Get more gigabytes for your money as broadband tumbles
Broadband prices have fallen so sharply you can save money and speed up your service, says David Prosser
Saturday 01 April 2006
he cost of broadband internet access has fallen by almost a third over the past 12 months and prices are still falling. Price comparison service Uswitch says the average standard broadband deal cost £23 a month last March - today it is down to just £16.50.
The reductions mean that for those without internet access - or those who still have slow dial-up services - broadband has never been more affordable. And if you've already signed up to a deal, by switching, you may be able to save money and improve the quality of your broadband access.
The advantage of a broadband connection over dial-up services is speed. Your internet access will be at least 10 times faster, plus you're always connected, and the link does not tie up your home phone line.
The good news is that broadband is getting faster. A year ago, the standard service was 512Kbps (kilobits per second). Today's basic packages are generally at least twice as fast, at 1Mbps (megabit per second). Connection speeds of 8Mb are widely available, though not all telephone exchanges have yet been equipped to deliver broadband providers' fastest services.
Broadly speaking, there are three types of broadband service available, though bundled packages (see story right) are also worth considering.
First, if you're only a moderate internet user, a standard 1mb connection should be fine. At this speed, websites will appear almost instantly, but downloading music or video files may take slightly longer.
Second, there are premium services. Neil Hodges, of the price-comparison service Simply Switch, says: "If you're a heavier internet user, you may need to pay a little more in order to get a speedier service." Paying a premium for a 2Mb, 4Mb or 8Mb service will cut down on waiting time if you download a lot of large data files. It should also improve your online gaming experience, if that's what you use the internet for.
The third issue to consider is how much you download. Most basic packages set a monthly limit - one or two gigabytes is typical. Each web-page that you call up counts towards that limit, though simply surfing won't get you anywhere near a breach. Regularly downloading large files, however, will eat up capacity and you may need more.
Broadband providers charge more for extra download capacity, but unlimited deals are not prohibitively expensive. Just think carefully about what you need. Although BT has just announced a crackdown on those users who regularly go over their contracted download limits, most providers will not penalise a few occasional breaches.
"The people who genuinely need speed are also the ones most likely to be heavy downloaders," says Hodges. But pick a broadband deal that best fits your profile as an internet user.
There are some hidden costs to watch out for. Before signing up for a deal, check whether there are any upfront charges to pay in addition to the monthly subscription. 4D Internet's unlimited download deal, for example, is competitively priced at £29.99 a month, but comes with a £70.50 connection fee.
Sometimes, it may be worth paying such fees. If you're signing up for a 12-month contract, check the total amount you'll pay over the year, rather than focusing purely on connection charges or monthly fees.
Also, check on the price of technical support. Broadband suppliers provide a telephone hotline you can call if you have any problems - most charge national rates, but some are premium-rate. Toucan, for example, charges 30p a minute for calls to its support line, and costs will mount up quickly if you do have problems.
Finally, note that the majority of broadband providers now require you to sign up for 12 months. If you want to get out of the contract earlier, you'll have to pay penalty charges. It's not a problem signing a year-long contract as long as you're aware of the commitment you have made. And suppliers offering one-month contracts - including Virgin and Plusnet - are rarely the absolute cheapest broadband providers.
Bundles of savings for doubling up
* Some of the cheapest deals on broadband are available from suppliers offering bundled packages, with internet access and a home phone service for one price. Cable & Wireless's Bulldog service, for example, offers broadband at a speed of up to 8Mb for just £9.75 a month, but you also have to sign up to its phone line, for £10.50 a month.
* Chris Williams, of the price-comparison service Uswitch, says these deals are definitely worth considering. "The risk is that by getting a cheap deal on broadband you'll be paying over the odds for your phone service, but most bundled packages are pretty competitive on both," he says. "You might get a slightly cheaper deal by finding the cheapest phone and internet providers separately, but many people are happy to pay slightly more for the convenience of a single package."
* Home-phone users with a standard deal from BT are likely to be able to save money on their phone costs by switching to a bundled broadband deal - and they don't need to change their phone number.
Customers paying up to £250 more on energy bills than they should every year
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Has your Premium Bond won the £1million jackpot?
There are 'dark corners' of the investment and pensions industry, says Pension Minister
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
iJobs Money & Business
£36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...
£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads