When it comes to looking for a new broadband internet plan, there is certainly no shortage of options. Nowadays, you can choose from a huge selection of deals, all of which have something different to offer. And whilst it’s always good to have options, too much choice can sometimes start to feel overwhelming. That’s where we come in – read our guide to help you determine what kind of broadband internet plan will be the best for you and your household.
Many factors to consider
Of course, for most of us, the monthly price is a significant factor in deciding which broadband plan to sign up for. Some plans and broadband providers will advertise cost-saving perks, too, such as free TV streaming services, or mobile phone contracts.
However, it’s important not to sign on the dotted line without looking carefully at the small print. It tends to be the case that the lower the monthly cost of a plan, the longer you will be tied into the contract. This is fine if you are happy to stay with this provider for up to three years, but if you aren’t satisfied with the service during this contract period, you could be faced with a hefty charge to switch to a new provider.
And that long contract period could also mean going a long time before having the chance to upgrade vital internet equipment, such as the router, which could have a huge impact on how your internet performs.
Think about how you use the internet
It’s also important to have a clear idea of how much data your household typically uses. This matters because the more data you need, the faster the speed of broadband you’ll require in order to keep up with the internet traffic your household is generating. It stands to reason that the broadband plans that promise to deliver the very fastest speeds will cost significantly more than those which offer a more basic speed.
But if you have an eye on your household budget, chances are that you won’t want to spend more than is necessary on a broadband performance that is simply not appropriate for your level of internet usage. A very useful starting point can be to take a few minutes to carry out a broadband speed test (a free broadband checker is available on the websites of the major broadband providers) so that you can see exactly what your current download speed is. If you are mostly happy with this speed and performance, you will know that it probably won’t be necessary to pay for the faster speeds advertised, making this exercise a great way to find cheap broadband.
For example, if you and your family are not interested in doing much more than checking emails or your social media accounts, then a basic level of broadband will likely be more than enough for your needs. On the other hand, if you or another member of your household spends a lot of time gaming online or streams a great deal of content, then it’s probable that you will need to find a broadband package that can offer a faster-guaranteed download speed. The number of devices connected to the internet, and even the time of day that you go online, will also have a significant impact on the speed that you will receive, so bear this in mind.
The speed that you actually need for your household is often less than you might think. Here in the UK, broadband speeds are broken down into three categories:
Standard broadband delivers around 10-11 Mbps, which is enough for a household of a couple of light internet users who don’t rely on accessing the internet at peak times.
Superfast broadband is the next level of performance, delivering download speeds ranging from 30-300 Mbps. As a point of reference, the average broadband speed achieved in the UK falls into this category, at 79 Mbps, which is usually more than enough for providing reliable internet access for a busy family, who use their broadband for work, study, streaming and gaming.
Finally, there is the fastest category of all: Ultrafast broadband. This promises speeds of 300 Mbps up to 1000 Mbps (1Gb) and is the best option for extremely large households which put a very high demand on their broadband connection.
Why is line rental needed for broadband?
Many broadband providers offer plans that include landline line rental at no extra cost. In most cases, this is because the network may not have fully upgraded to fibre-optic cabling, which means that the delivery of their broadband internet will rely in part on the copper wires used by the national telephone communications network. This is the case for the majority of broadband connections used in the UK, with the exception of those who have an FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) connection.
To understand what this means, let’s take a moment to discover how broadband internet is connected in the UK. The older style of internet provision was delivered to homes and business premises via the same network of copper wires that is used for the nation’s telephone communications network. However, this type of cabling is not the best solution for transmitting the data required for broadband internet, and so there has been an ongoing project to replace copper wires with fibre-optic cabling instead.
Fibre-optic offers a much-improved ability to transmit internet data faster and further, with less interference, which is why we are now seeing faster and faster broadband speeds becoming available to customers. Right now, the fibre optic cable upgrading project means that 97% of UK residents are now able to access Superfast broadband speeds .
This is the situation in the Openreach network, which is used by many providers such as BT, EE, Sky, TalkTalk, and Vodafone. Yet for most of these broadband customers, a landline connection remains a vital part of accessing their broadband services. This is because the new network of fibre-optic cabling usually extends only as far as the exchange cabinets found on many streets. From this point, the older style copper wiring is still in place to carry the internet data to individual properties. This type of connection is called FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet).
