Finding a broadband deal with no upfront cost could help you save money.
However, although these types of deals may initially appear cheaper, they aren't always the best nor most cost-effective option over the long-term.
What types of broadband are available with no upfront cost?
Deals with no set-up fees are available for all internet connection types (ADSL/partial-fibre/full fibre), either as a standalone deal or bundled with other telecommunications services such as a landline phone, mobile, or satellite TV.
But most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that offer deals that include TV - for example Sky broadband or Virgin Media - will usually have upfront costs attached.
What kind of upfront fees are there?
Depending on the provider, upfront costs can mean different things.
The term 'costs' here can mean anything from setup and activation fees, to an installation charge, administration fees, postage fees associated with receiving a router, or an upfront payment for hardware such as a TV box.
Below are some terms which fall under the upfront fees umbrella.
Setup fees, also known as activation fees, are the costs associated with onboarding you to your new provider. This includes the activation of the internet service itself, as well as any administrative expenses that may apply.
If you're signing-up for either standard (ADSL) or superfast broadband (FTTC), you'll need to have an phone line. This is because either all, or part of the connection uses copper telephone wires to deliver your internet.
If you don't have an existing phone line, you'll need a new line installed and activated. And if you have an existing phone line but it's inactive, it will need to be switched back on. These services can carry a fee, even if the deal you've signed up for is advertised as having no set up costs.
With a full fibre connection, although it won't require a phone line to work, you'll probably still need an engineer to visit your home to install the fibre optic cables, as well as any other related equipment. But whether or not you'll be charged for this service will depend on the provider you choose. Sometimes, full fibre providers, such as CommunityFibre or Hyperoptic, will run special offers that waive installation fees.
Delivery of router and/or TV box or other hardware
Some providers charge a small postage and packing fee for the delivery of your new Wi Fi router.
If you’ve signed-up to a deal that includes TV, you may also need to pay a delivery fee for the TV box and its delivery.
Which broadband providers offer deals with no upfront cost?
Some ISPs offer deals that have no upfront cost as standard, while others may sometimes waive them as part of a bundle or promotion, usually in order to tempt new customers.
The following providers offer all or at least some of their broadband deals with no upfront costs: -
Direct Save Telecom
Known for their no-frills broadband packages, Direct Save Telecom (DST) waives upfront fees for any of their deals taken out on 12 or 18-month contracts.
For any of their rolling-monthly contracts, however, a one-time set up fee of £24.95 applies.
And, although DST gives its new customers a free Wi-Fi router, they will charge an £8.95 postage and handling fee.
Plusnet won’t charge any setup or installation fees for customers signing-up to one of their full fibre deals for 24 months.
But for any other broadband service, the following fees apply: -
· Standard (ADSL) – 12- or 18-month contract: £5 activation fee. Rolling-monthly contract: £50 activation fee.
· Partial fibre (FTTC) – 12- or 18-month contract: £10 activation fee.
Shell Energy broadband
Customers signing-up for either a standard or partial fibre broadband deal with Shell Energy will enjoy no upfront cost as standard.
But if you need a new phone line installed or are signing up for a full fibre (FTTP) package, a £60 setup fee applies.
If you opt for one of SSE’s full fibre (FTTP) deals, an engineer will need to visit your home and a connection fee of £35 applies.
Even if you need a new phone line installed, Vodafone waives all setup fees for new customers.
TalkTalk's standalone internet packages usually come without any installation or setup fees. But packages that include TV will come with a charge for the TV box itself.
It’s also important to remember that like a number of other suppliers, TalkTalk has annual contract price rises baked into the terms and conditions of all its broadband deals.
But for an additional cost each month (£3), you can get their ‘Fixed Price Plus Freeze’.
This is essentially a guarantee that the price you pay each month will remain the same for the life of your contract, and that once it comes to an end, won’t rise beyond the annual rate of inflation.
Providers that sometimes offer broadband with no upfront fees
Choosing a deal from one of the following providers will usually incur setup costs. Occasionally these fees will be waived – usually as part of a free gift or promotion but are for a limited-time.
Setup costs with BT range from between £29.99 - £59.99 depending on the type of broadband connection you choose.
With EE, a nominal setup fee of £10 will usually apply for any broadband deal you sign-up for.
