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Regular Broadband-related news and comment from the Broadband.co.uk team.

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Broadband-related features and articles.

Laptop with a picture of fast city lights on the screen

Is it time to upgrade to ultrafast broadband?

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesTrueSpeedSkyEEVirgin MediaVodafoneCommunity FibreGigaclear

With the upgrade to our broadband infrastructure being accelerated, ultrafast broadband is becoming more accessible with each passing day.

So you might now be wondering, is it time to upgrade to a faster deal? But what exactly do you get, and what are the benefits to ultrafast broadband? Let's take a look.

What is ultrafast broadband?

Anything with a download speed over 100Mb can be classified as ultrafast.

There are a lot of different technologies that are able to deliver these faster speeds, including upgraded street cabinets that use the G.fast technology, Virgin Media's cable and fibre network, and the growing number of full fibre, or fibre-to-the-home, services that are being rolled out across the country.

Coverage is still quite patchy, but a majority of UK homes can get an ultrafast service from at least one provider, with as many as 59% able to get speeds of at least 300Mb.

Do you need ultrafast broadband?

While faster is very much better, the normal fibre broadband connections that most of us still use are extremely capable.

A 67Mb connection is good enough to allow you watch Netflix or Amazon Prime in 4K, and can download a 1GB file in just a touch over two minutes. You shouldn't experience too much in the way of problems, even with a fairly busy household.

But remember, your available bandwidth is divided between all the devices connected to your network. The more devices you add, the more likely you are to experience slowdowns on some of your tasks - your videos drop to a lower resolution, your downloads take longer, and so on. Ultrafast broadband reduces the chances of this happening, and the faster your connection, the less likely it gets. It allows you to connect more devices, and more people, without putting any limits on what they can do.

So while you might not have a desperate need for ultrafast, right now, there are lots of good reasons why it will benefit you.

  • Your browsing in general will speed up. You'll notice it especially with complex web apps like Google Docs, or photo heavy sites. You get a shorter ping rate, too, which means better online gaming.
  • You will experience much faster downloads. This isn't just files you're actively downloading on your laptop, but other things like those Windows 10 updates that happen in the background, video game downloads, and even Ultra HD movies you load on your Sky Q box. For reference, a 5GB file will take over 10 minutes to download on a 67Mb connection, and just 42 seconds with gigabit broadband.
  • Along with faster downloads, you also get much faster uploads. Full fibre broadband is symmetric, which means the upload and download speeds are the same. If you work from home, especially, this could be a huge benefit.
  • Ultrafast broadband is future-proof. Internet use on the Openreach network, which covers most UK broadband suppliers, more than doubled throughout 2020. Yes, it was driven in part by lockdown, but it was also the continuation of a long established trend that's unlikely to change any time soon.
  • In some cases, ultrafast broadband might also be your best option. Lots of rural areas, as well as new build homes, have frankly terrible options when it comes to fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband - and some don't have it at all. But full fibre is independent of the old copper-based network, so you might increasingly find that it's your best, and maybe, only choice.

Can you get ultrafast broadband?

The provider with the widest ultrafast broadband coverage throughout the country is Virgin Media. They're available to approaching two-thirds of the UK and they offer speeds up to an average 630Mb. Vodafone, EE and Sky are among the other big providers that can offer ultrafast broadband at varying speeds.

There's also a big growth in the number of specialist full fibre providers, some focussing on specific regions. These include Community Fibre in parts of London and TrueSpeed in the South West, while Gigaclear target rural areas in 22 counties across the Midlands and south of England. Coverage is improving all the time, as are the range of options available to everyone.

Are you ready to upgrade to ultrafast broadband? Use our postcode checker to find out if it's available in your street already.

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A couple watching TV

What broadband speed do you need for your smart TV?

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesSkyBTTalkTalkPlusnetVirgin MediaVodafone

If you're splashing out on a big screen smart TV, perhaps to watch the Euros or to build your dream Home Cinema experience, it's worth also checking to make sure that your broadband package is up to scratch.

It's not really a big deal if you've gone for a smaller set, but if you're rocking a 65 inch screen or more, you want the best resolution you can get. 4K streaming is a must.

So what exactly do you need? When it comes to broadband for TV streaming, how fast is fast enough? Let's take a look.

What speeds do you need?

First, load up our speed test tool, go and stand next to your telly and run it a couple of times. This will give you an idea of the speeds your TV is able to get.

