Signing up to a broadband deal with no upfront payment is one way you could keep costs down on your broadband. Read on to help you decide whether a broadband contract without upfront fees could be right for you.

Can I get free broadband?

Not so long ago you’d often see providers offering ‘free broadband’ to attract new customers – but when you looked closer, you’d find there was a catch and it wasn’t really free at all. For example, your broadband would only be free for a short period, you’d still have to pay for line rental or there would be other hidden costs.

Industry regulator Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority cracked down on broadband providers after research showed that this approach was confusing and misleading customers. To stay within the rules, broadband providers now have to show all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs and be clear about the contract length and how much it will cost after any discounts end. 

These changes put an end to ‘free broadband’, but as it was never really free, customers didn’t lose out. Instead they gained by being able to more easily compare broadband deals and understand how much they’d actually be paying.

So, although unfortunately free broadband doesn’t exist, you can get broadband packages where you don’t pay anything up front. This means you get free setup or installation and a free broadband router – you just pay the monthly bills once your broadband service is set up. And although you can’t get free broadband, providers are still very keen to attract new customers and there are plenty of very competitively priced broadband deals to be had.

Is broadband with no upfront cost right for me?

If you want to get broadband while you’re on a tight budget, then broadband with no upfront payment could help you manage the cost. Setup costs can be as high as £80, depending on which provider, contract length and broadband speed you’re looking at. However, the monthly bills will always be your biggest expense when it comes to your broadband contract.

Therefore, it’s important to look at the cost of any broadband deal for the whole life of the contract. By taking into account any upfront costs as well as the monthly charge, you’ll be able to compare broadband deals and see which add up to the best price for you. You might find that a broadband deal with an upfront cost works out cheaper overall than broadband with free setup. 

Where can I get cheap broadband?

If you’re considering broadband with no upfront cost, the chances are you’re looking for cheap broadband deals that will give you and your household access to the internet without breaking the bank. The good news is that there are many different broadband deals available that help make broadband more affordable. 

A good way to start looking for cheap broadband deals is to check out what’s available in the area where you live through a comparison site such as this one. Just put in your postcode and then you’ll get a list of broadband providers that cover your area and the monthly cost of different kinds of packages and contracts, including any upfront costs. As well as broadband-only deals, you’ll be able to compare the best deals for broadband and phone and broadband and TV, if you’re looking to bundle in any additional services.

To get more tips on finding the best broadband deal when you’re on a tight budget, check out our guide to broadband for low-income families.

Which providers offer broadband deals with no upfront cost?

There’s a good choice of providers who do broadband deals without upfront fees. In the table on this page you’ll find all the deals available at the moment that include free broadband setup. You’ll also see some deals listed that have a setup charge of £10 or less, which will help you compare different options.

Even with broadband deals with free setup, you’ll have to pay for a landline to be installed if you don’t already have one – this could set you back around £50. Remember that new deals are coming up all the time, so keep checking if you don’t see a deal that suits you at the moment.

Some of the providers who regularly offer broadband deals with no setup fee are Vodafone, TalkTalk, Plusnet, John Lewis Broadband and Shell Energy Broadband. With others, such as BT broadband and Direct Save Telecom broadband, you can usually find some broadband deals with free setup but with a £9.99 charge for post and packing on your wireless router.

Since deals change regularly, it’s worth having a look at all the broadband deals currently available in your area. Simply go to our broadband providers page and put in your postcode. You’ll then be able to look at the latest prices and compare broadband deals with no upfront cost with those that do charge a setup fee.

Remember to add up the whole cost for the length of contract you’re interested in, taking into account any upfront charges along with the monthly cost, to find out which are the cheapest broadband deals you can get at the moment. Take a look at our broadband provider reviews if you’d like to see what other people think of the providers you’re interested in.

Will I need a credit check to get broadband with no upfront cost?

Are you worried that your credit rating might stop you getting a broadband deal? If so, you’ll be glad to know that credit checks aren’t usually as strict when it comes to broadband as they are when you’re going for some other services.

Plusnet is one of the broadband providers that doesn’t run credit checks and offers broadband deals with no upfront fees. TalkTalk is another provider that offers broadband deals with no upfront cost, and although it does run a credit check, TalkTalk says very few people won’t pass it. 

What should I look for in a good broadband deal?