Sky charges a flat one-off setup fee of £29.95 for all its internet packages. During promotional periods, Sky may waive this fee, so it’s always worth keeping an eye out – particularly if you’re after a TV and broadband deal.
We spoke with Virgin Media who confirmed that a setup fee of £35 ordinarily applies to all their broadband deals. Although Virgin Media will sometimes offer broadband deals and bundles with free setup, these are always for a limited-time and not the standard.
What are the pros and cons of broadband with no upfront cost?
Opting for an internet deal with no setup fees might sound like a no-brainer, but believe it or not, these deals may result in higher monthly costs during the lifetime of your contract.
Save money on installation fees
Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) carry substantial installation and delivery charges – particularly if you need a new phone line to be installed in your home, or if you choose a deal that includes TV.
Finding a broadband deal that waives these fees can be a good way to save money in the short-term.
If you’re simply after no-frills, standalone internet, you’ll have a bigger range of providers to choose from that have no upfront costs.
If you decide to go for an internet deal with no upfront fees, ensure your monthly charges are reasonable and haven’t been increased in order to compensate for the upfront savings that come with free installation and setup.
Risk missing out on bundles
If you’re looking for internet with a home phone and/or TV bundled-in, finding a deal with no upfront fees might be difficult.
Although some providers like BT and TalkTalk may sometimes offer these types of deals with no upfront costs, their selection of Freeview channels is incomparable to what other major providers like Virgin Media and Sky offers – both of whom usually charge activation and installation fees as standard.
May be more expensive long-term
Broadband packages that come with no setup cost may not necessarily be the cheapest option overall.
Sometimes, providers who offer deals with no upfront cost will charge a higher monthly subscription fee to make up for free setup. And those providers that do have upfront costs will actually charge less per month overall.
Risk missing out on top speeds
Full fibre (FTTP) – the fastest and most reliable type of broadband available – also almost always has charges for installation. This is usually because it isn’t widely available just yet, and homes with existing fibre optic lines are few and far between.
Virgin Media, which uses a mixture of coaxial and fibre cables to deliver fast upload and download speeds, has a range of standalone internet, as well as internet with TV bundles. However, these are rarely offered without a setup charge.
With any internet deal you find, because you'll be locked in for at least 12 months, give serious consideration to what it is you're after. Remember: depending on the provider, what you save now in upfront fees could end up costing you in other areas such as speeds or add-ons like TV or home phone benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a router included with no setup fee broadband?
Nowadays, most broadband deals – inclusive of those with no setup fee – comes with a free Wi Fi router.
But some providers may charge for postage and packing, with costs usually ranging between £5 - £10.
Do 'free broadband' deals still exist?
Unfortunately, free broadband deals no longer exist. These deals were often marketed as ‘free for the first six months’. However, as these would be for ADSL or FTTC internet connections, you would still need to pay for phone line rental, meaning the deal was not free.
Ofcom has since introduced regulations that meant providers are no longer allowed to split the cost of a landline and internet service, effectively putting an end to these offers.
However, if you receive means-tested state benefits, such as Universal Credit or Pension Credit, you may qualify for social tariff broadband: a service offered by a number of ISPs to provide low-income individuals and households a fast and stable internet connection at a discounted price.
Is it possible to go full fibre (FTTP) with no upfront cost?
Absolutely. A number of providers who either use BT Openreach’s network (e.g., Plusnet, Vodafone), or those who build and maintain their own independent network – such as CommunityFibre and Hyperoptic – do offer full fibre (FTTP) with no setup fees.
However, even though a full fibre connection doesn't require an active phone line, you’ll still likely need an engineer to visit your home to complete the setup and installation process.
How long does broadband installation usally take?
It takes approximately In most cases, broadband installation takes between 5 and 14 days from the date of sign-up..
Your new connection should begin on the same day your old one is switched off.
Can I get no upfront cost broadband without a credit check?
Yes. Some providers offer broadband without a credit check.
You could also look into mobile broadband. Deals are available through the UK’s ‘big four’ mobile operators – EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone. These operators generally offer mobile broadband on a flexible, pay-as-you-go option, which won’t require a credit check.
How do I find cheap broadband deals?
Use our postcode checker to see what kind of broadband deals are available in your area.
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