Telephone box on a street in London.

15 Best Broadband Deals In 2019

Looking to save a little money, or are you fed up with terribly slow internet speeds?

In this guide, we’ll review the top 15 best broadband deals available in the UK in 2019.

We’ll also discuss some key things to consider when choosing a plan, helping you find the perfect provider for you and your family.

Contents

Our Top 3 Picks

In a hurry to find a new plan? Use this handy table to quickly compare the 3 best broadband deals we’ve reviewed.

Provider

Virgin Media logo.

Plan

VIVID 50, 100, or 200

What we like

  • Awesome speeds available UK-wide.
  • Not on Openreach – better evening connectivity.
  • Excellent customer service.

  • Provider



    Plan

    Unlimited Fibre

    What we like

  • Great value.
  • No mid-contract price rises.
  • UK-based contact centre.

  • Provider

    Sky broadband logo.

    Plan

    Fibre Max

    What we like

  • Plenty of flexible phone & TV add-ons.
  • Good speeds considering what it costs.
  • Comes with a top-quality router.

  • Best Broadband Deals

    A red telephone box in London.

    First, we’ll take a look at the best overall broadband deals on the market right now.

    1. Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Broadband

    Looking for a medium-speed plan with excellent contract flexibility?

    With their Unlimited Fibre plan, Plusnet gives you the choice to sign either a 12-month contract, or put pen to paper for 18 months and save¬†¬£4 on each bill (and they’ll scrap the¬†¬£25 activation fee). This longer contract is excellent value for money, especially considering you get a 36Mbps average speed plus a free WiFi router.

    Another good thing about Plusnet is their awesome customer service. Their contact centre is UK-based, and is open to enquiries every single day of the year.

    Since they’re on the Openreach network, switching is easy, and the ISP promises no mid-contract price hikes.

    Provider



    Pros

  • Unlimited usage and plenty of speed.
  • Plusnet is renowned for their customer service.
  • Reasonable price (on the 18-month contract at least).
  • Switching is easy.
  • Cons

  • ¬£25 activation fee on the 12-month contract.
  • Overall value

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    2. Sky Fibre Max

    If you need a little extra speed but don’t wanna break the bank, Sky’s most basic fibre plan is definitely worth looking at.

    For a very reasonable price, you get an average download speed of 63Mbps – nearly double what Plusnet’s similar package offers.

    Although you have to sign an 18-month contract, the setup fee is quite reasonable, at only¬†¬£9.95. This charge is actually the cost of shipping the router. For new Sky customers, you get their sleek “Sky Hub” device, which they normally charge¬†¬£69 for.

    Another good thing about the company is they offer a “minimum speed guarantee”. Basically, if your speed falls below a certain level in your first month using the service, you’re entitled to a refund of the setup cost + one month’s usage.

    This minimum speed level varies by area though – it’s a good idea to call up and find out what you can get for your postcode before buying.

    Sky is also pretty flexible when it comes to calls Рthere are four packages, the best of which gives you unlimited minutes to all UK and international numbers (from a selection of 50 countries) for only £12 per month.

    Unfortunately, this is another one of those plans where the price nearly doubles at the end of the contract. Keep an eye out for the date it expires!

    Provider

    Sky broadband logo.

    Pros

  • Excellent speed considering the price.
  • Flexible call options.
  • Minimum speed guarantee.
  • Reasonable setup fee, router included.
  • Cons

  • Priced is hiked after the 18-month contract.
  • Overall value

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    3. Post Office Unlimited Fibre Broadband

    For medium-sized households looking for the best possible value, the Post Office’s basic¬†fibre plan is a great place to start.

    It comes with unlimited data usage, as well as unlimited weekend calls to landline numbers in the UK. And if you’re looking to get the most out of your home phone, there are a number of handy call packages available. For example, evening and weekend calls to British landlines plus weekend calls to mobiles is available for only an extra ¬£4 per month.

    But how’s the actual broadband plan?

    The Post Office advertises a very reasonable 36Mbps average download speed with this deal, which is quite good considering what it costs. This is plenty of bandwidth for the average household – but if you’ve got internet-hungry kids, it might be looking at our faster fibre deals.

    Two more things to note with this particular plan: there’s a setup charge, and the price rises after the 18-month contract. If you do go for it, set a reminder on your phone to shop around for a better deal when the contract ends (or call up and ask nicely for one) rather than having to pay extra for the same service.

