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What’s broadband all about?

The internet has come to the rescue of many families and binge-watching is now the norm, Zoom or Teams calls our Friday nights out and online gaming a genuine method of staying in touch with friends.

If the internet is our hero, broadband will be the horse it rides in on. There are numerous internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK that offer myriad offers to regular consumers.

The days of hogging the phone line , and then dialling your web browser to access an in-depth menu of your favourite takeaway is a thing of the past. Internet access via dial-up is now replaced by faster, always-connected broadband that is capable of utilizing a larger (or wider) bandwidth, which leaves your phone line open for calls and makes the general internet use much simpler.

Once you get over the jargon thrown at you in the direction, it’s an incredibly straightforward market to understand and take control of, for the most effective digital bang for your buck.

What is broadband?

There are two kinds of broadband: regular and fibre. Standard broadband makes use of ADSL technology for connecting to the country’s existing copper phone network, meaning that it’s accessible across the majority of the UK. What you get for this service is a drop in download speeds, for instance when downloading.

The average speed of download for standard broadband are around 10 to eleven megabits of data per second (Mbps) This equates to just a few minutes of downloading your favourite TV show, when compared with some fibre options performing the same job in just a few seconds. Not a big deal on the surface, however it could result in problems with video calling, sending large email files or gaming online when multiple users are on the internet at the same time.

What’s fiber broadband? Can I get it?

Fibre broadband refers to more efficient fibre-optic cables that internet service providers use for connecting users to the internet, and to transfer information. This makes it possible for much faster data transference, which basically will make your internet quicker, both when uploading and downloading. It also is more reliable. as copper is more likely to degrade over fibre-optic cables.

Not all areas of UK is connected to fibre, but efforts are being made to connect all of the country. As of now, 97 percent of households will be able to access a 24 Mbps internet connection and around 80-90 percent of the UK being covered by BT fibre and 60 per cent by Virgin Media’s fibre-only network. It’s simple to verify this by typing your postcode into the website of any ISP.

Unfortunately there’s a reason why the UK is still among the lowest average speeds for internet in the world that is being ranked 44th in 2013. However, most everyday users shouldn’t notice too much. It’s more of a matter of national pride that takes a hit.

Do you need a phone line to access fibre broadband?

A landline phone is not required to use broadband. In fact, some ISPs offer free landlines especially for people who’ve already made the permanent change to cell phones. It’s not commonplace, because most ISPs use their copper wire networks at some point for the delivery of broadband Many fibre plans make use of fibre optics to connect the nearest Internet Exchange (a series of physical locations where the internet’s data is transferred) in your area to your home, before passing on to the phone line to reach your home. That means providers need to pay the owners of the copper network such as BT Openreach – to give you the package.

Virgin Media is the only big UK ISP that has its own fiber broadband network, which is separate from Openreach, and so can always offer broadband without landline. However, having no landline does not necessarily mean less expensive and it’s a good idea to shop around in both markets, even if do not own a mobile phone as it could be more value to pay for one at any rate.

What is a good broadband speed? What bandwidth speed do I require?

Speed is essential: it can mean the difference between a pleasant film date with your significant other as well as the cost of a new screen when you throw your shoe in frustration at Leonardo DiCaprio’s froze face.

The concept is quite simple the more users in your household connecting to your broadband, the more strain this will put on the speed of your internet. If the entire household is connected at the same time (and lets face it, in the past year, who hasn’t? ), delays and connection issues could get even worse.

However, simply choosing the fastest and cheap broadband doesn’t necessarily yield the most effective deal as not everyone requires top-of-the-line speeds, particularly household with a single or two members. You’ll be paying over the odds for your needs.

Most users will find that speed of download is the most important factor, because it is how your connection is able to handle streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, Spotify and YouTube. The majority of video streaming services have high-definition streaming available, which will put a bigger strain on your download speed, and online gaming is another as well, which put the strain on your upload capabilities.

