For those who don't want to be tied down to a long-term contract, no-contract broadband feels like the ideal solution. Is it right for you, though?
You’ll always need to sign a contract when you become a broadband customer – even ‘no contract’ broadband involves some paperwork. No contract broadband really means broadband on a 30-day rolling contract. With no contract broadband you are not tied into a typical 12-, 18- or 24-month contract – you can leave whenever you like with no penalty, simply by giving 30 days’ notice of when you want to end the arrangement.
There are a number of different reasons why you might be looking for a ‘broadband no contract’ arrangement. It’s usually because you expect your personal circumstances to change within the next year, and therefore don’t want to commit to a longer contract that you might have to pay to get out of.
You won’t pay an early cancellation penalty with a rolling broadband contract because you just notify your provider the month before you want to leave then pay your final monthly bill. However, monthly broadband deals like these can cost more per month and tend to come with higher setup costs, so it’s important to make a decision that’s right for you. If you want to go for a commitment that’s longer than a month you’re usually looking at between 12 months and two years – you’re not likely to find a 3-6 month broadband contract these days.
Here are some of the reasons why you might look for no-contract broadband.
If you’re a tenant in a home with a short-term let, you might not want to commit to a broadband contract of 12 months or more if you expect to move on fairly quickly and aren’t sure whether you’d be able to move your broadband with you.
If you’re a student, you probably won’t know where you’re likely to be living or what your budget will be in a year’s time, so it makes sense not to sign up for a long-term contract. Rolling contract broadband might suit you, but before you make your decision, take some time to look at the student deals some providers offer. These can give you nine-month ‘academic year’ deals that aren’t available elsewhere and which could cost you less than the ‘no contract’ deals.
If you expect to be moving house in the next few months, no contract broadband could be the right choice because it would give you the freedom to choose the best longer-term deal available when you move to your new property. If you’re likely to be moving to another country, then short-term broadband could be especially useful to tide you over.
If you’re moving within the UK, though, consider carefully whether you could commit to a longer-term broadband contract of 12 months or more, because you’re likely to pay less than for rolling monthly broadband. If you know where you’ll be moving to, you could check what's available in your area to give you an idea of whether the same providers might cover your current and new homes.
If you go for a provider on the UK Openreach network, which includes big names like BT, Sky and TalkTalk, there’s a good chance you might be able to take your broadband with you at little or no extra cost. That is less likely to be the case with Virgin Media, however, as its UK coverage is less widespread and you’ll have to pay an early cancellation charge if you need to leave Virgin because your new home can’t be connected.
Monthly broadband contracts are flexible enough to suit you if you’re looking for internet connection while you’re staying at your second home. However, think carefully about how much you’ll want to use the internet while you’re there.
Are you likely to be out and about a lot and just need your internet connection for things like planning trips, sharing photos via social media and keeping in touch with friends and family? If so, you might find that mobile broadband is a better and more cost-effective solution as you can plug this in wherever you go in the UK. Or you could simply take advantage of the data that comes with your mobile phone contract. Both of these mobile options obviously can only be considered if you get a good signal at your holiday home destination.
If you are concerned about your credit rating, you’ll be relieved to know that credit checks aren’t as strict for broadband as they are for some other services. You can get monthly broadband deals that don’t require a credit check, and some providers even offer longer contracts on the same basis, so shop around for the best deal for you.
You can find out more in our guide to no credit-check broadband.
You can’t get monthly broadband with every provider. However, if you’ve decided that short term broadband is the way forward for you, you’ll still have plenty of fast, reliable broadband deals to choose from.
As mentioned earlier, monthly rolling broadband with no contract tends to cost a bit more each month than you’d pay for a 12, 18 or 24-month broadband contract. You may also have to pay for your broadband router as well as paying a higher set-up fee (or pay a set-up fee with providers who don’t charge one for longer contracts). You won’t get the free gifts and introductory offers that you can sometimes get with longer contracts, either.
However, since you risk incurring early cancellation charges if you can’t commit to a contract of a year or more, you might find that a no-contract deal costs in. It could also be worth it for the peace of mind you get from knowing you have that extra flexibility until you’re ready to sign up to a longer-term deal.