    Provider



    Pros

  • Good call versatility.
  • Reasonable speed.
  • Great price.
  • Cons

  • Setup fee.
  • Price is hiked after 18 months.
  • Overall value

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    Best Broadband and TV Deals

    A man watching TV.

    In this part, we’ll look at some awesome broadband deals which also come with a sweet TV package.

    4. Virgin Media Full House TV Bundle

    230 channels and 213Mbps download speed – what more could you want?

    Virgin Media’s superfast broadband/full-house TV bundle has pretty much everything you’d ever need in terms of home entertainment. It comes with an awesome array of channels, including BT Sport – meaning you can watch the Premier League and Champions League, live and in HD.

    There’s also plenty of other choices, including Cartoon Network for the kids, National Geographic, and the History Channel.

    It’s important to note though that Virgin isn’t on the Openreach network, meaning it might be a little bit more of a hassle to switch if you’re not already a Virgin customer. They may need to send an engineer out to get you set up if your address has never used their network before.

    However, because they’re using separate fibre infrastructure, you might notice better evening speeds with Virgin than you get currently with Sky/EE/BT or any other Openreach provider.

    The contract is only 12 months, and considering what you get, the price is pretty great. Overall, this is an excellent-value bundle for TV-hungry families.

    Provider

    Virgin Media logo.

    Pros

  • Reasonable price.
  • Superfast 200Mbps+ broadband.
  • Massive range of channels – 230 to choose from.
  • 12-month contract.
  • Cons

  • Not on Openreach (not necessarily a bad thing).
  • Overall value

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    5. Sky Fibre Max + Sky Entertainment

    While you can get Sky Sports with Virgin, it’s a paid add-on. So if you’re looking for channels that only Sky can offer, it’s normally a better idea to deal with them directly.

    This plan is excellent for those who don’t really need extremely fast broadband. At 63Mbps vs Virgin’s 213, Sky’s bundle is a fair bit slower. However, 63Mbps is plenty for most households, and in return you get a much more reasonable price.

    The downside to Sky’s deal is that you’re locked in for 18 months, rather than 12. You do get 300 channels though, which is more than Virgin offers, as well as Sky’s broadband speed guarantee.

    As a little bonus, Sky throws in 3 months of free Spotify premium with this deal. This isn’t much use if you’re already paying for a music streaming service though, and at the end of the trial, they’ll try to charge you an additional tenner a month to continue using the service.

    On the whole though, if you don’t mind the longer contract and don’t need incredible speeds, Sky’s fibre/entertainment deal is definitely worth checking out.

    Provider

    Sky broadband logo.

    Pros

  • Speed guaranteed.
  • 300 channels (including Sky Sports).
  • Good speeds (63Mbps).
  • Comes with Spotify premium and Sky’s awesome router.
  • Cons

  • 18-month contract.
  • Overall value

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    6. BT TV Classic Bundle

    These days, YouTube, Netflix and Hulu do a great job keeping the kids happy. Some families just don’t see the need to pay for 300+ cable TV channels in this day and age.

    However, there’s one thing that isn’t readily available online: sport, including UFC, the Premier League, and the NBA.

    The great thing about this deal from BT is that you get all the sport you need (plus every Freeview channel), without having to pay for a heap of cable stations you’re never gonna watch. It comes with 36Mbps broadband too, which is plenty of speed for small families.

    However, there is a slight issue with this package: it has a quite significant setup fee, and a minimum 18-month contract.

    To sweeten the deal a little, BT normally throws in a “free gift” like a FitBit or a gift card, which normally has a retail value of around ¬£120. You should be able to put it on eBay and recoup the setup fee at the very least, unless you want to use it.

    Provider



    Pros

  • Excellent value for money.
  • Has everything you need – BT Sport & 36Mbps down.
  • Normally comes with a freebie thrown in.
  • Cons

  • Hefty setup fee.
  • Overall value

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    Best Broadband and Phone Deals

    Landline home phone.

    In this part, we’ll look at the best broadband deals which also come with an excellent home phone plan.

    7. John Lewis Fibre + Calls

    John Lewis has a pretty simple approach to broadband. You simply pick one of three speeds, choose a call package (if you want one) and checkout – no freebies/gimmicks. Line rental is always included, there are no activation fees, and every plan comes with a 12-month contract.