Most households won’t need superfast (above 30Mbps) or ultrafast (above 100Mbps) broadband. They’ll be capable of stream, work and access social media at 10-15Mbps, however, if there are a lot of internet users at home in the household, who all want to watch the same HD streams or play high frame-rate games, it’s a good idea to consider upgrading to a faster broadband service.

One more thing to note While broadband offers mention”average” speeds, in reality they are “average speeds” for each deal, ISPs only need to offer this to 50% of their customers during peak times to justify the claim. The speeds will vary according to how many users there are in your region, how far you are from the exchange , and the condition of your cables and might be lower than what they advertise. Most providers will let you know the speed that is likely to be on your internet when you start signing up.

Is broadband the exact same thing as wifi?

They’re definitely compatible however, broadband isn’t an equivalent term for wifi. Broadband is the technology that brings internet data into your home via an internet cable. When this cable stops, most home setups use a wireless router to distribute the internet data throughout the house via wifi. For the best broadband you purchased it is necessary to connect directly to the router via an Ethernet cable. Only then can you access the full speed that the package offers. Wifi is a method for connecting your devices without the need for a cable. It works by using radio waves which can be interrupted pretty easily by distance or by a particular thick wall, and so average speeds may be affected.

Be sure to leave plenty of space between your devices and the router . make sure you don’t put it into a closet or behind a bookcase, for instance. If you’re still experiencing issues with your wifi connection either offering a weak signal or simply dropping between the two, it could be that your router is outdated or simply broken, so consult your ISP to get advice.

UK broadband providers

There are four major competitors on UK broadband. BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk are the top four with the most customer base. BT is by far the most popular with an estimated 9.3 million subscribers. However, the others have millions of contracts to themselves.

As previously mentioned, BT’s fiber network is the largest with 80-90 per cent of the UK covered. It is followed by Virgin Media and its independent fibre network that covers 60 percent. But there are other ISPs that are smaller , but offer great service. Vodafone joined the market just a few years ago and provides basic broadband plans at a great price, without the glitter and glamour that you usually get from the big four. One currently available Vodafone deal in our region provides an average speed of 63 Mbps, with no setup costs.

Companies such as A&A, iDNET and Kcom have a wide range of services, such as elevated technical expertise and support, or super-fast speeds at a good price, but these smaller companies are limited in their coverage throughout the country.

They vary and typically come in 12-, 18- or 24-month packages or even longer, depending upon the amount you’d like to spend monthly. Cheap contracts may look appealing, but could trap you in a long-term deal that is likely to expire and therefore, you should take the final price into consideration before signing the cheapest contract, but it will last for five years without the chance of upgrading.

What if I want to cancel my broadband package?

You can, but be aware of the high fees for early exit. Usually, if you’re not satisfied with the services your service provider has, um, provided, a call to them is the best option, describing your concerns. Most often, the threat of losing your clientele is more than enough to convince an ISP to provide you with better terms, be that more speed or a less expensive monthly rate.

Always remember to fight for the best price on the deal. Many customers in a state of confusion over the diverse broadband options and kinds of deals that are available, prefer to sit on their current contracts, unaware that the monthly price after your initial agreement has shot up by a shocking amount, and new customers are able to benefit from the best deals from their ISP. Be looking for better deals, whether at a different provider or with your current ISP, and make notes of any potential “loyalty penalties” you’re enduring by remaining to your ISP. Since it comes to contractual agreements, loyalty can be a two-way street.

The verdict Broadband contracts

A benefit that broadband used to enjoy when compared to fibre was its price. However, with fibre becoming more accessible across the country and efficiency increasing every day the price difference between the two services is becoming smaller and smaller.

Broadband is certainly a major business. In 2022, 92 per cent of UK adult population were internet users. That has undoubtedly risen in the last year or so. It is important for broadband providers to give the best rates they can. However, sometimes this isn’t the case, especially for long-time subscribers. Your options may be limited due to the spread of networks across different providers, however there are some fantastic deals there. Make sure you spend some time and shop for a while before you make a decision.