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Can you get pay as you go broadband? How do you get it?

Counting pennies

The best value broadband deals will almost always involve signing up to a provider for 12, 18, or 24 months, and if you 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 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, such as a package that simply lets you pay as you go.

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

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 which can be cancelled at short notice. 
  • No-contract broadband is available from Virgin Media, NOW Broadband, and Direct Save Telecom.
  • Mobile broadband can be used for home broadband, and there are some unlimited 4G and 5G deals.

Does pay as you go home broadband exist?

Unfortunately, there aren't any providers that offer fixed-line home broadband 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 would 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 (which could mean extra charges on top of your monthly bill if you exceed the data cap).

But broadband that operates like a PAYG mobile service isn't available, so what can you do if you want PAYG home broadband?

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, because some ISPs do offer rolling monthly contracts and other short term packages.

Rolling monthly contracts

A rolling monthly deal (also known as no contract broadband) is a broadband package with a 30-day term.

While you are 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 of pay monthly ISPs offering these types of deals, including options for TV bundles and very high speed access.

Here are some of the rolling month deals you can find on Broadband Genie:

Virgin Media

Virgin Media is unique even among the small handful of ISPs offering monthly deals because it can provide very fast speeds (up to 1.1Gb) and broadband without a phone line. Plus TV and broadband bundles too, of course.

But Virgin pay as you go broadband is not cheap, and not everyone needs the speed it provides.

Virgin broadband is a great option if you want very fast connectivity, but not the best if the cost is a major concern.

NOW Broadband

NOW Broadband offers temporary Wi-Fi deals for standard ADSL broadband and fibre optic broadband, with optional pay as you go TV add-ons that provide premium Sky channels to view via a streaming box, app or web browser.

To get a pay as you go NOW Broadband package you’ll need to go to the NOW site and follow the sign-up process then choose the “no contract” broadband plan. Note that this will add an extra setup fee.

Check out the best of our short-term deals below:

Dynamic deal panel

Other options for short term broadband

There are other types of short term broadband packages that can be suitable for temporary broadband access.

Some providers have offered three or six-month contracts, though these are fairly rare compared to rolling monthly contracts.

For those studying at university, there are student broadband deals with shorter nine-month contracts designed to fit with term times. These are not always available but tend to be offered around August and September each year. Previously we have 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, making it extremely flexible. Mobile broadband can also be activated and used almost immediately, whereas a home broadband connection will take at least a couple of weeks to install. It is probably the best choice if you need broadband for less than a month.

It can also be fast. All mobile broadband packages support at least 4G, while 5G is now increasingly common (though coverage is still limited compared to 4G, so check before buying). Both can provide extremely quick broadband connectivity.

However, many mobile broadband services have a data usage limit. This means that using mobile broadband for lots of downloading or video streaming could be very expensive. If you are going to use mobile broadband as your main internet service, you'll definitely want to get an unlimited deal.

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

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 pay as you go basis.

In order 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 require registration or payment to access. Others may be completely open. Public Wi-Fi is not usually intended for use at home and is mostly installed as a facility for customers of a business, though 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 kind of Wi-Fi will be available, but if the connection does not require payment or registration you should seek permission from the hotspot operator before using them. It is 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.

Meet the author: Matt Powell

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

At Broadband Genie we pride ourselves on being the UK's broadband comparison experts, and Matt has offered broadband advice in almost every major UK publication: including the BBC, the Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Guardian, and many more.

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