By Phil Wilkinson-Jones | Saturday, May 11th 2019
In this guide
- What is a broadband package?
- How to choose
- Types of broadband
- Broadband with calls
- Broadband with TV
- Frequently asked questions
The term broadband packages covers a wide range of deals, offering various broadband speeds and additional services such as TV and phone. It can be difficult to pick your way through what is a very competitive UK broadband market, but Cable.co.uk is here to help. We’ll give you the run-down on what broadband packages are available and what to look out for so you can find the best package for you.
What is a broadband package?
Broadband packages are deals that give you internet connectivity at home. Broadband access is typically delivered via a telephone line or fibre cable running into your home, and a router that is almost always supplied for free as part of your package.
How to choose a broadband package
Here are some of the things you should look out for when choosing a broadband package.
- Speed – As a general rule, the more people in your house and the more devices you have connecting to the internet, the higher average download speed you’re going to need.
- Price – How the monthly cost fits into your budget is obviously a big factor in selecting a deal, but also consider any upfront costs and the total amount that the package will cost in the first year (all of this information is included in our comparison pages).
- Unlimited downloads – Almost all broadband packages include unlimited downloads nowadays but it’s always worth checking that this is the case and providers are usually quick to tell you that’s the case.
- Contract length – The majority of broadband packages come with 12 or 18-month contracts, but there are a few available on monthly rolling deals if you don’t want to get tied in.
- Credit checks – Most broadband providers run credit checks but if you’re looking to avoid them then there are a few that don’t run any at all. You can find some of the best broadband deals with no credit checks on our comparison page.
- Cashback, gifts and rewards – Some providers offer extra incentives in order to tempt new customers to join. Things like cashback, reward cards, free tech or a streaming subscription such as BT Sport or NOW TV. Balance up the benefit of these freebies with what you’re actually getting for your money.
- TV – If you want to include a TV service in your broadband package there are a number of providers to choose from and still a wide range of broadband speeds.
- Inclusive calls – Most broadband packages come with pay as you use calls as standard. There are some that come with inclusive calls but most of the time you’ll need to add a calling package if you use the landline regularly.
Types of broadband
You’ll have noticed while scrolling through the various broadband packages on this page that a number of different average speeds are promised by providers. The names given to the different types of broadband tends to refer either to the speed it promises or to the technology used to deliver it.
- ADSL broadband – ADSL or standard broadband is delivered over copper telephone wires and typically gives you an average speed of 10 or 11Mbps. This is the entry-level broadband offered by most providers.
- Fibre broadband – In most cases the term ‘fibre’ refers to FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) broadband, which uses fibre cables from the telephone exchange up to the green street cabinet, then copper wires for the bit up to your property. Average speeds tend to be about 35 or 36Mbps, while faster fibre packages offer speeds between 63 and 67Mbps.
- Cable broadband – The UK has only one cable broadband provider, Virgin Media, which uses coaxial cables to deliver its broadband, phone and TV services. Coaxial cables do contain fibre, which is why Virgin refers to its own broadband as being ‘fibre’.
- Ultrafast broadband – Ultrafast broadband is classed as services offering speeds of at least 100Mbps. The only widely-available UK provider offering such speeds is Virgin Media.
- Mobile broadband – This refers to high-speed internet access delivered over 4G rather than over a fixed fibre or copper line.
- Satellite broadband – Broadband delivered over the airwaves and picked up by a satellite attached to your house, usually in rural areas.
If there are any other broadband-related terms you’d like explained, you can always take a look at our broadband jargon guide.
Broadband packages with calls
Broadband packages include a landline because it’s delivered over the same line as your broadband. But most of the time there are no calls included as standard – you pay for the phone calls you make. That is, unless you choose a package with inclusive calls.
- Weekend calls – Inclusive weekend calls means you don’t have to pay extra for any calls made at weekends, defined as being from midnight on Friday to midnight on Sunday. Post Office broadband packages tend to come with weekend calls as standard, while there are also Virgin, BT and EE packages with weekend calls included.
- Evening and weekend calls – Evening calls (those made between the hours of 7pm and 7am) are included as well as weekend calls. John Lewis Broadband and SSE offer evening and weekend calls as standard with their broadband – you can get it as an add-on with pretty much every other provider.
- Anytime calls – The big daddy of calls packages, this lets you make calls whenever you like without incurring extra charges. Unless of course you call a number not included in your package.
- International calls – Most providers will also give you the option of adding international calls to your package, although how many minutes are included and which countries you can call varies.
Broadband packages with TV
If you’re looking for a broadband deal that includes TV, the TV part is likely to be the part you pay the closest attention to when choosing. This makes sense, as it’s the part you’ll be interacting with on a daily basis, while most of the time your router just works away in the background, keeping you connected but not often at the front of your mind unless something goes wrong.
Not all broadband providers have a TV service, but luckily those that do offer a decent amount of choice so let’s take a look at what’s around.
Sky’s TV offering is built around Sky Entertainment, its basic TV package, which can be paired with either Unlimited Broadband, offering speeds of 11Mbps, Unlimited Fibre with speeds of 36Mbps, or Unlimited Fibre Max with speeds of 63Mbps.
As well as a router you get a Sky Q box, which lets you record three channels while watching a fourth, store up to 500 hours of TV and allows you to stream Netflix and Spotify on your TV. You get more than 300 channels with Entertainment, Sky then has a load of other features you can add on to your package, including more than 40 HD channels (yes, you have to pay extra for them), a kids pack, Sky Cinema and Sky Sports.