Now, you can compare the results to the speed requirements for many of the most popular streaming services:

  • BBC iPlayer - 4K: 24Mb, HD: 5MB. (iPlayer currently only offers a few shows in 4K, including the whole of the Euro 2020 competition.)
  • NOW TV - 1080p HD: 12Mb (There's no 4K option at the moment.)
  • Netflix - 4K: 25Mb, HD: 5Mb
  • Amazon - 4K: 15Mb, HD: 5Mb
  • Disney+ - 4K: 25Mb, HD 5Mb
  • Apple TV+ - 4K, 15Mb, HD: 8Mb

You might need to upgrade your subscription to get 4K streaming on some of these services. They will stream in 4K if your connection is fast enough, but will drop down to 1080p HD (and potentially even lower) if it isn't, so you don't have to worry about adjusting the settings of your streaming apps to find the appropriate quality.

Smart TVs use the same bandwidth as dedicated streaming sticks or set-top boxes, so the requirement is the same if you're using one of those instead - it's based on the software rather than the hardware.

And if you're wondering whether streaming uses more bandwidth than downloading, it's basically the same. You can technically download at a higher quality on a slower connection if you're willing to wait long enough, although you wound't want to do that too often. The big difference is for live TV, where you're always reliant on your internet connection when streaming, as compared to an aerial, cable or dish, where you always get the highest quality available, regardless.

How can you speed up the internet for your smart TV?

If you're struggling with buffering or pixellated images, or you're concerned you aren't getting the maximum quality available, there are a few things you can try.

  • Check your TV has a good Wi-Fi signal to begin with - you can usually see this if you delve into the TV's W-Fi settings. The weaker your signal, the slower your connection might be, and if it gets too weak, there's where you're likely to encounter problems.
  • If you have a weak connection, make sure there are no electrical devices nearby that can cause interference, like a cordless phone.
  • Also, you could try moving your router so that there are no heavy, physical objects like large bookcases that could block the signal.
  • Most smart TVs should have an Ethernet port around the back, so you can plug in a cable direct from your router to ensure a fast, consistent connection. Alternatively, you could use something like a Powerline adapter to extend your network coverage into a room where your Wi-Fi performance tends to be less than stellar.

The best broadband for your smart TV

As you can see from the speed requirements above, even 4K streaming is easily within the capabilities of almost all fibre packages, assuming you don't live too far away from your nearest street cabinet. This can cause a big drop-off in your download speeds.

The complication comes when you factor in what the rest of your household is doing while you're watching.

A typical entry level fibre deal, with 36Mb download speeds, comfortably exceeds the 25Mb requirement for 4K. But if you've got kids YouTubing and FaceTiming, and a partner in your home office downloading, all at the same time, your bandwidth will be spread a lot more thinly. Suddenly, that 4K streaming could be off limits.

So what speeds should you go for? Assuming a busy household, a top-end fibre-to-the-cabinet package should be the minimum. These have speeds in the region of 63-66Mb, and are enough for a few people to be busy online at the same time. Vodafone, TalkTalk and Plusnet are among the providers that offer great value fibre deals with these speeds.

But you should go faster for a larger household, to get the peace of mind that your connection will always be speedy enough to meet your needs. Most providers offer packages faster than 100Mb, including Sky, BT and Virgin Media.

If you're ready to upgrade to get the best TV and Home Cinema experience possible, use our postcode checker to discover the best broadband deals available in your area today.

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Man with laptop on the phone

Broadband providers still need to improve support for vulnerable customers

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesEEBTPlusnetOnestreamSSEHyperopticTalkTalkVodafoneVirgin MediaNOW BroadbandSkyJohn LewisShell EnergyCommunity FibreKCOMZen

We've all got horror stories about bad customer service. But it's people with health, financial or emotional problems that are still having the most inconsistent experiences when they contact their broadband provider's customer service team.

That's the big finding from research by Ofcom, which looked at the progress the industry has made since the watchdog last year published its guidelines for treating vulnerable customers fairly.

They found that while some users received extra support due to their circumstances, and others reported positive experiences despite the provider not knowing about their vulnerability, the overall service was still patchy.

It suggested that people's experiences were heavily dependent on the member of staff they spoke to, with no guarantee they would get to deal with the same person twice.

It suggests there's still plenty of room for improvement in the training of customer support teams.

What makes a customer vulnerable?

