Broadband.co.uk Blog

Regular Broadband-related news and comment from the Broadband.co.uk team.

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Rural broadband

Why is rural broadband so slow, and what can you do about it?

Posted on 2016-08-03 16:16 in Features

What comes to mind when you think of the British countryside? The rolling hills? The quaint tea rooms? Cricket on the village green? How about terrible broadband?

Back in March Ofcom released the results of its latest broadband performance survey, and it was gloomy reading for rural households.

Ofcom's data showed that internet speeds in rural areas are less than a third of those in urban areas. It showed that speeds for country dwellers have barely budged in the last three years, and that 75% of households are stuck on internet connections of 10Mb or slower.

It's even worse in the most remote areas. Another survey from the NFU suggested that more than half of its members were getting by on speeds of less than 2Mb.

Meanwhile, Europe's Digital Progress Report, from the European Commission, highlights just how far the UK's rural broadband infrastructure lags behind the rest of the continent. Just 45.9% of British rural homes have access to superfast broadband, compared to 97% in The Netherlands, 89% in Switzerland, and approaching two-thirds in rural parts of former Eastern bloc states like Slovenia and Lithuania.

The cause of slow rural broadband

The causes of slow internet speeds mostly relate to location and infrastructure.

Most people in the UK get at least part of their broadband connection delivered over the copper telephone network. Even most fibre broadband services are actually only part fibre. The further your connection has to travel over copper lines, the slower it gets, so the distance you live from your nearest telephone exchange (for standard broadband) or street cabinet (for fibre), the slower your service will be.

In towns and cities these distances tend to be shorter, so the speeds are faster. In rural areas, the opposite is true.

To make matters worse, upgrades to the infrastructure often only occur where it is economically viable. This inevitably results in areas of low population density being excluded. Many rural exchanges and cabinets have not been upgraded to be able to provide faster broadband speeds.

A faster future?

There are plans in place to improve broadband speeds across the UK, especially in hard to reach areas.

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is a Government-funded body tasked with this, with the aim of extending superfast coverage to 95% of UK households and ensuring a modest 2Mb service is available to everyone.

The Better Broadband subsidy scheme has been set up for the latter. It targets around 300,000 of the most remote properties, and subsidises the installation of a wireless or satellite broadband service to the tune of around £350. You may be eligible if you're unable to get a 2Mb service currently, so long as there are no plans to install fibre in your area in the next 12 months.

However, as our guide to rural broadband explains, these alternative services do not come without a few caveats to be aware of.

So, what are your options?

While there's no magic solution, you do have plenty of options if you want a service that offers more than the bare minimum performance.

Our rural broadband guide gives you everything you need to know about getting the fastest internet access in the countryside. It explains all the factors that can hit fibre and standard broadband speeds — you can use our coverage checker to find out whether you are likely to be affected.

And if broadband from the main providers isn’t going to work out for you, we’ve got a full lowdown of the other services you can choose. These range from smaller, local providers bringing ultrafast fibre broadband to select regions using their own infrastructure, to mobile broadband, to niche services like satellite and fixed wireless broadband.

You don’t have to settle for sub-standard internet performance. Check out our rural broadband guide today to help get your service up to speed.

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Game of Thrones on NOW TV

How you can watch Game of Thrones in the UK

Posted on 2016-06-07 15:56 in Features

Game of Thrones Season 6 is well under way, and it's still the hottest show on TV. But what's the best way to keep up with the action in Westeros? Read on to find out how you can watch Game of Thrones legally in the UK. And we'll keep the post spoiler-free, because if you want to binge on the boxsets right from the start there are ways to do that, too.

Sky Atlantic and Sky Go

The only way to watch Game of Thrones on broadcast TV in the UK is through Sky Atlantic. For the keenest fans the show goes out at 2am on Mondays, simulcast with HBO in the States. This is followed by a more reasonable 9pm repeat.

