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Choosing the right broadband package

Getting the right combination of connection speed, cost, download allowances and contract length is vital in choosing the right broadband package and provider for you. We take a closer look at some of the things to consider.

Getting the right combination of connection speed, cost, download allowances and contract length is vital in choosing the right broadband package and provider for you. We take a closer look at some of the things to consider.

Holly Niblett
From the Digital team
5
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 14 MAY 2020

What to consider when choosing a broadband package

The main things to consider when choosing a broadband package include:

  • The type of broadband user you are
  • How you will connect to the internet
  • How much data you will need
  • How important broadband speed is to you
  • How long a contract you want
  • Whether you should bundle broadband with TV and phone deals

What type of broadband user are you?

To find the broadband package that’s right for you, first think about what you’ll be using your broadband for and how much you’ll be using it.

  • Light use – if you’re not online a lot, then a low usage package may be the best option. It’s simple to upgrade your package if you find you need higher speeds.
  • Heavy use – if you enjoy gaming online and/or streaming TV or HD movies, or have multiple devices in the home accessing WiFi, you’ll be classed as a heavy user. You’ll probably need unlimited download limits as exceeding limits can incur extra charges. Serious users will also need fibre rather than ADSL broadband, to ensure speeds are sufficient to maintain connectivity. Families with multiple users on multiple devices should probably consider an unlimited data package to avoid extra charges.
  • Working from home – if you work from home occasionally, a home broadband package should be fine, but if you run a business from home you’ll probably need a business broadband package.
  • Student use – there are now specialist student packages. They’re usually unlimited given the amount of time students spend online. The big advantage is that they have contract periods that fit around term times rather than a fixed 12 or 18 months.

How will you connect to the internet?

The way you connect to the internet may affect the broadband speeds and packages you can get. There are a number of choices, all of which may not be available in your area.

  • ADSL broadband – this is a connection provided over your home phone line. BT owns the landline infrastructure in the UK, so with ADSL, you’ll need to rent your phone line from them or add broadband via an existing phone line. As their network is mostly copper wire, speeds and performance can vary significantly from area to area.There are two types of ADSL broadband – ADSL1 and ADSL2. ADSL2 is the fastest option.
  • Fibre or ‘superfast’ broadband – fibre cable allows much faster speeds and a more consistent service. This superfast broadband is now available to 19 out of 20 UK homes and businesses. To see if you’re able to get fibre broadband where you live, use the government’s postcode checker. There are two types of fibre connection – FTTC and FTTP. FTTP is the fastest option and tends to be more expensive.
  • Cable – This uses a mix of fibre optic and coaxial cables. It’s faster than ADSL, but not yet available everywhere in Britain.
  • Satellite – for some rural areas with poor network coverage, this might be the only option. You’ll receive your signal via a satellite dish rather than cables. While speeds and stability have improved significantly in recent years, it’s more expensive than other options.
  • Mobile broadband – this bypasses cables completely and uses your mobile signal to connect to the internet. You’ll need a dongle, which connects wirelessly to your mobile network via your PC. Or a Mi-Fi, which is essentially carrying a hotspot Wi-Fi in a small device.

What broadband can I get in my area? 

To see what broadband options are available where you live. 

Use our postcode checker

How much data do I need?

As a guide we estimate that you’ll need the following data for:

  • Browsing and email use: Up to 10GB a month
  • Browsing and on-demand TV: 10-30GB a month
  • Browsing, on-demand TV, movies and music downloads: 40-80GB a month
  • All of the above, plus gaming: 40GB to unlimited a month

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

What broadband speed do I need? 

Superfast broadband is very useful if there are several people using the same broadband connection at the same time. It’s also good for downloading films and gaming. But for browsing, emailing, uploading occasional photos and watching catch-up TV and online streaming services like Netflix it shouldn’t be necessary – unless more than one device is using the internet simultaneously.   

If you want to find out more about broadband speeds, here are some recommended speeds for common internet uses. 
 
If you’re only using the internet for basic needs, such as checking your emails, browsing the web or shopping online, a regular ADSL broadband connection of up to 11Mbps should work with few problems. However, if you’re streaming lots of content (particularly in HD or 4K), video calling, online gaming, or simply have a lot of users in your home, you’ll likely need a super-fast fibre broadband package with a speed of about 55Mbps. 
 
If you’re curious about whether your current broadband speed is fast enough, use our broadband speed checker to find out whether you should switch to a faster speed. 

Go to our broadband speed checker

How long a contract do you want?

Most broadband contracts are for between 12 and 24 months and can have quite hefty fees if you want to exit early, so it’s important to ensure you are fully happy with a deal and that it suits your needs before tying yourself in.

What broadband provider should you choose?

There’s an enormous amount of choice, from leading providers like BT, Virgin Media and Sky^^ to competitors like the retailers, mobile phone companies and energy suppliers that have been getting in on the act in recent years.  

As a result, new broadband offers and promotions are cropping up all the time, and prices are constantly changing. 

When looking for a provider, you’ll want to take into account price, as well as type of connection, speeds and any data limits. You might also want to look at what the provider offers in terms of bundled TV and phone deals, and at their reputation for customer service.

^^Please note, you can't currently compare Sky Broadband and Sky TV packages through us.

What about broadband bundle deals?

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

To work out whether it’s 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.

You could save by getting everything from one broadband provider. BT, Sky and Virgin Media all offer competitive bundles, often with freebies thrown in. 

There are generally good broadband-only deals available from Virgin Media, Plusnet and Sky. If you’re looking for broadband and phone deals, then the main contenders tend to be BT and Vodafone, as well as less well-known providers like John Lewis and energy company SSE. 

Find out more about broadband, phone and TV packages

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

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