Vulnerabilities come in many forms. They include physical and mental health problems, debt or unemployment, bereavement, or even becoming a victim of crime.

Unsurprisingly, the number of vulnerable customers has increased during the pandemic and its subsequent economic fallout.

While Ofcom rules require all providers to have policies in place for helping vulnerable customers, it isn't always easy for them to automatically tell if someone needs extra support. If you regard yourself as being in a vulnerable group, or if your circumstances have recently changed (you might have lost your job, for example), you should contact your broadband supplier and let them know.

They'll add that information to your account, and it should inform any relevant future interactions you have with them.

What kind of support can you get?

With the definition of vulnerable being quite broad and varied, the types of support you can get are also broad and varied.

  • You should have access to a range of communications channels to speak to customer support. This could include text relay services or support in different languages.
  • You should be given the time to get help, support and advice on managing debts without the threat of enforcement action.
  • Providers could consider giving you a payment holiday to help you manage cashflow issues.
  • Providers should give you information and advice on tariffs to ensure you don't end up paying more than you should. Vulnerable people are the most likely to remain on expensive out-of-contract deals.
  • Broadband providers should regard disconnection as a last resort.

Broadband providers' vulnerability policies

Ofcom's guidance expects a number of things from broadband suppliers. They should train their staff to be able to recognise the characteristics, behaviours and verbal cues of someone who might be vulnerable, so they can be proactive in offering support. They should identify vulnerable customers and record their needs. And they should make all of their customers aware of the kinds of support and services that they offer.

Many providers publish vulnerability policies. Some have specific support teams in place for vulnerable customers, and some make it easy for you to register your vulnerable status with them. This information will be treated in confidence, and is subject to all the usual data protection legislation.

Here are the relevant pages for many of the leading providers:

Some of the things you can expect include ways to improve access to support via text relay and NGT services or braille guides; simple instructions on using accessibility services like subtitles on TV; and specific policies and help for dealing with financial issues. Naturally, what's promised and what's delivered are not always the same thing, so check our user reviews to see our customers' experiences of their providers' tech support.

If you want to read the full Ofcom report, click here. Or if you want to compare the best broadband deals in your area today, use our postcode search tool to get started.

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iPad by the pool

How to get Wi-Fi when you're on holiday

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesO2VodafoneVirgin MobileEE MobileThree

Hopefully, holidays are back on the agenda this summer. And do we need them. But whether you're planning a staycation, or have decided to venture abroad, you'll also need Wi-Fi, so you can get local information, stay in touch with the rest of the world, and keep yourself entertained as you travel.

Fortunately, you've got a number of options, and they won't cost you a fortune to use them. Let's take a look at the cheapest ways to get Wi-Fi when you're holiday at home or abroad.

Hotel Wi-Fi

The best way to get Wi-Fi when you're abroad is likely to be through your hotel. Most have it these days, and many hotels and hotel chains offer it for free, sometimes with the option to upgrade to a faster service.

But you may need to take a precaution.

The rule when it comes to any public Wi-Fi service is that a password protected connection is better than something that's fully open, but that's still no guarantee that it's completely secure. This applies equally to your Airbnb rental or airport Wi-Fi as it does to hotels.

You don't need to worry about this if you're only doing some casual browsing. But if you're planning to log in to sensitive sites like your bank account, then you should set up and install a VPN first. This ensures your connection and data are fully encrypted. Alternatively, you could just use your phone and its data connection for these tasks, so that you bypass the Wi-Fi altogether.

Hotel Wi-Fi can vary quite a lot in terms of performance. Some may or may not be very good, and you might find that some bandwidth-heavy services like Netflix are blocked. If you have the chance to upgrade to a faster service then that would be the best way to use these types of sites, but keep in mind that you'll likely be paying for 24 hours of access, so the fees could rack up over the course of your stay.

Mobile broadband

Another good option for getting Wi-Fi at home or abroad is through a mobile broadband service from providers like Virgin Mobile, EE, O2, Vodafone and Three.

These use the 4G or 5G phone network to give you internet access through a personal mobile router to which you can connect all your devices. You can also use it with a dongle connected to your laptop, or on a SIM-enabled iPad, although both of these options make it a little harder to share your connection with your other gadgets.

Mobile providers haven't reintroduced roaming charges post-Brexit, so you can use your mobile broadband allowance in many other countries. You should check where before your sign up - coverage is mostly for EU countries, so if you're heading further afield the price may be prohibitively expensive.

