No monthly contract broadband explained

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A small number of flexible 'no contract' broadband packages exist in the UK, giving you freedom to switch provider when a better deal comes along.

No contract broadband is a useful option if you're planning to move house, need broadband for a second home, or simply don't want to be tied down to a monthly bill for 12 or 18 months. Or as is becoming more common, a 24-month contract.

Here we'll show you some of the best no contract broadband deals around, and highlight exactly what you need to be aware of before signing on the dotted line.

Which providers offer no monthly contract broadband?

The two most prominent providers to offer no monthly contract broadband in the UK are NOW Broadband and Virgin Media.

Here’s what each has to offer:

NOW Broadband

NOW Broadband (www.NowTV.com) offers broadband packages with no contract for an upfront fee. That goes for Brilliant Broadband with an average download speed of 11Mbps, Fab Fibre with an average speed of 36Mbps, and Super Fibre with an average speed of 63Mbps. There's also the option to add a 30-day TV Pass for Sky Cinema, Sky Sports and kids' TV.

Below is a list of some of NOW Broadband's 12-month contract deals.

Virgin Media

All of Virgin Media's services are available on a 30-day basis. That includes broadband with average download speeds of 54Mbps, 108Mbps, 213Mbps or 362Mbps; its broadband-only packages; home phone; and of course its high-tech TV service, complete with around 250 channels and TiVo.

It costs a little more for shorter contracts, with both higher monthly bills and setup costs. That said, if you only expect to be connected for a few months, you'll still pay less than the cost of cancelling mid-contract.

Mobile broadband

Alternatively, you could look into mobile broadband. It's available from mobile phone networks on one-month contracts or on a pay-as-you-go basis.

With mobile broadband, you'll be able to take your connection with you wherever you go - and by using it instead of home broadband, you may be able to save a bit on line rental.

In the past, mobile broadband deals generally came with much less generous monthly usage limits than fixed-line broadband packages.

But while there are still mobile broadband deals that put limits on your usage, it's now much, much easier to find them with unlimited downloads. And for a decent price, too.

Generally mobile broadband divides into two types: dongles and MiFis. The major difference is that dongles get you online with a single laptop or (the one you've plugged the dongle into), while MiFis let you get online with multiple devices simultaneously.

Price-wise, they're both comparable to a fixed line connection. But they may be your overall cheapest option if you only want broadband for a few months, since you won't have to pay anything for installation and can probably avoid paying much upfront too.

Dongles

About the size of your thumb, a dongle slots into the side of your laptop or computer’s USB drive and connects you to the internet.

Dongles, which use the same network technology as smartphones, are available from all the major mobile phone networks and come in 4G and faster 5G variants.

MiFis

MiFis are effectively portable wireless routers, which let you get online with multiple gadgets simultaneously using mobile internet technology.

We take a look at a couple of the standout models below..

Vodafone Gigacube

Vodafone Gigacube is an all-in-one home broadband and mobile broadband device that you can pick up with no contract, with prices that start from £30 per month and £100 upfront.

Available with 4G or 5G, it provides a signal that's as strong as standard home routers and offers speeds in line with standard fibre broadband products.

Three HomeFi Plus

Much like the Vodafone Gigacube, the HomeFi Plus is a great alternative to traditional fixed-line home broadband. And is available on a one-month rolling contract, priced from £30 per month with a small upfront charge of just under £30.

4G tethering

All modern smartphones have the capability to become mobile hotspots, which let other devices use your phone as a small modem to hook up to the internet.

You can also connect to your computer and tether using a physical cable. Although tethering is ideal if your out and about, it’s less reliable and can be slower than fixed line broadband.

All household name providers allow you to use your phone for tethering. But we'd recommend that if you are planning to use your phone for tethering regularly, you choose a plan with an allowance of least 8GB-10GB

To find out more, as well as how to tether your phone, check out our handy guide.

Connection and disconnection fees

A lot of UK providers use the BT Openreach network of phone lines, and have to pay a fee to BT to activate your broadband connection.

Most won't charge you for this when you sign up, but, to cover their own costs, they will add the fee to your bill if you disconnect within a year - even if you're moving house. And, you'll probably get charged a connection fee if you're going 'no contract'.

The fee might also be higher if you're the first broadband user in a new home, as the cost of connecting you will be higher in the first place.

Cable broadband companies like Virgin Media don't have the excuse of dealing with BT, but you should always check the small-print anyway when it comes to disconnection or deactivation fees.

Some providers will also ask you to return or pay for the router you were supplied with, especially if you've cancelled within a year of signing up.

Monthly vs yearly contracts

Monthly contracts can be expensive, but many people consider them worth the extra cost because of the flexibility they offer - especially if you don't need broadband for very long.

Longer contracts of 12, 18 or even 24 months will generally mean a lower monthly bill, and, depending on your circumstances, could be the cheapest option for you.

However, you should bear in mind that you won't be able to switch for the duration of the contract without paying a hefty fee.

  • Can I keep my old email address when I switch broadband provider?

  • Can I get broadband without a landline?

  • Dongles: What are they, and how do I get one?

  • Your broadband consumer rights

  • Internet data usage explained

  • Broadband and moving home

  • Broadband contracts: The small print

  • How do I cancel my broadband contract early?

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