Your guide to broadband with no upfront costs and free setup
What happened to all the free broadband deals?
In the past you may have seen offers such as ‘free broadband for the first six months’. But the catch with these types of deals was that you still had to pay for phone line rental, and this could be several times the price of the broadband.
Providers are no longer permitted to split the cost of phone and broadband, which has put an end to these sorts of special offers.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t still get a very similar deal. Although they may no longer be advertised as free there are still plenty of broadband deals where the cost is discounted for anything from a few months to the entire length of the contract. When taking line rental into account they work out to be very similar to the old free broadband deals. These may not be ‘free’ but they are effectively the same thing as the old offers, and can still save a substantial amount over the regular price.
Why do some of the deals include a set-up fee?
If you take a look at the broadband deals in the table above you may find some of the packages do in fact have upfront costs. Broadband deals with no set-up fee are not always available so we also list cheap home broadband packages with set-up charges of no more than £10.
But broadband deals change all the time so if you don’t see what you’re after right now, check back later for the latest packages to see what’s available. Alternatively, you might want to consider other deal options: For example, one further way to save money on broadband may be to consider if broadband only packages could save you money. This will not always be the case, but can be a good option if you already have cheap internet and TV services.
Is there a difference between installation and setup?
Some broadband providers use the terms interchangeably or may lump all costs under one banner. Read the small print carefully so you know what you’re paying - or not paying - for, and check it includes everything needed.
Setup: Covers the administrative expenses of signing up a new customer, including the activation of a broadband service, something which does not usually require an engineer to attend the property.
How do I get free installation?
So we've established free setup and free installation are actually quite different things. So how do you get free installation with your broadband?
- If you/your property already has an Openreach line installed, then your best bet is to get a deal with a provider who uses the Openreach network. This is essentially all major providers apart from Virgin Media.
- If your property has a Virgin line installed, then your best bet to get free installation would be picking a Virgin package.
- If your property has no line installed then, unfortunately, it looks like you'll have to pay an installation fee. Occasionally providers do waive installation fees on some deals, recently we have known TalkTalk to have done this - so they might be your best bet.
If you'd like to read more about this, check out our guide to phone line installation.
What should I look out for when comparing broadband with no upfront costs or cheap installation?
Setup cost: If the provider differentiates between setup and installation, then a set-up (sometimes called activation) fee will always be charged unless you choose a deal with no set-up fees.
Installation cost: Even with free setup deals there may be an installation charge if engineer works are required. And while providers each have a standard basic install fee, the cost can be higher than usual if more work is needed. It will depend on the current broadband provider (if any), whether there is a phone line or Virgin Media cable line already coming into the property, and whether an engineer is needed to configure the broadband.
Effective cost: You can see a list of all applicable charges and view an effective monthly cost which takes these into consideration by clicking "offer details and pricing" on any deal on our comparison table. Installation costs and other important extra fees, along with effective reductions from free gifts, such as BT Rewards or Plusnet Mastercards, will also be noted in this section.
Up front prices should be made clear when joining a provider. As always it’s a good idea to get the costs in writing so you know what’s due, and have proof of agreed fees in case of a later dispute.
Are there any downsides to broadband deals with no set-up fee?
Most of the time-saving money with a free setup broadband deal is a good thing. But there are some potential downsides.
DIY hardware installation: If installation is free and an engineer is not required, you will need to install the broadband equipment yourself. But this is not usually a complex task and usually just means connecting the router (and sometimes a modem for fibre optic broadband) to a power socket and telephone line. Clear instructions should be included with your welcome pack, otherwise you can call the tech support line.
Setting up your own router: If a router was not provided with the broadband package it will be necessary to purchase the correct hardware and configure the router software. This is a little more complicated so if you're not sure about taking this on always get a router from the ISP. Most providers include them for free anyway!
Whatever the situation, your provider's tech support should be able to help with setting up broadband. If you’re concerned, speak to the provider ahead of time to find out what assistance is available.
Are free setup and free installation deals available on all types of broadband?
ADSL: Broadband deals with no upfront cost are most common for ADSL internet. There are usually at least a few choices for ADSL broadband deals with free installation at any time.
BT Openreach fibre: Deals with no set-up fee for fibre optic broadband are available too but are less frequent and the choice of providers is smaller.
Virgin Media fibre: Finding a Virgin Media broadband package with no upfront fees is less likely; Virgin tends to offer this only occasionally as a short term special deal.
If you don’t see any free setup offers on your preferred broadband service or provider right now, check back regularly as deals are changing all the time. The great news is many of the providers that offer free-installation broadband deals provide unlimited internet - make sure to select one of these deals if you don't want to have your usage capped.
Will I get a Wi-Fi broadband router with these free setup deals?
Most providers include a free home broadband Wi-Fi router, even on deals with no upfront fees. Sometimes postage costs apply, but if so this will be noted in the "offer details" section on our comparison table.
How long will it take to install my broadband?
Typically, providers allow 14 working days to set up a new broadband service. But there are situations where installation can be delayed, or completed faster than usual.
If there is already an active line: The fastest broadband installations will occur when the necessary infrastructure is already in place. Virgin Media offers a DIY 'QuickStart' option for homes which have previously had Virgin Media services, which can get you up and running in less than a week.
If a new line is needed: In the case of BT Openreach broadband services, an Openreach engineer will have to attend if there is not an active line in the property. The engineers are very busy so this can extend the set-up time past 14 days. And if you've joined Virgin Media and the premises are not yet connected to the network the extra work required could include digging to lay cables.
Cancelling before a switch: The quickest way to switch internet providers is to allow the new ISP to take over the line. If the old service is cancelled this will extend the set-up time as they will need to activate a new line. Note that this only applies when switching between providers using the BT Openreach telephone network, not when moving to or from Virgin Media.
Popular deals and peak times: Delays can occur if a provider is experiencing a surge of customers, perhaps due to a very popular offer.