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Broadband how to choose your best deal

Do you need fibre? How to switch & much more

Martin and Consumer Team | Edited by Steve N

Updated Weekly

Wifi router

Too many stick with their broadband provider through thick and thin, overpaying by 100s a year. If that's you, it's likely you can do the double whammy of boosting your package while massively slicing your bills.

Check your broadband and line rental cost now people on standard deals typically pay BT 43/mth, TalkTalk 27/mth, Sky 29/mth and Virgin 40/mth (fibre). The deals below can bring it down to equiv 12/mth over 12 months if you claim your 50 prepaid Mastercard.

To benchmark, those on standard pricing typically pay BT 43/mth and Virgin 40/mth.

What is broadband?

These days broadband is the standard way of connecting to the internet. Originally people used to dial up over their phone connection. Broadband uses a broader range of frequencies and allows more information to be carried than old dial-up connections.

There are two main types of broadband:

  • Home broadband: This is hard-wired into your house. It's either carried through your phone line (known as ADSL) or by cable. This is what this guide focuses on.
  • Mobile broadband: This isn't generally as fast or reliable, but as it's via the mobile networks, it's far more flexible. If you're looking for that, see our Mobile Broadband guide, which includes how to find free hotspots.

With home broadband, it's important to understand that while the information is carried via your phone line, you can still use the phone while you're online and the broadband connection is always on. Read more on how home broadband works.

Switching broadband can save 100s

Many people have a broadband provider they're comfortable with and stick with it for ease. But this becomes a licence for providers to print money, as older packages are more expensive and tend to allow lower downloads at slower speeds.

Assuming you already have home broadband (if not, read on to choose), it's crucial to work out what you're paying and the service you're getting. However...

Never just look at the broadband cost. Always look at the upfront costs too. They can be high, so cheap broadband could be offset by these charges.

Here are some typical costs the big networks are charging for long-standing deals. By contrast, using the best deals in this guide, you can often get broadband and home phone for around 17 a month or for less.

Standard non-deal broadband and line rental costs
Provider Standard monthly broadband cost Standard monthly line rental cost Cost per year for both
BT 42.99 Included 516
Sky 28.99 Included 348
TalkTalk 27 Included 324
Virgin (fibre) 40 Included 480

Switching broadband used to be a little tricky, but new rules introduced by regulator Ofcom in June 2015 have simplified the process for many. See the Ofcom implementing easier telecoms switching MSE News story for more details we explain how it works in the questions below.

Quick questions

Can I ever leave my contract early without penalty?

How long does it take to switch provider?

What do I actually need to do to switch?

What if I have problems setting up my new broadband?

How do I find out what customer service is like?

What if the broadband isn't in my area?

Six things you need to know to slash broadband costs

If you only read six things about broadband before you switch, read these.

  • Faster advertised speed doesn't mean faster broadband

    Internet speed dial

    Remember advertised speeds are just that "advertised". A provider only needs a paltry 10% of customers to get a certain speed before it can list it.

    While providers may tell you their service is "up to" 17Mb, many won't get near that speed. The actual speed you get depends on a number of factors:

    • How close your home is to the phone exchange.
    • The condition of the lines and wiring.
    • The number of people using the same broadband service in your area (the contention ratio).
    • Providers slowing speeds during busy hours or if you're a really heavy downloader (traffic shaping).
    • The number of people/devices trying to get online in your house.
    • What you're currently doing and programs running in the background, such as your browser streaming a movie clip.

    Many things help to boost your speed for free without switching. Try using a shorter cable from socket to router, cheap household signal boosters and plugging in instead of using Wi-Fi for big downloads. There's a full checklist of tips and tricks in Broadband Speed Boosting.

  • Check your broadband speed – you have rights, if it's slow

    Our 60-second guide on Broadband Speeds goes through the four steps to find out if your broadband's speed is fully up to scratch, and what you can do if it's not. Briefly...