The rarer FTTP is the better option, where it is available, as it means that broadband internet data travels entirely along fibre optic-cables, meaning a faster, more powerful broadband experience without interference. This type of connection also means that you will not need to have a landline connection in order to access broadband internet. Where you live will be the main decider in whether you can enjoy the benefits of an FTTP connection, and you can find out by entering your postcode into a checker tool, which can be found on the websites of the different broadband providers.
There are already a number of broadband providers that do not require a landline connection, such as Virgin Media, HyperOptic, and Wightfibre. These providers do not make use of the national Openreach network infrastructure but instead rely on their own cabling network, which allows them to do this.
What about broadband deals with landline line rental?
The good news is that there are plenty of great value deals available when you opt for broadband with line rental. You can choose to add in other useful contracts, such as TV streaming services, access to premium sports or movie channels, or mobile phone services. You will also benefit from free calling, often including international calls, making this a good solution for those with family living overseas.
Is a home phone needed for broadband internet access?
This is a common misconception: whilst you may well be required to have a telephone line rental agreement in place in order to receive broadband internet, this does not mean that you have to connect a telephone to it. The essential aspect is having a connection to the telecommunications network – whether you decide to also join a landline telephone to this connection is up to you.
However, choosing to make use of the line rental and use a landline telephone can be a good option for many households. If you decide to use your line rental for a landline telephone, then your broadband provider will give you a telephone number, and there are often broadband deals that include free calls too. This can make it a great value option.
Do you need a landline?
Once upon a time, no home was complete without a landline telephone, with many households opting for multiple extensions that allowed them to answer or make calls from a variety of rooms around the home. Today, many of us have done away with a landline telephone in favour of a mobile phone, with plenty of people simply preferring to send a text or instant message rather than pick up the phone to call a friend.
This switch in how we communicate can partly be attributed to the drop in the cost of mobile telephone contracts over the last few decades. Now, most contracts, and even pay-as-you-go deals, offer free calls, so having a landline telephone is frequently seen as being surplus to requirements.
These days, having a landline telephone is regarded as something that is saved for members of the older generation, although statistics show that this is not actually the case. In fact, according to figures for 2020, only 22% of UK homes were without a landline connection that was able to both receive incoming and make outgoing calls .
Of course, many of these modern-day landline users may have kept it solely as a way to connect to the internet. But are there other advantages to having one installed in your home today?
Is having a landline worth it?
There are certainly benefits to having a landline telephone even if you and the other members of your household each have a mobile. Having a landline means that you can make and receive clear calls even if you have poor mobile reception in all or part of your home. If you are having temporary construction work carried out on your home, or close by, you could find that your mobile phone signal is badly affected, in which case it might be very useful to have a landline.
The superior sound quality delivered by a landline telephone connection can also make it a better option for those with hearing problems. Furthermore, having a landline means that you can still get in touch with others, even if there is an internet outage or a power cut. This can provide peace of mind, especially for those who live alone.
Using a landline phone also means considerably cheaper calls if you need to ring family or friends abroad, and either you or they cannot access free video calling apps.
Another useful benefit of keeping a landline installed is that it counts as a utility, and so can help you to build up a good credit rating. Having a good credit rating is essential for gaining access to the best rates for financial products such as mortgages and loans, so if your credit rating needs a boost, signing up for a landline could be a smart move. If you aren’t sure how your credit rating looks right now, there are many free credit score checker tools available online.
It may be that you are reluctant to sign up for a landline contract due to concerns about receiving nuisance or unsolicited sales calls. Thankfully, there are tools that can help you to avoid this problem, including joining the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which makes it illegal for salespeople both in the UK and abroad to call your number.
There are also machines that block such calls, which can simply be set up by your telephone.
Is it better not to have broadband with a landline?
