How to get cheap broadband

Do you need fibre? How to switch & much more

how to get cheap broadband

Way too many people stick blindly with their broadband and landline provider – and therefore vastly overpay. People on non-promo deals typically pay anything from £350/year to £600+/year for the big players such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, so the deals below can save you big money.

To benchmark, those out-of-contract typically pay BT £52/mth and Virgin £42/mth for fibre.

Eight broadband need-to-knows

These are the golden rules to give you chapter and verse, but if you just want a quick comparison, try our Broadband Unbundled tool.

  • Broadband is the standard way to connect to the internet but the key differentiator is speed, measured in megabits per second (Mb). There are four main categories:

    • Standard – with average speeds of 10-11Mb. This is the basic level, sometimes called ADSL.

    • Fast fibre-optic broadband – average speeds of 35-36Mb (though some offer 50Mb). This is delivered through more sophisticated glass or plastic wires before connecting to your home.

    • Superfast fibre-optic – with average speeds around 63Mb. Uses the same fibre wires, it's just faster.

    • Ultrafast fibre-optic broadband – with average speeds usually above 100Mb. This requires more sophisticated wiring usually direct to your home, and is only available from a limited number of suppliers. 

    See our Broadband Unbundled tool for more ultrafast deals. 

    Do I really need fibre-optic broadband?

    Fast fibre is best for heavy users – if you do loads of streaming, online gaming, downloading or have multiple users in your home – as doing lots at the same time slows you down.

    Anything faster is very much a luxury – best if you've a large household with many devices, you stream 4K content or 'normal' fibre isn't fast enough for you.

    If you just use the web for basic tasks such as emails and the odd bit of browsing then an average of 11Mb speed should be fine.

    Quick questions

  • To help you navigate this postcode lottery, our Broadband Unbundled tool shows which best buys are available where you live. Standard speed broadband is available in the vast majority of the UK but there are still odd pockets where you can't get it.

    With fibre, it's still still being rolled out across the UK, though over 90% should now be able to get it. Most big cities have access but some rural areas may not. Ultrafast fibre with top speeds of 350Mb is only available to roughly 50% of the UK, while faster speeds are currently only available to a small number.

  • It varies, but plan for about 10 working days, though if you need an engineer it is partly down to your availability.

    And on the day itself don't worry if you fear Facebook withdrawal, you're only likely to be offline for a few hours, or maybe hardly at all – if you're at work you may not even notice it. Here are some more key details:

    • Often, there's no need for an engineer to come round. Only if you need a new line or on some fibre installations. Otherwise just plug any new kit you're sent in.

    • You don't usually need to tell your current provider. The new firm usually does the communication work unless if switching to or from Virgin – here, you must tell your old provider.

    • Many firms insist you pay to receive their router. Though the cost isn't usually prohibitive and we include router costs (where applicable) in all the deals below.

    Quick questions

    • Since you'll likely be signing a 12-month or 18-month contract, it's worth checking feedback before diving in. We include the results of our latest broadband customer satisfaction poll in all our best buys, so you can see how each provider ranked with other MoneySavers. For the full results see our latest Broadband customer service poll results.

      Our forum's Broadband Board also includes a wealth of feedback, as do sites such as ThinkBroadband and ISP Review.

    • You won't face extra costs if no longer under contract though you may need to give at least 14-30 days' notice depending on your provider.

      If you're still within the minimum term of your contract, you usually have to pay 'early termination fees' to leave. Each provider calculates these differently but it generally depends on the amount of time left on your contract. They should always be less than the cost of the remaining charges on the contract.

      Some providers may charge up to £30 if you're cancelling your broadband and not moving to another firm immediately or if you're moving to cable (although we've heard that some will waive this if contested). Your provider may also ask you to return its router or you risk incurring a penalty charge.

    • Under rules from regulator Ofcom, if the contract was taken out after 23 January 2014, if your landline, broadband or mobile (but not TV) firm raises prices without warning you before you signed up then you are allowed to leave penalty-free.

      But do check the T&Cs as providers may state in there that they reserve the right to hike prices in line with inflation, which would count as a warning. 

      If it happens without warning all you have to do is tell your provider within 30 days of getting notification from it, and you can then leave penalty-free. That said, only do so if you can find a better price.