    1. The 'Actual Speed Test'. Take a free speed test online to find what speed you're actually getting – Broadbandchoice's Speed Tester* and Ookla's Speedtest.net are good options. Try at different times of the day to get a range.
    2. The 'Line Speed Test'. The regulator Ofcom has a Telecoms Coverage Checker, which shows the maximum speeds capable down the line (not necessarily in your home) at any given postcode.
    3. The 'Covet Thy Neighbour's Broadband Test'. uSwitch's StreetStats* will show the actual speeds those in the area are getting in their home, broken down by provider.
    4. The 'Minimum Guaranteed Speed Test'. Most providers have joined a code of practice committing to providing a tailored speed estimate before sign-up. If you're getting "significantly below" this, you may be able to exit your contract penalty-free.

    You should always call up and try to resolve things with your provider directly. If this doesn't work, go through its official complaints procedure – the free complaints handling tool Resolver can help you with your complaint.

  • Aim for unlimited data or it'll cost you

    Our data use has rocketed. Catch-up TV and movie streaming hoover it up, and since some packages have download limits, this can be costly. If you just use the net for light browsing, emails and the odd YouTube video, you'll probably be fine with a limited 10GB package.

    Yet web watchers, beware. Watching an episode of Game of Thrones in HD's roughly 1GB, equivalent to looking at thousands of web pages. If you've got a 10GB limit, it isn't long before it's all used up and you're paying extra charges. With BT you pay 1.80/GB when you go over the limit.

    So check your bill now for penalty charges. If your download limit isn't enough, switch to the super-cheap versions below. These days the vast majority of the cheapest deals are unlimited anyway.

    To track how much data you're downloading, get a free bandwidth monitor try Rokario, Netmeter and TbbMeter.

  • Do you need fibre-optic?

    Fibre optic cable

    Superfast broadband allows much faster speed with greater consistency. While phone line speeds rarely match the 'up to' figures firms boast of, fibre gets closer.

    More of us are using more data online and because of this we need more speed. For simple web browsing and email, common 16Mb connections will do the job. But if you use it for lots of movie downloads, streaming videos, online gaming, or if everyone at home wants to connect at once, you will need superfast.

    Fibre broadband is still being rolled out across the UK. As a general rule, most big cities and towns have access to superfast broadband from a few different providers. Other areas (especially rural districts) may not have access to fibre broadband at all.

    To see if you can get superfast, see superfast best buys below. Alternatively, enter your postcode on Broadbandchoices* and click the fibre broadband tab (if there's no tab, it means you can't get it).

  • Should you get a broadband and line rental bundle?

    Many cheap broadband deals require you to take costly line rental. In the past providers only advertised the sexy broadband price in the headline but from 31 October 2016 the ASA ruled that greater prominence for full monthly costs would be necessary or providers would be in breach of advertising rules. The deal to pick depends on which category you fall into:

    • Only got landline for broadband? Unless you've got Virgin cable, you need a landline for broadband at home. Our poll of 25,000+ people showed 73% of under-65s don't have a landline or rarely use it.

      Millions feel forced to keep it just for broadband. If so, cut the cost and just go for a cheap bundle. Alternatively, you don't need line rental for Virgin superfast see Cheapest broadband without a landline below.

    • Still use your landline to make calls? If this is you, you'll need to factor in call costs when choosing line rental.

      But you can make massive savings on call costs to landlines, mobiles and overseas without changing phone line by using specialist access numbers. See Cheap Home Phones for a full how-to and best buys.

  • Check if you're under contract and haggle your bill down or your speed or package up

    If you signed up to broadband in the last 18 months, or longer in rare cases, first check if you're still in your contract period. If so, double-check that leaving doesn't breach your contract before switching. Exit penalties may kibosh savings. If you're planning to move home soon, check if your new contract's portable, or consider a no-contract deal.

    Before you ditch your current provider, remember broadband's a mature market and companies are frantic to keep hold of customers, so...

    Just call up, threaten to leave and your existing company will often offer kick-butt discounts.

