Little-known way I got superfast broadband without a fixed line or contract – and it only costs me £13 a month | The SunJune 2, 2023
The cost of broadband and other household bills are on the up – but there are clever ways to cut your bill with little effort.
The average UK household pays £33.99 a month for their broadband connection, according to comparison site MoneySuperMarket.
Plus, millions of BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media customers saw their bills rise by up to 14.4% in March and April.
But it's one of the easiest household bills to cut and millions of households are paying hundreds more than they need to each year.
People can often bag savings by haggling with their telecoms provider or ditching and switching when their contract is up.
But I've found a newer, niftier way to get superfast speeds and a cheap connection – even if you don't have a fixed line.
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I recently picked up the keys to a new flat and the dreaded preparation that goes into sorting out my utility bills is well underway.
Decent broadband connections have become an absolute necessity in the post-Covid climate and it's essential that homes are well connected to allow both the ability to work from home and the odd Netflix binge.
But I was hit by two stumbling blocks when searching for and securing a decent broadband package.
Firstly, one would assume that my new-ish build apartment which is just a stone's throw away from the City of London, would be hooked up to high-speed fibre.
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The maximum broadband speeds quoted fell in the region of 60-65mbps, which according to Ofcom is still "superfast".
However, many would argue that the speeds used initially to define "superfast broadband" are outdated – especially when some providers like Virgin Media offer gigabit (1,000mbps) ultrafast speeds.
Then there was another hitch – the cost.
The cheapest deal I could find was with Shell Energy which locked me into an 18-month contract and expected me to pay £17.99 a month for measly 11mpbs speeds.
And to get 67mpbs, the fastest speeds available, I'd have to pay £24 a month for 24 months.
How I beat this
After having a browse online I came across the topic of "mobile broadband".
Unlike conventional fixed line broadband, this gives the homeowner WiFi that's provided through a mobile network by using 4G and 5G signals instead.
EE and Vodafone both offer mobile broadband tariffs which come with high speeds but steep costs.
For example, an EE unlimited 5G mobile broadband package costs a whopping £50 a month.
But I got around this by not taking an "off the shelf" offer and instead bought everything I needed separately.
Households can buy 5G and 4G routers from online marketplaces and can expect to spend anywhere between £49.99 and £369.
The key difference between the two is speed.
Those with a 4G router can expect speeds above 60mpbs and those with a 5G router tend to get over 150mpbs.
I spent £249 on an unlocked 5G router which I bought from Amazon.
Because it's unlocked I'll be able to put any network provider's sim card in without restriction.
But before I checked out I made sure that my new flat had a decent 4G and 5G mobile connection by using the coverage checker on the Ofcom website.
Having decent mobile network coverage is pivotal for this set-up to work at its best.
But to kit it out and ensure I actually have a connection I then came across prepaid data sims.
You can also get these on online marketplaces. They can give you unlimited data for three, six and 18 months depending on what you need.
I spent £229 on an EE sim that gives unlimited data until January 2025 – which equates to just £12.72 a month.
But on top of this, I've got speeds that are more than double what I could have gotten through a fixed line contract.
Of course, it's important to note that the monthly figure excludes the one-off cost of the router.
Max Beckett, broadband expert at Uswitch, said: "For those who have the upfront cash available, combining an unlocked router and preloaded sim is a clever way to cut down long-term costs.
"Preloaded sim and unlocked routers could provide faster broadband for properties with limited fixed-line coverage, such as those in rural areas or older flat blocks.
"But prior to purchase, consumers should check whether to invest in a 4G or 5G router, as many rural areas still do not have 5G capability."
How much I saved
If I was to take out the cheapest but fastest available fixed line broadband deal worth £24 a month, I'd have had to fork out £576 for the whole contract.
Although there's an upfront cost with my nifty hack – I spent £478 in total – it still means that I've saved nearly £100 in the period.
Those who don't require the speeds that 5G services provide could save hundreds more with a 4G router and prepaid sim.
The best part about this trick is that I won't have to worry about broadband bills hitting my doormat for the next 18 months.
Households unwilling to fork out for a prepaid data sim can still purchase a monthly sim-only deal from a network of their choice to use in these routers.
Both Smarty and iD Mobile offer rolling £16 a month contracts with unlimited 4G and 5G data.
There are one or two limitations
Before you go ahead, be aware that there are a couple of limitations with the trick.
If you have a weak phone signal in your area, this broadband option is a no-go – so you'd be better off with a fixed line.
It's also always important to read the small print because some mobile networks come with a "fairy usage policy".
Peter Ames, an expert at Broadband Genie, said: "Most mobile broadband providers also have fair usage policies, which can sometimes be restrictive."
If you breach these monthly "caps" the firm might require that you take out a more expensive deal.
The firm may also slow your speeds if you continue using data above this cap until it refreshes in the following month.
Even if you've bought a prepaid sim you could still be bound by the telecom provider's fair usage policy so do check the terms and conditions before you make a purchase.
However, most fair usage caps are in excess of 650GB per month – including the sim I bought.
And for the majority of households, including my own, this won't be an issue as the average homeowner used around 453GB of data through their broadband each month, according to Broadband Genie.
But if you're worried about breaking this limit – Smarty is the only truly unlimited mobile data provider.
Peter said: "All in all, mobile broadband can be an excellent way of avoiding being stuck on sluggish or potentially unreliable broadband through a fixed-line service, and allows you to tap into faster speeds."
If my tip doesn't sway you and you're set on sticking to fixed line broadband there are a number of ways you can slash your bill.
How can I cut my broadband costs?
Switching contracts is one of the single best ways to save money on your broadband bills.
But if you can't switch mid-contract without facing a penalty, you'd be best to hold off until it's up for renewal.
In the weeks before your contract is up, use comparison sites to familiarise yourself with what deals are available.
It's a known fact that new customers always get the best deals.
Sites like MoneySuperMarket and Uswitch all help you customise your search based on price, speed and provider.
This should make it easier to decide whether to renew your contract or move to another provider.
However, if you do not want to switch and are happy with the service you're getting under your current provider – haggle for a better deal.
You can still make significant savings by renewing your contract rather than rolling on to the tariff you're given after your deal.
One Virgin customer saved up to £210 a year on her bills by haggling alone.
If you need to speak to a company on the phone, be sure to catch them at the right time.
Make some time to negotiate with your provider in the morning.
This way, you have a better chance of being the first customer through on the phone, and the rep won't have worked tirelessly through previous calls which may have affected their stress levels.
It pays to be polite when getting through to someone on the phone, as representatives are less inclined to help rude or aggressive customers.
Knowing what other offers are on the market can help you to make a case for yourself to your provider.
If your provider won't haggle, you can always threaten to leave.
Companies don't want to lose customers and may come up with a last-minute offer to keep you.
It's also worth investigating social tariffs. These broadband packages and discounts have been created for people who are receiving certain benefits.
They're often available to those on income support, universal credit, or disability allowance.
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Around 4.2million households are eligible for these cheaper tariffs but only 55,000 are making use of them.
Prices start from £12 a month, so ask your provider what's on offer.
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