A simples guide

A guide to choosing the right broadband package

Technology moves so swiftly. We take for granted today what not long ago seemed like only a dream. Take broadband for example; it was invented less than 20 years ago but has become a commodity of most households across the country.

The speed of change is obviously a welcome thing, but it’s also very easy for most of us to get left behind. How do you keep pace with what’s available in the market?

That’s where we come in. We’re not tied to individual providers so we’re happy to tell it as we see it. We won’t be pushing products at you, we’ll just help you navigate the way to the best broadband package for you.

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Connecting to the internet

You might assume that broadband is the only way to connect to the internet. It’s certainly the most widely used, but there are other ways and even broadband can mean different things:

• ADSL Broadband

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line or ADSL broadband as it’s more simply known, is a connection provided over our home telephone lines. It’s called ‘asymmetric’ as download speeds are much, much faster than upload speeds which has implications that you’ll see later.

BT owns the landline infrastructure in the UK, so when you have an ADSL connection you need to rent your phone line from BT. If you already have an existing phone line, the broadband is added onto the package.

Since a good portion of BT’s network is on copper wire, the speeds and performance can vary significantly from area to area and even week to week for some people.


• Fibre Optic Broadband

Fibre-optic broadband replaces copper wire with tiny strands of plastic or glass, each thinner than a human hair. Fibre optic wiring has less resistance than copper, allowing for much higher internet speeds and a more consistent service.

Fibre-optic networks are also much more energy efficient, requiring 80-90% less energy than copper options. Because they’re more reliable they require less maintenance and they’re future proofed for years to come.

It’s a no brainer to go for fibre-optic then?

Well that would be nice but unfortunately the UK fibre rollout is still ongoing and upgrading to this new technology is expensive. You’ll need to use a post code checker to see if you’re able to use fibre optic broadband where you live.

• Mobile Broadband

With mobile broadband you bypass cables completely and use your mobile signal to connect to the internet. You’ll need to buy a ‘dongle’, which is a modem that connects wirelessly to your mobile network and plugs into your PC.

• Satellite

For some rural communities with poor network coverage, satellite broadband might be the only option available. You receive your signal via a satellite dish rather than cables. While speeds and stability have improved significantly in recent years, it is an expensive option in comparison to others.

When it comes to choosing a broadband package, you’ll be faced with choices around:

- Speed of connection
- Cost
- Download allowances
- Contract length

The right combination of these things creates the best package for you.

You’ll only be able to work this out by thinking about what type of user you are.

Type of user

• Beginner/Light users

If you’re just starting out on the internet, then a low usage package may be the best option to start with. Most providers provide a low-cost option that is ideal for you as you get up to speed (pardon the pun).

If you’re exploring the internet, using email and downloading occasional clips, you don’t need to waste money on huge data allowances or superfast speeds.

As you start to want more, it is very simple to upgrade your package to a more expensive option at any point in your contract. Be aware that the same cannot be said for downgrading your package, so it’s always better to start low and add on additional services later.

• Gamers and movie buffs!

Let’s go to the other end of the spectrum. If you enjoy gaming online and/or streaming TV or HD movies, you’ll be classed as a heavy user. Services such as Amazon Prime Video or Netflix, along with online gaming forums, require high speeds to prevent the service from being interrupted.

They’re also hungry for data so you’ll probably need unlimited download limits. Exceeding limits can incur extra charges or see your download speed reduced.

Serious users will almost certainly need fibre-optic rather than ADSL broadband, as upload speeds on the latter are probably not sufficient to maintain connectivity.

• Working from home

If you work from home occasionally you’ll be able to use your home package, provided that’s okay with your company. If you run a business from home however, you’ll have to sign up for a business broadband package.

This brings with it advantages over home packages such as business grade security and better customer support. There’ll also be options around email addresses and web hosting.

• Families

Obviously it depends on the size and make up of your family. If your children are small, they may be more interested in Peppa Pig. Trust us, that won’t last long. By the time they reach teenage years you’re likely to be very heavy users!

With multiple users on multiple devices you can quickly burn through monthly allowances. As a consequence you should probably consider an unlimited data package unless you are very confident in your ability to restrict usage within a limit.

• Students

If you’re a student household, there are now specialist student packages available that tend to come on the market in August/September. They’re usually unlimited given the amount of time students spend online studying and socialising. The big advantage with these packages is that they have contract periods that fit around term times, rather than the typical fixed 12-18 months.

One word of advice before you sign up though. Look at the total cost over the shorter period versus a standard 12 month deal and just make sure that it works out cheaper for you.

How do I know what data allowance I’ll need?

Trying to calculate exactly what you might need is time consuming and let’s face it, not an exact science. As a guide we estimate that you’d need the following for:

- Browsing and email use : 2GB per month
- Browsing and on-demand TV : 10-30GB per month
- Browsing, on-demand TV, movies and music downloads : 40-80GB
- As above plus gaming : 40GB to unlimited

We’d always recommend that if you think you’re likely to use 40GB and above, an unlimited option is probably best.

Is speed important?

There’s a psychological pull towards speed. Fast must equal best right? Well, maybe but remember that connection speeds greater than 2 Mbps are easily sufficient for most simple online activities. Speeds of 8 Mbps would allow you to share pictures, connect via video, and watch online videos comfortably.

The fastest speeds are required if you’re downloading more or less all the time and using applications that demand instantaneous response, such as those in an online gaming community.

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What’s a bundle deal?

A bundle deal wraps up your broadband with your landline and TV into one package.

To work out whether it is right for you you’ll need to compare the costs of what you pay for the separate parts with what you’d pay for the bundle.

 

What’s the easiest way to find out what’s available?

Good news. You’re in the right place. We’ve taken the best that the market has to offer and have all that information right here. All you need to do is enter a few of your details and we’ll do the rest for you.

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