Broadband has become a necessity to many people who work online or just need to catch up on their favorite TV show. Many providers offer broadband deals in Northern Ireland, so you must find the right deal for your needs.
Most of us have experienced slow internet speeds at one point or another, which can be frustrating. It only makes sense to find out what's available in your area before committing to anything.
Best Broadband Deals in NI
I have compiled the five best broadband deals in Northern Ireland and will provide an overview of each one so that you can find the right deal for your needs.
NOW Broadband Fab Fibre
The NOW Broadband Fab Fibre package is an excellent option for most because it offers fast fibre speeds for a reasonable monthly cost with only a 12-month contract.
The package also offers faster speeds of uncapped usage with the addition of unlimited anytime calls, including weekend calls and TV add-ons.
Fab Fibre's average download speeds of 36Mbps make it ideal for smaller households without remote workers.
There is a promotional offer available for up to 63Mbps by paying £2 more per month. If your family does a lot of gaming or streaming, especially in 4k, it is worth going for the upgrade while it lasts.
There are no setup fees to start the service. The only cost is a £5 shipping fee for the router.
However, if you prefer not to have a 12-month contract, there is a no-contract option with setup fees. The benefit of this is avoiding early cancellation costs if you are a student or other short-term resident.
Whether you are looking to get faster fibre speeds or save money on your broadband, NOW has the perfect package for you.
- Offers fast fibre speeds for a reasonable monthly cost with only a 12-month contract.
- Fast enough for many households without anyone who works online from home.
- The special promotional offer gives up to 63Mbps by paying £2 more per month.
- There are no setup fees to start the service.
- Prices are subject to change after the contract period ends.
BT Fibre 1
BT Broadband offers unlimited, superfast fibre speeds and has a low monthly cost for new customers. They provide excellent coverage, which is great if you're looking for service in Northern Ireland.
BT's Fibre 1 package is suitable for families with four or more internet users as it delivers average speeds of 50Mbps. Fast fiber-optic broadband with speeds of up to 900Mbps is also available in Belfast. However, it is twice the cost of the Fibre 1 tier.
Setup costs are £9.99 setup costs, and there is a 24-month contract. Television packages are also available with the NOW Entertainment package on promotion for an additional £6 per month.
You can forgo the promotional rates for a shorter 12-month contract, which will increase the monthly subscription cost. There will also be a higher activation and delivery charge. If you are a short-term resident, this may provide significant savings over an early cancellation fee.
BT is still one of the most widely used broadband providers in the UK. They feature superfast fiber speeds, competitively priced subscriptions for new users, and excellent coverage.
- Suitable for families with four or more internet users.
- Fast fiber-optic broadband is with speeds of up to 900Mbps.
- There are promotional rates available on the NOW Entertainment package for an additional £6 per month.
- There is a setup cost of £9.99 and a 24-month contract term to receive the promotional rate.
Vodafone Pro Broadband
You may be familiar with Vodafone for its mobile phone service. In 2015, they also began offering broadband services in the UK.
They offer some of the best rates for their Broadband Pro packages with ultrafast average speeds of up to 500Mbps. Existing mobile customers are eligible for additional broadband savings.
All Broadband Pro packages include Super WiFi boosters designed to improve the connection and work around network congestion for a reliable signal.
Because of this, Vodafone offers a WiFi guarantee. If wireless coverage is inconsistent and you don't receive wireless coverage throughout your home, you can end your contract without paying early termination penalties.
The Vodafone Pro service offers two additional features that separate it from other broadband service providers.
First is their "unbreakable" internet connection. The router will automatically connect to the Vodafone Broadband Back-up 4G mobile network if broadband service ever goes down.
Then there is the Faster Fibre Promise, which upgrades customers to Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) broadband at no cost once it is available.
Vodafone Broadband Pro is only available with a 24-month contract, which can be a downside if you are not a long-term resident.
- High speeds up to an average of 500Mbps are available.
- Excellent customer service and technical support.
- WiFi guarantee if coverage is inconsistent.
- Unbreakable internet connection will automatically connect to the Vodafone Broadband Backup 4G mobile network if broadband is unavailable.
- Faster Fibre Promise upgrades customers from fibre broadband at no cost once it's available.
- The 24-month contract is a downside for those who are not long-term residents.
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre plans offer some of the most competitive rates for service.
The Unlimited Fibre plan offers a 36Mbps average download speed and is ideal for individual streaming and online gaming. The Unlimited Fibre Extra plan provides an average speed of 66Mbps and is perfect for households with multiple streaming and gaming devices.
There have been complaints of low speed depending on location, so it is good to use the speed checker on the Plusnet homepage. This will help you to anticipate the broadband speed you can get with their service.
Service is available in an 18-month contract, but there are termination charges for each remaining month of the contract if you cancel early. As with BT, you can forgo some savings and sign up for a 12-month subscription instead.
There is an activation fee of £10 that is waived if you purchase service during a promotion.
If you are looking for some of the fastest speeds available but don't need all the bells and whistles that come with other providers like Vodafone or Virgin Media, this might be the right choice.
- Unlimited Fibre plans are competitively priced.
- Provides average download speeds of up to 36Mbps for individual users and 66Mbps for households with multiple users.
- Limited service availability.
- There have been complaints of lower speeds in some areas.
Virgin Media M100 Fibre Broadband
The Virgin Media M100 plan is their most popular package, though more expensive than plans from other providers.
It offers a faster average speed of 108Mbps and is ideal for households with more than 5 high-definition streaming, video calling, and gaming devices.
The M50 Fibre Broadband lower-tier package is ideal for up to 4 streaming or gaming devices and provides an average speed of 54Mbps. However, this is a slower rate than the plans available through other companies.
The contract duration is 18 months, and there is a setup fee of £35.
Virgin Media Fibre Broadband plans are ideal if you are looking for fast speed and cannot find coverage from other providers in your area.
Because Virgin Media operates using its own cable network, a phone line rental is not required. That alone may offset the cost, making it comparable to other providers.
- With Virgin Media, you don't need to rent a phone line because the company runs its own cable network.
- Offers different tiers of service that more appropriately meet the needs of different households.
- It is one of the most expensive providers in Northern Ireland.
- Because Virgin Media operates using its own cable network, you will need to be within their coverage area.
Northern Ireland Broadband Buyer's Guide
Now let's review and compare broadband features in Northern Ireland to find the right one for you.
What Type of Broadband Do I Need?
Not all broadband is the same. There is a range of services from basic through to superfast and beyond.
When choosing broadband service, you'll want to decide a few things:
What do you want to do with the connection? The more you want to do at once, the higher your speeds need to be. Are you mainly browsing the internet and answering emails? Or are you gaming, streaming movies, or making video calls?
Once you have the answer, you can look for a plan based on the upload and download speeds offered.
How long do you plan on staying? If you're moving soon, then choosing a 12-month commitment might be best. This way, there are no termination fees when you cancel early.
If it's for the long term, an 18-month to 24-month commitment might be best, as these plans usually offer additional savings.
How much can you afford? Premium service may look great on paper, but is it necessary for the amount of usage you'll get out of it?
Do you need a phone line rental, or can you go without? This mainly affects Virgin Media users as they operate their own network and do not require a phone line. You can save £25-30 per month if you don't need the service.
Who should I get it from? Once you've decided on the type of plan, the next step is choosing your provider. Don't just go with the one that offers you an exclusive deal, as it may not be the best value for money.
Compare deals from all providers to see how they stack up against each other. If possible, use the live chat feature on the website or call in to compare deals.
When you have found a broadband plan that appeals to you, look at the following features before making your decision:
What are the contract terms? Are there any hidden fees or catches?
What are the differences between plans? The main factor that separates different providers is usually the available speed.
However, each company has several add-ons such as free access to BT Sports or Sky Sports channels which you can pay extra for.
Who Offers the Fastest Fibre Broadband in Northern Ireland?
BT Full Fibre plans offer the fastest fibre broadband in Northern Ireland with available speeds of up to 900Mbps.
Because of its high speeds, BT is widely considered the best for streaming and gaming if you're looking for top performance and don't mind paying a little more per month.
Is Fibre-Optic Available Across All of NI?
Fibre network is available across all of Northern Ireland except for some rural areas.
Openreach is invested in expanding availability across Northern Ireland over the coming years, so check with service providers directly for the latest updates.
Should I Consider Cheap Broadband?
The best broadband deals are cheap but don't sacrifice things like speed or coverage.
Cheap broadband can save you money, but it's always worth checking that the package is suited to your needs.
You should always balance your budget against what you need the broadband for and read the small print before committing to a deal.
What Do I Do if I Can’t Get a Decent Broadband Package?
There are a few options for getting online if you cannot get broadband service.
If you are unable to get broadband service, your first option is to use a dongle.
A dongle plugs into your laptop's USB port and uses the mobile phone network via the phone's data allowance to provide internet access over WiFi.
They are reasonably cheap but can be unreliable. You may find the speed is slower than you would like and that your connection drops out when moving around.
The second option is a mobile broadband deal.
This service uses a 3G or 4G connection with your data allowance to access the internet over the mobile network.
This is a much better option in most cases than using a dongle, but it's not without issues either.
You may find that even though you have a good signal in your house, the speed can still be slow, and you end up with a capped allowance that doesn't give you what you need.
