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Upgrading your broadband for home working

The number of people working from home has dramatically increased since the pandemic. But to make this a stress-free process, you’ll need the right broadband in place. Here’s what to know.  

The number of people working from home has dramatically increased since the pandemic. But to make this a stress-free process, you’ll need the right broadband in place. Here’s what to know.  

Written by
Sajni Shah
Utilities comparison expert
Last Updated
17 FEBRUARY 2023
6 min read
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What broadband speeds do I need to work from home? 

What broadband speeds you need will depend on the kind of work you do. If you make a lot of video conference calls, or regularly upload or download large files, you’ll need better broadband than someone who simply does a bit of light emailing and web browsing.

For web browsing and social media, you’ll ideally need around 5 Mbps (megabits per second). If you’re streaming video or making Zoom and Teams calls, you’ll need somewhere between 5 and 40 Mbps.

But the broadband speeds you need will also depend on the size of your household and how they use the internet. If your family or housemates are also working from home or are gamers, or stream movies on their own devices, you’ll need higher broadband speeds than someone who lives alone.   

Do I need business broadband to work from home? 

It’s usually fine to use a home broadband package to work from home. But, depending on the kind of work you do, you may benefit from a business broadband package. This will give you better customer service, more security and phone capability, and a more powerful router. 

Do I need to worry about usage limits? 

Most broadband packages now offer unlimited data, but you may find that some cheaper packages cap your monthly data allowance. If your broadband is capped, you’ll need to know how much data you’re using by working from home, so you aren’t charged for exceeding the limit. 

When you compare broadband deals with us, we’ll only show you unlimited data products, so you won’t have to worry about how much data you’re using.

Find out more about broadband data usage allowances

Does it matter how many people share my broadband connection?

Yes it can do. If you have a large household with lots of heavy internet users, it will affect your broadband speed. The more people using WiFi to stream TV, play online games or make video calls at the same time, the slower your broadband will be.

My broadband is slow, what can I do?

Here are Ofcom’s tips for improving slow WiFi:

  • Carry out a broadband speed test
  • Talk to your broadband provider to see if there’s an issue
  • Update your internet browser
  • Download films to watch later, rather than live streaming them  
  • Avoid using electrical equipment like microwaves, baby monitors or halogen lamps if you’re doing something important online as these can interfere with the WiFi signal 
  • Place your router in an open space, away from other devices and windows
  • Connect your computer to the router with an ethernet cable to minimise interference
  • Make video conferencing calls at off-peak times – for example, at quarter past the hour
  • Disconnect devices you’re not using, otherwise they may continue running in the background
  • Make calls on a landline, where possible, rather than using apps. 

Your broadband provider is obliged to give at least 50% of customers the advertised speeds at peak times. When you sign up, your provider should give you a minimum guaranteed speed for your broadband service. They should also tell you what to do if the speed you receive is less than what you were guaranteed. Typically, if your speeds drop below this for a couple of days, call your provider to see if there’s a fault that needs fixing.   

Should I upgrade my broadband?  

If your current broadband package isn’t working for you, you may want to upgrade. The fastest internet available is gigabit, which gives you speeds of up to one gigabit per second (Gbps) or 1,000 Mbps.

The government has spent £5bn rolling out gigabit speeds across the UK, so if you can’t access it already, it’s likely you’ll be able to soon.

The next-best option is superfast fibre broadband, the most popular type of connection in the UK. Fibre broadband gives you faster speeds and allows you to use multiple devices at once. As the programme has rolled out to more and more areas, prices have come down – so it could be cheaper than you think. 

If your contract is coming to an end, it’s always worth looking to switch. If you want more entertainment options, you could look into a broadband and TV bundle. The likes of BT, Virgin Media and Sky will give more channels if you buy a TV package with them.   

Can I improve my WiFi with a booster? 

If you need to boost your WiFi signal, there are a few bits of kit that can help. You could: 

  • Upgrade your router – old or basic tech may be hindering your WiFi speed
  • Use a WiFi repeater  to carry your signal further 
  • Use a wireless range extender to reach WiFi dead zones around your home.

Top tip

If your router has antennas, angle one up and one to the side to optimise where the WiFi signal is travelling.

What can I do if I live in a rural area? 

Broadband could still be slower in rural areas because often the infrastructure isn’t there and homes are further from telephone exchanges. The further broadband has to travel along the wire, the slower it will be. 

Mobile broadband could be a good temporary solution if you get a decent mobile signal where you live. You could also look into satellite broadband if you want something more long term. 

There’s also a government scheme to help pay towards improving broadband in some hard-to-reach areas. Find out more in our guide to broadband in rural areas.

How can I tell if there’s an active phone line in my house?

If you’re with an Openreach provider, your phone/router should already be connected to an Openreach socket.

If you’re without broadband or have home broadband not supplied by an Openreach provider, you’ll need to check that your home has an Openreach socket.

This is what an Openreach socket, if you haven't got fibre, usually looks like:

Next, you’ll need to see if your line is active. You can do this by performing a line check with an Openreach provider on their website. You usually just need to enter your postcode to check.

If your phone line is active, your switch can happen quickly. Most switches don’t require an Openreach engineer, but you may need to check this with your new provider. Typically, you can just plug in the equipment following any instructions provided. 

Read about what to do if you have an Openreach engineer coming.

Which broadband providers can I switch to?

In most cases, you should be able to do a one-stop switch where you don’t need to contact your current provider as your new provider should arrange the transfer for you. Typically, you can arrange a one-stop switch between the following (but always check with the provider first): 

  • BT
  • TalkTalk
  • EE
  • Plusnet
  • Vodafone
  • NOW Broadband
  • Shell Energy Broadband
  • Post Office
  • John Lewis
  • SSE
  • Sky
  • Utility Warehouse
  • Zen 

If you’re switching to (or from) a fibre-to-the-premises ‘full-fibre’ service or a provider that doesn’t use the Openreach network – such as Virgin Media’s cable service, Gigaclear or Community Fibre – you’ll need to stop your service with your current provider and start a new service with a new provider. You’ll have to contact both providers yourself.

Will there be an interruption to my broadband when I switch?

You should only have a tiny interruption to your broadband when switching, although it depends on what you’re switching:

  •  Just broadband – typically a few minutes downtime
  • Broadband and landline provider – there may be more downtime, but your provider can advise you
  • Different types of broadband (for example, standard to fibre) – this can involve anything from a few hours to a full day of downtime, as your connection must be switched off and your new service activated.  

Your new provider will organise the switch and let you know how long you’ll be without internet.

Find out more about switching broadband providers

Broadband for working at home: what to know

If you’re shopping around for home broadband, here’s what to consider:

  • Do you need superfast speeds? Gigabit internet has huge advantages, but you could find you’re paying for speeds you don’t need
  • It’s always worth shopping around to find the cheapest deals in your area
  • If broadband is essential for your work, you should have a backup plan ready in case of an outage. See what options or guarantees your provider offers. And think about how you might manage if you’re stuck,  for example, can you tether your mobile phone, use a MiFi dongle, work somewhere else that has WiFi or just go into the office?

Frequently asked questions

What’s the best broadband for working from home?

The best broadband for you will depend on what you’re looking for – fast speeds or good value. Ideally you’ll want to find the right combination of both.

My broadband isn’t working – can I get compensation?

If your broadband doesn’t work and your provider doesn’t fix it within two working days of you reporting it, you’re automatically entitled to £8.40 for each day it isn’t fixed if your provider is signed up to the scheme – which most of the big ones are.

But you won't be entitled to compensation if the problem is caused by equipment or activity within your home.

You can also receive £5.25 compensation if your broadband isn’t up and running on the arranged date. And if the engineer doesn’t turn up or cancels with less than 24 hours’ notice, you should receive £26.24.

What’s the cheapest broadband?

Some broadband providers offer ‘social tariffs’ to those on certain benefits. Virgin Media offers broadband for £15 a month to low-income families or those on Universal Credit. Meanwhile, Sky’s Broadband Basics scheme will get you online for £20 a month for 18 months, while BT Home Essentials is £15 or £20 a month depending on the package.

If you’re not eligible for a social tariff and you’re out of contract, you’re probably paying too much. It’s worth seeing if you can find a cheaper deal with a new provider or see what your current provider will offer – especially to stop you going elsewhere.

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