Get up to speed with broadband provision

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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

    Helpdesk Analyst

    £23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London