Cheap broadband deals are everywhere - from cheap broadband-only packages to broadband, phone and TV bundles - but are they good value? Broadbandchoices.co.uk compares the cheapest deals from the leading providers...
Cheap broadband, phone and TV bundles
- BT offers digital TV through BT Vision, which customers can get via BT Broadband, BT More Broadband or BT's up to 38Mb or 76Mb superfast fibre service, BT Infinity. BT Vision gives you up to over 50 digital TV channels and catch-up TV and on-demand services, with the latter offering a wide range of films, TV shows, kids stuff, sport and music videos. It also enables you to pause, rewind and record live TV.
- Sky offers its well-known satellite TV service with its 14Mb Broadband Lite and Broadband Unlimited packages. Depending on which bundle you choose, you can get six dedicated sports channels or 12 movie channels, while every bundle enables you to watch the channels you subscribe to live on your laptop wherever you are via Sky Go at no extra cost.
- Virgin Media allows you to build your own bundle, so you only pay for what you want. It offers the UK's fastest broadband speeds - consistently topping the communications regulator Ofcom's list of fastest broadband providers - as well as over 200 digital TV channels and a wide selection of on-demand TV and movies too.
Cheapest broadband-only deals
If you want a broadband package without any add-ons, there are plenty of broadband-only deals available. These are the cheapest option if you don't want home phone or digital TV, as paying for services you don't want is a waste of money no matter how much of a bargain they are.
However, if you are looking for home phone, digital TV or both, as well as broadband, then signing up for a bundle is likely to be the cheapest way of getting them. With the leading providers now aggressively marketing broadband, phone and TV combos, you could save yourself money by getting a broadband bundle, which can have phone calls thrown in at no extra cost and offer you dozens of digital TV channels for a good price.
Broadband & Phone deals
Monthly cost: £2.00
(for 12 months)1st year cost: £24.00
Monthly cost: £2.99
(for 9 months)1st year cost: £25.87
Monthly cost: £2.00
(for 6 months)1st year cost: £26.00
Monthly cost: £5.00 1st year cost: £36.00
|speed up to 14 Mb||speed up to 16 Mb||speed up to 14 Mb||speed up to 14 Mb|
|Eve & wknd calls inc.||Weekend calls inc.||Eve & wknd calls inc.||Eve & wknd calls inc.|
Call Tesco Broadband on
0808 101 3460
Call Plusnet on
0808 178 5954
Call Primus on
0800 036 0391
Call EE on
0800 072 4137
When choosing a new broadband package you'll need to consider what speed you need. New guidance on the advertising of broadband speeds came into effect in April. Under this guidance, broadband providers must be able to demonstrate that the up to speeds they advertise are received by at least 10% of those using the service.
This means many advertised speeds have recently been reduced. Prior to the new guidance being introduced, research from Ofcom found more than half of UK residential broadband connections have advertised speeds over 10Mb. However, the actual speeds that people get, although increasing, are still a long way from the headline speeds - most people only get around 7.6Mb.
There are various factors that affect your broadband speed, and while a cheap provider might advertise a speed of up to 24Mb - the same or more than many more costly providers - the typical speed, and the speed you get, could differ drastically between the two suppliers.
Cheap providers are often cheap simply because of economies of scale - they allow a lot of users onto their networks meaning they can keep their prices low. However, this means cheap providers tend to have more congested networks than their pricier counterparts, which may slow down your connection. This means you're also be far more likely to be traffic managed - have your speed throttled at peak times - by a cheap broadband provider as they look to ensure every customer has equal use of their network.
More and more providers are beginning to offer superfast broadband, which can deliver speeds of 25Mb and beyond. BT and Virgin Media both offer some of the fastest packages available in the UK, which can deliver up to 100Mb broadband using fibre optic technology.
Broadband download limits
Today you can choose between "truly unlimited" usage - meaning your connection will not be throttled regardless of how much data you download, "unlimited" downloads - which have a fair usage or traffic management policy applied, or a package with a clear, set download limit. Some set download allowances can be as little as 1GB or 2GB, while other packages offer as much as 50GB or more.
If you go for a package with a set download limit, your downloading might not be restricted during peak hours, but you may have to pay a set fee if you exceed your allowance, or your package may automatically be upgraded, depending on the provider.
If you choose a package with a fair usage policy and unlimited downloads, your connection will be more likely to be traffic managed at peak times and throttled if you've been downloading or uploading a particularly large amount of data for a significant amount of time.
However, if you have low download requirements - say you only really use the internet to browse the web and check your email - your connection speed can be affected by the heavy usage of others, so a package with a fair usage policy can sometimes work to your advantage.
Sky (www.Sky.com) is the only provider to offer a package with truly unlimited downloads, meaning that regardless of your usage you can download to your heart's content without the worry of your connection being throttled - perfect for busy online households, avid online gamers and those who download and watch a lot of movies online.
While O2 (www.O2.co.uk) offers truly unlimited downloads on some of its packages and EE (www.EE.co.uk) unlimited broadband, both use traffic management, while the former also has an acceptable use policy.
