With so many options to choose from - with a whole lot of jargon thrown in for good measure - you might be feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the world of broadband. So let's break it down.
Essentially, there are three steps that you need to take:
- Consider how you'll be using your broadband package
- Compare the deals in your area
- Find the best deal and sign up to your new package
How can I connect to the internet?
The way you connect to your internet can affect the broadband speeds and packages that will be available to you. Here are the main options:
- ADSL broadband. This is connected over your home landline. As BT own the landline infrastructure in the UK, you'll need to rent your phone line from them or add broadband via an existing phone line. With this option, two types of broadband are available; ADSL1 and ADSL2, the latter being the fastest.
- Fibre optic or 'superfast' broadband. Fibre cable allows much faster speeds and a more consistent service. It's now available to 19 out of 20 UK homes and businesses so chances are, you'll have no problems getting hold of this option. There are two types of fibre optic connection; FTTC and FTTP, the latter being the faster and more expensive option. To see if you are able to get fibre broadband in your area, use the government's postcode checker.
- Cable. This uses a mix of fibre optic and coaxial cables. Whilst it's faster than ADSL, it's not actually available everywhere in the UK.
- Satellite. The only option for many rural areas with poor coverage. Signal is received via a satellite dish rather than through cables. Old school, right? Speeds and stability for satellite are pretty good these days, but it often doesn't come cheap.
- Mobile broadband. This uses your mobile phone signal to connect to the internet and needs a dongle in order to work, which connects wirelessly to your mobile network via your PC.
What kind of an internet user am I?
Do you live alone and just need the basics? Are you a family of four or more who'll all be using it daily? Are you a gamer or someone who downloads a lot online? Here's our guide on what could work for you:
- Light user. You live alone and you're not online a lot - just to check your emails, browse social media or play the odd YouTube clip. Perhaps you're a beginner and new to the internet. Go for a low usage package and maybe opt for ADSL broadband. It's always best to start small - that way you can upgrade to higher speeds if you need to.
- Heavy user. This is for the families who have multiple users with multiple devices in the home accessing the internet. Also, anyone who uses the internet to play games, stream online and watch apps like Netflix and BBC iPlayer will be classed as a heavy user. We suggest unlimited downloads and fibre optic as opposed to ADSL broadband to avoid extra charges and buffering.
- Student user. Did you know you can get specific student packages? They're usually unlimited given the amount of time students spend online, and they have nine month contracts, meaning that you won't pay outside of term time.
How much broadband data do I need?
So, now you know what kind of a user you are, you should have a better idea of how much data you're going to need. As you may have guessed, the more time you'll be spending online, the more people using the connection and the more you'll be downloading and streaming, the more data you're going to need.
You might be looking at the gigabyte (GB) options and your mind is probably boggling. Here's an estimated guide on what you'll need:
- 10GB a month. This is best for browsing the internet and using emails.
- 10-30GB a month. Opt for this if you're planning on browsing the internet and watching on-demand TV.
- 40-80GB a month. You need this if you're planning on all the above, plus downloading movies and music.
- 40GB to unlimited a month. All of the above, plus gaming.
How long should my broadband contract be?
Contract lengths can vary, usually between 12 and 24 months. It might be best to first commit to a 12 month contract, just in case it ends up not quite suiting your needs. You want to be sure that you're fully happy with the deal if you're going to stick with it for two years. If there's any chance of you moving house within the contract period then you need to consider that too. Exiting early will set you back a fair amount of money!
Once you've settled into a broadband contract that's perfect for your home, then you can increase it to a 24 month contract. As mentioned above, students can get tailored 9 month contracts to avoid them paying for a service that they are not using out of term time, but it's worth doing the maths. You might be hit with set-up fees that mean it could actually be cheaper to opt for a standard low cost 12 month contract instead.