    Say you want to move to a new provider and it'll automatically lead to a 'why are you leaving?' chat. It should put you through to what we call 'disconnections' but they call 'customer retentions' these operators have serious discount-giving power.

    If you're still in contract and it isn't worth leaving, check what speed you're actually getting and compare it to the advertised speed you're paying for. See our Boost Broadband Speed two minute check. If you're getting less than advertised ring your provider and ask for a better package, such as fibre, a discount or another concession.

  • We polled 4,000 MoneySavers to see where hagglers had most success. Companies where hagglers revealed over 76% success rates included TalkTalk, Sky and Virgin. See full results.

    For more tips and the top companies to haggle with, see Haggle With Call Centres.

Best buys: Up-to-17Mb standard broadband & line rental

Broadband usually requires a landline, and rather than getting your broadband and line rental from different companies, at the moment it's possible to get them as a 'bundle' for equiv 12/mth over 12 months if you claim your 50 cashback. All of the cheapest deals listed below also offer unlimited broadband, so you don't have to worry about going over your download limit.

These are mainly price-focused, and these deals are only for those that live in the providers' network areas (typically about 90% of the population). If your local BT exchange hasn't been opened up to rival firms ("unbundled"), you'll pay more.

It's also worth checking cashback sites as sometimes you can get more cashback on top of the below offers. Check deals are the same and be aware that if the site doesn't track properly you may miss out on the cashback.

Plusnet

B'band & line rent equiv 12.33/mth*

Pay 198 over 12mth contract & get a 50 cashback

  • Available to: 90% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb
  • Download limit: Unlimited
  • Traffic shaping? No
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation: 49.99

Until Tue 24 Oct, new Plusnet customers, or those who've not been with it in the last month, can get an 12-month contract with BT-owned Plusnet*, which includes line rental and unlimited downloads with up-to-17Mb speed broadband.

It was a strong performer in our latest customer service poll 54% rated it 'great', only 17% 'poor'. The deal's available to 90% of the UK based on postcode (you're told when applying). Here's how it works...

  1. If you can afford to, choose to pay line rent for 1yr upfront. It works out as 197.88 for a year equiv to 16.49/mth, after this you can renew for another 12 months for the same price. If you can't, or don't want to, it's the standard 18.99/mth.
  2. Broadband 'free' for 12mths. Unless you don't live in a low cost area, but most do. After the 12-month contract, it rises to 9.99/mth.
  3. Pay by direct debit. Or it's a 1.50/mth extra.
  4. Get 50 cashback but you MUST claim it. Annoyingly Plusnet makes you claim your cashback. You'll get an email within 10 days of activation explaining how, and you must do it within two months. It should then arrive within 30 days.

- Cost analysis: If you pay a year's line rent upfront, over the 12-month contract it's 197.88 before calls, equiv 16.49/mth (pay monthly, and it's 18.99/mth before calls). But claim and use the cashback then it's 147.88, equivalent to 12.33/mth. If you pay line rental monthly, then it's equivalent to 14.83/mth.

- What about calls? No calls are included calls to other UK phones are mostly a bit more than BT. See Plusnet charges.

- No line/switching from cable (or in a few cases, Sky customers)? Installation's 49.99. You'll know before committing.

- Is the price fixed during the contract? Technically no, but if it rises, you should be able to ditch your contract penalty-free.

- Don't live in a low cost area? You'll be told if you live in a low cost area while applying, rural areas are sometimes more expensive. If you don't, broadband's 7.50/mth during the contract on top of line rental. Broadband and phone will rise to 36.48/mth after 12 months.

Full Plusnet call charges, tips & customer service ratings

Sky

B'band and line rent equiv 17.50/mth*

Pay 260 over 12mth contract & get a 50 prepaid Mastercard

  • Available to: 90% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb
  • Download limit: Unlimited
  • Traffic shaping? No
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation: 20 for some

Until Thu 16 Nov, Sky newbies can apply via this Sky link* for this deal. It's a year's contract for up-to-17Mb unlimited broadband and line rental. If you've had Sky b'band, line or TV in the last 12mths you're not eligible.