In order to watch in Ultra HD you’ll need the 2TB version of the Sky Q box, which will set you back a sizeable upfront fee, and also the Sky Q Experience add-on, which costs an additional £13 a month.
Our guide has a complete list of the Sky TV channels.
All Virgin broadband and TV packages come with the V6 box, which can record six shows while you watch a seventh from your recordings or from an app. Like Sky’s rival box it can store up to 500 hours of telly.
The Player TV bundle, Virgin’s entry-level package, offers 130 channels and 54Mbps broadband. There’s also the Full House bundle, which offers 247 channels and 108Mbps broadband and forms the basis of a few more TV packages – the Full House Movies bundle also includes Sky Cinema while Full House Sports gives you the same broadband and channels with the additional of Sky Sports and BT Sport in 4K. The Full House Sports and Movies bundle gives you the best of both worlds and includes 213Mbps broadband.
Virgin’s biggest TV package is the V.VIP bundle, which comes with two V6 boxes, all the Full House channels plus Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, BT Sport in 4K and the kids pack. You also get the ridiculous average broadband speed of 516Mbps, anytime calls and an unlimited 4G mobile SIM.
Our guide has a complete list of the Virgin Media TV channels.
BT TV is based around its YouView box, although the actual box you get depends on the package you choose. There are three BT TV bundles to choose from and you can pair any of them with one of BT’s fibre broadband packages – Superfast Fibre (50Mbps) or Superfast Fibre 2 (67Mbps).
The TV Starter bundle gives you 122 (Freeview) channels plus BT Sport and AMC in the UK, which is included in all of BT’s TV packages. You also get a YouView box that will record up to 300 hours of TV. The Entertainment bundle is basically the same with the addition of 21 premium channels including Comedy Central and National Geographic.
The Max 4K bundle is BT’s top broadband and TV package. You get 55 premium channels plus the Freeview channels, a 4K-enabled YouView box and multi-room viewing via BT TV App Extra.
Our guide has a complete list of the BT TV channels.
Like BT, TalkTalk also bases its TV offering around a YouView box. There’s actually two – a basic model that lets you pause and rewind live TV but doesn’t record, and a recordable version that comes with a £50 upfront cost. TalkTalk calls these packages TV and TV Plus.
You can choose the broadband speed to go along with your TalkTalk TV. There’s Fast Broadband, which offers speeds of 11Mbps, Faster Fibre with speeds of 36Mbps and the bewilderingly-named Faster Fibre Speed Boost with speeds of 63Mbps.
TalkTalk TV is basically the Freeview channels. With the Entertainment Boost you also get 34 premium channels and there are other TV boosts available such as Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, Kids Boost, BoxNation for live boxing and Asian TV Boost.
EE TV only offers Freeview in terms of channels, but makes up for this with a set-top box that can record up to 600 hours of TV, constantly record up to eight of your favourite channels thanks to a feature called Replay and lets you access loads of on demand services.
EE recommends combining EE TV with one of its fibre broadband packages – Unlimited Fibre offers speeds of 36Mbps and Fibre Plus 67Mbps – to get the best experience when streaming films or TV programmes. But you can combine EE TV with the standard Unlimited Broadband package if you so wish – it offers average speeds of 10Mbps. Our guide has
NOW TV and NOW Broadband
NOW Broadband offers three broadband packages – Brilliant Broadband offering average speeds of 11Mbps, Fab Fibre offering 36Mbps and Super Fibre with speeds of 63Mbps – and it’s these you need to keep an eye on for TV bundles as they are sometimes offered with a free NOW TV pass, usually the Entertainment pass.
There are four NOW TV passes available with a seven-day trial and then on a monthly rolling basis – Entertainment, Sky Cinema, Kids and Hayu. Then there’s Sky Sports, which is available as a day, week or month pass. If you’re after some hardware then you can generally bundle one or more of the passes with either the NOW TV Smart Box or NOW TV Smart Stick.
As the majority of broadband services are delivered over the Openreach network, which uses telephone lines to connect your home to the local cabinet, they also include a phone line by default. This doesn’t mean you have to use it, of course, and most won’t charge you anything for it unless you make a call. You don’t even have to plug a phone in if you don’t want to.
That said, if you’re determined to not even have a phone line running into your house, there are options – although there aren’t many of them. Virgin Media offers genuine broadband-only options, but they do cost more than the equivalent packages that come with weekend calls included. Virgin’s broadband-only deals are available with average speeds of 54Mbps, 108Mbps, 213Mbps and 362Mbps, each on either a 12-month or monthly rolling contract.
Frequently asked questions
How long does a broadband contract last?
Most broadband packages come with a 12 or 18-month contract, although there are monthly rolling broadband deals available from providers including Virgin Media and NOW Broadband.
How do I complain to my broadband provider?
It’s often best to make sure the problem isn’t something very simple you can fix yourself, then talk to your provider’s customer service team to see if they can help. All the information you need is in our guide to complaining to your broadband provider, including how to make a formal complaint.
What does average speed mean?
The average speed you see used to advertise a broadband package must be achievable by 50% of the provider’s customers during peak times.
How long does it take to get set up with my new provider?
Most broadband switches should take about two weeks, although of course it depends on what providers are involved and whether there are any additional services to switch such as TV. Our guide on how to switch broadband providers might help.
Want to learn more about broadband?
Our broadband guides contain a wealth of information on just about every aspect of current broadband packages.