    Their mid-level broadband package offers 36Mbps down, but it also comes with included calls to UK landlines in the evening (7pm-7am) and anytime at the weekend. However, you’ll be charged if the call lasts for over 60 minutes.

    If you’re looking for a little extra, you can add one of two call plan upgrades:

    1. Anytime –¬†calls to UK landlines, for¬†¬£5 a month.
    2. Anytime + international Рunlimited anytime calls to UK landlines + 300 international minutes to 30 different countries, for £7 a month.

    If you get anytime + international you can also add unlimited anytime calls to UK mobiles for another £5 per month.

    Also, if 36Mbps isn’t quite enough speed for your needs, you can also get these call packs with John Lewis’s Fibre Extra broadband, which offers average speeds of 66Mbps.

    Provider



    Pros

  • No setup fees.
  • Good call plan flexibility.
  • Reasonable prices.
  • Available with 3 different broadband speeds.
  • Cons

  • You’ll be charged for calls over 60 minutes long on the included call plan.
  • Overall value

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    8. TalkTalk Fast Broadband + Calls

    When you sign up with TalkTalk, you’re essentially saving yourself money by locking yourself in for a longer-term deal. Pretty much all of their broadband contracts are 24 months long.

    You can get their “Fast” (11Mbps) or “Unlimited Fibre” (36Mbps) plans with unlimited calls to UK mobiles and landlines for only an additional¬†¬£7.50 per month for new customers. There are also a few broader call addons called “boosts” you can go for, if you’re looking for international minutes.

    The best thing about these packages though is how flexible they are. You don’t have to lock yourself in – it’s possible to use an addon for just a month or two if you like.

    If this all sounds good, but you don’t like the prospect of signing a 24-month contract, there are some positives to consider.

    Firstly, TalkTalk promise no price rises during the period of your contract. They will increase your monthly bill at the end of the agreement though.

    Secondly, you get a “30-day great connection guarantee”. Basically, this means you can back out of the contract within the first 30 days of your broadband being live if you’re not satisfied.

    Provider

    TalkTalk logo.

    Pros

  • Good value for money.
  • Call “boosts” are very flexible.
  • 30-day “great connection” guarantee.
  • No mid-contract price rises.
  • Cons

  • 24-month contract.
  • Overall value

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    9. Sky Fibre + Calls

    Sky is another company with pretty flexible calling options. Like John Lewis, they have a number of excellent-value packages. However, their deals are a bit more mobile-friendly.

    But first, you’ll need to choose your broadband speed:

    1. Broadband Unlimited Р18Mbps.
    2. Fibre Max¬†– 63Mbps. A bit more expensive, but probably the better deal. Unfortunately, Sky aren’t offering a middle-of-the-road option at the moment.

    By default, you pay for any additional calls you make, so you’ll then need to add one of three call packages:

    1. Evenings and weekend extra: included calls to UK landlines and mobiles on evenings (7pm-7am) and weekends. Once you go over an hour though, calls are charged at regular rates. £4 per month.
    2. Anytime extra: included calls to UK landlines and mobiles at any time. £8 per month.
    3. International extra: unlimited calls to UK landlines and mobiles and international landlines in 50 different countries. £12 per month.

    As always, line rental is included in the price of the broadband plan. Unfortunately, Sky’s contracts are 18 months long, and they do have a setup fee (only¬†¬£9.95 though).

    Provider

    Sky broadband logo.

    Pros

  • Great value call packages available.
  • Good speed (if you opt for Fibre Max).
  • Easy setup – Openreach network, and Sky know what they’re doing.
  • Cons

  • No calling minutes included for free – you have to pay for a package.
  • Overall value

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    Best Fibre Broadband Deals

    Fibre optic cable.

    Got that need for speed?

    In this section, we’ll review some blazing-fast fibre broadband deals.

    10. Virgin Media VIVID 350

    This is basically the fastest broadband commonly available to consumers in the UK. Since Virgin Media has its own separate fibre network, they’re able to offer faster speeds than what you can get on Openreach.

    As we’ve mentioned before, it might be a bit of a hassle to switch if you’re currently with a company other than Virgin. It’s by no means the end of the world though – you’ll just need to contact your old provider to cancel the connection rather than having Virgin do it for you.

