Is pay-as-you-go broadband worth it?

Pay-as-you-go broadband might sound like an attractive idea at first. It might be if there really was a genuine offering on the market. But user needs on one hand and the commercial realities on the other, mean that the only thing close to a PAYG option now are monthly broadband offers taken out on 30-day rolling contracts.

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What is pay-as-you-go broadband?

In a world in which a pay-as-you-go seems to be an option for almost every kind of IT or communications service, you might imagine that there are plenty of usage-based options for broadband. But that’s not the case – in fact, you will struggle to find a genuine PAYG offering in the UK right now. There are more flexible non-contract options which allow you to pay month by month for broadband, but that’s about it.

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Do any providers still offer pay-as-you-go broadband?

As noted above, there isn’t really any such thing as PAYG broadband now. Some Internet service providers did offer deals where you would only pay for the data that you used, but as the hunger for more and more data grew, the need for these evaporated. Contracts that offer much higher data allowances became more popular and with consumption growing, the PAYG option was always going to be more expensive.

The only offering that comes close to being PAYG are the ‘non-contract’ services that a small number of players can provide on a rolling month-to-month basis. Some of these services provide offer fast speeds and unlimited data, but they also cost more than long-term contracts, which run for 12, 24, or 36 months (in practice almost all broadband deals are over two years now). These services are aimed at people who are in temporary or rented accommodation where broadband is not already included.

There are also lower cost monthly offerings that are aimed mainly at students or anyone managing student accommodation. As students are only in their lodgings for perhaps three fives of any year, the idea of having a shorter and more flexible contract period is extremely attractive.

Another proviso, of course, is availability. Only a handful of service providers offer monthly contracts, and they won’t all be available everywhere in the UK. Depending on where you are, the choices may be fairly limited.

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What are the positives and negatives of PAYG broadband?

As noted above, a shorter-term contract is more flexible and ideal if you only have a temporary need – as a student or a project worker staying locally while the task you are involved in is completed. For businesses too, not having to make any commitment to a provider for two years or more, is certainly appealing.

Another positive is that you are not signed-up to anything more than the rolling 30-day contract. For most of these ‘non-contract’ services, you can give a simple 30 days notice when you want to stop. If you are signed-up for a long-term broadband contract you will have top pay a fee – and usually quite a hefty one – to get out of it.

Monthly contract broadband services are ideal then – if you have a temporary requirement. But that’s about it. The student options obviously need to be economical, but they won’t be the best in terms of overall speed, contention, and availability. Also, monthly consumer or student offers, tend to come bundled with consumer TV services, which a business won’t really need.

The faster services tend to cost quite a bit more than the longer contracts too. While it might be a good way to try a service out before you commit to it, that’s not going to apply a lot of the time, as it means you are limiting the choices you give yourself quite severely.

Therefore, unless you have a transitory or temporary requirement, or you are a student, or a firm offering temporary student accommodation, the monthly broadband contracts are not really compelling.

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What are the different types of pay-as-you-go broadband?

As we have already mentioned, there are basically two types of monthly contract – for consumers or businesses (in reality most are aimed at consumers) that want a temporary connection to cover a specific need and won’t commit them to a 24-month or longer contract; and broadband services designed to meet the needs of students. Both consumer- and student-oriented services tend to be bundled with TV / entertainment packages.

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Can PAYG broadband be good for my business?

Yes, if you have a specific and temporary requirement. Otherwise, for most businesses, a PAYG or monthly contract broadband service is not going to be a great option. While you may benefit in terms of speed, you’ll pay a bit more for high-grade services than you would if you were taking out a contract for 24-months or longer.

There won’t be any of the extras you often get with business-oriented broadband services either, such as VoIP lines or a fixed IP address option, so if you want these or any other extra services on top, you will need to add them any pay for them separately.

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Are there any alternatives for PAYG broadband?

If you need temporary broadband access, using a mobile 4G or 5G hotspot to which users can connect via WiFi, can be a good and extremely flexible option. Cellular technology is often use as a back-up for fixed line broadband connections now; 4G data rates are really good and with 5G they are even better. You can pick up an unlimited, ‘all you can eat’ monthly data card at a relatively low cost. Provided you can get sufficiently good access to the network at the temporary location, using 4G/5G is definitely an option worthy of consideration.

For smaller, temporary set-ups, you could also try to get by using mobile phone hotspots (i.e., using 4G or 5G through individual smartphones, but this will use up data allowances quickly and might also mean that battery life is used up quickly. Another option in some scenarios might be publicly-available WiFi, but for serious business, this is not likely to be you viable for any serious project that might take a few weeks or months.

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