Broadband with no contract explained
By Dan Howdle | Tuesday, March 12th 2019
In this guide
- No contract broadband
- Pros and cons
- Upfront costs
- Contract vs no contract
- Frequently asked questions
There are some great broadband deals around these days, many offering cashback, gifts and other tempters on the proviso you tie yourself in for at last 12 months. But what if you're not in a position to do that? What if you're going to live abroad in five months or you're in temporary accommodation?
Well, luckily some providers offer broadband deals on a one-month rolling contract, the basic premise that you can cancel anytime you like provided you give 30 days' notice. Great, right? All the benefits, but without the commitment. But wait. There are some catches you're going to want to know about.
What is no contract broadband?
'No contract broadband' refers to a broadband deal that has a rolling contract of 30 days. Yes, you read that correctly, no contract broadband comes with a contract. The difference between it and regular contracted broadband, then. has nothing to do with the existence of a contract and everything to do with length of the contract.
No contract broadband is typically offered on a 30-day or one-month rolling contract basis. This means that after you sign up and are set up you can cancel at any time at 30 days notice with no penalty. The catch is set-up costs, which are usually considerably higher than a standard contract broadband deal.
That's because to get a broadband deal, whether for a month or two or longer term, you still need the same basic stuff: A router, a telephone line that may need connecting by an engineer, fibre activation if you're opting for fibre and so on. These things cost money that is normally recouped by the provider across 12 months or more, but in the case of no contract broadband must be paid upfront.
Which providers offer broadband without a contract?
This is a remarkable short list. Up until last year (2018), there were a number of other providers who offered no contract broadband in addition to those listed below. NOW Broadband and Plusnet were the most notable.
But the number of providers to offer it has plummeted, and while no provider has offered any reasoning for dropping it from their offering, we reckon it's almost certainly the case that these sorts of deals are just very hard for providers to turn a profit on.
- Virgin Media – Offers all of its current broadband packages on flexible 30-day rolling contracts. Virgin Media offers the fastest widely available broadband in the country, with speed ranging from an average of 54Mbps to an average of 362Mbps – more than five times faster than its nearest rival. It's not available everywhere, though. so you'll need to use your postcode to check if you can get it. Upfront costs at the time of writing are roughly three times what you will pay on a 12-month contract
- Direct Save Telecom – You might not have heard of Direct Save Telecom, but this small budget provider is making quite the name for itself with its no-frills, ultra-cheap broadband deals. It too offers broadband deals on both its ADSL (averaging 11Mbps) and its two fibre deals (35Mbps and 63 Mbps). Upfront costs are much more reasonable than those charged by Virgin Media, so if you care more about budget than silly speeds, Direct Save is a good choice
Pros and cons of broadband without a contract
As with anything where compromise is involved, getting a broadband deal on a one-month rolling contract isn't all fairies and rainbows. There are some big upsides, certainly, but equally there are downsides too.
- Ideal for short-term situations
- Leave whenever you want
- No early exit fees
- More expensive than contract deals
- Higher upfront costs
- No new customer benefits
As you can see from the points made above, one-month contracts offer you flexibility and freedom, but it'll cost you. Not only will you be paying higher upfront costs, no contract broadband deals also come with higher monthly costs than their contracted counterparts. On top of that, any new-customer offers such as discounts, free gifts or cashback simply aren't available unless you take out a contract deal.
The catch: Upfront costs are high
When you take out a regular, contracted broadband deal there are a bunch of associated costs, which would usually be shouldered by the provider, and paid back unbeknownst to you, concealed within your agreed monthly premium.
On a contract, your provider can be sure it will recoup the cost of getting you set up and providing you your equipment across the entire contract. Here are some of the costs providers face in getting you up and running.