So, should you go for a package with a download limit, unlimited broadband or truly unlimited broadband? Well, there's no right answer to that question - the best package for you depends entirely on your individual or household needs. When considering this you should be realistic about how much you really download and get an appropriate package - while you don't want to run the risk of having to pay extra for breaching your download limit, neither is it worth shelling out for an unlimited package if you don't use the internet enough for it to be of any benefit.
Protection and security
Buying packages from certain providers, like BT (www.BT.com), O2 (www.O2.co.uk) and TalkTalk (www.Talktalk.co.uk), will enable you to save money on essential security software for your computer. These providers offer packages that include anti virus measures, which will protect you from malware and spyware.
It's not just the fact that internet security is included with these packages that makes them so attractive; the protection measures are usually automatically installed when your connection is set-up, so if you're not the most IT savvy internet user, it's one less thing to worry about.
Broadbandchoices.co.uk lists full details of any internet security and protection supplied with each package when you compare broadband.
Whether you live in a remote area where you are more likely to experience service problems, an intensive online gamer always looking to get more out of your connection, or just a technophobe, if you think you may have to make a lot of calls to customer services, there are two things you need to take into account with regards to customer service when choosing a broadband package - the cost of calls and the quality of the advice you will receive.
Many people don't like getting through to overseas call centres, some because they have difficulty understanding strong foreign accents, others because they don't feel they will have as much understanding of the issues they are calling about as one staffed by people who live in the UK. If this is an issue for you, it's worth checking out where providers' customer service centres are located when shopping for broadband. For example, BT, Sky and Virgin Media - like many others - have call centres in India as well as the UK, whereas all O2 call centres are in the UK.
While being understood is very important, especially when it comes to broadband and the technicalities involved, don't just assume that because a call centre is abroad, the customer service will be bad. Do your research; BE Broadband (www.BeThere.co.uk) has a call centre in Bulgaria, yet was nominated as a Which? Recommended Broadband Provider in March, and was awarded four out of five stars for its customer service by the consumer champions' member panel of experts.
Equally important is how much calling customer services will cost you. If you think you might need to spend a fair amount of time on the telephone to your provider, make sure you know exactly how much it will cost you before signing up, s and remember to take into account being kept on hold.
If you have problems with your broadband and find yourself having to continually call your provider , keep your telephone bills as a record of how much it has cost you to get the problem sorted, as this could prove useful if you choose to complain to your provider.
The cost of calling customer services can often be found in the "Contact Us" section of broadband providers' websites. Often it is free to call if you also have home phone with that particular provider, while others go with variations of "costs may vary". If that's the case, use the Broadbandchoices.co.uk comparison calculator to get a breakdown of call charges from your landline.
Know your exit fees
Many providers will charge you early termination fees if you want to leave your contract early, even if you're not satisfied with the service you're receiving.
To keep your broadband as cheap as possible, always make sure you do your research before committing to a deal, as you are more likely to get one that suits your needs and less likely to end up looking to switch providers before your contract is up.
If there are other reasons you don't want to commit to a 12 or 18-month contract - perhaps you're a student living away from home who only needs broadband in term-time for instance - then bear in mind that some providers offer shorter contract terms, again reducing the possibility of you having to pay to leave your contract early. O2 offer a 30-day rolling contract, for which there's a set-up fee, but you can leave at any time for nothing by giving 30 days notice.
Plusnet (www.Plus.net) offers no contract broadband. With this, while you'll have to pay an activation fee and shell out for a wireless router, you won't have to pay an exit fee - all you have to do is give the provider 10 days notice.
If it's too late and you've already signed up to a longer term deal but are having problems with the service you're getting, there a number of steps you can take from reading the Broadbandchoices.co.uk guide to boosting your internet speed to contacting us to see if we can help with complaining about your broadband provider.
Things to remember
Remember, while cheap broadband obviously has its benefits, choosing a package is not just about price. Bear in mind exactly what you could be sacrificing for the sake of saving a few pounds a month - a fast and reliable connection speed? A decent download allowance? Protection and security? Quality customer service and peace of mind?
While it can also be tempting to go for a bundle because of the add-ons, such as a cheap digital TV service, always be realistic and keep your needs in mind. As mentioned earlier, if you are unlikely to use the extra services you're paying for then they will just be a waste of money - no matter how cheap they are.
If you're sure that you have accurately assessed your broadband needs, both in terms of usage and support, then you are more likely to get a package that's right for you. While on the face of it that might not be the cheapest one, it could prove to be in the long-term if you're getting what you want and not having to waste time and money calling your provider or switching to a new package .
Use the Broadbandchoices.co.uk comparison calculator to compare the deals available where you live by first year cost, monthly cost and upfront cost. It also provides an in-depth breakdown of each package, including download penalties and extra benefits, enabling you to make a confident and informed decision.
Cheap broadband providers
Most broadband providers offer a selection of packages ranging from the relatively cheap to the more expensive - remember to take line rental into account when you're shopping around, although it is possible to get broadband without a phone line. If you're unsure about what's out there, it can be a good idea to visit the provider's websites directly to get yourself clued up about what's on offer: