Broadband for beginners: getting the right broadband service


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The Independent Online

If you’re looking for a new broadband service in your area, it’s important to make sure you get the best provider and deal for your needs. But how do you decide between cheap internet and a bundle that includes digital TV, and just what is a good value broadband deal? We’re here to help.

In this guide

  • How to find the best broadband deal in your area
  • The different types of broadband service
  • Bundle or broadband only?
  • Ask the experts

How do I find the best broadband service in my area?

Using an independent, Ofcom-regulated comparison website can be a good place to start. By entering your postcode into the deal checker you can see what’s available locally and then decide what sort of service would suit you best. Make sure that you consider your requirements before you sign up.

There are three key things to think about when choosing a broadband service

  • Download speeds: how often you use the web and what for, will determine the kind of speeds you need. Here’s a breakdown of the different speeds available:
    • Basic broadband has a connection speed of at least 2Mbps. It’s slow, but sufficient for checking emails and browsing websites.
    • Superfast broadband usually refers to a speed of 25Mbps or above. This sort of connection will enable you to do most things without experiencing any lag. Superfast is about the upper limit of ADSL broadband connections.
    • Ultrafast broadband describes the new super-superfast broadband connections made available to Virgin Media fibre optic broadband customers. The speed of these connections is simply mind-boggling and can exceed 100Mbps.
  • Usage allowance: lots of cheap Internet deals come with a usage allowance that caps your service, this might not be a problem if you don’t plan to stream and download lots of content, but if you’re a frequent or heavy internet user it could cost you more to sign up to a budget deal
  • Service quality: your proximity to the nearest satellite tower will affect how fast and reliable your broadband is. Also look into customer service records to see how other people have found interacting with the internet service provider to be, when there’s a problem

What are the different types of broadband service?

Broadband through a landline

Most broadband connections are through a landline. Your home telephone connection is used to provide your home with Internet. There are a couple of different kinds of landline broadband connection.

  • ADSL Internet (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) - available to anyone with a BT landline, the original method of receiving broadband. While its connection speeds may not rival those of more modern broadband services like fibre optic cable, ADSL is still the most widely used type of broadband service

Choose ADSL if... value is more important than speed. We recommend you ask any potential broadband providers for a connection speed estimate before you sign on the dotted line.

ADSL providers: PlusNet, Direct Save Telecom and TalkTalk

  • Fibre optic broadband is a faster connection that eliminates interference, giving you a stronger signal. This is ideal for gamers or frequent streamers of media

Choose Fibre optic broadband if... you want a fast, reliable connection and are willing to pay a little extra

Fibre optic providers: PlusNet, BT, TalkTalk and Sky all provide fibre optic services via landline connections and will be able to give you information on whether or not you can receive this connection in your area.

Cable broadband

A fast fibre optic broadband service from Virgin Media, delivered via a network of glass and plastic cables that  that deliver fast connection speeds and high download speeds. Unfortunately, this service is not available everywhere, although Virgin Media's crack team of engineers is working on this.

Choose cable broadband if... you want superfast speeds and don’t mind paying more

Cable broadband providers: Virgin Media

Satellite broadband

Unless you live in an extremely remote location, where ADSL and fibre optic broadband connections are unavailable, you’re unlikely to come across satellite broadband. It’s not particularly fast compared to fibre optic, but it is fast enough to make it incredibly useful to homes and businesses where other connections aren’t an option.

Chose satellite broadband if... you can’t get a cable, ADSL or fibre optic connection in your area

Satellite broadband providers: Bentley Walker, Avanti and Tooway

Mobile broadband via 3G dongle

3G mobile broadband dongles contain a SIM card with a data allowance attached to it. It isn’t as fast as Cable or Fibre Optic broadband, but it’s a great portable option, as you can get online anywhere there’s network signal. Quite a few home broadband providers have started including unlimited Wi-Fi in their packages via open hotspots all over the UK, so it’s less necessary to carry a dongle with you nowadays.

Choose mobile broadband if... you want to get online while out and about, and you don’t mind being restricted by slower speeds and a data allowance.

Mobile broadband providers: EE, T-Mobile


Should I choose just broadband, or an Internet, digital TV and home phone bundle?

If you’re planning on getting a digital TV package, or you already have an existing digital TV deal from a provider like Sky or Virgin Media, it is more cost-effective to get all your digital services from one provider. Customers who bundle their services with one provider often find that they save a lot of money – Simplifydigital’s latest research suggests that people who switch to a better bundle can save up to £278*.

If you’re unsure which deal to go for, call our independent switching helpline, on 0800 977 5719

* 20% of Simplifydigital customers received an average saving of £278 per year. Data based on 2186 Simplifydigital records between 01 September 2012 – 31st December 2012.

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