Get up to speed with broadband provision
Saturday 29 September 2007
Although the broadband market has become fiercely competitive over the past couple of years – driving down prices, and improving service – the majority of consumers still don't get anything close to the speed which their provider advertises.
According to the consumer group Which?, customers who are promised a broadband package offering speeds of up to 8 megabytes per second, typically enjoy a connection no faster than 2.7MB. While even the very best 8MB package only registered speeds of 6.7MB in its tests.
The latest research from www.broadbandchoices.co.uk, the comparison website, paints a similar picture. While Tesco's package topped its tables for a second month in a row in August, it still only delivers speeds of around 50 per cent of the advertised rate. And at the bottom of the pile, Talk Talk, on average, delivers customers less than a third of their advertised speed.
The results demonstrate the importance of carrying out a bit of due diligence before signing up to a new broadband package, and understanding that plumping for the cheapest deal is likely to leave you with an unreliable and much slower service than you had bargained for.
Your broadband speed is determined by a number of factors – the first of which is how far you live from the exchange. "Theoretically, you'd need to live next door or on top of the exchange to achieve the advertised speed," says Michael Phillips of broadbandchoices.co.uk. "We think providers should have to advertise a typical speed, which represents at least two-thirds of their customers – similar to the rules surrounding the use of APRs in adverts for credit cards."
Phillips says that some providers, such as madasafish.co.uk, will tell you what speed you're going to get before sign-up – and most other providers offer a tool to help you find out what the likely speed would be in your home (but might not encourage you to check before you sign up).
Sites such as broadbandchoices.co.uk and uswitch.com have customer service ratings which show how users rate different services on a number of factors. These can prove to be a useful tool when trying to pick out the best provider.
Before you spend too much time looking for a provider which can deliver you a super-fast service, it's worth taking the time to consider exactly what kind of service you need. Steve Weller of uswitch.com says that if you only tend to use your broadband connection for checking your emails and some light web browsing, a 2MB connection with a relatively low download limit will probably suit your needs.
However, if you regularly play online games or download music and movies, you should think about getting a faster connection and one with more flexible limits. Some providers will have a limit, but then charge you a set fee for every additional gigabyte of downloads that you make each month. While others offer unlimited downloads – subject to a "fair usage policy". Uswitch's website has a tool which enables you to estimate how much capacity you need each month.
The monthly cost of the package is one of the most important factors when shopping around for a new broadband provider, but don't just look at the headline rate. "Look out for things beyond the surface price, such as charges for equipment," says Ceri Stanaway, a senior researcher at Which?. "And if a company offers you free equipment, it's important to consider whether it's the equipment you really need. A lot of companies provide a modem, when what most people want is a wireless router."
Weller points out that customers who are willing to sign up to longer-term contracts are less likely to be charged a set-up fee, or have to pay for hardware. However, it's worth being sure you've made the right choice before committing to 18 months or two years, as there are hefty exit penalties if you try to terminate your contract early.
"Until recently, most contracts were 12 months," he says. "But we're starting to see an increasing number of 18-month and even two-year contracts now. AOL offers customers a free laptop if they sign up to a two-year contract, although they have to take a phone line as well. You can get some good deals by committing to the longer term."
If you're switching from another provider, you should be able to make the move within five days. However, Jason Lloyd the comparison site, www.moneysupermarket.com, warns that some companies still take over three weeks to make the transition. "To help cut down on delays, you should get written confirmation from the provider you're moving to stating when you will get connected and hold them to that date. It's a little-known part of the regulation that providers should tell you when they intend to connect you to their service."
Phillips points out that before you switch, it's worth making sure you've done everything to ensure you're getting the most out of your current package. Broadbandchoices.co.uk offers 10 tips to improve your broadband speed at home, such as adjusting your browser settings, getting a better router, and using shorter cables.
Many of the best value deals come by signing up to other packages as well. For example, VirginMedia offers broadband for just £4.50 a month if you also take its landline phone service. And if you subscribe to its cable TV service as well, there are even greater savings. Furthermore, broadband is then supplied down the cable, which can be more reliable.
Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk
The best deals on personal loans: Peer-to-peer providers are more competitive for smaller sums
China stock market: My portfolio's in pain, but it was never for the financially faint-hearted
China stock collapse: Five things you need to know about 'Black Monday'
Questions of Cash: 'Our dividends seem to have disappeared when TSB was bought and then born again'
My Tinder date asked for a refund when I declined a second meet up
- 1 Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
- 2 Pictures show young Palestinian girl biting Israeli soldier trying to detain boy during West Bank protests
- 3 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 4 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
iJobs Money & Business
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
Day In a Page
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
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.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.