Satellite Broadband is the final option. This is one where a dish is fixed to your roof or placed in your garden, pointing towards a satellite providing internet access.
The connection is affected by weather, it can be slow, and you are capped with a usage allowance to go along with the installation cost.
The dish provides a fast internet connection, but you may also find that there are issues with signal in the evenings that will slow your connection down when other people are using their dish to watch TV.
Is Mobile Broadband a Good Alternative?
Mobile internet is a good choice if you cannot get broadband. It is fast and more reliable than dongles.
Mobile broadband comes with some issues that you need to be aware of, such as speed, signal, and data allowance caps.
I’m in Belfast—What Speeds Can I Get?
Fortunately, if you live in Belfast, you can usually get fast broadband speed.
In most postcodes, you'll have the choice of buying from Virgin Media, which generally delivers up to 500Mbps. Or, you can go for an Openreach provider. BT currently offers their 900Mbps "Full Fibre 900" plan in central Belfast.
However, you might not need these superfast speeds.
If this is the case, there are plenty of broadband deals to choose from for Belfast residents. You can buy much more moderate 30Mbps, 45Mbps, or 60Mbps broadband packages from most Openreach broadband providers.
The exact speed of both networks depends on your current line length and distance from the street cabinet. The further away from the exchange you are, the slower the maximum attainable connection speed is likely to be.
In general, you'll often get three different speeds from a fixed broadband package, which are 30Mbps, 45Mbps, or 60Mbps. This is the maximum speed your line can support, but it doesn't mean you'll always reach these speeds during busy hours.
Can I Get Fast Broadband in My Area of Northern Ireland?
Check to see if there is a broadband provider in your area. If not, locate providers near the town or city nearest you and enter your postcode into their coverage map.
Doing this will help determine if you can get fast broadband in your area and what speeds are available.
The speed will depend on several factors, including how close you are to the service provider's equipment, how many people are on your connection at once, and any other broadband connections in your area.
I’m in Rural Northern Ireland—What Speeds Can I Get?
Broadband speeds vary depending on location, your technical specifications, and the package you choose.
If you live in more rural Northern Ireland, getting high-speed broadband can be difficult. Some suppliers offer faster connections, though it may cost a bit more.
BT is the largest internet service provider in Northern Ireland, so it's best to check with them first for speed and availability. They've begun to rollout service into more rural areas, including Belleek, Dunloy, Kesh, Roslea, and Springfield.
Is Unlimited Broadband Truly Unlimited?
Some broadband providers offer "unlimited broadband" as a package, but if you exceed your fair usage allowance, they'll throttle your connection. This means you'll be subject to slower speeds for the remainder of the month until next month's billing cycle rolls around.
The fair usage allowance typically caps out at over 1Tb of data per month, depending on the service provider's terms. The good news is this is a difficult threshold to reach for the average household, even with streaming 4K Ultra HD video for several hours each day.
This may only become an issue if multiple residents stream high-definition videos for several hours over many days on more than one device.
Do Most People Need Superfast Broadband?
Most people don't need to download large files in seconds, upgrade their video game within minutes, or watch three videos at once.
Your broadband speed needs will depend on your household.
If you have many family members who are watching TV shows and movies simultaneously, as an example, you might need up to 900Mbps so they can stream together without buffering.
On the other side of the spectrum, if all you do is email and browse the web during non-peak hours, it's unlikely that you need more than 30Mbps.
It's essential to understand this because many providers charge high rates for unlimited data packages tied into contracts lasting up to two years. This is only a good value if it'll actually meet your connection needs and budget.
If you're not too worried about streaming videos in HD or playing an HD game online, you might be ok with a cheaper speed.
But, if you do need lots of bandwidth for high-bandwidth activities like video conferencing or downloading heavy software updates, it's worth looking into higher speeds.
What Are the Benefits of Fibre Broadband Over Other Connections?
Fibre broadband has many benefits, but the key advantage is that it offers higher connection speeds than most other types of broadband. It also provides greater upload speeds than other types of broadband.
Fibre broadband also has the benefit of carrying far more data than traditional copper or wireless connections.
Traditional broadband uses old copper telephone lines. These can only transmit up to 100Mbps, meaning consumers are often restricted to less than 10Gbps even on the fastest packages.
What Is FTTC Technology?
This is a term you will come across while deciding on a fibre broadband service provider.
FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) broadband uses a fibre optic line all the way into your home or office, delivering superfast broadband speeds. The line is connected to a small box on the outside wall of your home or office, called an Optical Network Termination Unit (ONT).
FTTC technology is more advanced than traditional copper phone lines because it can carry far more data. It also provides faster connection speeds due to its fibre optic connection.
They're installed outdoors in a metal cabinet, called a Fibre Access Node (FAN). Fibre passes from the FAN through your telephone line into your home.