    There’s a¬†¬£20 setup fee, but the contract is only 12 months, which is pretty good. You can choose a more expensive month-to-month plan if you want to avoid entering a long-term contract. It’s also possible to save a few pounds by going for “only” 108Mbps or 213Mbps (rather than 362Mbps) with Virgin’s slightly cheaper VIVID 100/VIVID 200 plans.

    Apart from blazing-fast fibre, you also get unlimited calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles on weekends. They also chuck in their Hub 3 router free of charge – you’ll need it to take advantage of the speeds on offer from Virgin Fibre.

    Provider

    Virgin Media logo.

    Pros

  • Incredibly fast.
  • Few different options on offer (including broadband-only) if you’re looking to save a bit of cash.
  • 12-month contract.
  • Free calls and a Hub 3 thrown in
  • Cons

  • Not on Openreach – this can actually mean faster speeds though.
  • Overall value

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    11. Hyperoptic Fibre

    Hyperoptic are a pretty small provider, specialising in extremely fast fibre-to-the-premises broadband. Basically, the fastest-possible cable is used all the way to your house (they have their own network), delivering some of the best speeds available to consumers in the UK.

    They offer a fairly tame 30Mbps option, a 150Mbps plan, and an incredibly quick 900Mbps deal, all for pretty reasonable prices.

    However, the issue with Hyperoptic is that their coverage isn’t incredibly expansive, at the moment at least. You can check what’s available at your postcode on their homepage.

    If you are covered though, their deals are definitely worth checking out. You get a free router, 24/7 phone support, and the contract is only 12 months long. Plus, their speeds are symmetric – meaning your download speed will be (roughly) matched by your upload speed.

    Provider

    Hyperoptic logo.

    Pros

  • Insane speeds (up to 900Mbps) on offer.
  • Very reasonable prices (considering what you’re getting).
  • Comes with a router.
  • 24/7 phone support.
  • Cons

  • Not available everywhere.
  • Overall value

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    12. BT Superfast Fibre

    Looking for plain old Openreach fibre (meaning no worrying about getting connected or finding a provider with coverage) at a reasonable price?

    BT’s fibre plans essentially come in three different tiers:

    1. Superfast Fibre Essential: 36Mbps average download speed.
    2. Superfast Fibre: 50Mbps average download speed.
    3. Superfast Fibre 2: 67Mbps average download speed.

    You obviously pay more for higher speeds. However, the activation fee falls the more you pay per month.

    As we mentioned before, BT often includes a bonus gift (like a BT reward card, which you can use at most places that accept Mastercard). If the deal isn’t a cash-back card at the time you buy, you should still be able to sell it and get your activation charge back (and then some).

    All three tiers come with 200GB of free cloud storage (1000GB for Superfast Fibre 2) and unlimited data usage.

    Essentially, these are great all-round broadband plans. If you don’t need insane speeds (like what Hyperoptic offer) then the freebies BT throw in make these deals excellent value for money.

    Provider



    Pros

  • Good speeds on offer.
  • Cloud storage and (generally) another freebie included.
  • Simple to get up and running.
  • Cons

  • Not the cheapest (especially considering the 18-month minimum contract).
  • Overall value

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    Best Broadband Only Deals

    An ethernet cable.

    Now we’ll look at some of the best-value plans for those only looking for broadband connectivity.

    13. Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Broadband

    If you’re looking for the cheapest-possible broadband-only deal, Plusnet is a great place to start.

    They’re one of the few Openreach providers who offer broadband without forcing you to pay for their line rental. However, you’ll need to get it from another provider – unless you’re with Virgin Media, it’s not possible to get hooked up to broadband in the UK without paying for line rental.

    There are three speed packages available – 10, 36 or 66Mbps down, meaning you can get exactly what you need. All of these plans come with unlimited data, and 12-month no price-rise contracts, which is nice to have.

    Another thing we like about Plusnet is their customer service. You’re able to get in touch with their UK-based team 365 days a year, and their contact centre staff are reasonably helpful considering what you’ll be paying.

    The only issue with Plusnet is the speed they offer isn’t anywhere near what Virgin Media is capable of providing. If your household uses absolutely tons of data, it might be worth going for a faster provider.

    Provider



    Pros

  • Great price.
  • Top-notch customer service.
  • 12-month contract, with no price rises.
  • Good plan flexibility.
  • Cons

  • Speeds aren’t exactly super-quick, although 66Mbps is by no means bad.
  • Overall value

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    14. Virgin Media VIVID 100

    Virgin Media is pretty much the only major telco to actually offer a true broadband-only deal. This is one of the few plans out there that doesn’t require you to pay line rental to BT – Virgin uses a separate network to most other providers.