- Connection fee – Depending on whether you go for fibre or ADSL, this can mean a couple of different things. If you don't already have a working landline to the property you will need one connected, and if it's fibre, you may also pay a 'fibre connection fee'. If both of these things are the case, both the costs are usually separated out and highlighted with regular broadband deals
- Router – Router costs may cover the cost of the router if you get to keep it post-contract, or sometimes just the cost of posting it to you
- Engineer time – There will often be cause to send out an engineer to get you hooked up. This may not mean a personal visit from an engineer, just that the engineer has to do the necessary at the local exchange or street-corner cabinet to get you set up. Obviously, in the grand scheme, such things do not come for free
- Admin costs – Someone has to open an account for you and deal with your set-up and installation scheduling and so on
When you add all this up, you can see that these costs mount up. Which is why you will almost always be charged considerably more upfront on deals where you could walk away after a month or two.
What are the alternatives if I only need broadband for a short while?
So, you can't sign up for 12 months for whatever reason, and you don't like the sound of the more expensive 30-day rolling contract broadband deals as outlined above. What do you do? What else is there? Well, there are a few other routes you may prefer if you only need basic broadband for a short time.
- 4G tethering – Tethering is where you use your mobile phone as a wifi router, and your mobile data plan as your primary way of accessing the internet. Upside is, you won't pay a lot for it – it may just involve upgrading your current mobile data deal to something a little more copious. The downside is most mobile deals that allow tethering cap the amount you can tether even if they don't cap your mobile data. Ultimately, they don't want you using your phone as your main home broadband. But, it works, and so long as you don't use enormous amounts of data it's a much cheaper alternative to no contract broadband
- Mobile broadband – It's like 4G tethering, only you don't need a phone. Choose a mobile broadband deal and you'll get a set amount of data delivered via your chosen mobile network. It's a good temporary solution as it doesn't involve faffing with your existing mobile deal to make it better at tethering, which could tie you into a brand new contract
- Free public wifi – If all you need is basic internet connectivity for work or emails there's a fair amount of free wifi out there. Sitting in a coffee shop (or outside the coffee shop if you want the super-budget version where you don't have to buy coffee) is about the cheapest way there is to get online, and of course it ties you into nothing
Frequently asked questions
Are there any hidden costs in a no contract broadband deal?
Not so much hidden as in plain sight. No contract broadband will cost you considerably more upfront, and the monthly cost is higher too.
Can I get no contract broadband without a landline?
Yes. Virgin Media offers broadband without a landline and rolling 30-day contracts. Virgin isn't available everywhere, though, so you'll need to check if you can get it. Also, bear in mind that if you're looking not to have a telephone line, you won't save any money, since 'line rental' applies as much to your broadband as it does to your phone.
What's the best one-month broadband deal?
Is there a difference between short term and no contract broadband?
Yes. Once upon a time in the old wild west of UK telecoms, you could get broadband deals for 3 months, six months and so on. These were often referred to as 'short-term' broadband deals. No contract broadband on the other hand does actually come with a contract, albeit one lasting only 30 days. Clear as mud, then.
Will I save money if I buy a no contract broadband deal?
Should I get a rolling contract if I'm staying somewhere long-term?
In a word: No. If you're planted somewhere and you know you're going to be there for at least a year it is always better to get a contracted, 12-month (or more) broadband deal. They're cheaper and offer some good incentives for signing up.
What contract lengths are available?
In the case of no contract deals it's one month (30 days) and that's it. If you opt for a contracted deal it'll be 12 months, 18 months and there are even one or two that will tie you in for two years, but in return for that you will get a promise that prices will not be raised during that time.
How much notice do I have to give if I want to cancel?
30 days. Across the board. The contract rolls over every 30 days, however, which means that if you rolled over yesterday, your notice would be 59 days (your 30-day notice will enter the next rollover period).
Can I get a TV subscription without a contract?
Yes. Sort of. You can't get a full-blooded set-top box plus hundreds of channels-type TV subscription, but you can get most of what Sky offers via NOW TV. NOW TV streams Sky content to your smart TV, games console, or smart device (Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire etc.).
Can I get a six month broadband contract?
No. You used to be able to, but they are available no longer.