Broadband is considered a must-have in most homes these days, so it’s vital to be happy with your chosen provider. Before you dive in there are a few factors to consider first, such as: do you just want broadband on its own, or should you include other services like a TV and phone bundle? Will you need superfast broadband or are you content with standard speed? And what about data allowance – are you happy for it to be capped or do you need unlimited data?
To help you make sense of your internet needs, we’ve put together some of the most common queries and answers. Read on to brush up on broadband.
Broadband is a high-speed internet connection that’s now standard in most households. In the dial-up days, the technology used to connect to the internet was known as ‘narrowband,’ hence the new name for a faster, constant connection.
When we used to dial up, no one could use the landline while the internet was on, because the line was needed to connect. Thankfully, we can now use both, as the frequencies can be divided into channels: the phone on one, internet on another.
There are two main types of broadband: home and mobile. The former is hard-wired into your house, transported by your phone line (ADSL) or through a cable (fibre-optic connections).
Mobile 3G and 4G broadband isn’t as speedy or consistent but is more flexible due to being carried through mobile networks.
Unlike dial-up internet, broadband is always on and you can use it day or night, as long as your router is working.
Choosing between a standalone or combined broadband service will be one of the first things to consider when picking your provider.
Consider these options carefully:
Broadband-only packages don't include a home phone line or a TV package. These tend to be relatively rare as broadband providers usually require a phone line. The biggest benefit of a broadband-only deal is the price. Because you're not paying for any additional extras, they tend to be cheaper.
These usually involve home phone and broadband services, but can also include broadband and TV deals. Companies like Sky and Virgin offer broadband packages that include a TV package; this can often be cheaper than buying the two separately.
Grouping your services together – like broadband, phone and TV – is not only less to think about, but often cheaper too. However, if you don’t think you’ve got any use for a home phone or TV package, then signing up for broadband-only will be the best option for you.
Most broadband providers require you to have a phone line to connect to their broadband services. Some providers, like Virgin, offer a package that doesn’t connect through a phone and uses fibre-optic cables instead, but this is only available in certain postcodes and properties. It’s easy to see what kind of broadband you can get access to by using our simple broadband comparison tool.
The speed of your broadband essentially determines how fast you can download and upload stuff to the internet, measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The UK average is around 16-18Mbps, which is suitable for most households. The speed you need very much depends on what you want to use the internet for.
If you're just starting out online and don't think you'll use the internet for more than checking emails, catching up with your favourite blogs or watching the odd video on social media then you'll be absolutely fine with the above standard speed.
If you're an avid gamer or like to spend a lot of time streaming your favourite TV shows and movies online you'd be better off with fibre optic broadband, which gives you much faster speeds of up to 300Mbps.
Most deals now include unlimited data, but you could still save money wth a capped offering. To decide which option is best, consider which group of users you fall into:
If you're a broadband novice and aren't sure how much you'll be surfing the web, it might be best to go for a capped deal. There's no sense paying more than you need to if you're just checking the odd email or browsing the web from time to time.
If you live in a house of four or more, it's likely you could all be using a number of web-enabled gadgets at the same time. If this is the case then you'll find data gets used up pretty quickly. If this sounds like you then you'd do well to opt for an unlimited data package.
No matter how many of you there are, if you regularly stream films and music and/or you're a big online gamer, then we'd put you in the same category as a larger household. These types of activities use up a lot of data so you’d be better off going for an unlimited data package.
Most students are likely to be sharing a residence with several others, and we're assuming that alongside getting online to help with coursework there'll also be regular streaming activites – be those heated Xbox tournaments, movie nights or listening to music ahead of a big night out. With that in mind, we'd recommend you go for unlimited data.
If you're after an individual internet hotspot, however, there are other options. There's plenty of mobile broadband packages that you can pick up on the 4G network. Simply grab a SIM loaded with data, slot it into a MiFi device and you've got yourself your very own personal hotspot. The best thing about it is that you can tailor your contract to your data needs and use it on the go.
If you're a business-owner, your best bet is to get a broadband package that caters specifically to firms. It does differ from consumer deals, as it'll include things like static and fixed IPs and email addresses that correspond to your business. You'll also get an extra level of security to protect sensitive data.
Not all broadband providers cover every postcode in the UK, so it's best to check what's available according to where you live.
You can easily compare home phone, TV and broadband deals in your local area using our handy broadband comparison tool. Simply type in your postcode to see a list of the available options; you'll be able to compare broadband speed, any inclusive calls, length of contract as well as yearly and monthly costs.
Once you've signed up to your new provider, they'll send you a free wireless router. This is essential for connecting to the internet if you have more than one device, such as laptops, mobiles, tablets and gaming consoles. All of these will connect through a single line.
Having up-to-date internet security is critical to protect your devices and files from spam, viruses and phishing.
Fortunately, security software is included in most broadband deals.
Ready to pick your next broadband provider? Congrats! To make sure your switch goes swimmingly, have a read of our next guide: how to switch broadband provider.