    However, there is a bit of an issue with their broadband-only offerings. For new customers, it’s actually¬†more expensive¬†to buy VIVID 100 for example on a broadband-only plan than a broadband + phone deal.

    Why on Earth would you go broadband-only then? Well, with broadband + phone, the price jumps quite significantly once the 12-month contract expires. Like we said, it’s an offer for new customers only. On the other hand, the broadband-only deal doesn’t rise in price after your initial agreement is over.

    Therefore, you’re probably better off going with broadband + phone for the first 12 months and then switching off your unused phone connection.

    So what else makes VIVID 100 such a good broadband-only deal? Firstly, the speed is awesome – you’ll have an average download rate of 108Mbps. There are also two even faster deals available – VIVID 200 offers 213Mbps and VIVID 350 provides 362Mbps.

    For heavy internet users, speed and reliability is what you want. Although Virgin Media may have to dig up your driveway to install their hardware, it’s a price worth paying for some of Britain’s fastest broadband.

    Provider

    Virgin Media logo.

    Pros

  • Excellent speeds on offer.
  • Reasonable price.
  • Massive range of plans available.
  • 12-month contract.
  • Cons

  • It’s actually cheaper to buy broadband + phone for the first 12 months for new customers.
  • Overall value

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    15. EE Unlimited Broadband

    EE is one of the few companies out there who don’t include any call minutes with their broadband plan. Although you still have to pay a line rental charge (which is included in the listed price), this is as close as you can get to broadband-only on the Openreach network.

    On their website, EE lets you put in your postcode and then displays the exact speed packages you can get. For most locations, the offering looks something like this:

    • Standard:¬†3-8Mbps.
    • Fibre:¬†37-38Mbps.
    • Fibre plus:¬†46-72Mbps.

    Unless you need the best-possible speed, the¬†Fibre¬†plan is generally the best deal. This is because its guaranteed minimum speed is only around 8Mbps slower than the¬†Fibre plus¬†plan. It’s also a fair bit cheaper, but has a¬†¬£15 setup fee.

    Each deal comes with an 18-month contract by default. You can get the¬†Standard¬†plan on a 12-month deal, but it’ll cost you a lot more. Another downside to EE is that they hike the price quite dramatically once your contract is over.

    However, you do get the ISP’s slick EE Smart Hub/Bright Box router for free. Plus, each plan includes an extra 5GB of data on your “pay monthly” mobile plan. So if you’re an EE mobile customer already, it can make sense to use their broadband services too.

    Provider



    Pros

  • Good range of speeds on offer.
  • Comes with a router and 5GB of bonus EE mobile data.
  • You’re not paying for any call minutes, just line rental.
  • Reasonably-priced plans.
  • Cons

  • 18-month default contact, after which the price is hiked.
  • Overall value

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    What You Need To Know

    Person working on laptop.

    In this part, we’ll discuss some things you need to know before changing broadband provider.

    Broadband vs fibre: what’s the difference?

    As we’ve discussed previously, the terms “broadband” and “fibre” can be quite confusing, as they’re used to mean different things by different people.

    • Broadband¬†refers to a home internet connection. Normally it’s used to market connections with a download speed of between 5-36Mbps.
    • Fibre¬†is a special type of home internet connection which uses fibre-optic cable to deliver data much faster than traditional copper cables can. If you see this term, it normally means that the package will offer a speed of 36Mbps or more.

    Confusingly, many ISPs use the term “fibre broadband” to describe some of their plans. If you see this term, just know that it refers to a fibre connection.

    Will my speed reflect what’s advertised?

    The short answer is: it depends.

    Most ISPs will give you an average speed you can expect on their plan. But what on Earth does this actually mean?

    The truth is, you could face significantly lower speeds than this average, especially in the evening.

    Your best bet is to go with an ISP who has¬†awesome customer service.¬†If you do eventually run into issues, you’ll want to be with a company who’ll actually listen to your concerns. It’s a good idea to do extensive research on how each supplier handles situations where customers complain of drop-offs in their evening speeds.