It's available to 90% of the UK. It depends on your postcode you're told when applying (or use our new tool Broadband Unbundled which only shows deals available in your postcode).

  1. Unlimited broadband and line rent's 20/mth for 12 months. It'll rise to 28.99/mth if you stay. No calls included see Sky call costs (a touch more than BT).
  2. 19.95 set-up. There's also a 5 card verification fee, refunded on your first bill.
  3. Get 50 on a prepaid Mastercard but you MUST claim it. Annoyingly Sky won't remind you so diarise to use this Mastercard claim link within 90 days of service being activated. It should arrive within 30 days.

- Cost analysis: Assuming you don't need a new line, you pay 259.95 for the year before calls, equiv to 21.67/mth. But claim and use the Mastercard, then it's 209.79, equivalent to 17.50/mth.

- No line/switching from cable? There's a 20 new line fee.

- Could Sky hike prices? Sadly, telecoms firms often do, but you may be able to leave penalty-free if it raised phone prices. It tells us the broadband will always be 'free' for the year.

Full Sky tips, call charges & customer service ratings

Best buys Up-to-52Mb fast fibre broadband & line rental

Superfast or fibre-optic broadband offers a much faster speed with greater consistency, though it's usually pricier than normal broadband. If you're a heavy user if you love to stream movies and music, or regularly download things it can be a better option. It can also be a good idea if there are several people in the household likely to be online at the same time.

However, if you only use the web to browse and check emails or social media, or stream and download less frequently, you might be better off boosting your existing broadband speed instead. Our Broadband Speed Test guide shows you how.

Plusnet

Fibre & line rent equiv 21.33/mth*

Pay 384 over 18mth contract

  • Available to: 83% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 38Mb
  • Download limit: Unlimited
  • Traffic shaping? No
  • Contract length: 18 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation: 49.99

Until Tue 24 Oct, BT-owned Plusnet* is offering this 12-month fibre deal for newbies. It includes line rent and unlimited downloads with up-to-38Mb fibre broadband (up to 2x faster than standard), what's more the company was a strong performer in our latest customer service poll 54% rated it 'great', only 17% 'poor'. This deal's available to 83% of the UK based on postcode (you're told when applying), though you can't get it if you're already a Plusnet customer (or left in the last month). Here's how it works...

  1. Pay line rent upfront, if you can afford to.It works out as 197.88 for a year equiv to 16.49/mth (18.99/mth after). If you can't, or don't want to, it's the standard 18.99/mth.

  2. Broadband's 4/mth for 18mths. Unless you don't live in a low-cost area, but most do. After the 18-month contract, it rises to 14.99/mth.
  3. Pay by direct debit. Or it's £1.50/mth extra.
  4. .

- Cost analysis: If you pay a year's line rent upfront, over the 18-month contract it's 383.82 before calls (413.82 if you pay monthly). This works out an equivalent to 21.33/mth if you pay upfront, 22.99/mth paying monthly.

- What about calls? No calls are included calls to UK phones are mostly a bit more than BT (see Plusnet charges).

- No line/switching from cable (or in a few cases, Sky cust)? Installation's £49.99. You'll know before committing.

- Is the price fixed during the contract? Technically no, but if Plusnet does raise prices, you should be able to ditch your contract penalty-free.

- Don't live in a low cost area? You'll be told if you live in a low cost area while applying, rural areas are sometimes more expensive. If you don't, broadband's 7.50/mth during the contract on top of line rental. Broadband and phone will rise to 36.48/mth after 18 months.

Full Plusnet call charges, tips & customer service ratings

Talk Talk logo

Fibre & line rent 26.50/mth

Pay 477 over 18mth contract

  • Available to: 83% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 38Mb
  • Download limit: Unlimited
  • Traffic shaping? No
  • Contract length: 18 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation: 60

Following the cyber-attack it suffered in October 2015, whether people will trust the company after the brand damage is yet to be seen. In our last customer service poll 40% scored it 'poor'.

