Home broadband deals – what you need to know
By Dan Howdle | Monday, September 30th 2019
In this guide
- For students
- With no upfront costs
- For people who live alone
- With free gifts
- For families
- For tenants
- For older people
With our homes being all different shapes, and comprising different numbers of people with different needs, the home broadband package you choose is important. Maybe you want the cheapest, the fastest, or the package most suitable for an older person. Whatever you need, it's out there. The trick is knowing where to find it.
Here, we're going to take a look at the most common situations or needs of those looking for a home broadband package and help point you in the right direction. We'll start with finding the cheapest deal.
What's the cheapest home broadband deal?
The cheapest broadband deal changes day to day. There's a lot of competition for it, since the cheapest deal tends to appear at the very top of any comparison table – like the one you'll find on this very page – once sorted by price. To find the cheapest home broadband deal, then, all you need do is head back up to the top of this page, put in your postcode, and sort the list you'll be presented with by price.
It's worth bearing in mind – and you probably already figured this out yourself – that cheapest doesn't equal best. Cheaper deals sometimes, but not always, come with fewer frills, lower-specced equipment, slower speeds and are almost certain to be offered without any free gifts or cashback. Just something to consider in terms of whether making those compromises is worth saving a couple of quid a month for.
What's the best home broadband for students?
If you're a student and living in student accommodation, chances are there's going to be quite a few of you. Since students also tend to have at the very least a computer for their coursework/research and so on, and a mobile phone, each person sharing the house wifi is going to need a fair bit of bandwidth (mbps or speed). Here are some things to look out for when looking for a package suited to a student household.
- Speed – lots of it – Chances are you're sharing with a few people at least. In a typical family household, this wouldn't necessarily mean going for the fastest home broadband you can get. Families tend to do a lot of things together. But in a student household, this is 100% the right advice as everyone in the household is likely to be doing things separately and at the same time, increasing the need for bandwidth (speed). That may mean paying a little more, but what you lose in monthly cash you will save ten-fold in arguments
- Short contracts – Students tend to move around a lot. The last thing you want, then, is to be tied into a two-year deal with no way out. Our advice is look for a deal that's 12 months or less. Some providers offer one-month rolling contracts you can leave anytime at 30-days notice. They are often more expensive since you pay for the privilege, but that's usually going to be better than having to pay out the entire 18-months or whatever when you up sticks three months later
- Robust, rangey wifi – Don't cheap out, basically. The best broadband deals, such as those from Sky, BT and Virgin Media come with very good routers. Some even offer the option of adding on range extenders. Long range can be crucial in large student households. You can of course buy range extenders separately online or from an electronics shop or department, or even shell out a few hundred for a super-duper high-end router if you so desire
Can I get home broadband with no upfront costs?
If you need broadband but your bank balance is looking a bit iffy, no problem. There are plenty of great no upfront cost home broadband deals out there where you won't pay a penny till you're already up and running and a month into your contract. There are a few things you'll need to bear in mind, however.
- Sometimes there is a router postal charge – Some providers will claim no up-front costs and yet try to sneak in a 'postal' charge of up to ten quid or so. Where providers do this, however, you will always see this postal charge reflected in the up-front costs on Cable.co.uk. Here, no upfront costs means no upfront costs
- Do you need a new phone line installed? – Despite some broadband providers advertising their packages as having no upfront costs, there still might be a charge if you need a new line installed. Your broadband arrives via a phone line, and if there isn't one installed either in or to your house, it is likely you are going to be charges for that
- There will almost always be a credit check – Unless you specifically choose a deal or broadband provider that advertises no credit checks, you will always get credit-checked. This is worth bearing in mind if you have a poor credit history. Broadband providers are more lenient that sellers of personal loans, say, but you will still need a credit score that's at least not extremely bad
What home broadband should I get if I live on my own?
Normally, the advice on home broadband goes something like this: The fewer people there are in your home who need to use the internet, the slower the package you can get away with buying. However, if you live on your own it's never that simple. In reality, it's going to come down to what it is you use the internet for. Here are the most important activities to bear in mind when choosing a speed.