Even within the EU you might have fair usage limitations placed on some packages. And, of course, you'll be reliant on mobile coverage wherever you are. Head off for a city break and you'll be fine; go camping in the countryside and you might want to check the coverage maps for the area first.

Staying in the UK? You can use our Signalchecker service to check mobile phone coverage throughout the country.

Your phone's plan

Don't forget also that iPhones and Android phones can be set up as wireless hotspots, enabling you to get your laptop or tablet online wherever you are.

You'll find the option in Settings > Personal Hotspot on most iPhones, and on most Android phones you'll find it by swiping down twice from the top of the screen to open the Quick Settings panel, then tapping the Hotspot or Mobile Hotspot option.

Using your phone as a hotspot works in the same way as a separate mobile broadband plan, and can be a good option if you've got a decent data allowance. You'll get the same coverage without roaming charges across the EU, but will have to pay a lot more elsewhere. In either case, keep an eye on your data use. You'll have to buy top-ups in advance if you overshoot what your plan allows.

There may be other restrictions, too. If you've got an unlimited plan, check that it allows for tethering (connecting devices via the hotspot feature), and note that there may be a fair use policy in place.

Any one of these methods, or a combination, could be right for you. If you decide that you want the security and flexibility of a personal Wi-Fi system, check out the best mobile broadband deals available right now.

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Laptop on a coffee table

How to improve your broadband speed without upgrading

Posted by Andy Betts on in Features

Even with a good fibre broadband connection, we all have times when we wish that our internet speeds were just that little bit faster.

The obvious answer is to upgrade to something better, of course. But that's not always convenient. You might be halfway through a contract, or maybe you don't want to pay extra.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can try to improve your broadband speeds without upgrading. Let's take a look.

First, test your speed

The first thing you need to do is test your broadband speed and see how it compares to what you should be getting. While you can take steps to optimise your connection, you can't get it to run faster than what you're actually paying for.

You should have been given a speed estimate when you first signed up. Head over to our Speed Test page and run through the test a couple of times to get an average of your connection's performance. Now compare it to that estimate.

If it's broadly the same then there's not much you can do to improve it. If you want faster broadband, upgrading may be your only option.

But assuming there is room to eke out a little bit more speed, there are a few things you can try.

Reduce interference

Most of us get online via a Wi-Fi router that is plugged in to a phone socket. This is prone to interference which can affect your broadband speed. For best results, try and make sure that your router is connected to a microfilter (which reduces interference) and that that is plugged in directly to the master socket, not any extensions or splitters you may be using.

You should also have microfilters on any other phone sockets around your house. Some broadband suppliers will provide you with these for free, so contact them if you don't have any. If not, they only cost a few pounds each.

Also, try and keep the phone cable that connects your router and phone socket as short as it needs to be. The further a signal has to travel, the worse it may get.

Perfect your router position

The position of your router in your house is really important in affecting what speeds you'll get. Many of us will simply plonk the router down near the phone or cable socket that it's connected to, and as long as the signal reaches all rooms of the house, that's good enough.

Expect it might not be good enough. The input socket is likely to be attached to an outside wall, while the best position for a router is somewhere central.

Experiment with different places to keep your router - a central area and raised some way off the ground would be a good start, but don't put it near other electronic devices like cordless phones or microwaves which can cause radio frequency interference.

If your signal doesn't cover your whole house, you can try positioning the router closer to the areas where it's most important to have a connection. Or you could consider installing a powerline or mesh network to extend the range of your Wi-Fi.

Manage your traffic

Some modern routers automatically manage your internet data use, to give priority to certain activities. For example, video calls or streaming TV need a steady consistent connection, so they may get greater priority than something like file downloads, where it doesn't matter if the speed fluctuates.

You can do this manually as well, just by being aware of who's online, what they're doing, and when. You can schedule Windows updates and other big download to happen overnight, for instance, or if you need to upload a large file for work you could ensure that no-one else in your home is performing bandwidth-intensive tasks at the same time.

These kinds of things are most likely to show benefits on slower connections. Most decent fibre services have enough headroom to enable several people to be busy online at the same time.

Check your hardware

Broadband speed is only one part of the story - the devices you're using are the other part. You can make big perceived improvements to your internet speed by improving the performance of your hardware. An overburdened laptop, for example, might struggle with 4K streaming even if your broadband connection is up to the task.

A few things you can try are making sure that your devices are all fully up to date, including both the operating system and apps. Run a virus scan, shut down any programs running in the background that you don't need (and watch for those that set themselves to launch automatically when you start your computer), and restart your kit regularly - including your phone, which is often overlooked.

If you're using a particularly old laptop, treating yourself to a new one is likely to make everything you do online seem a whole lot more snappy and responsive.

Consider upgrading after all

By taking a few simple steps you can make sure you are fully maximising your broadband performance. But there's only so far that will take you. While you can squeeze out a little more speed, it's also possible that your needs have simply outgrown the deal you've signed up to. In which case, it may be time to upgrade after all.

If you're at the end, or coming to the end, of your existing contract, then it's the ideal time to shop around and see what else is available. And even if you've still got months to go on your deal, most providers will be more than happy to let you upgrade to a faster plan if you sign a new contract with them.

Use out postcode checker to find the very best broadband deals available where you are.

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Router and laptop

Forgot your Wi-Fi password? Here's how to get connected again

Posted by Andy Betts on in Features

A Wi-Fi password is essential for protecting your home network and broadband internet connection. You need to use it a lot, like when connecting new devices, or when guests come to visit.

Yet Wi-Fi passwords tend to be just random strings of characters, which makes them very easy to forget.

But while it's a pain to lose your Wi-Fi password, it isn't too hard to get back up and running again. Here's what you need to do.

Check the bottom of the router

All home broadband providers, including the likes of Sky, BT, Plusnet and TalkTalk, will give you a Wi-Fi router when you sign up to a broadband service. For ease of use, it will come with an SSID (the name of your router) and password already set up.

You can find these details on a sticker on the back or bottom of your router, or on the box, or a card inside the box. Assuming you haven't changed your login details, then just grab them and you're free to log in again.

Find it on your computer or phone

When you've changed your password, or can't find your login details for whatever reason, there are still ways to recover it.

As long as you've got a laptop or desktop computer that's already connected, you can find the password from that. You can do it on some Android phones too, but there's no easy way to see your saved Wi-Fi passwords on an iPhone.

On Windows, click the Start button then go to Settings > Network & Internet > Status > Network and Sharing Centre. In the Active networks section, select your Wi-Fi network. In the box that opens, go to Wireless Properties > Security then tick the Show characters box.

On macOS, open the Keychain Access app. Now, under Keychains, select System, then in the right hand pane double-click the name of your Wi-Fi network. In the box that opens, tick the Show password option, and finally enter your Mac's username and password when prompted.

On a phone running Android 10 or above, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi, then select your Wi-Fi connection and tap Share. Enter your phone password or scan your fingerprint when prompted, then you'll see the password on the next screen.

Log in to the dashboard

Every router has an admin dashboard that can be accessed through a web browser on any connected device. You'd use this dashboard to change your Wi-Fi password, which means you can also use it to see your password. Each model of router uses non-unique login details for the dashboard that you can find in your manual, or you can look them up online.

Just log in and you will be able to view your Wi-Fi password.

Reset your router

For security reasons you should change your router login details, so if you've done that and lost them as well you won't be able to recover them. (You might also take it as a sign that it's time to start writing this stuff down!)

Your final step, then, is to factory reset your router. Again, you might have to refer to the manual or check online to see how to do it for your exact model, but the process usually involves holding in the reset button on the bottom or back of the device for 10 to 30 seconds. You might need a paperclip or other pointy object to do it.

A factory reset will, among other things, revert your Wi-Fi name and password back to the one your broadband supplier originally provided you with. If you'd previously changed it, all of your logged-in devices will be disconnected.

It's worth remembering that when you sign up to a new broadband deal, your new supplier will give you a replacement router with a new SSID and password. You will have to reconnect all your devices to this new router, so it's a good idea to keep a note of the password somewhere where it's easily accessible.

And if you're coming to the end of your current broadband contract, be sure to try out our postcode search tool to instantly discover the hottest broadband deals available where you live.

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WiFi in the garden

How to get Wi-Fi coverage in your garden

Posted by Andy Betts on in Features

Summer's almost here again, so we can all look forward to spending some time relaxing in the garden, hosting barbecue parties, and maybe even trying a little al fresco working-from-home.

And if you do all that, chances are that you'll quickly bump up against the limits of your home Wi-Fi network.

Because while you probably spent time making sure your internet signal stretches to all the rooms in your house, you might not have given as much thought to your garden.

Or maybe you just assumed that it was off limits, and there was nothing you could do about it.

Fortunately, you and your guests don't have to be completely wireless-less this summer. If you want to get Wi-Fi in your back garden, here are some of your options.

Reposition your router

It's hard to judge the range of a wireless router.

It might typically be around 50 to 100 feet, depending on the design and spec of the router itself, plus how many obstacles the signal has to pass through - the signal will be much stronger with a line of sight connection than if it has to pass through thick walls.

The simplest place to start, then, is just to move your router closer to the garden, and where it has a clearer view. To do this, you might need to run an extra length of wire between the router and the phone or wall socket that it's connected to.

When you move it, make sure you don't inadvertently reduce the signal in other parts of your house. And don't put it too close to other gadgets that can cause interference - the microwave, for example, if you're moving it to the kitchen.

Install a Wi-Fi extender

If moving the router doesn't work, you could try using a Wi-Fi Extender, which rebroadcasts the wireless signal beyond its normal range. You can pick them up for prices starting at around £20 or £30.

You should position the extender somewhere in your house where it has a strong connection to your main router but is also as close as possible to your garden. The device might show up as a separate network with its own password, so you may have to log in again to connect to it.

It's also worth looking at providers like BT, who offer a Whole Home Wi-Fi service that includes a number of mini routers called Discs that help cover any dead spots around your property.

There are other types of device that can extend your wireless coverage. These include powerline adapters, which pass the internet signal along your existing electrical cabling. They need to be plugged in, though, so are only an option if you've got a readily accessible power socket outside.

Use a long ethernet cable

As a temporary solution, you could connect a long ethernet cable from the back of your router to your laptop in the garden. As long as it's less than 100m you should be fine, and could even get a faster and more reliable connection than you would with wireless.

It isn't Wi-Fi, though, so it won't work with your phone, tablet, or countless other devices you might want to use outside. You can buy and attach a wireless access point to fix that, but like powerlines, this is perhaps a better choice for your shed office.

Use mobile Broadband

Mobile broadband is a great option for outdoors Wi-Fi coverage. All but the most remote parts of the UK now have great 4G access, and a growing number of regions are getting the much faster 5G as well.

You can get a great mobile broadband deal, with either a cheap contract or pay-as-you-go plan, and use it with a personal hotspot or dongle. And don't forget the data allowance on your phone either. You can set iPhone and Android devices to function as personal wireless hotspots, so that you can connect other devices to them to share your data plan.

Get faster broadband

One other factor to consider is that the download speeds you get on your devices will get slower the further you are from your router. You might actually be able to get a weak wireless signal in your garden, but if you've got a slow connection to begin with, it still may not be usable.

If you haven't switched to a new broadband plan for a while you might have a slow connection, and you might have been supplied with an old, slow router as well, which exacerbates the issues - it's less able to broadcast over longer ranges. An upgrade could solve these problems.

If you want to upgrade your broadband in time for the summer, use our postcode checker to find out what deals are available to you today.

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Man relaxing with a laptop

How to find the best broadband for light use

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesVodafoneHyperopticJohn LewisTalkTalkPlusnetEECommunity FibreNOW BroadbandOnestreamThree

You know how it goes. Whenever you start shopping for a new broadband deal, you find yourself being steered towards the faster, flashier and more expensive services.

The thing is, not everyone needs an upgrade. Some of us are happy with what we've already got, and some don't even need that.

If you don't have a house full of kids who are all online 24/7, or if you live on your own, or are part of the generation that's less computer-reliant, then you may be able to get away with a much more basic broadband service. It could even save you some money in the process.

Let's take a look at your options.

How light is light use?

First of all, you need to work out how much you actually use the internet, to make sure your usage is as low as you think it is.

If your usage is mostly things like web browsing, shopping and bill paying then that's definitely light use. TV streaming counts as well, so long as there's only one person in your house doing it at any given time, and that you don't want to watch in the highest quality on your massive 4K TV.

But there are lots of other things as well that you don't tend to think about: Windows updates on your laptop that happen in the background, downloading movies and TV shows to your Sky Q box, playing games, and sharing large files for work. And all those other little devices you've got connected to your Wi-Fi. Some of them won't be downloading much, but it all adds up.

Chances are that you do use more bandwidth than you realise, so do make sure that you buy a broadband service that's right for your needs.

Broadband for light use

The slowest broadband you can get is standard broadband. This is the old pre-fibre service that runs entirely on the copper phone network. It offers average speeds of around 11Mb, which is enough for general web use or for one person to watch Netflix in HD.

Standard broadband is old tech and is set to be phased out in a few years, but you can still get it right now. It doesn't offer huge savings - standard broadband will typically save you a couple of pounds a month, but over the course of a year they do amount to the cheapest deals you can get.

Take a look at NOW Broadband, Plusnet and John Lewis for the cheapest standard broadband packages, with prices under £20 a month.

If you don't want to go quite that slow, the most basic fibre deal you can get is from Onestream. Their 17Mb service is the cheapest widely available fibre broadband package.

Most suppliers' entry-level fibre offers more than double that speed, at around 36Mb. Almost every broadband company has a deal at this level, so there's bags of competition on price and service. TalkTalk, Vodafone and EE all have deals around the same price point for the same speed services.

36Mb is ideal for light use - it's affordable but not too restrictive. It can handle many people online at the same, with even two or three streaming movies simultaneously, so has plenty of headroom for when you have guests round.

You could also consider some specialist providers. Hyperoptic and Community Fibre have great value full fibre packages - at 30Mb and 50Mb respectively - but they're both available in only very limited areas. Or you could go for a mobile broadband deal, running on the 4G network (or 5G in some areas), such as the 18Mb plan from Three.

You don't always have to buy the best or fastest broadband deal around. Pick what you need, and if you only need something basic then you've got plenty of choices.

Ready to start shopping for a new broadband deal? Just enter your postcode into our postcode checker and you'll be able to see exactly what offers are available in your street right now.

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Man using a laptop

7 tips to get the best broadband deal

Posted by Andy Betts on in Features

There's a lot to take in when you're shopping for a new broadband deal. Should you be looking mainly at the speed, or the price? And with many packages that seem quite similar, how can you decide between one provider or another?

Here are some tips to help make sure you find the broadband deal that's right for you.

1. See what's available

The absolute most important thing is to know what deals are available to you right now, so you know what your options are. The way to do this is to use our postcode checker.

Just type in your postcode and we'll show you all the best broadband deals that you can pick from. This enables you to home in on your priorities. Cheap, ultrafast, short-term, whatever else you want, you'll be able to find it.

2. Don't pay for more than you need

It's tempting to assume that you should just sign up to the fastest deal from the biggest name provider offering the most bells and whistles. And while this might be the easiest way to shop, it can leave you paying for stuff you don't actually need.

So try and figure out what it is you do need. Big household with loads of kids? Fast downloads are a must. Work from home? Reliability and fast uploads are important. Only use the internet for shopping and paying bills? A bare bones package might be right for you.

This isn't just true of speed, but also applies to the extras that broadband suppliers offer. If you've got modest requirements, you might not need a high-end router. Or if you're more tech savvy, you might not want free anti-virus software. We all like getting free stuff, but it doesn't always add value to your deal.

And if you don't make many landline calls, don't be tempted into paying an extra five or ten pounds a month for a calls package you won't ever use.

3. Bundles can cut the price

That said, bundles can help to save money in the longer run. If you do make a lot of calls, then a call plan is likely to work out cheaper than paying for each call separately - especially if you have family overseas. Likewise, it's worth exploring the bundles available from the like of Sky, Virgin Media, BT and NOW if you're looking to take out a premium TV subscription.

A growing number of broadband providers also offer mobile deals, including Plusnet and Vodafone, that can often be added as part of a broadband and mobile bundle. Getting multiple services from the same company can often work out cheaper, and it's simpler to manage your bills as well.

4. Look for rewards

A lot of broadband suppliers offer rewards to entice new customers. The best of these are the cash rewards, like cashback which effectively gives you a month or two of free broadband use, or cash-equivalent rewards, like vouchers that you can spend on the high street.

Some rewards also come in the form of free gifts, like wine or tech products. These are in some ways more exciting, but you should probably think of them as being a bonus - unless you happened to be planning to buy that same product anyway.

5. Check the yearly price

When you compare broadband deals it's a good idea to order them by the total cost in the first year, not the monthly price. This is the best way to see exactly what you'll be paying, and makes it a lot easier to pitch one deal against another.

There shouldn't be any hidden fees in the small print of any broadband contract, but there are still extra costs like setup and postage fees that you might overlook if you only focus on the cost per month. These are factored in to the yearly price.