Until Thu 19 Oct, this TalkTalk Fibre Broadband deal is open to new and existing customers signing up to an 18-month contract. Here's how to get it:

  1. Unlimited fibre broadband and line rent's £26.50/mth for 18 months. It's then 33.50/mth after the contract ends unless you move onto another promo deal. You get a 'free' compulsory router.

The cost of the broadband and line contract over 18 months is 477, or 26.50/mth

- What about calls? No calls are included but you can get anytime calls to UK landlines and mobiles for 7.50/mth. Calls over 60 mins are charged so hang up and call back. See call costs for full info.

- Need a new line? If you don't have a line or only have a cable one (or in a few cases other lines), installation's 60 with this offer.

Full TalkTalk tips & call charges

Best buys Up-to-76Mb superfast fibre broadband & line rental

If you’re happy to pay more, you can get up-to-76Mb fibre, or even 100Mb or 200Mb through cable.

Let’s make no bones about it, this is the luxury end of the market, and isn’t MoneySaving, but if you've a large family with many devices, or you're into streaming 4K content, or you're just impatient, this could be for you.

So if normal fibre just won’t do, try our Broadband Unbundled tool.

 

Best buy Top deal if you want BT

Let's be straight BT often isn't the cheapest provider around. But as many of you tell us you'd like to stick with the big boy, here's the best standard speed deal we've found. If you factor in the Mastercard it actually works out better value for you to take the up-to-52Mb deal above at equiv 24.99/mth. Remember BT broadband customers can also get BT Sport at a discount which is a bonus for footie fans.

BT

B'band & line rent equiv 26.24/mth*

Pay 315 over 12mth contract

  • Available to: 99% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb
  • Download limit: Unlimited
  • Traffic shaping? No
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? Weekend
  • New line installation: 49.99

Until Thu 19 Oct, BT broadband newbies can get a one-year contract for line rent and up-to-17Mb speed unlimited broadband using this BT link*. The deal's available to 99% of the UK – you're told if you can get it when applying. Here's how it works:

  1. Choose to pay line rent upfront if you can afford to. It's cheapest to pay 208.80 upfront for the 12mths (you must opt for this at sign-up) or it's the usual 18.99/mth. Either way, you get inclusive weekend landline calls, see BT call costs.
  2. Discounted unlimited broadband 8/mth for 12mths. After, it jumps to 24/mth. Weekend calls to UK landlines are included, see BT call costs.
  3. You pay 9.99 set-up costs. Includes activation and p&p for the 'free' router.

- Cost analysis: You pay 314.79 over 1yr before calls if you choose to pay line rental upfront, equiv 26.24/mth. If you pay line rental monthly, then it's equivalent to 27.83/mth.

- No line/switching from cable? Installation's 49.99.

- Is the price fixed during the contract? Technically no, though BT told us it has no plans to increase it. If it does, you should be able to ditch your contract penalty-free.

- Anything else? You get 100GB of free online storage, and you can opt in to BT Sport free for three months, 7/mth after on a 12mth contract.

Full BT tips, call charges and customer service ratings


Best buys Broadband-only deals

It's outrageous that people who just want broadband almost always need to pay for a phone line too. There are some options, as we explain below, but they're often more expensive than the cheapest line rental and broadband deals (see above).

The alternative options include:

  • The cheapest no-phone-line broadband deal we could find is with Relish.net*. It costs from 20/mth but it's only for those in central London it uses its own 4G wireless network. As it's a relatively new company, it's difficult to assess its reliability though.

  • If you go for mobile broadband you won't need line rental but it isn't as reliable as home broadband. For more info and the best deals around, see our Mobile broadband guide.

  • Satellite broadband is suitable for people who live in rural areas where traditional fixed lines are unavailable. It uses a satellite dish to provide an internet connection to your router. However, you can only get speeds of up to 20Mb and it's very expensive.

