Broadband is now an essential utility for the vast majority of households, yet millions of us continue to overpay on our bills each year. But it’s quick and easy to compare broadband deals and find a cheaper package to switch to.
Here’s how to get started.
Make sure you’re out of contract
Before you look for a cheaper broadband package you’ll need to check whether you’re out of the minimum contract term of your existing deal.
Terms typically last between 12 and 24 months and after that point the monthly cost of your broadband package will jump significantly.
There’s no need to pay these higher rates as once the minimum term has come to an end, you’re free to switch to another deal without paying a penalty.
If you’re a keen haggler, this is the perfect time to try to negotiate a better deal with your provider – and then set that offer against what’s available elsewhere.
Consider what broadband package you need
Choosing the best broadband deal isn’t always about just finding the cheapest option. As well as price, you’ll need to consider what type of deal would suit your household most. It’s useful to ask yourself the following questions:
1. What broadband speed do I need?
Download speeds (and to a lesser extent, upload speeds) largely determine the kind of experience you’ll have online. The general rule of thumb is that the faster your download speeds, the less time you’ll spend waiting for things to load.
The fastest download speeds are available through full fibre and cable connections, but not every household is able to access them.
Download speeds are measured in Megabits per second (Mbps) and represent how much data your computer or mobile can pull in, per second, over your internet connection. A ‘bit’ is the smallest common measurement of data, and consists of either a 1 or a 0.
These 1s and 0s combine to form a computer language known as binary. A Megabit is equivalent to one million bits. So, 1Mbps means your connection can transfer one million bits of data every second. At 32Mbps, you could download a song in just one second.
Standard fibre broadband connections tend to top out at speeds in the low hundreds, whereas full fibre speeds go up to around 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps), which is equal to 1,000Mbps.
This is because full fibre connections transfer data via fibre optic cables all the way to your home, whereas fibre connections carry data over fibre optics to your nearest telephone exchange, and over copper telephone cables from there to your home.
Since the copper cables are subject to electrical resistance, data transmission is limited. Fibre optics use pulses of light rather than electricity, and so there’s no resistance to slow you down.
Download speeds are important because certain tasks require minimum speeds. For example, you need speeds of at least 25Mbps to stream video in 4K Ultra-HD resolution. But using your email or Twitter doesn’t require such speeds.
Below is a table outlining the top 10 full fibre ‘ultrafast’ broadband deals, based on download speeds. However, bear in mind that the best deal for you will depend on factors such as the size of your household and your internet usage.
Always compare deals to check you are getting the best value for money for the broadband package you require, factoring in considerations too such as flexibility of contract.
|Package||Contract Length (Months)||Highest Average Speed (Mbps)||Price|
|Virgin Media||Gig1 Full Fibre Broadband + Home Phone Volt|| || || |
|Community Fibre||Gigafast (12 Month Contract)|| || || |
|Hyperoptic||12 Month Minimum – 1GB Fibre Broadband Only|
|Gigaclear||Hyperfast 900 With Smart WiFi|| || || |
|BT||Full Fibre 900|| || || |
|Sky||Sky Broadband Ultrafast Plus|
|DirectSave Telecom||Ultrafast 330MB Broadband|
|XLN||Unlimited 76Mb Fibre Broadband & UK Calls|| || || |
|Plusnet||Unlimited Fibre Extra & Line Rental|| || || |
|Data from Comparison Technologies, January 2022|
2. What broadband data allowance do I need?
This is the amount of data you can upload and download each month without being penalised. Most packages are now unlimited but it always pays to check.
3. What type of broadband do I need?
There are three main types. ADSL is the most common and cheapest broadband connection and works over the same copper wires as your home phone. It’s also the slowest option.
Cable offers faster download speeds and is delivered via fibre and coaxial cables. It is less widely available than ADSL, with Virgin Media being the sole main provider.
Fibre optic broadband is the fastest type of broadband you can buy. It’s also the most expensive and it’s not a given that it will be available in your area.
4. How long do I want to tie for?
Contract length is another important consideration. Typically you can choose between 12-month, 18-month and 24-month contracts. Lengthier deals tend to be cheaper but you’ll be tied in for longer too, when a penalty will be charged to leave. Check also what the cost rises to once this minimum term is over.
5. Will I have to pay any fees?
To avoid paying more than you need to, check the small print for fees. How much would you pay to get out of your deal early, for example? Are there any connection fees for setting up your broadband? Make sure you factor these costs into any wider budget.
6. Could a broadband bundle be more cost effective?
Bundle deals wrap your broadband together with other services, such as your TV and/or home phone which can often work out cheaper than paying for each one individually.
It can also make bills easier to manage. Not only will you only have one payment to make each month, you’ll also only have just one provider to liaise with.
The downside of broadband bundles is that you can end up paying for services you don’t need, so really consider whether it’s the right choice for you. As always, it’s worth running several quotes and comparing the cost of broadband only versus bundle deals.
7. Are there any incentives for switching?
Many broadband providers offer incentives such as free gifts, vouchers for certain stores or cashback. If you’re stuck choosing between more than one deal, this could be the deciding factor. However, don’t base your decision solely on the freebies.
Make your switch
Once you’ve chosen a broadband package to switch to, you’ll need to get in touch with your new provider to set the ball rolling. It’s also a good idea to contact your old supplier to make sure your direct debit payments are stopped.
The switching process is slightly more straightforward if both your old and new provider use the Openreach network – this includes BT, Sky, EE, TalkTalk and Vodafone.
Your new provider will take care of the switching process and inform your old provider of the move. Notification letters will be sent out from both providers to confirm the switch.
If you’re switching to or from a provider on its own cable network, such as Virgin Media, you’ll need to contact both providers. Your old provider will cancel your contract, while your new provider will arrange the switchover.
If you change your mind you have 14 days to cancel before the start of your new contract.
Tips to get cheap broadband
To ensure you stay on the best broadband deal, try the following:
- Make a note of when your existing contract ends and get ready to switch as the date approaches
- Haggle with your existing provider to see if you can save money
- Use a comparison service to seek out the best deal
- Check whether you’d save money with a broadband bundle
- Only pay for what you need – if you won’t use the services a bundle has to offer or you don’t need a particularly fast connection speed, don’t pay for them
- Check whether you’ll get a discount if you pay by direct debit – this could be around £5 a month. You might also save if you pay upfront at the start of your contract
- Check the small print for set-up and other fees