Now present in 82% of British homes according to a national survey, broadband is a major part of most people’s lives. But we’ll be the first to admit that searching out broadband deals isn’t the most exciting form of online shopping.
Lots of people avoid switching broadband providers because they simply don’t think it’s worth the hassle, and accept their buffering wheels and juddering TV shows with a sigh. But if there’s any time to be thinking about changing your broadband, it’s right now in these difficult times. With the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 restrictions, many people have been working remotely, swapping their office for the spare room.
It’s not just keeping curious children out of video calls that makes working from home so difficult: it’s the strain the added online use can put on your home Wi-Fi. (And by work, yes, we do include catching up on episodes of WandaVision while your boss talks you through the quarterly stats.)
With workplaces struggling to figure out the logistics of their employees safely returning to the office, remote working looks like it’s here to stay. So if your broadband isn’t passing muster, it’s best to start looking elsewhere.
But the broadband marketplace is a busy one, with a number of major ISPs all offering an array of different services. The choice is overwhelming, to say the least. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of the best broadband offers right now, followed by a guide to help you pick the right one for you.
Best broadband deal right now: BT, Fibre Essential and Fibre 2
BT has just brightened a dull month of deals with price drops on two of its packages, Fibre Essential (36Mbps) and Fibre 2 (67Mbps), saving you a total of £48 across a 24-month contracts. The second package also comes with a BT reward card of £110 – a decent incentive if ever we saw one.
- BT Broadband, Fibre Essential | £26.99 £24.99 a month, 36Mbps
- BT Broadband, Fibre 2 | £31.99 £29.99 a month (36Mbps, 24-month
Best broadband deals in March 2021
Which broadband provider is best?
Here’s a list of all the major companies that offer broadband in the UK. As you can see, there are lots of companies that offer other services, whether that be phone contracts or TV channels.
According to an Ofcom survey, 25% of broadband users in the UK have BT as their provider, making it the most popular ISP buy a long way. The veteran telecoms company offer three separate broadband packages – they’re not the cheapest out there, but the speed connections are impressive, starting at 33Mbps to 36Mbps.
Virgin Media basks in a solid reputation on the broadband market as an ISP that delivers consistently solid connections for its users. In fact, on its website, the company states its speeds are on average nine times higher than its three competitors. Alongside standalone broadband, Virgin also offers packages with phone line rental and some bundles with TV channels too.
Sky offers three different tiers of broadband service: Essential (11Mbps), Superfast (59Mbps) and Ultrafast (145Mbps) across an 18-month contract. As you would probably expect, you can also pick up various Sky TV channels from a range of bundle packages.
The winner of USwitch’s Most Popular Broadband Provider award in both 2019 and 2020, TalkTalk forged a name for itself by offering some of the most competitive rates on the market. You can pick from four separate connection speeds, as well as a number of packages that include the TalkTalk TV box with channels that include NOW TV.
Plusnet is another ISP that offers some of the most affordable broadband services in the UK. It offers three different tiers of service – the lowest offers a meagre average connection speed of 10Mbps, but if you do little besides browsing and check your emails, that might be perfect for you.
The broadband division of Shell Energy has enjoyed a boost of late, largely because it just bought out the Post Office’s broadband service, taking all its customers with it. The company seems very eager to draw in new customers, currently offering an Amazon voucher of £25 or £50 with whichever of its three services you pick.
NOW TV Broadband
NOW TV’s broadband comes in three different tiers as per the usual – but interestingly, the company also offers them on a no-contract basis. Instead, you simply proceed on a rolling 30-day basis; better still, there’s no activation fee, just £5 for delivery of the box.
John Lewis Broadband
Yep, John Lewis also has this string in their bow. You can pick from three packages – Unlimited (10Mbps), Fibre (36Mbps) and Fibre Extra (66Mbps), with contracts lasting 12 months. It’s one of the pricier ISPs on the market.
The phone network offers three different connection tiers. We’re not sure how tempting a proposition the 7Mbps Standard package sounds – but each tier comes with an Apple 4K TV option for EE’s pay-monthly phone customers and a mobile data boost. This, and the 10% discount exclusively offered, makes us think this is a broadband service that’s best for people already with EE.
