Thrifty living: Get the ideal broadband deal

The super-competitive UK home broadband market got even more competitive this week. TalkTalk is looking to take advantage of Tiscali's financial difficulties by offering an aggressive 50 cashback deal for Tiscali customers looking to leave.

But that doesn't mean Tiscali customers should simply switch to TalkTalk. With so many rival offers available, it's essential to shop around to find the best value deal for your own needs. Should you buy a standalone broadband deal, for instance? Or is it better to bundle your broadband with your home phone or even your TV service?

Answering all these questions is not as simple as it might seem. Broadband deals are complicated and there are literally thousands to choose from, dependent on where you live and no obvious place to go for impartial advice.

So here is our five step guide to finding the ideal broadband deal for you...

Step 1: The first thing to consider when choosing a bundle deal is your address. Broadband service availability varies hugely depending on your location and so too does broadband pricing. Remember that headline cheap deals that you have seen advertised may not be available in your area, so use a comparison service with a postcode availability checker.

Step 2: You then need to take account of your current services. Digital TV, home phone, mobile phone and existing broadband services are all important. For example: if you are in contract with a current broadband provider, you will not be able to switch without incurring significant costs (as you will need to buy yourself out of your contract).

If you have Sky or Virgin TV, you will be eligible for broadband deals that may well be much cheaper than the best value standalone broadband deals quoted online. These are often referred to as "bundle deals" as they involve bundling more than one service with a single provider.

Similarly, if you are a mobile phone customer with O2 or Orange for example, you can benefit from very cheap broadband deals that may be cheaper than the standalone deals on offer.

Step 3: Clearly define what you need from your service, taking into account all members of the family before looking for the right deal. Be clear on your family's needs in terms of broadband speed, broadband usage limits, and a wireless versus a wired connection.

Step 4: Match your unique needs to the best value deal. Remember the headline cheapest deal may look attractive, but may well not suit your household's needs. And often you will be signing up for a 12 or 18 month contract. So you will have plenty of time to regret a hasty decision.

Step 5: Migrate your service. Getting these services installed should be straightforward, but migrating from another supplier can cause problems. For a broadband migration, you may need a MAC (Migration Authorisation Code) and then need to follow the instructions from your new provider carefully in order to ensure that you don't go for a period without a service.

Charles Ponsonby is CEO of the broadband and digital TV comparison service