Buyers' guide to no contract broadband
There are many different circumstances that may lead you to search out a broadband package without a contract attached.
Perhaps you’re heading into temporary accommodation (students or short term contract workers, for example), plan to move soon or are having an uncertain time financially. Whatever the reason, there are several broadband options available to you.
Before we move on to the various options though, if you’re looking for a mobile internet option you’re in the wrong place; please instead head over to our guide for no contract mobile broadband.
What is ‘no contract’ broadband?
Unlike mobile broadband and smartphone tariffs there aren’t really ‘pay as you go’ options when it comes to home broadband. But, while you won’t find ‘no contract’ deals you will find the next best thing: one-month rolling contracts. One month deals let you pay for your internet connection on a month-to month basis, meaning you can cancel at a moment’s notice.
However, the amount of internet service providers (ISPs) which offer one-month deals is limited, with most of the bigger names steering clear of them completely – many see the loyalty of a long term contract to be essential to their sales strategies. So, if you’re looking for a brand you know and trust you may come up short.
Short term offers: The options
On the bright side, these household names often offer short term Wi-Fi contracts which come in under a year. There are usually some 3 month or 6 month broadband contracts to choose from with providers such as Plusnet and around August, September and October each year you'll start to see 9 month broadband deals from the likes of Virgin Media, which are often aimed at students but available to everyone.
Finally, you may see 12 month deals in our no contract comparison tables too. There’s a simple reason for this: many people simply don’t find a short-term/no-contract deal or provider that suits their needs, but still need broadband – especially at times when there are very few special offers. A one-year tariff is the next best thing.
Advantages and disadvantages
Of course the best thing about no contract broadband is the ease of cancelation. If your circumstances change and you have to move to an area where your provider doesn’t offer its services, or if you simply can’t afford to continue paying your tariff, a long deal could see you paying a hefty fee to break your contract.
It also means that if you’re unsure about a particular provider, or are waiting on a great deal to come along for you to take advantage of, you can plod along for a few months to see what happens in the market.
Of course, this convenience tends to mean they’re not cheap. You’re unlikely to get the best deal in terms of value, while your choices will be limited. You may also have to pay costs that are waived on longer contracts, such as setup fees and a wireless router. That said, keep your eyes peeled for special offers – if you’re patient, you can find some genuine short-term bargains.
Which one is right for you will depend on your personal circumstances. If you're just trying out a provider before committing for the long term then a rolling monthly deal might suit, just be prepared to pay a little more up front. The slightly longer deals such as 6 month broadband and 9 month broadband contracts might be best if you're a student or in temporary accomodation for that period of time, as they could work out a little cheaper than rolling monthly agreements.
Using our comparison tables
If you do decide to go for a no contract broadband deal, but aren’t too familiar with how broadband deals work, here are some pointers on how to compare the different products above:
- Monthly price: The advertised monthly prices of the broadband tariffs (remember you’ll also have to pay a monthly telephone line rental fee).
- Contract: The length of the deal, with the shortest options listed here as one month (as close to no contract as home broadband gets).
- Speed: This is the fastest speed possible. To make this more accurate be sure to put your postcode into the search criteria, as not all deals are available everywhere in the UK (especially Virgin Media cable deals). For the most accurate results, then click through to the provider and enter your telephone number when prompted (this will test your actual line).
- Data limit: How much data you can download each month before incurring any penalties (such as extra usage charges). If a deal claims to be ‘unlimited’ be sure to read the small print – not all unlimited broadband deals are created equal!
- Effective cost: Here we work out what your monthly bill will actually work out as over the length of your whole contract, including setup fees or money-off deals. You may be surprised at what actually works out as the cheapest.
- Extras: As well as special offers, you’ll find more details about call packages and line rentals, plus hardware and other hardware/software bonuses you can expect.
If you’re looking for more information about the basics of home broadband, we have an extensive help sections with guides to cover all eventualities. The easiest place to start is with our beginners’ guide to broadband.
The next step
Hopefully you’re now ready to buy your perfect broadband deal. All you need to do is click the ‘go’ button to be taken to your chosen ISP’s official site where you can complete the sign-up process with them.
If you can’t find a tariff that meets your needs, you want to consider a no contract mobile broadband deal to tide you over – these do work on a pay as you go basis, so offer even more flexibility, but often at the expense of value and reliability.