If you're a Sky+ customer with Sky Atlantic, you also get access to Sky Go through a web browser or mobile app. This enables you to watch the show live as it's broadcast, or on catch-up afterwards. The cheapest Sky+ deal with Sky Atlantic is priced at £20 per month. There are also lots of great value Sky broadband and TV bundles available. If you're a Sky Q customer you can of course watch your Sky TV shows anywhere.

The kicker is that Sky Atlantic is only available if you have got a Sky satellite dish. If you're a Virgin, BT or TalkTalk customer, you'll need to look to other online services to get your GoT fix.

Game of Thrones on NOW TV

The easiest way to watch Game of Thrones online without being a Sky TV customer is with a NOW TV subscription. This Sky-owned streaming service has packages starting at just £6.99 per month for the NOW TV Entertainment pass, which includes Sky Atlantic. Among the 11 other channels in the package is FOX, which means you'll be able to watch the next season of The Walking Dead online, too.

With NOW TV you can watch live or on catch-up, where shows are available for 30 days. It comes with a two week free trial and there's no contract so you can cancel at any time.

You can watch NOW TV on pretty much any entertainment device you can think of. Your options include a dedicated NOW TV box (priced from £14.99), a Chromecast, the PS3 and PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, some LG smart TVs, YouView boxes, Android and iOS phones and tablets, or just a regular web browser. A broadband speed of at least 2.5Mb connection is recommended. For mobile viewing you need at least 450Kb - make sure you have a large enough data allowance to avoid any excess charges.

Watch Game of Thrones boxsets online

If you've fallen behind with the show - or have never seen it - you can watch Game of Thrones boxsets online to get up to speed with the action.

Sky customers can catch up through a Sky+ or Sky Q box, or the Sky Go app. However, shows are only licensed for a set period of time, so may not always be available. Even if you download the episodes they will disappear from your Planner when they expire. It's the same situation on NOW TV, with shows appearing and disappearing on a regular basis.

You can buy seasons 1-5 to download and watch. Season 6 won't be available until after the it has finished broadcasting on Sky. On iTunes the prices range from £12.99 for Season One to £23.99 for Season Five, or £2.49 for single episodes. On Google Play all seasons are £17.49, and single episodes £1.89. On Amazon Instant Video (not including Prime Instant Video) prices go from £9.99 for Season One to £17.99 for Season Five, with episodes between £2.49 and £2.99 each.

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ASA

Broadband providers told to include line rental in their pricing

Posted on 2016-05-06 11:34 in Features

Broadband pricing is set to become a whole lot more straightforward later this year, thanks to a new ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority.

From 31 October, broadband ads will be required to clearly show the total monthly cost for the service, as well as give greater prominence to up-front costs, post-discount pricing, and contract length. The move should bring increased transparency to broadband prices, and make it easier for users to compare services from different providers.

Until now, broadband suppliers have been able to entice new customers with very low and attractive introductory rates, hiding in the small print the line rental fees that typically add an extra £15 or more to the tariff. Additional costs, including price increases after an introductory offer ends, and one-off charges for things like installation and hardware, are also frequently de-emphasised or even hidden in ads. Under the new guidelines, all of these will need to be made clear.

ASA guidelines for price claims in broadband ads:

  • Show all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs; no more separating out line rental
  • Give greater prominence for the contract length and any post-discount pricing
  • Give greater prominence for up-front costs

TalkTalk is the first major broadband provider to announce it will be adopting the changes. The company has said it will scrap separate line rental fees in favour of a new all-in pricing model.

“As long as line rental and broadband are priced separately, the temptation to advertise deals in this way will always be there," said Tristia Harrison, TalkTalk’s Consumer Managing Director. "But it’s time for providers be honest about this - it’s a bad habit we have all been guilty of, it doesn’t serve customers well and it’s time it stopped."

The action comes after a survey by the ASA and Ofcom found that less than a quarter of people could identify the monthly cost of a broadband package after a single viewing of an ad. A further 81% of those questioned were not able to calculate the total cost of a broadband contact.