    Starting March 2019, new Ofcom guidelines will come into play requiring telecommunications companies to advertise a guaranteed minimum speed – not just an “average”. Unfortunately this is only a voluntary standard – but most major ISPs (including Sky, BT and Virgin Media) have signed up to the guidelines.

    Internet speed: explained

    Car speedometer.

    Comparing different advertised internet speeds is actually pretty simple.

    The headline figure that most companies will give you is the download speed their plan offers. This is how fast you will (in theory) be able to retrieve data (like video streams) from the internet.

    Separate to your download speed is your upload speed. As the name implies, this is the speed at which you can transfer data to the internet (for example, sharing a video on Snapchat).

    Both of these figures are normally given in megabits per second (Mbps). A megabit is an eighth of a megabyte.

    But what exactly is a fast internet speed?

    What do I actually need?

    Every household is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all broadband deal that’s going to be perfect for every family.

    You’ve got to consider exactly how you use your internet. From this, you can choose an ideal download speed.

    Here are some rough guidelines:

    • For¬†general web browsing¬†(for just 1-3 people), you probably only need 10-25Mbps.
    • But if you’ve got heavy internet users in the family, who are always on social media, gaming, and watching YouTube, you’ll want at least 50Mbps, and at least 100-200Mbps for households with 4+ highly-active internet users.
    • If you’re uploading/downloading massive amounts of data from the internet almost 24/7 (like movies), or you’re doing some other sort of highly-intensive activity (like hosting files for other people, or hosting game servers), you’ll want at least 500Mbps and maybe even up to 1Gbps (1000Mbps).

    Obviously, if in doubt, it’s better to get more speed than you think you need. Upgrading contract with certain providers can be pretty expensive.

    These days though, it’s not just speed you’ve got to consider. Broadband plans come with a heap of addons – it’s up to you to figure out exactly what you want, and what you don’t, out of the following options:

    • Sport packages (like Sky or BT sport, which has the Champions League).
    • Cable TV channels.
    • Domestic/international call minutes.
    • Extra mobile plan data (with EE for example).

    If your home entertainment needs are pretty much satisfied by Netflix/Amazon Prime/other streaming services, it’s probably worth prioritising bandwidth and going with an internet-only plan to save a few pounds.

    Why do I need more speed the more people in the house?

    Family playing on a sand dune.

    In simple terms, you can think of your broadband connection like a tunnel.

    The more data packets travelling down the tunnel, the more clogged up it gets. This will reduce the overall speed of your connection for everyone using it.

    To avoid issues whereby your ping spikes (causing lag when gaming) or your download speed drops when others are online, you’ll need to have enough bandwidth to handle all the traffic in your household.

    Note that if you’re having speed issues but don’t feel like upgrading your home connection at present, there are a few potential¬†ways to fix slow speeds.

    Are usage caps still a thing?

    For the most part, no.

    In the olden days, ISPs would put a cap on the amount of data you were allowed to use per month. If you hit it, you’d either be charged more or have your speed slowed to a crawl.

    Nowadays, only dongle/mobile internet plans have any sort of usage caps. If you’re getting a cheaper broadband deal though, it’s still worth reading the terms and conditions and confirming that you do in fact get unlimited internet usage.

    What else defines the speeds I can get?

    speedtest.net result.

    There are three other things which could impact the speeds available on your home internet connection:

    1. Your local infrastructure

    Some areas in the UK still don’t have access to fibre internet – the old copper infrastructure is still in place. This is a particular problem in rural areas.

    Fortunately, you can check what speeds are on offer before buying – most ISPs have an app on their website where you type in your postcode and it’ll tell you the plans that are available in your area.

    2. Your property’s cabling

    If you live in an older house/flat, it’s possible that the cabling which carries internet data from the node to your house could have deteriorated to the point where your speeds are affected.

    There’s no way of knowing what the state of your cables are for certain – but if you’re experiencing poor speeds on your current plan, this could be an indication that something’s wrong.

    Good ISPs will send out a technician to inspect your lines if you show them evidence of a problem.

    3. Your distance from the cabinet/box

    BT Openreach broadband cabinet.
    This is what a broadband cabinet looks like.

    A lot of residential areas in the UK still use fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology or pure ADSL. What this means is that the actual connection from this cabinet in your street to your house uses copper cabling.

    Using this type of cable, much of the speed can drop off over long distances. So if you’re a long way away from the box, your speeds will suffer.

