Are Cheap Broadband Deals A Good Idea?

May 12th, 2022
Are Cheap Broadband Deals A Good Idea?

How Do You Define Cheap Broadband?

For many, the term “Cheap broadband” relates only to the monthly price, however when taking out a broadband package, there is so much to consider that the monthly price alone may not be representative of value. A truer picture can be gleaned by considering the whole offering:

  • What broadband speed do you need?
  • How many people in your household will be using the internet?
  • What length of contract are you willing to tie in for?
  • Do you just need broadband or are you interested in bundling landline, mobile phone, energy and pay TV too?

By asking yourself these questions, and entering the information into Free Price Compare, you will be able to narrow down the market to find the most appropriate deals for your individual circumstances. Once you’ve been presented with a selection of deals that match your requirements, there are a few more important things to check:

  • Does the company have a good customer services rating? Hopefully, you won’t experience any issues and will not, therefore, need to contact them, but if you do, a company which is independently rated good in terms of customer service is far more likely to resolve your issues and get you back online quickly. The Independent has published a list of Internet Service Providers, ranked in order of service which you may find useful. [1]
  • Do any of the deals offer sign up incentives such as money off vouchers, loaded credit cards, or goods which when taken into account with the rest of the deal, make it stand out as best value for money?
  • Can you haggle? If it turns out that the best deal is through your existing supplier, there is no harm in phoning them up and trying to negotiate a better deal. More about this later! So in short, don’t look for the cheapest broadband, look for the broadband which offers the best overall value to you.

What Broadband Speed Do I Need?

Determining the required broadband speed is the first priority when looking to take out a new broadband deal. As a guide, a single person only using the internet for social media on evenings and weekends will probably get by with broadband which offers 10-11Mbps on a standard ADSL line.

However, if you are part of a family, work from home, make regular video calls or use the internet for gaming and streaming movies, you would be better off with a fibre broadband service. The good news is that with almost every broadband provider offering fibre broadband, competition in the marketplace is fierce which offers users a wide range of comparable prices. If fibre broadband is available in your postcode area, you are bound to find a cheap fibre broadband option.

The cheapest fibre options usually offer speeds of about 35Mbps and above which is generally fast enough to stream HD TV and play online games without a hitch.

It may be useful to know that if you do sign up for a broadband package that’s not suitable, your provider will allow you to upgrade to a faster service (but it may not be comparable in price so it’s best to get this right first time).

Should I Choose An Unlimited Usage Package?

When comparing fibre broadband offers, you will often come across the terms “Unlimited Broadband” and “Truly Unlimited Broadband”. If you will be using the internet regularly, you definitely want to take out a package which offers unlimited broadband, as this will allow you to use your internet as much as you like without incurring additional charges or facing any restrictions on its use, however, there is a subtle difference between the two.

With unlimited broadband, your provider is allowed to implement traffic management during peak hours to allow all users in your area similar speeds. With truly unlimited broadband, there is no traffic management and your speed should not slow down at peak times.

If you decide against unlimited broadband, familiarise yourself with your provider’s traffic management and fair use policies because exceeding the limit on a data-capped service could result in additional charges which would eliminate any savings you’d made by choosing the deal.

What Contract Length Should I Go For?

Once you’ve decided on the minimum acceptable broadband speed for your household, you will need to decide on the minimum term contract that you wish to go for. Most providers offer contracts on a 12, 18 or 24 month basis and generally, tying yourself in with a supplier for longer (18 or 24 months) will provide you with access to their best rates.

However, if you choose a 12 month contract, it allows you to negotiate or switch your provider or deal sooner.

Some providers offer rolling monthly and 9 month contracts which are often more expensive but popular with students who may not stay at the same address year-round or who require more flexibility.

What’s A Bundle?

When you think of an internet bundle, you probably think landline and internet as the two are intrinsically linked in our memories. But there is much more choice available now, including pay TV, mobile phones and even energy such as gas and electricity. Some energy providers offer attractive discounts when you sign up for both services.

Often by bundling your broadband requirements with other monthly bills using the same supplier, you can save money but always check that you won’t lose out on anything that is vital to you before you do so. It is also important to check that the bundle price is actually cheaper than having the bills with the existing separate companies.

Even if you decide that you only want broadband and do not need energy or pay TV, it is wise to compare the costs of standalone broadband against cheap broadband and phone deals as often these work out cheaper than the standalone packages. Even if you are sure you won’t use your landline to make calls, it is still worth considering as most of these deals are “pay as you go” so you won’t incur any additional costs if you do not use the line.

