A simples guide

Can I get a faster broadband connection in my area?

Thanks to the roll out of fibre optic broadband, faster speeds are becoming more affordable for more and more users in the UK. With fibre now available in over 25 million properties nationwide, competition is intense and the possibility of finding a better broadband deal, with faster speeds is good.

Before we start though, a quick word about broadband speed. Typical speeds are quoted in megabits per second or Mbps.

This is the amount of data that can be transferred in one second. Your connection will have two speeds associated with it, a download speed and an upload speed. The download speed is generally much quicker, and this is the one usually quoted by broadband companies.

Conventional broadband download speeds are in the region of up to 15-20 Mbps. Fibre optic in contrast is typically offered with speeds up to 76 Mbps with superfast options to 200 Mbps or more.

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How do I find out my current speed?

It’s all very well deciding you want faster broadband, but before pursuing that, you really need to know what speed you’re actually getting today.

When we say actually getting we mean just that. We don’t mean what your supplier advertised as their headline speed. You’ll notice in their adverts they always say “up to” or “maximum speed”.

What you actually get may be a fraction of this “up to” speed.

There are a couple of quick ways you can check you actual broadband speed:

  • Use an online speed checker. Be sure to test during peak times (post 5pm) to see if your connection suffers from interference
  • If you have an iPhone or Android phone you can download speed checker applications that will run the test over your Wi-Fi network. They’ll give you a good idea of what speed you’re actually getting across your network.
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Why are the speeds so different to those advertised?

  • The distance from your home to an exchange

The most significant factor affecting conventional broadband services is how far away you live from a BT exchange and a street cabinet. You might be wondering why on earth that makes a difference…

Well quite simply, conventional broadband operates over copper wires and the further a signal has to travel along a copper wire, the slower it gets.

So, if you live next door to an exchange, you might get speeds close to those advertised. If you live in a more rural area or many miles from an exchange, you’ll find the speed can be a fraction of that advertised.

Fibre optic cables don’t suffer from the same issue which is one of the main reasons why they are so much quicker.

There are other factors that affect the speed:

  • More people on the network can slow down internet speeds
  • More customers using the same exchange can slow speeds
  • The more devices connected to your broadband network, potentially the slower the speed
  • Phone line quality issues
  • Even bad weather is sometimes blamed

Can I get faster broadband elsewhere?

Remember that with conventional broadband, most companies use Openreach’s infrastructure which is owned by BT. Simply switching supplier won’t necessarily give you better speeds as you’ll still be using the same wires.

However, if you’re thinking of switching to a fibre optic service, or Virgin Media (who have their own infrastructure), first check that you are out of your existing broadband contract or getting close to it. This is because most broadband packages have financial penalties for breaking your contract.

Assuming you’re good to move, use our broadband comparison service to compare what packages are available to you. Not only do we allow you to compare broadband services but you have the option to bundle in your home phone and digital TV packages too if you wish.

Simply enter your postcode and we’ll show you the deals available in your area. If you get stuck we’re also waiting to help you on the end of the phone. Just call our experts, 8am - 9pm Monday to Sunday, on 0800 276 1180.

Remember, when signing up to a new deal look for the speed the provider will guarantee rather than the “up to” speed. You’ll find this in your contract t&cs. This is the speed that the provider commits to provide you on a regular basis.

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