With minimum average connection speeds of 35Mbps at the more affordable end of the market, Vodafone ostensibly offers good value for money – but it would be remiss of us not to mention that according to Ofcom, it was the ISP that received the most complaints in 2020.
Which broadband providers are the cheapest?
We’ve taken a look through all the major UK broadband providers and listed the ISPs with the lowest costs below, along with their most affordable packages and their average connection speeds.
- Now TV, Brilliant Broadband | £18 per month, 11Mbps (12 months)
- Plusnet, Unlimited Broadband | From £19.99 per month, 3.5-6Mbps (12 months)
- TalkTalk, Unlimited Fibre 35 | £22 per month, 38Mbps (18 months)
How to choose the best broadband deal: tips before buying
- When does your current contract end? Unless your current provider is the absolute pits, it might make more sense in the financial long term to wait it out. (And if your provider really is that bad, you should consider launching a formal complaint. More on that later.)
- Decide upon what speed service you’ll need, it will make searching for the right service so much easier. We’ll dive into this in the next section.
- Think ahead to the contract length that’s best for you – these are typically either one or two years (and providers would happily have you for longer, but Ofcom banned 3-year contracts back in 2011).
- Keep an eye out for extra costs besides monthly rates – they might not be hidden per se, but providers certainly won’t shout about them either. You should see all the requisite activation and setup costs listed from the off, but make sure you click through to the checkout to be certain if you’re still deciding which to pursue.
What broadband speed do I need?
The unit to measure broadband speed is megabits per second (Mbps) – not megabytes (MB), which are comprised of eight megabits. You’ll see this list for download and upload speeds, which is simply which way the data is flowing, into your device or vice versa. It’s download speeds that are much more important.
Most basic or entry-level broadband packages will get you speeds of 0-12Mbps via an ADSL (non-fibre) connection. This is perfectly fine if you’re in a small household of just one or two people, and your internet needs are limited browsing and streaming a single device at a time.
Mid-range broadband services are generally in the vicinity of 25-50Mbps. This is a wise choice for families and busier households, who will be streaming to different devices at any one time – if there’s one thing you don’t want during lockdown, it’s arguments over who’s hogging the bandwidth for Netflix. It’s probably the wisest choice if you stream 4K content to your television – for more on this, read our what is a 4K TV explainer.
Then you get to the high speeds of around 50-100Mbps. For many users, this kind of connection speed doesn’t really justify the extra cost, though fans of gaming will certainly appreciate the lag-free gameplay. Designers, filmmakers and other professionals who do lots of peer-to-peer sharing with exceptional large files might also find a high-tier service is worth the investment.
To find out more, make sure you read our full what broadband speed do I need explainer.
Can I get fibre broadband?
That’s a question that can be quickly answered by a couple of minutes on Google. All you’ll need to do is input your postcode on a comparison site or even one of the ISPs themselves, and you can instantly find out whether your area has fibre broadband.
The good news is that fibre broadband has come a long way since fibre cables were first rolled out in 2008. In the years since, they have been laid throughout the overwhelming majority of the UK, offering a faster internet connection than that of standard ADSL lines.
What broadband contract length should I go for?
The majority of broadband providers offer either 12-month or 24-month contracts. As mentioned, Ofcom enforced an industry-wide ban on contracts that were any long, stating that it didn’t offer enough fair consumer choice – the regulator even ended up in a dispute with (the now-defunct) O2 Broadband, who pushed for 3-year contracts.
As a general rule, the shorter the contract the better – it should definitely be a factor that guides which service you choose. Some ISPs, like NOW TV, do offer short-term rolling contracts, which renew themselves on a 30-day basis.
Do I have to pay for cancelling my broadband contract early?
Almost definitely, yes. Providers obviously want to deter you from leaving them, so you’ll likely be met with a hefty cancellation fee (or a similar label like ‘deactivation’, which amounts to the same thing). It’s why we urge you to see out the remainder of your contract if you can.
However, there are situations in which you won’t have to pay, and that’s if you’re not getting the connection speeds that were originally advertised. In fact, in 2019 Ofcom introduced a code of practice around honouring advertised speeds – it’s isn’t mandatory, but many of the major ISPs we listed above have signed up to it.
There’ll likely be a fair bit of red tape involved, but if it can be established that you haven’t had the level of service you paid for, you should be able to terminate your contract without incurring a fee.