How to haggle with your broadband supplier - and get a free upgrade

BT's Smart Hub router could be yours for nothing
BT's Smart Hub router could be yours for nothing

WE ALL know that a little light haggling with a mobile phone supplier is likely to procure us a better deal and a new handset - especially when the contract is nearly up. But it’s less well known that you can pull the same trick with your internet company.

Now that most of us have signed up for broadband, competition between suppliers has heated up to the point where they will do almost anything to hang on to our custom.

A promotional discount on the monthly subscription for up to two years is by itself worth the half-hour wait for customer service, but you should also be able to talk them into sending you a new router, with a considerably higher specification than the one you’re using now.

A better router should improve wifi coverage across your home and speed up the connection to wireless devices, so an upgrade is worth having - especially as an equivalent model at Currys would set you back up to £100..

Internet companies used to make a point of supplying the lowest quality model they could lay their hands on, just so they could be seen to be offering a complete package. But as competition has increased, so has the quality of the routers on offer.

BT, for instance, has tried to make up for its legendarily poor reputation for customer service by offering some of the best routers on the market; certainly the best you can get for free. Successive models of its so-called Home Hub have upped the ante for what you can expect suppliers to throw in, and the latest Smart Hub boasts dual-band wifi and no fewer than seven antennae to distribute it across your home.

Dual-band routers transmit two wireless networks simultaneously, at different speeds. This means that compatible newer devices will connect automatically to the faster one, without slowing down those that won’t.

The Smart Hub also has a USB 3.0 port, handy for hooking up a portable hard disc and sharing video and other files to all your devices at the fastest possible speed.

BT will give you a Smart Hub for free if you contract, or re-contract, for a minimum of 18 months. If you’re already with them and you don’t want the extra commitment, you can have it for £50, which still compares favourably with retail models.

But you don’t have to switch suppliers to get a free upgrade. BT’s wholly-owned, but arm’s length, subsidiary, Plusnet, is offering a rebadged version of the slightly older Home Hub 5 free to new customers and those who agree to re-contract with them.

The Yorkshire-based outfit is generally cheaper than its parent, and runs its own customer service centre, so you don’t have to deal with BT’s.

TalkTalk is playing hardball, too, with a rebadged Huawei “Super Router” for new and reconnecting customers. The company is struggling to regain trust after last year’s security scandal, which saw its customers’ details hacked by fraudsters, and from a reputation for customer service that makes BT look like John Lewis - but the Huawei does indeed compete on fairly level terms with the Home Hub and with midrange retail models from the market leaders Netgear, Linksys and TP-Link.

Outside of your mortgage and fuel bills, your broadband company is likely to be one of your biggest monthly payees - so you owe it to yourself to squeeze as much out of them as you can.