  • Maybe. It's important to understand that these advertised speeds are based on the average speed received by at least 50% of a provider's current customer base between 8pm and 10pm – when most people are online

    Most have signed up to a code of practice committing to give a personalised estimate and a minimum guaranteed speed before you sign up. So since 1 March 2019, if your speeds drop below this minimum for three consecutive days you can ask your provider to check for a fault – and get it fixed if so. See our Boost Broadband Speed guide for how to check your speed.

    If it remains unresolved for 30 days you should be able to exit your contract penalty-free. This applies both both to broadband-only deals AND packaged deals that include TV and landline phone, provided you bought them at the same time as the broadband. If unhappy with your provider, try free complaints handling tool Resolver.

    If you signed up before 1 March 2019, you may still be able to exit your contract penalty-free – though there's no time limit for providers to fix your speed issues, and you wouldn't be able to get out of a bundled TV deal. 

  • From 1 April 2019, Ofcom's Automatic Compensation Scheme means broadband and landline customers will get money back from their provider when certain things go wrong:

    • If your landline or broadband stops working and is not repaired within two working days of reporting it, you'll receive £8, and then £8 for each day it remains unfixed. 

    • If your new landline or broadband service is not up and running on the day promised you'll receive £5 for each calendar day it's delayed, including the missed start date. There's no limit on this, so you'll keep accruing the compensation until it's sorted. 
       
    • If an engineer doesn't arrive for an appointment as scheduled, or it's cancelled with less than 24 hours' notice, you'll receive £25.

    Compensation is automatically paid as bill credit within 30 working days of the issue. If you choose to leave your provider while you still have bill credit to spend or before you get it, this will be refunded to the bank account you use to pay your direct debit or sent as a cheque.

    Which providers have signed up?

    So far five providers have joined – BT, Sky (including Now Broadband), TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen – which Ofcom says covers 90% of broadband users.

    Other providers have committed to join at a later date. Here's a round-up of what we know:

    Provider Joined the scheme?
    BT Yes
    Sky (incl Now Broadband) Yes
    TalkTalk Yes
    Virgin Media Yes
    Zen Yes
    EE No, it's said it will join later this year
    Gigaclear No
    Hyperoptic No, it's said it will join later this year
    John Lewis No, it's said it is committed to join but hasn't told us a date
    KCOM No
    Plusnet No, it's said it is committed to join but hasn't told us a date
    Post Office No
    Shell Energy Broadband No
    SSE Broadband No
    Vodafone No, it's said it will join later this year
    Should I opt for a provider that hasn't signed up?
    When we analysed the firms that have signed up, none of the current cheapest deals are from a provider that currently has the code in place. This opens up the question of whether to stick with a compensation scheme provider. Here's Martin's view...

    "There is a huge price difference between the very cheapest providers and what most people pay. Someone on an ongoing BT standard broadband contract can save £400/yr switching to the cheapest.
    "Provided that company has a decent service record, I wouldn't pay a big premium for the compensation. Especially as I hope that quite soon most competitive providers will join it. Yet if a compensation scheme member is cheap, pounce on it."
    How do I complain if my provider hasn't signed up?
    Whether or not your provider has signed up to the code, you should still complain if you have issues. A company can't try to fix problems if you don't report them. 
    To help, there's a free tool offered by a firm called Resolver that can draft your complaint and manage it too. If the complaint isn't sorted, Resolver can escalate it to the free Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) or Ombudsman Services, depending on the company you're complaining about.
  • Most broadband packages require you to have a line as the broadband is ultimately delivered down it. However, most providers still make you take out a standard line rental deal as if you'd use the phone rather than a discounted price for broadband only.

    There are a limited number of broadband-only deals, mainly from Virgin Media, but these are usually expensive (though when it has a hot deal we'll feature it below) so it's almost always cheaper to get a broadband and landline package. Of course, you could just get the line and simply not use it.

  • Almost all deals come with unlimited data now, particularly the deals we feature below and on our Broadband Unbundled tool. The fact the best deals have no restriction is good news given our data use has rocketed with catch-up TV, box sets and movie streaming gobbling it up – downloading an episode of Game of Thrones in HD uses up roughly 1GB.

