Want to go online as much as you like, without worrying about how much data you’re using? An unlimited broadband package should do you right. Here’s everything you need to know to help you find the best broadband deal.
What is unlimited broadband?
An unlimited broadband deal is one with no limit on how much you’re able to use the internet, whether that’s for streaming video and music, online gaming, browsing or shopping.
Pretty much all home broadband deals are unlimited these days. So much so that it’s actually hard to find one with a usage limit.
Keen to find out more? Get up to speed with usage limits with our handy guide.
Why should I get unlimited broadband?
The main reason to choose an unlimited broadband deal is that you won’t have to worry about incurring extra charges for exceeding a usage limit.
That’s especially important because with ‘limited’ broadband deals you could be charged extra for internet usage that’s over and above your limit. Which could land you with a very unwelcome and unexpected bill.
Conversely, if you live alone or perhaps with a partner, you can probably get by with a 'limited' broadband deal. Especially if you just use the internet for light browsing, emailing and shopping.
Sign up for 'limited' broadband and you'll usually save a little bit of money compared with unlimited broadband deals.
But you run the risk of running up charges for excess usage, which isn't ideal if you're on a tight budget.
Given the negligible price difference between 'limited' and 'unlimited' deals, we'd recommend you always plump for an unlimited deal.
A few extra pounds per month is a small price to pay for peace of mind you get from knowing exactly how much you'll be paying each month, as well as the freedom to use the internet as much as you like.
What’s traffic management?
Traffic management, also known as traffic shaping or traffic prioritisation, is when providers give priority to certain types of traffic on their networks.
It’s used on some unlimited broadband packages, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If lots of people in the same area are online at the same time, the network can get congested and speeds plummet.
To get around this, some providers slow down certain types of online activity - such as file-sharing - and prioritise others – such as catch-up TV or gaming - to ensure a decent service for everyone on the network.
What’s a fair use policy?
A fair usage policy dictates when traffic management is used. The policy sets out how much data you’re allowed to download each month, even if you’re on an unlimited broadband deal, before your provider slows down your connection or takes other measures.
For the vast majority of people a fair usage policy is nothing to worry about. The limits are usually very high, considerably more so than most people would use.
But if you download a lot of movies or games or watch a lot of TV on streaming services, it’s something to be aware of.
Comparing unlimited broadband providers
Just about every provider offers unlimited broadband, so you’re not short of suppliers to choose from. But the crucial thing to be aware of is that providers do not abide by a universal definition of ‘unlimited’.
That means that an unlimited package from one provider could be subject to usage restrictions that don't apply on another provider's 'unlimited' package.
For that reason, we divide unlimited broadband packages into two categories: ‘truly unlimited’ and ‘unlimited’.
Truly unlimited broadband
We define ‘truly unlimited’ broadband as packages with no usage caps and no network-wide traffic management.
That means you can download as much as you like without your provider ever artificially slowing down your connection.
The downside of that is if lots of people with the same provider in your area are online at the same time, speeds can suffer.
It’s less of a problem with fibre broadband, but it’s something to be aware of. Even so, a truly unlimited broadband service is what you need if you’re a heavy internet user.
Providers that offer truly unlimited packages include:
- BT - All BT unlimited broadband packages - including BT Superfast Fibre - are truly unlimited.
- Sky - Sky fibre and standard broadband packages are truly unlimited, allowing you to use the internet freely.
- TalkTalk - All TalkTalk broadband packages are truly unlimited.
- Vodafone – Standard and fibre broadband packages are all truly unlimited.
- Plusnet – As the name suggests, Plusnet Unlimited, Unlimited Fibre and Unlimited Fibre Extra are all truly unlimited.
- Virgin Media – Fibre-only provider Virgin Media’s broadband deals are all truly unlimited.
- Now Broadband – Now Broadband's Brilliant Broadband, Fab Fibre and Super Fibre are all truly unlimited.
- Onestream – All Onestream standard broadband and fibre packages are truly unlimited.
Unlimited broadband packages
Sign up for an ‘unlimited’ package instead of ‘truly unlimited’ and you’ll be able to use as much data as you like, but you may find you get slower speeds if you're deemed to be taking up an unreasonable amount of network capacity with how you're using the internet.
This is most likely to occur at peak times, when your provider will manage traffic in a bid to ensure a consistent service for all the customers using the network.
Usage that a provider might deem unreasonable could include 'excessive' use of file-sharing sites to download movies, music or games.
Providers that offer unlimited packages
Not all unlimited broadband packages are completely free of usage restrictions.
Some providers, depending on their fair usage policy, will manage traffic at peak times to ensure a good service for its customers, and could impose a speed limit on you if you’re overloading the network.
Providers that offer unlimited packages include:
- Post Office – The Post Office’s unlimited broadband packages are keenly priced. You can download as much as you like. But certain types of traffic, like file-sharing, may be de-prioritised at peak times.
- SSE – Customers on SSE’s Unlimited Broadband, Unlimited Fibre and Unlimited Fibre Plus are all subject to traffic management.
- Shell Energy – All Shell Energy packages are unlimited, but if you’re deemed to be making excessive demands on the service with your usage, they may slow your speeds.
Every provider has its own policy on what constitutes ‘unlimited broadband’, so make sure you check the small print before you sign up to a package so you know just how ‘unlimited’ it really is.
Can I get unlimited broadband with a phone line or TV?
Almost every provider that lets you bundle broadband with home phone or TV package offers unlimited broadband.
Sky, Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk, and NOW Broadband all offer packages that combine TV, home phone, and broadband with unlimited downloads.
Can I get unlimited broadband without a landline?
You can get unlimited broadband without a landline. However, only a couple of providers, such as Virgin Media and Hyperoptic, offer this and they aren't available everywhere in the country.
Which provider offers the cheapest unlimited broadband?
The most affordable unlimited broadband packages are usually from the likes of Onestream, Post Office, Shell Energy and SSE.
But more familiar names such as Now Broadband, Vodafone and Plusnet also offer keenly priced unlimited broadband for not too much more per month.
As a rule of thumb, you should expect to pay between £15-£20 per month for the cheapest unlimited broadband deals.
To see the cheapest unlimited deals available to you, just use our postcode checker and sort by total cost.
Can I get unlimited mobile broadband?
Unlimited mobile broadband is available from the likes of Three on 4G and 5G plans and on Vodafone’s 5G plans.
But even the most expensive 4G plans from EE and O2 typically feature a usage limit of between 50GB-100GB per month.
So you'd still need to be mindful of how much data you're using.