Here's the only traditional, truly standalone broadband deal taking a phone line is almost always cheaper however.

Virgin Media

Fibre broadband-only equiv 28.67/mth*

344 over 12mth contract, no line rent needed

  • Available to: 50%+ of UK
  • Speed: Up to 50Mb
  • Download limit: Unlimited
  • Traffic shaping? Yes at peak times
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? No
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation: Free

Anyone who doesn't have Virgin Media* now can get this up-to-50Mb speed (about 3x standard) unlimited broadband deal on a one-year contract, provided they live in the 50%+ of the UK that can get it you're told if you can before applying. IMPORTANT: But as we say above, it's cheaper to get broadband and line rental with Virgin. Here's what you pay...

  1. Unlimited fibre broadband 27/mth for 12-month contract. After it's the usual 33/mth.
  2. 20 Installation fee. This is unavoidable and will be added to your first bill.

Over the 12-month contract the total is 344, excluding calls. Monthly it works out to be 28.67/mth.

Full Virgin info and customer service ratings

Best buys Short-term contract broadband

If you're planning to move home soon, living in student accommodation or you want the freedom to leave with a short, no-penalty notice period, the deal below allows you to sign up on a monthly rolling contract, which although more expensive, can be cheaper than paying penalty charges to get out of a standard 12 or 18-month contract.

However, if you are planning to move, first check if your new contract's 'portable', meaning you can take it with you. Some providers will let you do this, but it's on a case-by-case basis.

DirectSave

Rolling 28-day contract, equiv 36.73/mth for first 12 mths*

Cancel with 28 days' notice, 33.90 upfront

  • Available to: 89% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb
  • Download limit: No
  • Traffic shaping? No
  • Contract length: 28 days
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation: 29.95

Newbies to Direct Save Telecom's* can get its unlimited broadband and line rental on a 28-day rolling contract (its standard contract length is 24 months) for 33.90/mth.

However, if you need a new line, eg, if switching from cable or if you don't have a working line, it's 118 on top.

Not heard of Direct Save Telecom before? Read on for more.

  1. Sign up directly. Go via Direct Save Telecom*
  2. Broadband and line rent's 33.90/mth. Direct Save Telecom could increase prices at any time, but as you're not tied into a long contract, you're free to leave by giving 28 days' notice.
  3. You need its router. It's 'free' but you'll need to pay 8.95 p&p and 24.95 for activation.

The total for unlimited broadband, line rent, router p&p and activation cost for the first year is 440.70, equivalent to 36.73/mth.

Full Direct Save Telecom info and call charges

Cashback sites may pay you for signing up

As an extra boon, members of specialist cashback websites can be paid when they sign up to some financial products. Do check that it's exactly the same deal though, as terms can be different. And remember the cashback is never 100% guaranteed until it's in your account. 

Full help to take advantage of this and pros and cons in our Top Cashback Sites guide.

Problems with getting an MSE Blagged deal?

If you signed up to an MSE Blagged deal a best-in-market offer we've negotiated exclusively which involves you being sent a voucher, we'll always do our best to ensure you get the voucher.

But as we warn above, there can occasionally be problems with the deal tracking. In particular, if you were running ad-blocking software or cookie blockers when you signed up for the deal, or exited your browser while in the process of signing up, this can stop it tracking correctly.

Key tips

  • Many vouchers are supposed to arrive within three months of installation (see each deal for specific details). If it hasn't been that long yet, please be patient.

  • If you're waiting for an email voucher, please do check your spam folder regularly in case it's been diverted there.

Below we've listed the main past blagged deals, including the MSE Broadband Switch Event Sky deal, so you can check what you're due.

Warning: This is an archive so these deals may no longer be available.

BT: Broadband and line rent deals

EE: Broadband and line rent deals

Plusnet: Broadband and line rent deals

TalkTalk: Broadband and line rent deals

Sky: Broadband and line rent deals