All about broadband packages: what's the right one for you?
Broadband packages come in all shapes and sizes, with options ranging from cheap budget deals to bundles that include TV, phone, and mobile. So how do you go about choosing the best broadband package? This guide will explain everything you need to know.
What are the broadband options available with internet packages?
ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) is the most common and cheapest type of broadband available in the UK. It uses the Openreach (BT network) copper telephone lines, and as such, the majority of homes can get ADSL.
However, ADSL is slow by modern standards, with an average download speed of approximately 10Mb. This means it is unsuitable for demanding activities (such as frequent large downloads or high definition video streaming) or homes with multiple users and devices.
Fibre broadband uses fibre optic cables to deliver significantly faster speeds than ADSL. The majority of homes can now get fibre, though coverage is not quite as widespread as ADSL.
There are several different types of fibre optic technology in use around the UK. The type of fibre will affect what kind of speed you can get and which providers you can use.
FTTC: FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) is currently the most widely used fibre broadband technology. With FTTC, fibre optic cables go to street cabinets and then the connection into homes is completed using a regular BT Openreach telephone line. This makes it much easier and cheaper to deploy, which is why it’s what almost all fibre broadband packages use right now — if you currently have fibre, you likely have an FTTC service. FTTC has a top speed of around 80Mb, and most packages are advertised with an average speed of about 35Mb or 65Mb.
FTTP/FTTH: Fibre To The Premises (FTTP), also known as FTTH (Fibre To The Home), is a full fibre connection that eliminates the ageing copper telephone network. With FTTP, fibre lines run all the way into your home and can deliver incredible ultrafast and gigabit speeds as a result. FTTP is the future of broadband and will be increasingly common in the next few years, but at present, far fewer homes can get this type of fibre compared to FTTC.
Virgin Media (cable): It used to be known as cable broadband, but Virgin Media is a fibre broadband service. In most places, it uses HFC (Hybrid Fibre Coaxial) technology. This is similar to FTTC in that fibre runs to the street-side cabinets, but Virgin completes the connection into homes with coaxial cables rather than telephone lines. In addition to HFC, the Virgin network is also using FTTP connections for some locations. Virgin Media can deliver speeds of up to 630Mb to most of its network and up to 1Gb in a few areas.
Mobile broadband uses mobile networks signals to provide wireless broadband access. This can be reasonably fast; 4G can get a download speed of approximately 25Mb on average, while 5G can achieve more than 100Mb.
Mobile broadband has the advantage of not requiring any kind of fixed-line, but it does depend on a strong signal. Many mobile broadband packages also have data usage limits, though some unlimited deals are available and can be reasonably priced. We’ll likely see a greater number of packages offering 5G broadband at prices that compete with the fixed-line services once it's more widely available, so this may soon be a viable alternative to ADSL and fibre broadband.
What types of broadband package are available?
Whether you’re looking for ways to save money, simplify your billing with a bundle, or get faster broadband, you’ll find something that fits in one of the following broadband packages.
If you only care about getting broadband service and aren’t fussed about any other features, this is where you should start your comparison.
Broadband only can have slightly different meanings. In some cases, these are packages where you only pay for the broadband, but an active phone line is still required, so it means you have the freedom to choose a different phone provider.
It can also be used to refer to packages where a phone line isn’t required at all (which is also covered by broadband without a phone line).
However, there are few of these kinds of packages available. Therefore, on Broadband Genie, our broadband only deals will also list packages where you get broadband and line rental, but no other extras like TV.
Broadband without a phone line
Like broadband only, broadband without a phone line packages can encompass a variety of deals.
First, it can mean broadband, which does not need an active phone line or even wireless broadband that does not need any physical link. Virgin Media is the most popular option for broadband without line rental as it is widely available and offers quick broadband deals without requiring a phone or calls service (but it does still need a physical cable to operate).
Our broadband without a phone line deals may also list packages that do require (and include) line rental but without any additional charges for inclusive calls. We do this because we’ve found that many people who start out searching for broadband without a phone line end up choosing a regular broadband service with line rental; perhaps because there are no suitable deals in their area, or because they find that there isn’t a big saving to be made.
Broadband and phone
Broadband and phone packages are the most common type and the best fit for most people. You’ll find these with everything from cheap, entry-level ADSL up to high-speed fibre optic broadband. Often, you will have to get a broadband and phone package because a phone line is needed for the broadband to function, and many providers do not allow you to have separate broadband and phone contracts on the same line.
Some packages come with inclusive calls, and others may only include line rental with calls charged at a standard rate. We recommend inclusive call packages if you frequently use the landline as it can save a significant amount of money compared to paying for each call, and it also means your monthly bill will be a fixed cost. But if you don’t use the phone, then choose a deal without inclusive calling (or at least one which does not charge extra for this feature).
Broadband, phone, and TV
Broadband, phone, and TV packages are also known as triple-play deals. These can be great value for money compared to the cost of paying for each service individually. It also makes budgeting simpler as the three services are handled on one bill.
They are more expensive than a regular broadband and phone package — especially if you opt for a TV bundle that includes lots of movie or entertainment channels — so they are only worthwhile if you’re going to get full use out of every aspect of the package. There are some cheaper TV bundles available from BT, TalkTalk, and NOW. However, they don’t offer the dizzying array of channels found with the premium Virgin Media or Sky TV packages.
Broadband, phone, TV, and mobile
These so-called quad-play packages add a mobile plan alongside broadband, phone, and TV. This is less common than the triple-play deals but potentially a decent way to save some money, assuming every element of the package suits your needs.
However, even if you don’t want a quad-play package, it’s worth checking with your mobile network to find out if you get any extras for being both a mobile and broadband customer; For example, EE mobile customers can get 10% off home broadband.
Frequently Asked Questions about broadband packages
What are the benefits of broadband bundles?
Bundling your broadband with other services — such as TV or phone calls — can save money when compared to the cost of having separate providers. It also means you’ve got one bill and one point of contact for everything. Bundles may also include additional extras like free TV content or discounts on other services.
How do I compare broadband?
Broadband Genie makes comparing deals really easy. Start by using our postcode checker to see what’s available in your area. Then use the filters to narrow down the options to find the perfect package. You can also click the table headings to sort by criteria such as speed and price.
What broadband speed do I need?
The ideal broadband speed for you depends on what you’re planning to do with the broadband and how many people are sharing the connection.
If you’ve got family or housemates who all want to be online at the same time, or you want to use the broadband for things like TV streaming, then fibre optic broadband is a must. Look for deals with an average speed of 35Mb at minimum, but be prepared to spend a little more to get faster broadband if you’ve got a busy shared home. As a rough guide, allow a speed of 10Mb per person, plus 10Mb for each person using the broadband for demanding activities like downloading, gaming, and streaming. And it’s always better to overestimate your speed requirements, rather than get a package which is too slow.
ADSL can be suitable for an individual who’s mainly using it for web browsing and social media, but it is now quite slow by modern standards and there are plenty of cheap entry-level fibre broadband deals.
To learn more about choosing the right speed, read our beginner’s guide to broadband speeds.