    The other reason for cheer at the competitiveness of unlimited data deals is packages with download limits tend to have costly charges if you go over – BT charges £1.80/GB when you breach the limit.

    Though most new deals offer unlimited data, some legacy packages would still charge for exceeding your allowance, plus we've heard of some retention deals (offered direct from a provider if you try and haggle a new deal) still with a data cap – so always check the details when signing up.

    Quick question

  • Switching usually nets you the cheapest prices, but if you are out of contract – or nearing the end – you could try to haggle your price.

    As there's stiff competition, companies are frantic to keep hold of customers. That is why in our polls on haggling with service companies, communication providers are frequently among the easiest to haggle with.

    In our most recent survey of 5,900+ MoneySavers, more than 80% who tried had success with Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin. For top tips, see our Haggle With Service Providers guide.

Best buys: Cheapest standard speed broadband & line rental

We've got our pick of the best deals below, but to find out what's available in your area – and to compare more options – try Broadband Unbundled, our broadband, phone line and TV comparison tool.

Broadband & line rental: equiv £11.74/mth

Until Mon 30 Sep

This deal from the Post Office is open to anyone who hasn't been a Post Office broadband customer in the last year. Plus you can claim a £50 Amazon voucher.

You'll pay £15.90/mth for broadband and line rental before any call or new-line costs, so a total of £190.80 over the 12-month contract. If you'd have spent £50 with Amazon anyway, factor the voucher in and it's an equiv £11.74/mth.

Speed: Average 11Mb with unlimited downloads
Contract length: 12 months
Monthly payment: £15.90. After the 12-month contract this rises to £30/mth
Upfront costs: None. If you need a new line – ie, you're switching from cable –installation costs £60. You'll be told if you need to pay this before you commit
Rewards: £50 Amazon voucher which you must claim. See 'Rewards' tab for how 
Calls: No calls are included, unless you're calling another Post Office landline number
Who can get it? New customers – those who haven't been a Post Office broadband customer in the last year. It also depends on your area. See our Broadband Unbundled tool, which only shows deals available in your postcode

How to claim: For the £50 Amazon voucher, enter your email address when prompted before sign-up and you'll receive claim instructions within 90 days of your service going live. You've then three months to claim and activate it. 

What if I have difficulties? The deal is run via comparison site Broadband Genie, so it's best to get in touch with it first via rewards@broadbandgenie.co.uk. If you still have difficulties after that, please let us know and we'll do our best to help.

  • LANDLINE – ANYTIME MOBILE – ANYTIME
    15p/min 17p/min

    What if I want calls? You can pay an additional £2/mth for free weekend landline calls, £4/mth for evening and weekend landline calls or £6/mth for anytime landline calls plus 1,000 minutes to 0870 and 0845 numbers (it's £10/mth if you also want 1,000 minutes to UK mobiles). An international call package is £5/mth with inclusive calls to 40 countries, and 100 minutes to UK mobiles is £3/mth, 500 minutes is £8/mth. 

  • POST OFFICE BROADBAND CUSTOMER SERVICE POLL RESULTS
    Great 39%
    OK 33%
    Poor 27%
    Feb 2019 | Voters: 102
  • Sadly, telecoms firms often do, though the Post Office says your monthly broadband  charge won't rise for the duration of the contract – but this doesn't apply to call charges or extras.

    If it does hike prices, you should be able to leave penalty-free if it happens while you're still in contract and weren't warned before sign-up. 

    The Post Office must notify you before any price rise and you've usually 30 days to tell it you're leaving or to haggle a new deal. 

  • If you don't have a line already (eg, you've cable only), it's £30 upfront for installation and activation – you'll be told before you commit.

Best buys: Cheapest fast fibre broadband & line rental

Our pick of the best fibre broadband deals is below, but to find out what's available in your area and compare further options, try Broadband Unbundled, our broadband, phone line and TV comparison tool.

Though remember, as we've said, think carefully if you really need fibre. If you simply use the internet for basic browsing and emails, standard speed may be fine.

Fibre broadband & line rental: equiv £18.99/mth

Until Tue 16 Jul

A consistently strong performer in our customer service polls, Plusnet* came out top of the big providers for the seventh year running in our most recent poll, when 57% rated it 'great' and only 16% 'poor'.