However, a few concerns have been raised within the industry. Chiefly, these revolve around the requirement to combine broadband and line rental pricing, and how it will affect smaller providers that do not offer line rental, or those that allow customers to take line rental from a different provider. Virgin Media has also complained that the ASA's review of broadband advertising has not addressed claims on broadband speeds, when the quoted speeds are often only attained by 10% of users.

For most customers, the changes should be a welcome step towards bringing clarity to internet pricing. It remains to be seen what new promotions providers will offer to differentiate their products.

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National Average Speeds March 2016

Average mobile broadband speeds rising in 2016 while fixed line home broadband speeds coast at late 2015 levels

Posted on 2016-04-08 16:59 in Announcements News 4GEE EE Hyperoptic Vodafone Three Sky Virgin Media BT Post Office

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 BT by 1.07Mb. 4GEE and Vodafone mobile 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.

Read more Broadband Speed Test Results for March 2016

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Pay online

5 easy ways to slash your broadband bill

Posted on 2016-04-06 10:02 in Features

In these cash conscious times we're all looking for ways to save a little on our bills each month. But how often do you check whether you're still getting a good deal on your broadband? Chances are, not often enough. A recent survey by NatWest shows that only 55% of us regularly compare broadband deals, while nearly a third never do it. Meanwhile, a massive 39% reckon they aren't getting good value for money.

These stats are not unrelated. Without taking the time to shop around, you'll be left paying over the odds for something that doesn't do the job. It need not be the case; cutting your broadband bill is easy if you know where to start.

1. Compare prices

Finding the best deals available to you is as easy as typing your postcode into our price comparison tool. We'll show you every package you can get, including standard and fibre broadband deals as well as phone and TV bundles. There'll almost certainly be something cheaper than you've already got — just decide how much you want to pay.

2. Pay for what you need

If you're not sure what speed broadband you need, it can be tempting to plump for the most high-end service just to be on the safe side. This isn't a great plan, as your perfect package can vary wildly depending on how many people there are in your household, how many internet-connected devices they've got, and what they'll be using them for. You can easily end up paying a lot more than you really need to (or, just as bad, taking a cheaper service that doesn't do what you need it to).

3. Buy bundles

Buying broadband, phone and TV services together in a single package will often work out a lot cheaper than buying them separately. It's easier to manage, too, since it'll all be included in the same bill. According to the NatWest survey, more than a third of us are already taking advantage of this.

Naturally, choosing a TV bundle will restrict you to only the largest broadband providers. And our point about only paying for what you need becomes really important here: don't subscribe to a bunch of TV channels you aren't going to watch. If you only want the movie channels, for example, you might still be better off with a smaller broadband provider and a Now TV subscription.

4. Haggle

All broadband providers offer an array of attractive deals to entice new customers. Loyal, longstanding customers, meanwhile, get short shrift. However, if you're nearing the end of your contract — or it is already up — you can often negotiate a sizeable price cut. You may need to sign a new contract, but the savings should be worth it.

Haggling isn't as scary as it sounds. Every provider has a 'retentions' team whose purpose is to prevent customers from leaving. Tell them you can get a better price from another provider and there's a good chance they'll beat it. Alternatively, they might offer add-ons or upgrades for no extra cost. It's worth trying even if you're happy with your supplier, but if you're actually willing to go through with a switch you'll be in an even stronger position to get a better deal.

5. Understand what you're paying

Those introductory offers are very appealing. Words like FREE jump off the page, and can be hard to resist. But remember that virtually all broadband deals include line rental, and there can be as much as £4 difference from one provider to another. New rules from May 2016 should bring clarity to broadband pricing. Until then, when you're comparing prices make sure you compare the total you will be paying — internet and line rental — both during the introductory period and once it has ended. Offers that appear cheaper at first might not always turn out to be so.

