BT and Sky have both announced that they're hiking up their prices once again - but you don't have to pay them. Under Ofcom rules, any unexpected price rises mean you can quit your contract early without paying a penalty fee.
BT's price increases are all in the region of an inflation-beating 5-6% on standard and fibre broadband deals. They include:
Standard broadband: a £2 per month increase from £33.99 to £35.99 for the "all-in" deal including line rental, as of 2nd April
Fibre broadband: a £2.50 per month increase from £39.99 to £42.49 for Infinity 1, and £51.49 to £53.99 for Infinity 2, as of 2nd April
BT Sport: will cost £3.50 per month via BT TV from August (it was previously free). Via Sky TV the price goes up from 2nd April by £1.50 per month if you have BT Broadband, or £1 per month if you don't
Calls packages: also increasing across the board from 2nd April
Sky's price rises are mostly limited to line rental, but customers on older deals will also see increases:
Line rental: up 9% from £17.40 per month to £18.99 from 1st March
Older broadband and TV deals: will rise on average just under £3 per month from 1st March. The exact amount will vary depending on what deal you're on
How to cancel your broadband contract without penalty
If you aren't happy about the proposed price increases then you do have options. Ofcom states that you can end a contract without penalty if there's a price rise you weren't warned about when you first signed up.
If you're still within the minimum terms of your contract (eg. you're six months into a 12 month deal), you must tell your provider of your intention to quit within 30 days of being informed of the price rise. Both Sky and BT began informing their customers toward the end of January, so move quickly if you want to switch.
If you're outside the minimum terms of the contract (eg. you signed a 12 month deal 18 months ago), you're free to leave at any time regardless.
Switching broadband providers is likely to be your best option for saving money. The best deals are almost always reserved for new customers. Our postcode checker shows what packages are available in your area.
And what if you're happy with your provider? You can, of course, try haggling. You can sometimes get a better deal if you're willing to enter into a new contract. Even so, it's still worth arming yourself with information on the best broadband deals so you know what you're asking for. And if no offer is forthcoming remember the golden rule of haggling — always be willing to walk away.
But that's a way off. In the meantime there are steps you can take to ensure you achieve speeds closer to what you were expecting.
You may not know that your Wi-Fi router can have a massive impact on the internet speeds you get throughout your home. Since the provider supplies the router we tend to assume that they're automatically good enough. But that isn't always true - sometimes they're old or slow, and not capable of handling a superfast broadband connection.
In these cases, upgrading to a more powerful router can help speed up your broadband dramatically.
How a new Wi-Fi router can help
Let's start with the technical bit.
The performance of a router is determined by the wireless standard that it uses. The best modern routers use the latest standard, called 802.11ac. It's the fastest available, and it runs on the 5GHz band which is clean and interference free.
802.11ac superceded the 802.11n standard. This is much slower - perhaps half or even a third of the speed - and it commonly runs on the 2.4GHz band which is much more prone to interference from other electrical devices in your home. As a result, the signal is not just slower but it gets much weaker the further it travels.
The router as a bottleneck
Many broadband providers supply an N-rated router with their packages, and it may not be up to the job. Tests show that 802.11n routers have a real world top speed of 50-100Mb, at close range. At a distance of 20 metres, and with a few obstacles like walls and floors in the way, that speed can be slashed in half - or worse.
So, if you've got a high-end fibre package and are getting speeds of 50Mb or more, then an N-rated router simply won't cut it. Your broadband is faster than your router, and the router becomes a bottleneck. Even on an entry-level fibre deal, with speeds of 25Mb, you'll be pushing it. You might find you get good speeds downstairs, but that they fall off sharply in the bedrooms.
In both cases, upgrading to an AC-rated router is likely to give you a major speed boost. The exception is standard broadband. Here, the speeds top out at 16Mb, and in practice are usually somewhat slower. An N-rated router should be able to handle this.
An easy way to check if you're affected is to use our free Speed Test tool. Stand next to your router and run the test on your laptop. Then head to the furthest corner of your house and run it again. If there's a major discrepancy in your results then it could be a sign that you need to upgrade your router. (Or it could mean you need to find a better position for your router.)
Do you need a new router?
You can see why a slow router can mean you don't get the broadband speeds you were expecting. So do you need to upgrade?
When you're shopping for broadband deals, all our comparison tables have icons to show what kind of router you're getting. Click the More Info button to see whether there's an option to upgrade to a better router when you sign up.
What router do you get?
Many of the major providers now supply AC-rated routers with all their packages. This includes TalkTalk, Vodafone and Virgin, while Sky also provides the new Sky Q Hub if you are a TV customer.
BT, Plusnet and EE supply 802.11ac routers with their fibre packages, and N-rated routers with standard broadband. BT offers a paid upgrade for standard broadband customers, but the other two don't.
Origin customers get an N-rated router, and need to pay at checkout to upgrade to a faster AC-rated unit.
If you've been with a provider for some time it's possible you're still using an older N-rated router and aren't getting the fastest possible speeds from your broadband. In this case it's worth checking with the provider to see if they'll swap your router for a newer model for free. Some may give you one in exchange for you signing a new contract. Just make sure you know exactly what you're getting, and that you aren't charged or placed on a new contract without knowing.
Lastly, a handful of providers, including Plusnet, Zen and Origin, allow you to use own router, so you can shop around and check independent reviews to get the best model for your needs.
The router is a frequently overlooked part of the broadband service. It's natural to assume that broadband problems are the fault of the provider, but the reality is that if your router is too slow you can easily be cutting your internet speed in half without even realising.
Give your router a quick check now to see if you would benefit from an upgrade.
New independent research carried out on behalf of the ASA has confirmed what we've long suspected: there's widespread confusion about all aspects of broadband speeds. The ASA was concerned that this could prove to be misleading.
The research found that:
Speed is an important factor for a significant number of consumers when choosing a broadband package
Understanding of broadband speeds is low overall, with many consumers not knowing what speed they need
Most consumers believe they will receive the advertised speed, or close to it, when in practice most won't
A recent report from the BBC's Watchdog also highlighted the problem of misleading speed adverts. Broadband providers are currently able to advertise packages with speeds up to a certain level, so long as 10% of their customers can achieve that level. The vast majority of customers will get slower - and often considerably slower - speeds.
Analysis of speed test results shows that the typically advertised 'up to 17Mb' figure may not even meet these standards - most providers' customers have a top 10% speed closer to 15Mb or, in some cases, 14Mb. Across rural areas, the top 10% speed for products advertised as 'up to 17Mb' is just short of 10Mb.
A period of consultation is underway, ahead of a likely change to be announced in the Spring of 2017.
What you need to know about broadband speeds
Hopefully, the result of all this will be greater clarity, ensuring you know exactly what you're signing up for when you buy a broadband deal. We don't yet know what the solution will be, and in reality broadband speeds are quite complicated. Here's what you need to know.
How broadband speeds are advertised
The current rules state that headline speeds must only be attainable by at least 10% of customers, and must be preceded by the words 'up to'. There should also be additional qualification to help people understand any other factors at play. However, in practice the industry appears to have settled on an advertised speed roughly 2Mb higher than the rules show have allowed.
Broadband speeds are usually much slower than advertised
Use our free Speed Test tool to see what speed you're getting, and how it compares to what you were expecting. We also produce a monthly report showing the average download speeds for the main providers in the UK so you can see which are the best and worst performing.
It's impossible to advertise an exact speed
Even though the 'up to' claims may not be satisfactory, it isn't possible to advertise an exact speed instead. There are numerous factors that affect broadband speeds, to the extent that two houses on the same street with the same deal may get different levels of service.
The main factor that affects broadband speed
The biggest problem is the distance between your home and the nearest street cabinet (for most fibre broadband packages) or nearest exchange (for standard broadband). This is because part or all of the connection runs over copper lines, and the further the signal has to travel over these lines the weaker it gets. It's worse for rural areas, where these distances tend to be much longer, and the rural infrastructure is also less likely to have been upgraded to anything newer or faster.
Virgin is not affected by this
An exception to this is Virgin Media, which uses its own cable network, as well as smaller fibre-to-the-property providers, which bring the connection direct to your home rather than your nearest street cabinet.
Other things that slow down your broadband
There are many other factors at play, too. Smaller providers may slow down during peak hours because they don't have enough bandwidth to service all of their customers at maximum speed. Some providers may have traffic management policies in place to restrict speeds on the heaviest users. Your Wi-Fi router could also be a problem. Many providers supply cheaper, older technology routers that slow down over longer distances or are unable to deliver the full speed of your broadband connection.
How you can improve your broadband speed
It's possible to speed up your broadband in several ways. These include making sure your router is positioned in the best place in your home, and potentially upgrading the router to a faster model. For more tips check out our 12 tips to boost you broadband speed.
What broadband speed you need
The speed of broadband you need depends mostly on two things: how many people will be using your connection, and what you're using the internet for. A small household just using Facebook and the web can get away with a slower package. A large household with people watching Netflix and play games online will need something much faster. Read more in our guide to what broadband speed you need.
Use our free Speed Test tool today to find out fast out how fast your broadband is.
Our revamped listings help to bring much needed clarity to broadband pricing. They now show exactly how much a package will cost you each month, as well as the total amount you'd pay in the first year. In addition, we clearly outline any upfront costs you'd need to pay for things like equipment or installation - the exact kind of things that so often get hidden in the small print.
Broadband pricing has often been complicated and confusing. Our enhanced comparison tables bring greater consistency to the way different providers' offers are presented. By default, packages are sorted by the first year cost - which includes any setup fees - so you'll be able to see exactly how much you would pay in the first 12 months of any deal.
We fully support the new guidelines at Broadband.co.uk. Our purpose is to help you find the best broadband deal at the best price, and we've long argued that greater consistency and clarity was needed in the way that deals were advertised.
With the rules now in effect, we've overhauled the way we present pricing information to you. These are the main changes you'll find:
Full monthly cost - All packages now show the total price you will pay each month, even if the provider is still separating out broadband and line rental charges. You'll always be able to compare like-for-like.
Full first-year cost - Find out how much a package will cost you in the first year, once introductory offers have been accounted for, and including any additional upfront costs you may need to pay. If you'll receive promotional cashback or account credit during the year, this is deducted from the total. (Vouchers and other rewards aren't included.)
Upfront cost - Say goodbye to hidden fees. Any extras like setup, equipment, or delivery charges are now shown as a single all-in total beneath the monthly price. (If you need a new telephone line, additional prices may apply, see More Info or click Go to site.)
Broadband-only deals - Those packages that are sold as broadband-only but still require a phone line - so you need to shop around and pay someone else for separate line rental - are now either shown on their own Broadband-Only tab for the associated provider, or are clearly marked as needing separate line rental.
More info - Hit the More info button to get a full breakdown on each package. This includes the all-in price and how this compares to what's advertised (in cases where the provider still presents differently), along with details of telephone line requirements and what else you get with the package.
Each month hundreds of thousands of broadband customers test their speeds with our broadband speed test. Since the end of 2015 there's been little change in average speeds from home broadband with average download speeds for March 2016 coming in at 20.41Mb and average upload speeds at 3.73Mb.
However, our test also supports users testing on tablets and smartphones, meaning we can report on mobile broadband speeds from 4G and 3G networks. While home broadband has been stable, mobile broadband average download speed has risen by a full 2Mb since December and upload speed by 1.6Mb, the average mobile broadband speeds for March 2016 were 15.31Mb download and 3.71Mb upload.
When the big mobile broadband and home broadband providers' average speeds compete on the same table, it's only Virgin Media's DOCSIS 3 cable broadband that outperforms mobile broadband, clocking in 46.95Mb, with upload speeds at 5.9Mb.4GEE is ahead of BT Broadband with download speeds clocking in at 18.71Mb, faster than BTby 1.07Mb. 4GEE and Vodafonemobile broadband sit in overall 2nd and 4th places beating all home big broadband providers' averages bar Virgin Media, with Vodafone's 16.26Mb average mobile download speed only 1.38Mb behind BT.
Of the home broadband providers Post Office Broadband still has the UK's slowest broadband speed overall with only 4.38Mb average downloads and 1.67Mb average uploads, well below the average speeds expected for copper phoneline broadband. Three tested with the slowest mobile broadband at 12.09Mb downloads, but this still beat home broadband offerings from Sky and EE.
When the supplementary broadband providers table (see page 4 of the report) is included we can see that fibre to the building provider Hyperoptic tested as the fastest broadband overall with 91.7Mb average downloads and 77.3Mb uploads.
December 2015 saw average download speeds for fixed line providers recorded by users of our broadband speed test remain stable in comparison to the results from November, coming in at 20.56Mb. Average upload speeds saw a 0.15Mb drop to 3.68Mb.
Of the big 5 home broadband providers, Virgin Media remained in first place but their average download speeds appear to have levelled out since rolling out their 200Mb service, remaining stable at 46.57Mb, with upload speeds at 5.66Mb. BT Broadband retain second place with average download and upload speeds steady at 17.58Mb and 4.42Mb respectively. TalkTalk move up to third place, with download speeds stable at 12.8Mb and upload speeds dropping by 0.21Mb to 1.86Mb. Plusnet drop into fourth place, dropping by 0.59Mb to 12.6Mb for average download speeds with a 0.39Mb decrease to 2.85Mb for average upload speeds. Finally, Sky remain in fifth place with a 1.1Mb fall in download speeds to 10.92Mb, while their upload speeds decreased by 0.41Mb to 2.47Mb.
Results from users testing with mobile-enabled devices including phones and tablets suggests that mobile broadband speeds saw an overall rise since November. Taking mobile broadband separately from home broadband, EE Mobile retain first place, with download speeds increasing by 1.1Mb to 17.55Mb and upload speeds holding at 3.87Mb. Vodafone are in second place, seeing download speeds fall slightly by 0.19Mb to 13.76Mb and upload speeds steady at 2.82Mb. O2 are in third place with download speeds at 11.78Mb - a respectable 1.4Mb increase over last month - and upload speeds at 2.53Mb. Three are still in fourth place, with average download speeds of 9.84Mb and upload speeds of 2.56Mb.
When mobile broadband and home broadband average speeds compete on the same table, 4GEE is head-to-head with BT's second place with a difference of only 0.03Mb. 4GEE and Vodafone mobile broadband sit in overall 3rd and 4th places beating all home broadband providers' averages bar Virgin Media and BT. This suggests that 4G broadband may have higher uptake levels relative to 3G compared to uptake of the fastest possible fibre broadband products relative to cheaper options.
This month's supplementary broadband providers table (see page 4 of the report) found Post Office Broadband had the UK's slowest broadband speed overall with only 2.55Mb average downloads and only 0.33Mb average uploads. Hyperoptic was fastest overall with 102.1Mb average downloads and 92.13Mb uploads.
Direct Save Telecom are already one of the cheapest broadband suppliers out there with their £1.95 broadband and calls package. However, this hasn't stopped them from introducing a new, cheaper deal! They now offer a fantastic unlimited broadband contract for only 95p a month!
This deal is on a 12 month contract and comes with a free wireless router. It also features an only pay for the calls you make phone package, charged at the standard Direct Save call rates. This is ideal for those who primarily use the inclusive minutes on their mobile phone contracts to make calls and don't want to pay extra for landline call features they simply won't use.
While you will need to pay £17.75 line rental a month, you can reduce these costs by paying £138 for a year up front, making it the equivalent of only £11.50 a month!
Only available within Direct Save Telecom's low cost network area, more expensive packages are available for those outside of their network area. One-off setup fee of £24.95 applies along with £8.95 delivery fee for the router. Calls to UK landlines cost 15.75p to connect and then 9.5p a minute.