James Ford Broadband Deals Reviewed by James Ford, TV and Broadband Expert

Fibre 1

  • New customers only
  • Price locked until April 2025
  • Up to £3/month saving for existing mobile contract customers
35Mb average* speed
Unlimited Downloads
£0.00 Setup costs
24 Month contract
Pay as you goCalls
£26.00per month

Superfast Broadband

  • New customers only
61Mb average* speed
Unlimited Downloads
£0.00 Setup costs
18 Month contract
Pay as you goCalls
£27.00per month

Full Fibre 150

  • New customers only
  • 30 day great connection guarantee
  • Flexible ways to pay
152Mb average* speed
Unlimited Downloads
£0.00 Setup costs
18 Month contract
Pay as you goCalls
£28.00per month

What Hidden Costs Should I Look Out For?

Some deals which look exceptionally good value may have hidden costs which you will need to be vigilant about. Check whether you have to pay for any hardware, equipment, installation, delivery or activation costs. These can rapidly add up and make a very attractive deal far less so.

If you don’t already have a telephone line at your property, you may be charged for line installation, even if the deal states that free setup is included. If you know that you will need a telephone line installing, we recommend speaking to a number of providers to compare prices as this could make a big difference to the overall price of your contract.

Many providers will also charge you the first month’s payment upfront which if you are still paying for the previous deal, will hit your pocket hard. However, if the new deal is considerably more attractive overall, this might only be a minor consideration.

Check if the contract includes exit fees. Whilst you will almost certainly have to pay if you terminate the contract early, some providers charge an exit fee regardless of the contract term so it’s worth checking this with their customer services department if it is something that worries you.

Some providers require that all equipment is returned to them at the end of the contract and will bill you if you do not return it within the stated timescales.

Finally, some providers will increase prices during the term of your contract. Some may state a fixed amount, others might choose to increase the costs in line with the Bank of England interest rate. If you don’t want to be surprised by an unexpected change to your broadband costs mid-contract, ensure that you select a contract with fixed prices for the full term.

If, after you’ve taken out a contract, you find that you were mis-sold the package or you are charged for something that you were not made aware of, you can complain to Ofcom, [2] and seek support in rectifying the situation.

I’m On A Low Income, Is Help Available?

Many broadband providers offer social tariff broadband deals for customers on Universal Credit or other types of government-funded financial assistance. These are detailed here [3] by Ofcom. Some of these broadband deals are priced comparatively to other broadband deals available and some are data-capped or subject to credit checks, so it is worth considering the overall package before deciding on a social tariff rather than a standard one as it may not represent best value for money overall.

When Is The Best Time To Take Out A New Broadband Deal?

If you try to swap broadband providers during your contract term, you will likely be charged a termination fee which is unlikely to counteract the savings made by switching, so only look to change once you are approaching or out of your contract term.

What Else Can I Do To Get The Best Deal?

If you have been happy with the service and speed of your existing broadband contract, it is worth contacting the company to haggle for a better rate. If customer services cannot offer you a better deal, ask for the cancellation or retention team instead as they are much more likely to be able to offer you incentives to remain with them. Be polite, persistent and know what you are willing to accept. Make sure that you fully understand the implications of the trade-off that you are offered and if you are unsure or don’t want a particular incentive or offer, tell them so. Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, has these tips [4] to help you successfully haggle for the deal that you want.

What Alternatives Are There To Broadband?

If you are not a heavy internet user or work flexibly so require internet at a multitude of locations, you could consider 4G or 5G home broadband. These work off a SIM card which uses a special router to provide internet to your address. The routers can be plugged in wherever you need to use the internet, provided that there is a 4G signal.

If you’re not sure whether 4G home broadband would be right for you, consumer champion Which [5] offers a helpful comparison table and a list of pros and cons which may be able to help.

Your other option is a SIM plan. Whilst not specifically designed for home use, a SIM-only deal with unlimited data will supply you with internet via your mobile phone wherever you are. Other hardware such as your laptop can be tethered to the data supplied by the SIM card if needed.

Where Can I Go If I Need Help?

For support on managing your finances, the [6] Money Advice Service is a free and impartial service, set up by the Government to help you. They can offer help and support in a variety of forms and also offer tools and calculators designed to help you to manage your finances. Use of these tools can support you in determining which broadband deal is best for you.

If you are in debt and struggling to afford the broadband that you require but do not qualify for social tariffs, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau [7] can offer advice and support to help you.

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