Whatever kind of broadband deal you’re looking for, it’s a good idea to understand a little about the different types of broadband available and the kind of packages you could get. This will help you make sure you choose the provider and deal best suited to you.

What broadband speed should I go for?

Megabits per second (Mbps) is the unit used to measure broadband speed. The higher the number of Mbps, the faster your broadband will be. You’ll generally pay more for the higher speeds, so have a think about how your household will use your broadband to make sure you go for something that’s fast enough but isn’t more than you need.

For example, how many people are in your household and what do you tend to use the internet for? The more people and devices you have and the more things you do on the internet, the higher the speed you should aim for.

A lower-speed internet connection of 10 or 11Mbps should suit you fine if yours is a small household and you don’t use your internet for much more than browsing the web, sending and receiving emails and checking social media. If you’re a bigger household and use lots of devices such as TVs, mobile phones, laptops and tablets, a superfast connection of at least 30Mbps will be better for you all.

What’s better – ADSL or fibre broadband?

The type of broadband service you go for all depends on your budget, what you want to use your internet for and what’s available where you live. You can find both ADSL and fibre broadband deals with no upfront cost.

ADSL broadband

ADSL broadband, also known as standard or non-fibre broadband, tends to be the cheapest and slowest type of broadband. It is also the most widely available, so you should be able to get it almost anywhere you live in the UK.

ADSL broadband is delivered through the copper wires of your existing phone line. That means it is usually easy to install and it will keep costs down if you already have a suitable phone line, as you won’t have to pay extra to have one put in. Its speeds usually average around 10 or 11Mbps, so they are most suited to smaller households with light internet use.

Find out more in our ADSL guide.

Fibre broadband

Fibre broadband comes in at higher speeds – between 30 and 1000Mbps (or 1Gbps). It is generally more reliable than ADSL broadband and is available to the vast majority of UK homes, although you’ll usually pay a bit more for fibre than ADSL. With fibre broadband, at least part of its journey to your home broadband router is through fibre-optic cables. The more fibre-optic cable your broadband connection has, the faster your broadband speed will be — so a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connection will be a lot faster than a fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) one. 

Can I get a free phone line with my broadband deal?

You’ll need a phone line to get most types of home broadband. If you don’t already have a phone line in your home then you’ll need to pay to have one installed. This could cost around £50. Many homes already have a suitable landline connection, so you wouldn’t pay any extra. Some broadband packages include a certain amount of free calls, for example at weekends.

You can usually choose to bundle in extra calls which could save you money if you know you’ll be using your landline a lot. If you already have lots of call time included with your mobile phone contract, though, you could save some money by not plugging in a handset to your landline and using up your mobile minutes instead.

Can I get TV and broadband with no upfront cost?

If you want to bundle in TV channels with your broadband, you’ll pay an upfront cost with most providers. TalkTalk is one of the few that does TV and broadband deals with no setup fee, but you might find special deals with other providers from time to time, so it’s always worth checking what’s available via our broadband providers’ page.

I can’t afford a broadband deal at the moment – can I still get online?

If your budget won’t stretch to any kind of broadband deal right now, you can still find a few ways of getting access to the internet. You could call these ‘free broadband’, but of course they’re less convenient than having your own connection at home.

Check out your local library

Public libraries can be great places to go to get free internet access. In most libraries you’ll find computers with internet access that you can use without charge. You can often get free Wi-Fi access too, if you take your own devices such as a mobile phone or laptop with you to the library. If you have students in your household, they’ll often have access to computers at school or college and can get on the internet for free while they’re there.

Use Wi-Fi hotspots

Many places throughout the UK have free Wi-Fi hotspots. You’ll find them in lots of restaurants, coffee shops and many other areas within town and city centres such as shopping centres and stations. Though be careful - open Wi-Fi is prone to many more internet security risks than normal broadband.

For more information, have a look at our guide to Wi-Fi hotspots

Make more use of your mobile phone

If you and anyone else in your household have a mobile phone contract with data included, make sure you’re using up everything you’re paying for. If you use your mobile data when you’re at home, it could ease the strain on your home broadband, meaning you could go for a slower and cheaper broadband deal. 

You could even use your mobile phone’s data allowance to create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot that will get you online on your laptop and other internet-enabled devices without using your home broadband. This works best for occasional tasks as it could soon eat up your data allowance, so keep an eye on your usage to make sure you’re not swapping cheaper broadband bills for hefty surcharges on your mobile phone contract.