    The only way around this is to try switching to Virgin Media (more on this a bit further down the page). They use a different type of cable which isn’t so prone to speed drop-offs.

    What if the worst comes to worst?

    If your ISP simply won’t provide what you paid for, and won’t do anything about it, what can you do?

    Sadly, Ofcom won’t handle individual complaints. Their guidelines basically state that if you’ve got a problem with your ISP, you should first go through¬†their official complaints department and lodge your case.

    Failing this, you can escalate your complaint to an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Scheme. There are two Ofcom-approved ADR schemes – the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) and Ombudsman Services – all telcos must be a member of one of these schemes.

    Once you’ve submitted your case, the ADR will take a look at the case (this normally takes around six weeks – but can take longer for complex cases) and decide on an outcome. They may force the provider to offer compensation, cancel your contract, or fix the problem you’re having. No legal representation is required, but the ADR’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.

    What’s the Openreach network?

    A BT Openreach van.

    When comparing different ISPs, you’ll probably hear about this thing called Openreach.

    Openreach is a division of BT which owns and maintains the entire phone/broadband network in the UK.

    As a result, most ISPs are customers of BT, because they use the Openreach network. Virgin Media is the only major telco which isn’t – they have their own fibre network.

    What does this mean for you as a consumer?

    The main thing to note is it’s an easier process to transfer broadband plan between providers on the Openreach network (like Sky to EE, or Plusnet to TalkTalk) than it is to change to/from Virgin Media to/from an Openreach provider (more on this below).

    What’s actually involved in changing provider?

    If you’ve never switched ISP before, here’s what happens. Fortunately, it’s generally pretty hassle-free.

    For those on the¬†Openreach¬†network switching to another Openreach provider (ie, you’re not moving from/to Virgin Media or Hyperoptic), you only need to worry about dealing with the new provider.

    • Go to their website and order your new plan.
    • You’ll soon get written confirmation from both the old and new ISPs confirming that the switch is in motion. The one from your current provider will notify you of any early cancellation charges you’re obligated to pay. The one from your new provider will tell you the terms of the contract (including any potential setup charges) and exactly when your new plan will start.
    • Once the new plan is ready, you should receive a shiny new router in the mail. In most cases, you won’t have any downtime, but this depends on the providers you’re dealing with.

    If the transition involves Virgin Media and another company on the Openreach network, the process is a little more complex:

    • Order your new internet plan.
    • Call up your old provider and explain that you’re leaving/cancelling your contract.
    • The rest of the process is the same – you’ll still get two letters (and hopefully a router!) in the mail. However, your old provider will cut off your connection at some point – there won’t be a seamless switch, unless you get the date exactly right.

    What else is different about Virgin Media?

    Virgin Media logo.

    For one, they might have to dig up your front garden or driveway if you’ve never used their services before. They do offer to send out an engineer pre-purchase to check exactly what needs to be done before you sign anything.

    The main difference though is that they use a thicker, insulated cable rather than the copper stuff most other provider employ. This technology has much less speed drop-off over long distances.

    Essentially, if you’re a long way away from the cabinet in your street, and you get terrible speeds on the Openreach providers, it might be worth giving Virgin Media a shot.

    Do I need to pay line rental?

    Unless you go with Virgin Media or Hyperoptic, your home internet is going to be delivered through your phone lines. Therefore, you must pay a line rental charge (normally included as a part of your monthly payment) in order to access the internet.

    Unfortunately, this charge still applies even if you don’t have a home phone in your house. There’s no way around it.

    Even if you do go with Virgin, their broadband-only package is only on offer in certain areas – it’s not yet available UK-wide.

    How do I ensure I keep my number?

    A home phone handset.

    Again, the Openreach stuff makes a difference here. You can keep your number either way, but it’s a bit harder when you’re switching between different networks.

    • If you’re staying within Openreach, there’ll be an option to keep your number (or a field where you can type it in). Your new provider will deal with the rest.
    • If you’re moving from/to the Openreach network, you’ll need to tell your new provider who your old provider was. They’ll still deal with everything for you, but it might require calling them. Recently, most ISPs have begun adding options on their site when signing up to accommodate those switching between networks.

    As you can see, it’s pretty simple to keep your existing number – as long as you’re staying at the same address, there’s no reason you’d need to change your home phone number.

    How do broadband contracts work? Can I get out easily?

