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Can you get pay as you go broadband?

Counting pennies

The best value broadband deals will almost always involve signing up to a provider for at least a year. It's not unusual for some to expect you to commit to 18 or 24 months. If you then have to cancel in the middle of a contract, you could face hefty termination charges.

But what if you could get Pay As You Go (PAYG) home broadband instead? 

If you aren’t sure about your long-term living arrangements, or simply don’t like the idea of agreeing to a lengthy contract, then you might be looking for an alternative. Some people just want a broadband package that lets you pay per month.

Pay As You Go home broadband: the key points

  • There are no PAYG home broadband deals.
  • The closest alternative is a no-contract broadband deal that you can cancel at short notice. 
  • No-contract broadband is available from NOW Broadband
  • Mobile broadband can be used for home broadband, and there are some unlimited 4G and 5G deals.

Is there such a thing as a Pay As You Go (PAYG) home broadband? In this guide, we'll explore your options for flexible, short-term broadband services.

Does Pay As You Go home broadband exist?

Unfortunately, there aren't any home broadband providers that offer fixed-line internet on Pay As You Go contracts.

Back in the days of dial-up modems, it wasn’t uncommon to have Pay As You Go internet at home. Rather than stumping up a monthly fee, you'd just be charged for the time spent online.

When broadband came along, some providers switched to charging for the amount of data used, allowing light users to access the internet for a lower cost.

Now, home broadband packages will charge a set monthly fee for either completely unlimited usage, or a specific amount of data allowance. Users who don’t pay for unlimited may wind up with extra charges on top of their monthly bill if they use more data than they’re paying for. This is why we always recommend that you go for an unlimited broadband package.

So, if broadband that operates like a PAYG mobile service isn't available, what can you do if you don't want to commit to a contract?

What are the options if you want Pay As You Go internet?

While PAYG broadband may not be available, it doesn’t mean you can’t get a deal that’s nearly as flexible. Some providers offer rolling monthly contracts and other short-term packages.

Rolling monthly contracts

A rolling monthly deal, which you might hear called no contract broadband, is a broadband package where the contract term is only one month.

Although you're still signing up for a contract, you’re not committing to more than 30 days at a time. That gives you the option to cancel at short notice without worrying about the termination fees that would apply to longer-term deals.

These aren’t available from every provider, but there is a reasonable choice offering these types of monthly plans. These can include options for landlines, TV bundles and fast internet access.

NOW Broadband 1-Month Contracts

NOW Broadband offers deals without a contract. It also offers optional Pay As You Go TV add-ons that provide premium Sky channels to view via a streaming box, app or web browser at an extra cost.

Other options for short-term broadband

There are other types of short-term broadband packages that are suitable if you just need temporary broadband access.

For university students, there are sometimes dedicated student broadband deals with shorter 9-month contracts designed to fit with term times. These aren’t always available but tend to be offered around August and September each year. In the past, we’ve seen student broadband from Sky, BT, and Virgin Media.

Mobile broadband

Mobile broadband is an option worth considering if you need a broadband service without lengthy commitments.

It’s available on both a rolling monthly or PAYG basis. This makes it an extremely flexible option. Mobile broadband can also be activated and used almost immediately once you get your SIM card. That can be an improvement on a home broadband connection, which takes at least a couple of weeks to install. If you need broadband for less than a month, it really is the best choice.

You’ll be glad to know that mobile broadband can also be fast. All mobile broadband deals support at least 4G, while 5G is now increasingly common. Unfortunately, 5G coverage is still limited compared to 4G, so check before buying if you’re relying on it. But both can provide quick broadband connectivity, so you’ll get great speeds either way.

Through Wi-Fi routers and mobile hotspots, you can also share this connection across other devices in your home, such as laptops and iPads, not just your mobile phone.

However, many mobile broadband services will have a data usage limit. This means that using mobile broadband for lots of downloading, or video streaming, could wind up being expensive. If you’re going to use a mobile network as your main internet service, you'll definitely want to opt for an unlimited data deal.

For further information about mobile internet and mobile broadband devices, see our guide to data usage and guide to using mobile broadband at home.

Mobile home broadband

Mobile home broadband is slightly different. Unlike mobile broadband where you have a portable dongle, a 4G or 5G home broadband service uses a plugged in router. You won't need a fixed line at all, but you'll need to make sure you have decent 4G/5G network coverage at home.

Three broadband offers a very reasonable 1-month contract for both its 4G and 5G service.

Dynamic deal panel

Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi hotspots can be found all around the country and can be a solution for getting broadband without contracts. They can be reasonably fast and may offer access either for free, or on a PAYG basis.

To use public Wi-Fi, you’ll need to first be in the range of a network. That will be the biggest barrier, as although common, they’re often located in bars, restaurants, pubs, and hotels.

Some hotspots will need you to register or pay for access. Others may be completely open.

Public Wi-Fi isn’t usually intended for use at home and is mostly installed as a facility for customers of a business. That said, there are commercial networks, such as BT Wi-Fi, that offer access to anyone willing to pay.

If you live in the centre of a busy town or city, there’s a good chance some Wi-Fi will be available. If the connection doesn’t require payment or registration, then seek permission from the hotspot operator before using them. It’s illegal to access a Wi-Fi network without permission.

There are also security concerns associated with public Wi-Fi, so it's advisable to use a VPN, or avoid accessing sensitive data such as online banking while connected to public hotspots.

Expert Summary

If a long-term contract doesn’t work for you, then a pay monthly deal may work better instead. You can have the contract for as long as you need it, but also cancel easily without cancellation fees. Remember, these types of deals are typically more expensive than equivalent long-term packages. They're usually worth considering if you definitely need the flexibility of a short-term agreement.

The other option we recommend is a 4G or 5G broadband service. It’s a good way to get fast internet quickly and can be used over multiple devices as well as your phone. Mobile Wi-Fi can be used on your laptop through tethering or a mobile hotspot.

You can also get a 5G or 4G home broadband service on a flexible contract. You can find these through the likes of Three's 4G and 5G Home Broadband.

Meet the author:


Matt has been working with Broadband Genie since 2009. A lifelong tech enthusiast, he has 20 years of experience writing about technology for print and online.

Specialist subject: The technicalities of broadband

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