To get the cheapest price, if you can afford to, pay for the first year's line rental upfront. Factor in the £60 prepaid Mastercard you can claim - as good as cash where accepted - and over the 18-month contract it's £342 before calls or new-line costs. That's equivalent to £18.99/mth. Pay line rental monthly and it's an equiv £20.66/mth.

Speed: Average 36Mb with unlimited downloads
Contract length: 18 months
Line rental: £197.88 for one year upfront then/or £18.99/mth
Broadband: £5/mth for the 18mth contract, then £15.99/mth
Upfront costs: Nothing upfront unless you need a new line installed (ie, you're moving from cable), then it's £49.99
Rewards: A £60 prepaid Mastercard which you must claim. See 'Rewards' tab for how
Calls: None included
Who can get it? New customers. It also depends on your area. See Broadband Unbundled, which only shows deals available in your postcode

What can I claim? A £60 prepaid Mastercard. Once your service is activated, you'll receive emailed instructions on how to get it. You then have two months to claim it and a further three months to activate it.

What if I have difficulties? The best bet is to get in touch with Plusnet first – contact details are here. If you still have difficulties after that, please let us know and we will do our best to help.

  • Calls aren't included, but you can add one of Plusnet's call plans which start at £4/mth. Otherwise you'll pay the following rates.

    A 22p set-up fee applies to all chargeable calls in addition to: 

    LANDLINE – DAYTIME LANDLINE – EVENING LANDLINE – WEEKEND MOBILE – ANYTIME
    13.5p/min 13.5p/min 13.5p/min 15p/min
  • PLUSNET BROADBAND CUSTOMER SERVICE POLL RESULTS
    Great 57%
    OK 27%
    Poor 16%
    Feb 2019 | Voters: 845
  • Telecoms firms often do, but Plusnet says its broadband and line rental prices are fixed for the duration of the contract – though that doesn't extend to other services such as the cost of calls.

  • If you don't have a line already (eg, you've cable only), it's £49.99 upfront for installation and activation – you'll be told if you have to pay before you commit.

  • If you pay line rental upfront, there's always a risk you'll lose cash if the provider goes bust. The risk's bigger with smaller companies than it is with BT, which owns Plusnet.

    Plus, if you take this deal and leave during the contract, you may be liable for early termination fees. You also won't be refunded any of your upfront line rental costs. If you're out of contract, a £30 cease charge may apply if you move from Plusnet to a provider that isn't part of the Openreach network (eg, Virgin Media) or if you cancel broadband to your property altogether.

    Bear in mind too that this price is only available if you live in an area that Plusnet defines as low cost – which is 99% of the UK. If you don't, broadband's £12.01/mth during the contract on top of line rental. After the contract, broadband and line rental rise to £42.48/mth.

Best buys: Cheapest superfast fibre broadband & line rental

If you're happy to pay more, you can get fibre with max speeds of 100Mb and above. 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 just impatient - this could be for you.

We've got our pick of the top superfast fibre deals below, but to find out what's available in your area and compare other options, try Broadband Unbundled, our broadband, phone line and TV comparison tool.

Fibre broadband & line rent equiv £22.99/mth

Until Tue 16 Jul

Plusnet* is a strong performer in our customer service polls – in fact, it came out top of the big providers for the seventh year running in our most recent poll, with 57% rating it 'great' and only 16% 'poor'.

To get the cheapest price, choose to pay for the year's line rental upfront (if you can afford to). Factor in the £60 prepaid Mastercard you can claim and over the 18-month contract it's £414 before calls or new-line costs, equivalent to £22.99/mth. Pay line rental monthly at £18.99 and it's an equiv £24.66/mth.

Speed: Average 66Mb with unlimited downloads
Contract length: 18 months
Line rental: £197.88 for one year upfront then/or £18.99/mth
Broadband: £9/mth. After the 18mth contract, it's £20.99/mth
Upfront costs: Nothing upfront unless you need a new line installed (ie, you're moving from cable), then it's £49.99
Rewards: A £60 prepaid Mastercard which you must claim. See 'Rewards' tab for how
Calls: None included
Who can get it? New customers. It also depends on your area. See our Broadband Unbundled tool, which only shows deals available in your postcode

What can I claim? This deal offers a £60 prepaid Mastercard - as good as cash where accepted - that you have to claim. Once your service is activated, you'll receive an email with instructions on how to get it. You then have two months in which to claim it and three months to activate it.