Virgin Media is probably the best-known and biggest name that will do you a no-contract broadband deal on a 30-day rolling basis. Other providers who are happy to sign you up for short-term broadband include NOW Broadband, Plusnet, POP Telecom, Direct Save Telecom and full fibre provider Hyperoptic.
You can see the latest short-term broadband contracts available in your area here.
Once you’ve decided that short-term broadband is definitely the way to go for you and your household at the moment, it’s time to decide what you want from your provider. This will help you make sure you choose the provider and deal best suited to you.
Broadband speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The higher the Mbps, the faster your internet will be. Higher speeds generally cost more per month, too, so do your homework to make sure you’re buying enough, but not more, than you need.
Think about what you and any other people you live with use the internet for. How many people are in your household? Do you enjoy streaming live TV or downloading movies or music? Do you have any serious online gamers? Do you need to work or study from home? Do you enjoy using video calls such as Zoom to chat with colleagues, friends and family?
The more you do online and the more people and devices, the higher internet speed you need to get a smooth and enjoyable experience. You’ll manage fine with a lower-speed internet connection if you’re a small household who mainly uses your internet for activities such as browsing the web, sending and receiving emails, checking social media and watching YouTube clips occasionally. If you’re a large household with multiple devices such as TVs, mobile phones, laptops and tablets that will be connecting to your Wi-Fi, you’ll do better with a higher-speed connection.
ADSL broadband is the most widely available broadband and you can get it in almost every part of the UK. ADSL broadband is also known as standard or non-fibre broadband and comes through the copper wires of your existing phone line. This means it is usually easy to install and it tends to be cheaper than the faster, fibre broadband. ADSL broadband usually averages speeds of around 10 or 11Mbps, which is suitable for smaller households with light internet use.
Our guide to ADSL broadband will tell you more.
Fibre broadband is usually faster and tends to be more reliable than ADSL broadband. Speeds generally range between 30 and 1000Mbps (or 1Gbps). At least part of your fibre broadband’s journey to your home broadband router is via fibre-optic cables. Generally speaking, the more your connection uses fibre-optic cables, the faster your broadband speed will be.
You can read more in our fibre broadband guide.
You’ll usually need to have a landline phone connection to get home broadband, but it’s up to you whether you use it to make calls. If you don’t have a landline connection to your home already then you will generally have to have one installed as part of your package. Some rolling monthly broadband packages include a certain amount of calls, for example at weekends, and you can choose to bundle in more if you enjoy chatting on your landline.
If you have plenty of call time included with your mobile phone contract, though, you could become one of the growing numbers of UK households who don’t bother connecting a handset to their landline.
If you want to bundle in TV with your monthly rolling broadband contract, Virgin Media or NOW Broadband might be your best bets, as most other providers who do TV packages require a longer-term commitment. Or you could simply go for Freeview and sign up to Netflix or Amazon Prime – both very portable – to extend your TV viewing options while remaining flexible.
Before you decide on a short-term contract, it’s worth considering other options that will give you a broadband connection without having to have one installed in your home.
With most mobile phone contracts, you can use your data allowance to get online on your laptop and other internet-enabled devices by creating a mobile ‘hotspot’. This is known as tethering and means your mobile device acts as a portable wireless router. This could work fine for minor or occasional tasks but if you’re a heavy internet user you could soon use up your mobile data allowance and potentially incur extra charges, so keep an eye on your usage.
A mobile broadband deal with a dongle or MiFi router will give you portable broadband connection wherever you go and you can get monthly rolling contracts.
Find out more in our mobile broadband guide.
You’ll find free Wi-Fi hotspots in many places throughout the UK and beyond. Lots of restaurants and coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi and are happy for you to connect for the price of a coffee or snack. Shopping centres, stations and other areas within many towns and city centres also offer free Wi-Fi. But be careful - open Wi-Fi is much more prone to hackers, so try not to perform any tasks that involve your personal information when using it.
If you want to connect to free Wi-Fi for longer, your local library is a great place to go. You can usually take along your own mobile, tablet or laptop and connect to their Wi-Fi for free, and many will have computers available for members of the public to use, too.
For more information, have a look at our Wi-Fi hotspots guide.