Shop around

The upshot is this: you can slash your broadband costs if you're willing to shop around. It's easier than ever to switch broadband suppliers, and even if you're happy with your current provider simply approaching them for a better deal can knock pounds off your monthly bill. What are you waiting for?

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Teenage Family Using Gadgets Whilst Eating Breakfast

What speed broadband do you actually need?

Posted on 2016-03-18 11:16 in Features

When it comes to broadband, faster is always better, right? Actually, no. Not everyone needs the fastest speeds, or the latest technology. And while those people don't want to get sucked in to paying for a service they don't use, others really would benefit from an upgrade to something a bit quicker.

But with so many broadband deals to choose from, how do you work out which is right for you?

What speeds are available?

Most of the major broadband providers in the UK offer broadband at three speeds. Standard broadband is available in speeds up to 17Mb, and fibre broadband has two options, up to 38Mb and up to 76Mb. Virgin, along with a few specialist fibre broadband providers, have different speed tiers, the fastest currently being up to 1Gb from Hyperoptic.

Note the use of the words "up to" in all these cases. Quoted speeds represent an absolute maximum, and in reality you'll likely get somewhat less. There are numerous factors that affect the broadband speeds you can get. For standard and superfast broadband the distance you live from your nearest telephone exchange or cabinet is crucial, and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. Faster services over 80Mb are more likely to be affected by the hardware you’re using, and whether your devices support the latest home networking technology.

What speed do you need?

Even so, you might be surprised to learn that slower speeds are still capable of handling most common internet tasks. The base requirements for many popular services are relatively modest.

  • Web, email, Facebook: for what we might class as light use, with general browsing and using social apps, any broadband speed will suffice
  • TV on demand: downloads using Sky On Demand require a minimum 2Mb broadband speed. BBC iPlayer recommends a minimum of 2.8Mb for HD viewing, or 1.5Mb for standard definition quality. Streaming over Netflix requires 3Mb for SD quality and 5MB for HD. All are possible on a standard broadband package
  • Ultra HD TV streaming: the exception is with Ultra HD — or 4K — streaming on Netflix. This requires superfast fibre broadband with a speed of at least 25Mb
  • Streaming music: music streaming services don't need fast speeds to function properly. The recommendation for Spotify is 512Kb; for a lossless service you'll want something closer to 2Mb
  • Gaming: speed is less important than other factors such as latency for gaming, and the requirements are quite low. For Xbox Live you need 3Mb speeds, well within the reach of most standard broadband users
  • Video chat: to make video calls with Skype you need 1.5Mb broadband speed for HD, or as low as 0.5Mb for what is classed as "high quality"
  • Downloading: it goes without saying that files will download faster on faster networks. It's possible to get a rough idea of how fast they will be: divide your internet speed (in megabits per second) by eight, to convert it into megabytes (MB) per second. You can then see how long it will take to download a file. (For example, 24Mb broadband downloads at 4MB per second, so a 1GB file will download in around four and a half minutes.) If you regularly download large files, or are a heavy user of cloud services, you will benefit from faster broadband

On the whole, fast speeds aren't all that important when it comes to just getting these services to work. Where it does become an issue is when you have several people in your household each trying to do one of these things at the same time.

If one person is watching music videos on YouTube while another is downloading a video game on a PS4, your Netflix stream may have drop down to a lower resolution, and may even start buffering. Unless your connection is fast enough to handle them all together.

Wrap-up

When trying to decide what speed broadband you need, it's really important to weigh up the needs of your entire household together. If you're a "light use" household then you should be safe in making a decision on price alone; if you're a heavy use family you'll want to compare fibre broadband deals in your area to find the one that will give you the best online experience.

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TalkTalk with £50 shopping voucher

Expired: FREE broadband and a £50 Love2Shop voucher from TalkTalk - hurry, offer ends soon!

Posted on 2016-02-17 14:20 in Offers Expired TalkTalk

TalkTalk's current offer of FREE SimplyBroadband will be coming to an end in only a week, so you'll need to hurry to take advantage of the deal. Sign up before midnight of the 18th of February, and you can also claim a £50 Love2Shop voucher, which can be redeemed in a number of popular high street stores!

The SimplyBroadband package is free for 12 months, and offers speeds of up to 17Mb and a truly unlimited download allowance. You'll also get a free Super Router, HomeSafe® online protection, and free calls to other TalkTalk customers. Want to add TV to you package? The Essentials TV package is on offer for only £5 a month for 12 months! You get everything in the SimplyBroadband package along with YouView, which offers over 70 Freeview channels, hundreds of On Demand films and shows, 7 day catchup and the option to add Sky Movies and Sports. Alternatively, you have the option of taking out Essentials TV with FREE Fibre Medium, which has all the benefits of broadband and TV from TalkTalk with speeds of up to 38Mb!

Sign up for TalkTalk SimplyBroadband, FREE broadband for 12 months + £50 Love2Shop voucher!
Sign up for TalkTalk Essentials TV,  FREE broadband for 12 months + TV for £5 + £50 Love2Shop voucher!
Sign up for TalkTalk Essentials TV with Fibre Medium, FREE fibre broadband for 12 months + TV for £5!

Interested in fibre broadband deals and TV packages? Explore TalkTalk's range of truly unlimited, reduced price deals!

Minimum broadband contract 18 months. Free broadband offer ends midnight, 25th February. Voucher offer ends midnight, 18th of February. Love2Shop vouchers only available to customers switching online from BT, Sky or Plusnet and keeping their existing landline number. Speeds dependent on location and distance from local exchange - use our postcode checker to find out what's available in your area. Line rental required at £17.70 a month, or £191.16 for a year up front. £6.75 delivery fee for the router.

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National Average Speeds December 2015

Average fixed line download speeds remain stable over December 2015, average mobile broadband speeds see minor increase

Posted on 2016-01-08 12:21 in Announcements News 4GEE Hyperoptic Vodafone TalkTalk Three O2 Virgin Media BT Post Office Plusnet

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.

Read more Broadband Speed Test Results for December 2015

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Direct Save Telecom

Bargain Broadband for just 95p from Direct Save Telecom!

Posted on 2015-12-21 16:48 in News Offers Direct Save

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!

Interested in this deal? Head on over to Direct Save Telecom to sign up! Looking for a deal with a phone package or fibre broadband? Check out the other offers from Direct Save Telecom!

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.

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Sky: Choose a £100 reward or an LG 32" TV

Expired: Record Breaking Black Friday / Cyber Monday Deals

Posted on 2015-11-27 18:04 in News Offers Expired 4GEE Hyperoptic TalkTalk Sky BT Plusnet

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.

Sky TV have a rewards blowout with a choice of high value rewards including a free 32" LG TV or a LG Soundbar on Broadband and TV bundles and the option of a Galaxy Tab 4 tablet computer with standalone broadband for new customers!

Plusnet have brought back one of their best ever offers, adding an additional £75 cashback on their 12 months free broadband on a 12 month contract offer, meaning that you actually earn back £68 over the first year! You do need to pay Plusnet for a phone line, but this is as cheap as £15.49 monthly equivalent when paid upfront.

TalkTalk have slashed the all in monthly cost of their broadband for the first year with 12 months half price line rental on top of 18 months free broadband on an 18 month contract! So that's just £8.85 all in monthly cost for a year. What's more the line rental discount applies to TalkTalk Fibre and TalkTalk Plus TV too which are both half price for a year!

If you're looking for mobile broadband offers, 4GEE's Black Friday weekend offer sees both their popular portable WiFi devices FREE and a monthly contract with 50GB of data only £25 per month!

And if you're lucky enough to live in one of Hyperoptic's connected buildings, you can get their ultrafast and hyperfast broadband free for the first 3 months with a £100 Amazon voucher reward!

Check out which offers are available where you live or call 0800 093 0405 to speak to one of our advisers. Hurry, all offers end soon!

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.

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