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Wireless broadband, also known as WiFi, allows you to access the internet without plugging your devices into a network.

Home broadband providers offer wireless internet as standard through a wireless broadband router – and the good news is that there are plenty of cheap broadband deals out there. Let’s take a look.

 

How does a wireless broadbandrouter work? 

Without getting too technical, a wireless router takes the internet data that comes into your home, turns it into radio waves and ‘beams’ your internet connection to any wireless-enabled devices in your home.

This means that everyone in your household can go online at the same time with their smartphones, laptops, tablets and other smart devices without the need for wires and cables trailing everywhere.

If there are areas of your home that struggle to get a decent WiFi signal, you may need a WiFi extender or booster. This is an additional device that you can plug in somewhere else in your home to amplify the signal.

What type of WiFi deals are available? 

Wireless broadband can vary in speed and reliability, depending on which type you go for. When you’re comparing WiFi deals from wireless internet providers, these are the main options:

  • Standard ADSL broadband – the most basic type of broadband, this works over the standard copper wires that carry your home telephone line. It offers average speeds of around 10Mbps (megabits per second), which are the slowest on the market.
  • Superfast fibre broadband – also known as ‘fibre-to-the-cabinet’ (FTTC) broadband, this uses a combination of copper phone lines and fibre optic cables to connect you. It offers speeds of at least 30Mbps and is available to more than 97% of UK homes.
  • Cable broadband – this uses coaxial and fibre optic cables to deliver broadband to your home, and the main provider is Virgin Media. It can offer download speeds of over 1Gbps (gigabits per second) but isn’t available everywhere
  • Full fibre broadband – also known as ‘fibre-to-the-premises’ (FTTP) broadband, full fibre goes straight to your home. It's currently available to 42% of homes in the UK and can deliver lightning-fast speeds of up to 1Gbps.

Whichever way it comes into your home, your wireless router will convert the data into a wireless internet signal via the phone or cable line.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of wireless broadband routers? 

Wireless routers have revolutionised the way we use the internet, and come with many benefits. But they can have their downsides too. 

Advantages 

  • Portability - wireless technology means you don’t have to plug in cables every time you want to use your laptop or tablet. You can take your device from room to room, and maybe even into the garden, and still get a signal.
  • Accessibility - wireless allows several people to be online at the same time, so it’s convenient for busy households.
  • Smart device compatibility - wireless broadband can connect all your smart home devices, not just phones and tablets. Fridges, lights, speakers and heating can all be linked too.
  • Simple set-up - in most cases, setting up your wireless broadband is straightforward and you won’t need an engineer to install it for you. Simply plug and go! 

Disadvantages 

  • Signal strength - if you have a large home or thick walls, you might find that the signal is poor in some rooms.
  • Security - wireless networks are more susceptible to cyber-attacks, so you need to make sure your router password is secure.
  • Router quality - not all routers are the same. The newest routers use the 'AX' standard, which helps maintain a fast speed when more than one device is connected. But the type of router you’re given may depend on the package you choose.

How do I set up my wireless router?

Thankfully, you won’t have to be a technical whiz to set up your new WiFi hub. Most routers have the correct settings already pre-installed, so it should be as simple as plugging it into a power socket and your main phone or cable socket.

In some instances, you might need an engineer to visit your home to install some hardware if you’re having a different type of broadband fitted, but you can arrange this when you sign up to a service.

Where’s the best place to put a wireless router? 

Where you put your router can make a big difference to the strength of signal you get. Follow our tips on how to position your wireless router, to help maximise coverage throughout your home:

  • Place the router in the middle of your home as walls and other solid surfaces can slow speeds. You’ll get a better result the fewer walls the signal has to go through.
  • Avoid putting the router on the floor - put it on a shelf or table and you’ll reduce the wastage of signal going through the floor.
  • Don't put the router by a window as you'll get a leakage of signal outside.
  • Don't position it by the TV as metal objects can reflect and scatter your signal. If you have open-plan living spaces, don't put it by the fridge or microwave either.
  • Put the router somewhere you can see it - if you put it in a cupboard, the signal has to travel through more obstacles before it reaches your device.

If you still get a poor signal, you may need to consider broadband extenders.

How secure is wireless broadband? 

Wireless broadband is generally fairly secure – as long as you take a few sensible precautions.

Your wireless router will likely come with an encryption key to protect your network, but you might want to change the default password as hackers have been known to target these. Make sure you choose a strong password and keep it safe.

Avoid sharing your password with people outside your household. If your router offers the option, create a guest wireless network and allow visitors and friends to use it. This helps keep your network safe from any of their devices that might be infected with malware.

Most newer routers come with an automatic update to keep the security protection current. If you have an older model, keep an eye on the manufacturer’s website to see if you need to manually update it and how to do it.

How can I compare the best wireless broadband in my area?

Simply enter your postcode into our broadband postcode checker at the top of the page and we’ll help you find great-value deals from leading internet providers.

We can also show you bundled packages, including broadband and TV deals or broadband, TV and phone deals.

If you want to compare how fast your current broadband is to speeds that are available where you live, try our broadband speed checker. You might find that faster speeds are available in your area. If so, we’ll give you some options to switch provider if you want. Start comparing today and see if you can save.

Frequently asked questions

Wired vs wireless broadband: which is better?

Wireless broadband gives you greater freedom than a wired connection because it allows you to access the internet from any wireless-enabled device anywhere in your home.

Wired connections, on the other hand, tend to be faster and more stable than wireless. In fact, some businesses still use wired networks for the high level of performance they get. Disadvantages of a wired network include less mobility, high maintenance costs and cables causing trip hazards.

Can I get wireless fibre broadband?

All home fibre broadband deals are wireless, so most people can get this type of package. However, around 3% of homes in the UK still can’t access fibre broadband, mostly in hard-to-reach rural spots.

If you’re one of these households, look for alternatives that offer at a similar speed to wireless fibre, including 4G or 5G mobile broadband and satellite internet.

Are wireless routers included in broadband deals?

Yes. Wireless routers are usually included in broadband packages. But you can also buy higher-spec versions or WiFi extenders, if you’re keen to boost coverage and performance.

Which providers offer the best wireless router?

All major broadband providers offer WiFi hubs that are fast, secure and well-designed to look good in your home. These include: 

  • BT Smart Hub 2
  • Virgin Media Hub 5
  • TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub
  • Sky Broadband Hub
  • EE Smart Hub
  • Vodafone Ultra Hub.

If your existing router is old, upgrading it to a newer model could benefit your household.

How do I connect to wireless broadband?

To connect devices like your laptop and smartphone to your wireless network, you’ll need the name of your network and password information. You’ll usually find this printed on the back or bottom of your router. You can also find this information on your WiFi security card if you’re given one of these as part of your broadband package.

What should I look for when buying a wireless router?

Look for routers that use AX (WiFi 6) technology as these will give you the fastest WiFi speeds. The best routers will also offer at least two radio bands, and the more antennae it has the better as this will give you the biggest signal range throughout your home.

If you want to manage how your WiFi network is being used, make sure your router has parental controls, quality of service options and a guest network feature.

Author image Sajni Shah

What our expert says...

“Broadband providers regularly upgrade their networks and routers using the latest wireless tech. So, it’s always worth checking to see what deals are available when you’re nearing the end of your contract or if you find you’re not getting the service you expected.”

- Sajni Shah, Utilities comparison expert

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