry out credit checks, and should therefore be your first choice when it comes to choosing a deal. Both operate on the Openreach network, meaning just 0.2% of households can't get them.
Although only a fraction of a percent of homes in the UK can't get broadband of any kind (besides satellite or some other bespoke solution), around 40% can't get Virgin Media, and around three quarters can't get so-called 'Full Fibre'. And that means there's a strong chance the top speed you'll be able to get where you live will be around 63Mbps. Those looking for the cheapest broadband won't likely be looking for ultrafast broadband, but it's nevertheless a good idea to check what you can actually get.
We don't put a lot of stock in so-called 'budget broadband'. It's not that we don't respect and welcome low prices, it's just that at any given time a premium provider that offers a better, faster, more reliable service with a better wifi router and beefier extras usually has a special offer on that makes the money you might save irrelevant. Here's a brief overview of the type of special offers you will most commonly find and how they work:
Special offers are on and off frequently. Some provider change their special offers weekly, so you'll need to look at what's available right now and be prepared to snap up a deal immediately. We're not trying to hard sell you on this, it can genuinely be an issue if you decide on a deal and come back to get it the following day or week only to find out it's not there anymore.
The best way to understand what's available today is to check broadband deals in your area using our local broadband comparison. You can check a box there labelled 'Deals with rewards and offers' after entering your postcode to show only the deals that offer one of the aforementioned forms of special offer.
Annoyingly, this is also a bit of a 'yes, but no' question. On the one hand, yes, broadband speeds offered by any one particular provider are generally priced on a sliding scale: Slower broadband is cheaper, faster broadband is more expensive. However, that doesn't mean that if you pick, say, as 63Mbps broadband package from one provider, you won't find faster deals that are also cheaper from another.
We used to offer this simple advice: Figure out what speed you need and don't get anything faster – this will save you money. But these days it's a lot more about getting the best deal on the day. You need to shop around. Here's a rough guide of what speed is going to be good for your home:
|Type of broadband
|Gamers or streamers
If you still can't decide, we made this tool to help you find the right speed for your household. The tool will also check your postcode so it can show you not only what you need, but also what you can actually get where you live.
Let us help guide you to your new broadband deal. We'll check speeds and providers at your home, saving you time and money.
Social tariffs are broadband deals you can only sign up to if your household has an ultra-low income and is claiming certain benefits. Most of the major broadband providers offer one, but you won't find it listed in amongst the deals it displays on its main website. Rather they will hide it away so you won't find it unless you really go to the trouble of looking. Which is just as well because otherwise bajillions of people would click them, but who do not qualify to apply.
To qualify for a social tariff, you have to be claiming one or more of the following:
We have a great page about broadband for pensioners that goes into a lot more detail about social tariffs, including who offers them, how much they cost and more. If you qualify and you want to find out more that's a great place to start. Social tariff broadband is typically about £10 per month cheaper than a comparable non-social broadband deal.
And here's the tip that really can bring down your bills, provided you're prepared to accept your household broadband situation being somewhat less than ideal. Tethering is where you turn your phone or tablet into a 'mobile hotspot'. It essentially makes it a broadband router, to which you can 'tether' up to ten devices.
Until fairly recently, using this technique instead of having a home broadband connection wasn't really viable. There were too many barriers – namely, data limits and low data speeds. Now, it's perfectly doable.
The amount of money you could save is substantial. After all, most folk already have a mobile plan – you may just need to upgrade your data limit (unlimited is preferred if you're tethering your home broadband).
And there are some fantastically cheap unlimited SIM deals that allow unlimited tethering. At the time of writing, you could be paying as little as £15 per month for both your mobile and broadband combined using mobile data tethering.
There has to be a reason every isn't doing this, right? Right. There definitely are. Taking this route will absolutely save you a lot of money, but it's also not without its drawbacks. So be aware:
Cheap broadband in your area, we're sure you'll now realise, is a complicated question to answer because not everyone can get the same providers, speeds and deals, while saving money on your broadband or getting the best 'value for money' are kind of separate questions.
Our best advice remains using a broadband postcode checker to see which are the best deals and offers on the day, rather than spend a lot of time researching whether 'Flimsy Broadband Ltd.' is any good, everyone, universally, is better off trying to get the best deal available on a given day from the biggest and most trusted providers.