What if I have difficulties? The best bet is to get in touch with Plusnet first – contact details are here. If you still have difficulties after that, let us know and we'll do our best to help.

  • Calls aren't included, but you can add one of Plusnet's call plans which start at £4/mth –otherwise you'll pay the rates below.

    A 22p set-up fee applies to all chargeable calls in addition to: 

    LANDLINE – DAYTIME LANDLINE – EVENING LANDLINE – WEEKEND MOBILE – ANYTIME
    13.5p/min 13.5p/min 13.5p/min 15p/min
  • PLUSNET BROADBAND CUSTOMER SERVICE POLL RESULTS
    Great 57%
    OK 27%
    Poor 15%
    Feb 2019 | Voters: 845
  • Telecoms firms often do, but Plusnet says its broadband and line rental prices are fixed for the duration of the contract – though that doesn't extend to other services such as the cost of calls.

  • If you don't have a line already (eg, you've cable only), it's £49.99 upfront for installation and activation – you'll be told if you need one before you commit.

  • If you pay line rental upfront: When you pay upfront, there's always a risk you'll lose cash if the provider goes bust. The risk's bigger with smaller companies than it is with BT, which owns Plusnet.

    Exit fees: If you take this deal and leave during the contract, you may be liable for early termination fees. You also won't be refunded any of your upfront line rental costs. If you're out of contract, a £30 cease charge may apply if you move from Plusnet to a provider that isn't part of the Openreach network (eg, Virgin Media) or if you cancel broadband to your property altogether.

    Costs depend on your location: This price is only available if you live in an area that Plusnet defines as low cost – which is 99% of the UK. If you don't, broadband's £16.50/mth during the contract on top of line rental. After the contract ends, broadband and line rental rise to £47.48/mth.

Are you desperate to get or stay with BT?

BT often isn't the cheapest provider but we know a lot of you like the security of being with a big name, so if that's you, use our Broadband Unbundled tool to find the best BT package for you.

If you're already a customer, it's worth using the tips above to benchmark the best deal and then try to haggle to knock down your price. BT is one of the easiest firms to haggle with. In our most recent haggling poll, 80% of its customers who tried to haggle had some success. For top tips on how to do it, see our Haggle With Service Providers guide.

Best buys: Short-term contract broadband

If you're planning to move home soon, live in student accommodation or want the freedom to leave with a short, no-penalty notice period, the deals below allow 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.

Rolling 28-day contract, equiv £30.03/mth for first 12 mths

 

Newbies to Direct Save Telecom* can get its unlimited broadband with average speeds of 11Mb and line rental on a rolling basis, so you're not tied in to a long contract.

If you decide to keep it a year, you'll pay a total of £360.35, equiv to £30.03/mth.

Speed: Average 11Mb with unlimited downloads
Contract length: One month
Monthly payment: £27.95
Upfront costs: £24.95
Calls: No calls are included
Who can get it? New customers. It also depends on your area. Enter your postcode on the Direct Save website and it will tell you if you can get it

  • A 22p call set-up fee applies for all chargeable calls, in addition to the below per minute costs.

    LANDLINE  MOBILE 
    13p/min 16p/min
  • Direct Save Telecom is a low-cost broadband and home phone provider. It isn't as big as other providers so we don't have feedback on its customer service, but it's been around since 1995 and has been providing line rental since 2004.

    It offers 24-hour UK-based customer service.

  • Sadly telecoms firms often do, but as this is a 28-day rolling agreement, if Direct Save Telecom increases its prices you're free to leave without any exit fees.

  • If you don't have a line (eg, you've cable only), it's £29.95 – you'll be told before you commit.

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.

How to complain about your broadband provider

Free tool if you're having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free and offered by a firm called Resolver, which we like so much that we work with it to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver can escalate it to the free CISAS  or Ombudsman Services, depending on the company you're complaining about.

Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead just let us know by emailing  voucherhelp@moneysavingexpert.com as that's usually quicker.

SPOTTED OUT OF DATE INFO/BROKEN LINKS? EMAIL: BROKENLINK@MONEYSAVINGEXPERT.COM