Buyers' guide: Unlimited broadband
When it comes to online access these days most of us want an unlimited home broadband service that can give us all of the flexibility we need.
With so much content available via the internet, including movies, music and TV, there's a never ending need for better, more powerful, broadband services. It's little wonder then that so many of us are being tempted by the mention of 'unlimited' broadband deals that are being offered by many of the providers.
The great thing about having an unlimited broadband internet package is that you're able to download, and upload, a lot more data than you might normally be allowed to do with some of the other deals.
The need for unlimited broadband
With a regular broadband package there are clearly stated caps or limits on how much you can send to and from your computer. Lighter users of the internet and email aren’t likely to be too bothered by these limits because web browsing and emailing uses very little data transfer allowance. An email message is tiny and it’s only when you start adding attachments that they start bulking out. Even then, it takes a lot messages with countless attachments to seriously begin using up the amount of data you get through.
Things start to change somewhat once you start downloading big files, and this is where the demand for movies, music and online TV shows has made the need for so-called unlimited broadband services increase drastically in the last couple of years. Just downloading one telly programme is likely to mean you'll be transferring half a GB or more of data, while a film can easily be far in excess of 1GB, particularly if it's HD.
Of course, it's also possible to stream television programmes and other interactive content, as well as gaming online, which also requires a decent quality broadband service with generous data allowance.
Unlimited broadband internet will give you the freedom to do a lot more online than you could ever do with a less substantial broadband service.
So, if you haven't yet got broadband and feel that you want to embrace all of the exciting options open to you with a more powerful package, then getting a handle on the various deals listed here is a fine place to start.
Which providers offer unlimited broadband deals?
As you'll see from our comparison table above, there are numerous packages that offer unlimited broadband deals and they come from a variety of providers with a wide variety of prices.
Along the top of the table we’ve set out the main points to consider, including the setup costs, if any, the monthly price, the contract term and also the speed and download allowances for each of the different packages. And don't forget to look at customer reviews, this can help to give an idea of how the service performs and get a better idea of the various pros and cons as you compare offers.
Unlimited broadband providers who offer these services are mainly the big guns of the telecoms world.
Check our comparison table above and you'll find Sky unlimited broadband, BT unlimited broadband and many other options from companies such as Virgin Media, Plusnet and TalkTalk, though there are many providers offering unlimited services now.
Deals evolve all the time, with quite a few of them offer free setup incentives - these deals are going to the providers' most prized customers after all. Others that require payment for this also have extra kit on offer, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each of the deals and work out which one seems like the best unlimited broadband for your needs.
Does any ISP offer truly unlimited broadband?
Most importantly, when shopping around you need to look at what each supplier means by 'unlimited'. Sadly, there is often a catch to mean that what we think of as 'unlimited' broadband isn't exactly how the internet service providers see it.
You'll still get a massive download allowance, but you may have your service restricted if you go over a certain 'fair usage allowance', or certain services such as peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic may be slowed at peak times due to the ISPs traffic management policy.
When browsing our comparison tables you can click the 'Traffic Management' link to view each provider's rules. It's important to do this to ensure they do not have restrictions which could affect your usage or enjoyment of the service.
Having said that, there are now several ISPs which do offer truly unlimited broadband plans, including Sky, BT and TalkTalk.
Do you need an unlimited broadband connection?
Plenty of people will tell you that you need to get yourself unlimited broadband internet, but at the same time many of them won’t bother asking you what you're planning on using it for.
Superfast unlimited broadband might be all well and good, but if you don’t use it to its full potential then you could be paying over the odds for a service that is basically overpowered for your needs.
Unlimited broadband deals do not tend to be the cheapest, and although it's possible to get a chunky 120Mb unlimited broadband internet package easily enough, you'll need to have pretty full-on internet requirements to really milk this package for all its worth.
Let's face it, many households are average users, with one or two members of the family spending an hour or two a day on the internet and checking emails. You may have kids, who being rather more web savvy might be able to exploit the power of an unlimited broadband internet package, but unless they are downloading a lot of films, software and television shows, the time they spend online may not add up to the level of data usage you might expect.
For example, just instant messaging all day really won't dent a fixed-line broadband allowance. Get yourself the cheapest deal and you could save yourself a reasonable amount of money over time with lower monthly prices. If you're new to the world of broadband it’s probably best to go down this route initially - if you need more bandwidth at a later date then you can always upgrade your package.
Unlimited broadband providers will greet you with open arms if you decide further down the line that you'll need that super-fast unlimited connectivity and extra bandwidth power. But for now, if you're uncertain about your requirements it may be a good idea to work your way up until you get an idea of how much content you’re uploading and downloading.
Smaller packages invariably result in lower download limits but that will often be more than adequate for average users. If you take one of these deals from a supplier who also does an unlimited deal, you can easily upgrade if you need to.
So why bother with unlimited broadband packages?
If you have a large family that all need to tap into a wireless connection, or perhaps a shared house or office, then larger unlimited broadband packages are perfect.
Similarly, people who spend large amounts of their time enjoying online gaming, which often involves downloading large amounts of data and needing a fast connection, will also find deals like this good value.
What's more, unlimited broadband in UK is being improved all the time too. So with an increasing number of fibre optic network cables running across the country and upgrades to telephone exchanges becoming more the norm then an unlimited broadband connection will steadily become not only more common but cheap to sign up for.
What extras do you get with cheap unlimited broadband?
While there are many good reasons to opt for making your broadband unlimited, assuming you're prepared to pay the extra for it, there are often added extras that can make these deals seem even more appealing. And this is often the reason why UK unlimited broadband offers some of the very best value in the world, even if it's not always the fastest.
You'll find some of the unlimited broadband deals on offer here allow you to bundle in other products being sold by the providers in question. So, as part of the package you might actually be able to get telephone line rental and also a selection of TV channels thrown in for good measure. Again, the appeal of extras like this really depends on how much you use your landline and TV.
Keep an eye out for any unlimited broadband deals that offer incentives, such as dirt-cheap monthly fees for the initial 6 - 12 months of the contract.
However...while a discount rate is all well and good for three months or so, remember to factor in how much you'll be paying overall and work out if the rental period is going to be good value. This is mostly relevant to people who might not maximize the potential of their unlimited broadband internet package, rather than users who are sure they can eat into their supply with little or no trouble at all.
Signing up for a cheap unlimited broadband package like this can be very cost effective if you use all of the services to their maximum usage levels, and as the added icing on the cake, some of the packages also have goodies like free security software, and all should include a router as standard. All of these things add further appeal to the deals that you’re interested in.
Remember that offers from unlimited broadband providers change all the time though, so you may see variations on the theme from week to week, and it's always worth checking them regularly as you approach the end date of your existing contract.