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?
Everything you do online, from browsing to playing games to using Facebook, consumes data. Watch a show on BBC iPlayer, you’ve downloaded a few hundred megabytes at least. Watch an HD movie, and you’ve gorged on gigabytes.
Some broadband packages limit how much you can download each month, meaning you have to be a little careful about what you do online. But not unlimited broadband packages - these let you watch, play and surf to your heart’s content, without worrying about how much you’re downloading. Think of it as peace-of-mind internet.
Should I get unlimited broadband?
For some people - typically those who use the internet intensively, families and those who are part of a house-share - unlimited broadband is the answer to their prayers. For people who mainly use the web for a little bit of browsing, sending emails and checking Facebook, a cheaper package with a usage limit may be fine.
But do you need unlimited broadband? Well, it’ll certainly make life easier if you:
- Have a big household, with everyone online
- Watch catch-up TV on the likes of BBC iPlayer
- Stream films on Netflix, NOW TV and so on
- Download video games or play them online
- Stream music using services such as Spotify
- Have an internet-connected TV box like YouView
If you do one or more of these, unlimited broadband will be brilliant. For the best experience possible, get an unlimited fibre optic broadband package. That way you’ll be able to do what you want online without being stymied by a monthly usage limit or slow speeds.
What’s traffic management?
Also known as traffic shaping or traffic prioritisation, traffic management is when providers influence traffic on their networks. It’s used on some unlimited broadband packages, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If loads 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 certain types of online activity - such as file-sharing - and prioritise others - like catch-up TV or gaming - to ensure you get a decent level of service.
What’s a fair use policy?
A fair usage policy is what dictates when traffic management is used. They set out how much you’re allowed to download each month, even on unlimited broadband, before the provider slows down your connection or takes other measures. For the vast majority of people they’re nothing to worry about - the limits are usually very high, considerably more so than most people would use - but if you do serious amounts of downloading and streaming it’s something to be aware of.
Comparing unlimited broadband providers
Just about every provider offers unlimited broadband, so you’re not be short of choice. There are a few things to watch out for though. For one thing, providers’ idea of what ‘unlimited’ means differs. As such, unlimited broadband packages can be split into two categories - ‘truly unlimited’ and plain old ‘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 optic broadband, but it’s something to be aware of. Even so, truly unlimited broadband is for you 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. No usage limits at all, so go crazy.
- Sky - Most Sky broadband packages are truly unlimited, allowing you to use the internet freely. The exception is Sky Broadband Lite, which is free with Sky TV - it has a 2GB monthly usage cap.
- TalkTalk - All TalkTalk broadband packages are truly unlimited - perfect for watching tons of TV on demand on TalkTalk TV, especially as TalkTalk prioritises on-demand video on its network.
Unlimited broadband packages
Not all unlimited packages are completely free from restraint - some providers, depending on their fair usage policy, will manage traffic at peak times to ensure speeds are consistent, and could impose a speed limit on you if you’re overloading the network.
Providers that offer unlimited packages include:
- Post Office - If you're after unlimited broadband at a low price, the Post Office is a good shout. You can download as much as you like without worry, though certain types of traffic, like file-sharing, may be de-prioritised at peak times.
- Virgin Media - Like many providers, Virgin Media doesn’t limit how much you download, but it does manage the speed at which heavy users can upload during peak times to ensure consistent performance across its network.
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 is. If you’re not sure, get in touch with us.
Can I get unlimited broadband with a phone line or TV?
Absolutely - pretty much every provider that lets you bundle its internet in with home phone and a telly package offers unlimited broadband. To name a few, Sky, Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk, and NOW Broadband all offer bundles of TV, home phone, and broadband with unlimited downloads. Take a look here:
Can I get unlimited broadband without a landline?
Yes, you can get unlimited broadband without a landline. However, only a couple of providers offer this - Virgin Media and Relish are a couple - and they aren't available everywhere in the country. Use our postcode checker to see if you can get a broadband-only deal with unlimited downloads in your area.
What's the cheapest unlimited broadband?
Nearly all providers do broadband with unlimited downloads in some form, including budget-led providers - and that means it's nice and easy to find cheap unlimited broadband. TalkTalk, Plusnet, Post Office, and Vodafone, all known for their low prices, are worth looking at here. Keep a beady eye out for special deals on unlimited packages too, including ones with free gifts or cashback.
To see the cheapest unlimited deals available to you, just use the postcode checker above and sort the comparison tool by first year cost. The cheapest deals will show up first so you can see the best deals.
Unlimited mobile broadband
Unfortunately, you can't currently get mobile broadband with unlimited downloads. If you want a data-only SIM for your tablet, a dongle deal, or a mobile Wi-Fi device, we're afraid it'll come with a download limit. On the plus side, those download limits can run quite high. Read all about it here:
Looking for unlimited mobile phone data plans instead? These do exist. Check out our guide: