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Choosing the best broadband package
Living without broadband internet access now seems unthinkable. With so many different broadband deals and providers out there, choosing the right broadband package can be a confusing business. So whether it’s for streaming movies, sending emails or gaming, here’s everything you need to know to get the right broadband deal.
What is a broadband package?
Broadband simply refers to the way any device which uses the internet connection to the web. Everything from laptops, tablets, phones, gaming consoles and even smart home appliances now use broadband to connect.
There are three main types of broadband connection. Which you choose will depend on a range of factors:
ADSL broadband is the most common type of access in the UK. It uses existing phone lines to deliver internet connectivity. ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. This type is usually the slowest type of connection, with average download speeds of 10Mb/s.
Providers like Virgin offer broadband connection through dedicated cables, which do not rely on the old copper phone infrastructure owned by BT. Coaxial cables can deliver faster speeds than ADSL but are not available in every part of the UK. Using cable broadband means you may not need to have a phone line at all.
- Fibre optic
Faster broadband uses fibre optic cables. These send data at the speed of light and offers a much faster connection than ADSL. Fibre optic broadband is not available everywhere, and some fibre broadband packages may still require a phone line.
How to compare broadband packages?
There are lots of things to take into account when choosing a broadband package. As well as the type of connection, you’ll need to consider what speeds you will need, how you will use your broadband, what is available where you live, and which provider will offer the best value for money.
What broadband speed do I need?
What broadband speed you need will depend entirely on what you’ll be using the internet for. Broadband speeds are referred to in terms of Megabytes per second, Mb/s or Gigabytes per second. The higher the number, the faster the connection will be.
10Mb/s – is a standard broadband speed. If you’re only using the internet lightly, for online shopping, occasional emailing and web browsing, then a package with this average speed should be enough.
35-67Mb/s – is classified as superfast broadband. This type of package is great if you intend to stream movies or download games. The faster connection means that more than one person can be online at once, and allows for uninterrupted playback without buffering.
76-362Mb/s – This is the fastest of all. In households where more than three people all need to be online at once, a cable or fibre package offering even faster speeds will be the most suitable. This speed can handle downloads, gaming, movie streaming, iPads, smart home devices and more without any interruptions.
Broadband data limits
The price you pay for broadband may be affected by a data usage limit. Everything you do online uses data, with things like streaming music or games using much greater amounts than simple browsing.
Many providers offer cheaper packages if you agree to a data limit. Once you go over this limit, additional charges apply.
If you’re a light user, then a package with a usage limit may work out as the most cost-effective. However, if you regularly stream or download larger files, then it’s worth considering an unlimited package to avoid being hit with extra charges.
What is a broadband bundle?
As well as internet connectivity, most providers also allow you to ‘bundle’ up other services into your package, such as home phone lines, mobile or tv. All the major providers like Sky, Virgin, and BT offer a range of bundles.
Many people choose broadband bundles as a simpler way to manage household expenses – you only have one bill and one provider to deal with. A broadband bundle can work out cheaper than paying many different suppliers for each component.
Other factors to consider when choosing broadband
- Support – unless you are a technical genius, you will probably have to deal with customer support at some point if things go wrong with your broadband. Reading up online can help you decide on which broadband provider offers the best customer service.
- Incentives – there’s a lot of competition in the broadband market. Many providers will offer freebies to new customers, or incentives to entice you to sign up. These often include vouchers or store cashback. Think carefully about whether these deals are actually going to be of value – it’s better to get the right package than to be stuck in a contract that doesn’t work for you just because of a free gift!
- Price – prices of broadband packages can vary hugely, depending on the type, speed and contract you sign up for. It’s really important to consider not just how much your broadband costs, but whether the whole package is going to be right for your needs. It’s no good having super cheap internet which doesn’t have the data capacity you need to watch a whole movie!
- Type of contract – it’s worth shopping around to compare a range of different contracts. Broadband contracts can vary from a rolling month to month basis, right through to a 24-month period.
Do I need a phone line for broadband?
Most internet connections in the UK do still require a phone line, as they use the BT copper wire infrastructure. The only provider to have its own alternative lines is Virgin, who can deliver superfast broadband without needing a landline.
Mobile providers also offer broadband without the need for a landline, although if you’re using large amounts of data, these might not be the best option.
How do I switch broadband provider?
Firstly, make sure you shop around and compare deals from a range of broadband providers. Once you’ve found the right deal for you, it’s simply a case of contacting the new supplier and signing up.
Most providers will take care of contacting your existing supplier to switch everything over. You’ll get all the kit you need like new routers or set up tv boxes delivered too.
Can I get fibre optic broadband where I live?
Fibre optic broadband is being rolled out across the UK but is not yet available in all areas. You’ll need to check if your postcode is covered before you’ll be able to switch to fibre. Houses in very remote areas or those that are located a long way away from the street box connection may not be able to access fibre broadband.
Will I get the advertised download speed?
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get the highest advertised broadband speed of a package where you live. Most providers will be able to test your line, so you can get an accurate idea of the best speed you’ll be able to get before signing up.