Finding the best value family bundle
What services should I expect in a family bundle?
Family bundles are, as the name suggests, those designed for larger households. We've assumed that means users will want a lot of everything – plenty of TV channels and fast broadband, and in most cases, some kind of inclusive calls with the phone part of the bundle. As more of us use our landlines less and less, inclusive calls are no longer a deal breaker – but they're still worth considering as more providers start to offer line rental only phone deals.
The default filter we've set up for family bundles prioritises those that come with unlimited fibre broadband. Households with numerous devices online at the same time will benefit from the extra speed and bandwidth that comes with fibre, while going unlimited lets us enjoy more data hungry activities – on demand streaming, playing games online, video calling the relatives and so on – without having to worry about unexpected bills as a result of going over any data allowance.
What channels can I get in a family bundle?
As well as a fair selection of +1 and HD channels, there are spin offs of popular channels like MTV and Discovery, and more movies and sports channels – but not Sky Movies or Sky Sports, which are sold separately. A couple of the non-Sky providers listed above will throw in the satellite broadcaster's basic entertainment channels, like Sky One and Sky Living – but not Sky Atlantic.
Large bundles often include some of the channels only offered as bolt-ons with smaller bundles, such as extra kids' channels, music packs, or HD content – and sometimes for less than we'd pay if we took a cheaper bundle and customised it with those add-ons. They're also more likely to come with better set top boxes – those that can record or have more storage, for example.
Adding more channels often means far more in the way of on demand viewing too. Smaller bundles often include just the basic free-to-view catch up services; family bundles are more likely to include a full range from both the free-to-view and paid for channels – as well as other on demand content, such as kids' TV on tap, box sets, and music.
Who else can benefit from a family bundle?
Family bundles aren't just for families – they're for anyone who wants the widest possible choice, both online and on their TV. Many providers' family bundles include their fastest – or faster - broadband alongside their biggest TV packs, making them ideal for shared houses where there are likely to be lots of devices trying to use the internet at the same time.
Housemates interested in getting a family bundle but put off by the thought of all those channels being limited to just one TV may want to consider a couple of options. Firstly, some providers offer access to some or all of their live TV, as well as their on demand services, online or via an app, often on more than one device at a time – so anyone who doesn't want to watch whatever's on the main TV can still benefit from the extra channels and content on a different screen of their choice.
The biggest providers also offer multiroom subscriptions, with extra boxes, for a monthly fee; the cost of getting another box or two varies depending on provider and the type of set top box we take. There's more detail on multiroom subscriptions in our full guide here.
How fast do we need family broadband to be?
How fast we need our broadband to be depends on what we're using it for - and that depends in part on who's using it. A family with teenagers is likely to need faster broadband than one with small children, because there are inevitably going to be more phones, computers and other devices online in the house at peak times.
A similar situation is likely to exist for those of us with several housemates. In both of these cases it's worth looking at the faster fibre connections available – from 76Mb up to 200Mb, depending on provider and availability; that way anyone who doesn't get to watch what they want on the main TV can watch a good quality stream on their laptop or other device.
Even in households where some of the occupants are much younger, it's still worth thinking about taking a "basic" fibre connection of up to 38Mb. There's an increasing amount of content available online specially designed for even the smallest children; fibre broadband could help head off tantrums caused by favourite shows buffering or failing to load, or not being able to access favourite games because of a slow connection.
How can I get a family bundle for less?
Pre-made bundles are often cheaper than building our own individually tailored deal – but that can sometimes mean they come with features we don't want, or lack something we would like. Decide at the start which are the most important features – are there particular channels that must be included, how fast must the broadband be, or do we just want the biggest bundle we can get for a certain price?
We're most likely to be able to customise the broadband and landline parts of a bundle. Line rental is a given – but anyone who uses their home phone even occasionally could save by making sure they've got some kind of inclusive minutes with their deal. Meanwhile we've highlighted large bundles that come with unlimited fibre, but there are cheaper options for those who don't want – or can't get – the faster deals. Use the postcode search to find out what's available, then play with the internet usage slider to see the kind of savings that can be made if having the fastest possible connection isn't a necessity.
People who know they don't use that much data – they've got their usage history from their existing ISP, for example – may also be able to save by considering a bundle that comes with a set allowance – but anyone upgrading to a faster deal may well find their data usage rises as they can do more in the same amount of time, and excess data usage can be quite expensive.
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