- Are you a gamer? – People are buying fewer and fewer games on physical disc these days, and a modern, triple-A videogame can be anything up to 150GB in size. Even if you don't download monstrously huge games in that way, your existing library will still be receiving frequent requests to be updated, and often these updates are similarly enormous in size. If you're a gamer, we advise just getting the fastest home broadband you can receive/afford
- Do you have a 4K TV? – If you have a 4K TV and like to stream 4K content from Amazon, Netflix or iTunes, you're going to need at least 30Mbps to ensure you're getting the highest quality and with a bit of headroom left over for other things
- Do you barely ever use it? – Or maybe you live on your own and only ever use the internet for a bit of social media, or to Google the odd thing here and there. In which case, you can probably get away with an ADSL (non-fibre) connection averaging 10Mbps or so. Bear in mind, though, that you won't save much money, and that this technology is on its way out, with some providers already ceasing to offer it
Can I get home broadband with free gifts and cashback?
Depending on when you compare, there may be a number of broadband deals that offer some sort of sweetener to entice you to sign up. These can come in the form of cashback, a voucher of some kind (Amazon, Marks & Spencer and so on), and/or some sort of free gift. Usually free gifts are some sort of gadget or gizmo that will connect to the internet, such as a smart speaker, smart TV, wireless headphones and so on.
If you want to see which home broadband deals are offering free gifts today, and what those gifts actually are, we have a dedicated comparison page to show you what's available right now. This is updated daily.
What's the best home broadband for large families?
As with the advice offered for those living solo, households with large families should consider first how many people in your home use the internet and allow them at least 10Mbps each. For very large households this will often boil down to getting the fastest home connection available or that you're comfortable paying for. There are a couple of considerations, though, that may mean you need more or less speed than the above simple maths might suggest.
- Is anyone in your household a gamer? – Console and PC games these days are absolutely huge downloads, with equally huge downloads frequently needed to keep said games up to date. If someone in your household is a gamer, you should double or even triple that 10Mbps per person allowance for them
- How many TVs do you have? – If the whole family likes to sit around the same television, you won't need as much speed, but if, as is more common these days, the people in your household like to watch different things at the same time of different devices around the house, you should probably just plump for the fastest speed you can get
- No one uses the internet much – There is probably still the odd household out there which doesn't use the internet very much – perhaps you live in a strict, Victorian role-playing environment? In all seriousness, though, getting broadband that isn't quick enough is never a problem, since upgrading to faster speeds is usually instantaneous. Unless of course you are already on the fastest speed available to you, in which case, you're out of luck
What's the best home broadband if you rent your property?
There once was a broadband provider – Tentel they were called, no longer around – which specialised specifically in broadband for temporary tenants. Their whole schtick was basically to offer home broadband deals on a rolling one-month contract basis, so if you had to move out, you wouldn't be stuck with giant early exit fees.
Thankfully, quite a few providers offer one month, rolling broadband contracts now. But, you should note that it is more risky on the part of the provider to get you set up and equipped, since you may leave after 30 days. That's why broadband without a contract will cost you significantly more in most cases.
What's the best home broadband for older people?
It's hard to talk about broadband for older people without descending into the condescending. However, there is a provider that stands out from the others in this regard: Post Office Broadband. It's not so much that Post Office Broadband does much different. No. Instead it relies on brand recognition to draw in an older audience, and from there has steadily adapted to cater better to the needs of our seniors.
Beyond that recommendation, there are no specific things to watch out for when looking for a deal for an older person.
What's the best unlimited home broadband?
There used to be a very lengthy answer to this question; one which compared the pros and cons of limited (capped data) broadband packages to those offering unlimited data. These products used to coexist and there was big money to be saved by choosing a capped package.
Not so these days, though. There are actually zero packages currently available in the UK marketplace that have a cap or limit on them. Unlimited home broadband is all there is, so there is now little point spending further time discussing the pros and cons.