There are both pros and cons to choosing a broadband deal that doesn’t include line rental. The advantages include the chance to save money – you will be paying solely for your broadband, and not for line rental which you aren’t using for anything other than delivering your internet access. And, whilst there aren’t a huge number of providers able to offer broadband without the need for line rental, this number is likely to change as more and more independent broadband providers emerge. Furthermore, once there are more homes able to get FTTP connections, there will inevitably be more broadband deals available without the need for line rental.
The downsides include paying a higher price since the type of Ultrafast broadband that doesn’t rely on a landline connection costs more. You will also be missing out on the chance to benefit from free calls, and the deals which are currently available often don’t include bundles with other services such as TV streaming channels or mobile phones.
I really don’t want a landline: what are my options?
It isn’t as easy as you might think to find great broadband deals that don’t include line rental, so you may find that your choice of offers is limited, or that you are looking at a substantially higher monthly price. But if you have determined that a landline connection will not be the right option for your household, then you have a few options when it comes to finding the best broadband deals.
We have already mentioned FTTP, and if you are lucky enough to be able to receive this kind of connection at your address, then you can benefit from the very best quality broadband internet available. You can use a broadband checker to find out if your address is eligible, but bear in mind that this type of high-performance broadband comes at a premium, and it will be well worth checking out our broadband comparison on Free Price Compare to find the best value contract.
We have also mentioned that broadband providers such as Virgin Media and Hyperoptic can offer broadband without line rental being required, as they are not making use of the Openreach network. And, for those who live in certain areas, BT, EE, TalkTalk and Vodafone can offer a choice between broadband that is delivered as FTTC or FTTP. Some providers (including BT) often have discounts available for customers who choose a broadband-only deal.
Another option for those who don’t want a landline is the mobile broadband approach. With the increase of 4G and 5G coverage, mobile broadband is now becoming a good alternative to traditional internet access, since you can "tether" devices such as laptops to your mobile signal by using equipment such as dongles, SIMs, Wi-Fi hotspots and special wireless "cube" devices.
However, be mindful that your mobile contract may place limits on the amount of data that you use, with even unlimited data plans being subject to what is known as "reasonable usage." This may mean that this is only a workable alternative to a traditional broadband connection for light internet users, or just for temporary periods.
The final alternative to broadband line rental deals is to opt for satellite internet. As the name implies, this is broadband internet that is delivered via a satellite link, and as such, this means that you will be able to connect to the internet wherever you are. This can make it a useful solution if you live in a very remote area. However, the quality of this type of broadband connection can be slower than the traditional cabled connection, and it is also subject to interference, which can make for a poorer browsing experience overall. It can also prove more expensive than broadband line rental deals.
Will things ever change?
For those who don’t want to make use of broadband line rental packages, the good news is that there are likely to be many more deals available in the future that won’t insist on a landline connection.
That’s because the fibre-optic upgrade to the UK’s telecommunications network means that we won’t just be able to enjoy faster, more reliable broadband internet. In fact, the fibre optic cabling which is replacing the older copper wiring means that the traditional landline connection will soon be phased out altogether. However, those who still like to have a "home telephone" shouldn’t worry about this change, as the old style of landline will simply be upgraded to VOIP (Voice Over Internet) calling, which is already very popular amongst business users. This is because VOIP is cheap yet delivers high-quality calls.
What should I do next?
Hopefully, you will have a good idea about whether a landline telephone is right for you, or perhaps you have decided that you would rather opt for a broadband deal that doesn’t rely on line rental at all. Whatever route is best for your family, the next step should be to check broadband speed and then compare broadband deals on a comparison website like Free Price Compare. Since 2016 the law has required broadband providers to include line rental costs in their quotes upfront so check out our broadband comparison as this is the surest way to know whether you will be getting value for money. If you are on the fence about broadband line rental deals, you may find that such contracts actually work out as better value.
Take a look at the typical amount and type of usage for your household and compare the speeds of the different deals available by using Free Price Compare. If you need any additional services, such as TV streaming services, mobile phone contracts, or sports channels, now is the time to see if you could be getting them for less if you bundle them with your broadband package. Don’t be tempted by offers of gift vouchers though – only choose a deal if it best meets your family’s broadband needs. Consider the length of the contract before you sign up too, and if you are in any doubt, make use of a free affordability calculator online to avoid breaking your budget.
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