    When you sign up to broadband, you’re entering into a legally-binding contract with an ISP. The contract basically states that you’ll be provided with internet connectivity (bound by certain terms, like download speed), and you’ll provide a certain amount of cash per month for this service.

    However, it’s not as simple as just paying the bill every month and then deciding not to pay if you don’t want the service, like you could potentially do if you wanted to stop using Netflix.

    Nearly all broadband contracts have a minimum term. If you cancel the contract (by switching provider for example) before this period is up, you’ll likely be slugged with a¬†cancellation fee.¬†This can be a pretty hefty charge – it’s definitely worth checking the terms of the contract to find out what this fee actually is before signing a new deal or cancelling an old one.

    What sort of contract (if any) should I sign?

    Person signing a contract with a broadband provider.

    You normally get some sort of choice regarding what you can sign when beginning a new plan. Providers might offer:

    • No contract – pay on a month-by-month basis. Generally much more expensive.
    • A 12-month contract.
    • An 18-month contract.
    • A 24-month contract.

    Obviously, the longer the contract the cheaper your monthly payments are going to be. However, you’ll have less freedom in case you need to switch plan.

    What you go for really depends on the following factors:

    • How confident are you that the ISP will provide awesome customer service in case things go wrong?
    • What sort of discount is available for a longer-term contract?
    • How much is the contract cancellation fee?
    • What are the other terms and conditions associated with a long-term contract?
    • Are there any other reasons you might want to change your contract? Will you be moving house for example?

    Should I go with a big or small provider?

    There are upsides and downsides to each.

    Big providers generally have better infrastructure, and more technicians on-hand. Plus, if something goes really wrong, they’ll have potentially hundreds of thousands of customers complaining, meaning they’re bound to do something about it quickly. The issue is, if it’s only you who’s got a problem, it’s possible your issue won’t be a big priority.

    Small providers might not have the capital of their bigger competitors, but they often try to differentiate themselves based on their customer service. If you pick the right provider, you should be able to find a company that’ll be trying its hardest to keep you happy. But they might not be able to provide a deal as competitive as what major telcos can offer.

    Ultimately there’s no clear winner. Assess each plan on its merits to find the best possible deal. Also, be sure to check out how existing customers rate each company’s customer service.

    Who actually provides the best service?

    Woman making a phone call.

    Apart from looking at customer reviews, there are also industry surveys out there which can provide some insight into what different ISPs are good/bad at.

    Ofcom’s recent report had a number of interesting findings:

    • Virgin Media¬†customers are more likely to recommend their broadband services to a friend.
    • TalkTalk¬†has lower-than-average customer satisfaction.
    • PlusNet¬†customers wait the longest to get connected to their phone support, while¬†EE¬†users only spend around 48 seconds waiting to speak to an agent – the shortest ISP hold time.

    Again, there’s no clear winner. But certain companies definitely excel in certain areas.

    What about my email address?

    Person checking their emails.

    Still using an @sky.co.uk email address?

    Depending on your current provider, this could be a problem. Some of them will delete your stored emails when you switch (or soon after you switch), forcing you to export anything you want to keep.

    • Sky and BT let you access your inbox and keep your emails indefinitely.
    • Post Office Telephony deletes your account immediately.
    • Plusnet tries to charge you¬†¬£1.06 per month to maintain your inbox.

    Have a look at your provider’s website to see exactly what their email account policy is to avoid a nasty surprise when you switch.

    If your account is likely to be deleted, you’re going to have to switch to another service, like GMail. Using a provider other than your ISP is a good idea in case you ever have to change your plan again.

    This new platform should have an import function if you’d like to keep your contacts and old messages. If you’re lucky, there’ll also be an option to forward any old messages onto the new email address (you’ll have to set this up with your old provider).

    It’s a good idea to do this at least a few weeks before switching, especially if your old ISP is going to delete your account immediately. This gives you some time to log into any social media/other accounts you have and change the associated email address.

    Conclusion

    You’ve reached the end of our mammoth guide on switching broadband plan in the UK!

    Whatever you go for, remember to read the fine print. Find out exactly what the cancellation fee is, what the cost will be once the contract is over, and whether or not you’ll be charged extra for calls which last over a certain number of seconds. There’s nothing worse than grabbing a sweet broadband deal, getting hit with a massive first bill, and then being unable to cancel the contract.

    If you’ve still got any questions at all, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. We’ll get back to you within 12-24 hours. ūüėČ

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