Most home broadband providers now offer wireless broadband through a wireless router or dongle – and the good news is that there are plenty of cheap deals available out there.
So we thought it might be helpful to take a look at what wireless broadband is, the different types that are available on the market, and what you need to look out for when comparing broadband deals.
What is wireless broadband, and what is a wireless router?
A broadband connection is delivered to your home down a variety of wire or cable. Which begs the question: what’s wireless about it? Well, that’s where that little box in the corner called a wireless router comes in.
So what is a wireless router?
Wireless routers ‘beam’ your internet connection to any wireless-enabled devices in your home – such as computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, games consoles and ‘smart’ TVs. They take the internet data that’s come down the wire into your home, and turn it into radio waves. These waves are then picked up by your wireless devices, and converted back into data that your computer, phone or TV can make sense of.
Wireless routers are often included in broadband packages. But you can also buy higher-spec versions if you’re keen to boost coverage and performance.
Wireless broadband shouldn’t be confused with mobile broadband, which is a signal that’s delivered to your mobile phone. This comes from your mobile service provider via their phone masts. There are two types available: 3G or 4G. The 4G version is faster, though it isn’t yet available in all areas, or on all devices.
What are the different types of wireless broadband?
There are three types of ‘wired’ broadband that you can get delivered to your home: ADSL, cable and fibre. And therefore, there are routers that convert each kind into a wireless internet signal.
ADSL is the basic and most available type of broadband and stands for ‘asymmetric digital subscriber line’. It works over the standard copper wires that carry your home telephone line. Cable internet uses coaxial and fibre optic cables. Fibre optic broadband (sometimes just called ‘fibre’) is delivered via clusters of fibre optic cables.
There are two types of ADSL technology, helpfully called ADSL1 and ADSL2. And there are two types of fibre connection, called – here are some more acronyms for you – FTTC and FTTP.
FTTP is ‘fibre-to-the-premises’. That basically means fibre optic cable delivered right into people’s homes. FTTC stands for ‘fibre-to-the-cabinet’. FTTC only runs from the telephone exchange to the street cabinets that house the connections to each home. Copper wires then carry the connection on into the homes, which slows down the connection on the last leg. So in a nutshell, FTTP is the faster of the two.
For broadband users, the key difference between the different types of connection is speed. According to Ofcom, the average broadband speed across the UK is now 22.8Mbit/s. ADSL1 is capable of a maximum speed of about 8 Mbit/s, while ADSL2 can get up to around 24 Mbit/s. By comparison, the fastest cable broadband packages offer speeds of up to 152 Mbit/s.
With regards to fibre, FTTC services are typically sold as offering speeds of up to 38 Mbit/s or 76 Mbit/s. Fastest of all if is FTTP, with speeds reaching 1 Gbit/s – that’s a whopping 1,000 Mbit/s.
So you may now be asking yourself: how can I check broadband speeds in my area?
Just type “broadband speed checker” into your browser, and you’ll find plenty of options.
Can I get fibre optic broadband in my area?
Good question. The simple answer is, it depends where you live. Most homes in the UK can get ADSL, but cable and fibre are still being rolled out in some parts of the country.
To see what’s available where you are, use an online broadband availability checker. Use this to compare availability and speeds in your area. Then use our comparison service to help you compare broadband providers based on your postcode.
What else do I need to know?
If you’re looking for wireless broadband, keep in mind that speed isn’t the only consideration.
Price will of course be a major factor. But there are other things to think about too. You need to look at what you’ll get for your money. What data limits do the different deals come with? Which come with traffic management, meaning slower connectivity at peak times? Which providers give you a free add-ons such as antivirus software or shopping vouchers?
It’s also important to consider whether you want to bundle your phone and broadband, and even your TV, into a single package, or just look at broadband only deals.
Finally, check how long you will be tied into a contract. Broadband deals are constantly changing so being able to switch relatively often could be an advantage.
How can I compare broadband services in my area?
That’s what we’re here for. You can use comparethemarket.com to find a wireless broadband deal for you.
All you have to do is enter your postcode, and you’ll find everything you need in one place. You can compare broadband deals, phone and broadband deals, and broadband, phone and TV packages. Compare monthly or annual charges, speeds, download limits, connection costs, and any freebies on offer – not forgetting showing you which all-important wireless router you’ll get!
Try comparethemarket.com today, and see how much you could save on your wireless broadband.