Despite not having celebrated a family holiday yesterday, Britain still gets to enjoy America's traditional equivalent to the January sales, Black Friday, with headline grabbing special offers available not just today, but all weekend and on Monday too.
This year several broadband suppliers have jumped onto the Black Friday bandwagon and are offering some record breaking special offers, some of the best we've ever seen.
Offers only apply to new customers of the relevant broadband provider who sign up online who do not need a new telephone line or number. Minimum contracts apply for all deals. Line rental required on all but Hyperoptic's deals. Setup costs and additional charges may apply. Offers may be restricted to particular coverage areas. Rewards must be claimed online after activation. One reward per household. Unless otherwise stated, offers are valid until the end of 2015-11-30. Offers may be withdrawn or amended at any time. Click through to the providers' websites for further details, terms and conditions and confirmation of eligibility.
October 2015 saw average download speeds for fixed line providers recorded by users of our broadband speed test rise by 2.76Mb in comparison to the results from September, coming in at 21.88Mb. Average upload speeds saw a 0.4Mb increase to 4.65Mb.
Virgin Media's average download speeds rose by 6.31Mb to 48.66Mb, with upload speeds also improving to 6.64Mb. Virgin have recently begun rolling out their 200Mb service for new and existing customers, which accounts for the significant increase in download speeds.
BT Broadband retain second place with average download speeds increasing by 1.32Mb to 18.84Mb, and upload speeds increasing by 0.45Mb to 5.59Mb. Plusnet hold third place, remaining stable at 15.09Mb for average download speeds with only a 0.33Mb decrease to 4.25Mb for average upload speeds. TalkTalk stay in fourth place, with download speeds at 12.89Mb and upload speeds at 2.32Mb. Finally, Sky are in fifth place with a 0.87Mb rise in download speeds, putting them at 12.76Mb, while their upload speeds increased by 0.38Mb to 3.64Mb.
With the recent improvements to our speed test, we're now able to record results from mobile users on their phones and tablets. EE Mobile are in first place, with download speeds averaging at 17.81Mb and upload speeds at 5.36Mb. Vodafone are in second place, with download speeds at 12.95Mb and upload speeds at 3.79Mb. O2 are in third place with download and upload speeds at 11.03Mb and 3.81Mb respectively. This leaves Three in fourth place, with average download speeds of 9.03Mb and upload speeds of 3.45Mb.
Virgin Media were already the fastest of the big broadband providers, but since the 1st of October they've become even faster! With the introduction of the new hybrid fibre-coaxial VIVID packages, Virgin Media customers can enjoy download speeds of up to 200Mb!
The speed difference compared to fibre-to-the-cabinet competitors is thanks to Virgin Media's DOCSIS 3 technology. Their insulated coaxial cable houses a thicker copper core and is run directly into your home. This means that there's much less signal loss than there is over the copper phone lines used by most fibre broadband providers, so the speeds you can get are much faster and you won't experience slowdowns with distance from Virgin's street cabinets. The launch of VIVID sees tweaks to the protocol and technology used to get even more speed out of Virgin's existing hybrid fibre-coaxial network.
Interested? Why not use our postcode checker to see if you can get Virgin Media in your area, then check out the following better than half price deals!
Want to add a Virgin Media TV package, currently reduced in price for 9 months? VIVID Big Bundles start from only £19.99 a month. The Big Bang package comes with 130+ channels and VIVID 100. If you want the faster VIVID 200 speeds, then the Big Kahuna bundles come with over 230 channels, while the Big Daddy has over 260!
Existing customers can also benefit from the faster speeds with the option to opt into a speed increase rolling out between the 1st of October and June 2016, with 90% of customers expected to have the option available by the end of 2015. Customers on slower speed tiers are also expected to see a boost in upload speeds.
Broadband discount offers for new customers only. Time limited introductory offers. Products only available in Virgin Media cabled streets - use our postcode checker to find out if this is available in your area. £49.95 set-up fee applies to standalone broadband packages. Line rental required for phone and TV bundles at £16.99 a month, or £164 for a year up front.