Even then, there may still be a few extra costs beyond the norm, like if you want to pay in a certain way, need paper billing, or are planning to move house during your contract period. Keep an eye out for all of these in your broadband contract.

Also, make sure you know how much the price can rise during the length of your contract. Most deals specify rises in line with inflation, but a few providers go further than that - and if it's written in the contract you won't have grounds to complain when it happens.

6. Read the reviews

Price and speed aren't everything, of course. If you're committing yourself to a provider for a year or more, you want to be confident that you'll be happy with the service you're getting.

Reading the reviews of broadband suppliers is a good place to start. They'll give you an idea of what kind of service you'll get, how reliable it is, and - perhaps most important - what the customer service is like if you ever need it.

7. Never stay on an out-of-contract deal

Among all the tips for getting the best broadband deal, perhaps the most important is to ensure you never stay on a deal once your contract has ended. In fact, doing so will only get you the worst possible deal, as you get hit by frequent price rises that leave you paying way over the odds for what you're getting.

Your provider should contact you before your contract comes to an end, and remind that you're out of contract every year after that. But it's better to take matters into your own hands. Simply renewing with your existing provider will usually bag you a price cut, and is a great option if you're happy with what you've got. But if you're willing to switch providers, you'll open yourself up to a whole new range of options and deals.

Ready to start looking for a new broadband deal? Use our postcode checker to find the best deals that are available in your area right now.

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The Pros and Cons of a Short Broadband Deal

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesVirgin MediaHyperopticNOW BroadbandCuckoo

When you're shopping for a new broadband deal one of the main things you will need to decide is what length of contract you want to sign up for. In most cases this means a choice between a 12 month, 18 month or a maximum two year deal. But there is another option: the short-term plan.

Some broadband suppliers offer 30-day deals that come without a contract. They work more like a subscription service - it automatically renews each month, then when you no longer need it you just cancel and move on.

Not every provider offers these kinds of deals. In fact, most don't. But they aren't just limited to niche suppliers and you can find them at a whole range of speeds.

They aren't right for everyone, so let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of short-term and no-contract broadband.

Benefits of no-contract broadband

The main benefit to no-contract broadband is that it gives you the ultimate flexibility - no strings, no long-term commitment.

This makes it ideal for anyone who is not in a position to sign up for a long contract, such as those living in a short-term let or student housing. Students, for instance, will only be living in their digs for nine or ten months, so even a 12 month deal might not be ideal, let alone anything longer.

The same applies if you're planning to move house. While it's easy enough to take your broadband with you when you move, you do still have to move somewhere where your broadband provider is both available and delivers good performance. If either of those things aren't true, too bad. So if you're moving soon and your current broadband is coming to an end, you might be better off taking a 30-day deal for now, and then buying a new plan from scratch when you settle in to your new home.

Because there's no contract with a short-term broadband deal, there are no penalties when you decide to cancel and switch providers. You can do it any time you like.

No-contract deals also make it easier to upgrade if your needs change, or if better services become available in your area. While providers will be happy to let you upgrade to a faster plan before your contract is up - if you sign a new deal - you can't switch to a different provider without paying a penalty.

If you're waiting for faster technologies to be rolled out where you live, a short-term deal could be just the thing in the meantime. And to make sure you're fully up to date with what broadband services are available in your area, sign up to our free Broadband Autopilot service. It constantly scans for the best and fastest deals you can get, so you'll never miss out.

One final thing to note about short-term broadband is that even though the contracts are different, the performance isn't. Whether you're choosing a basic fibre-to-the-cabinet deal or a cutting edge full fibre service, the speed and everything else will be exactly the same as it would be if you'd signed up for two years.

Downsides to short-term broadband

There are some downsides to choosing broadband without a contract, the main one being that you will have to pay a little more than you would for a comparable long-term deal. Typically, you can expect to pay around £5 to £10 a month extra compared to the lowest price alternatives. And while this can add up over time, remember that most short-term deals aren't really intended for long-term use anyway.

You'll also have to pay a higher setup fee, sometimes as much as £60. This covers the activation fee and the router that you'll be sent to get online.

The best thing you can do before you sign up is to ignore the monthly price and calculate the total price you'll pay instead. So, if you want the service for nine months, work out how much that will cost, factoring in the monthly payments and the setup fees. Then compare it to the total price you'd pay on a 12-month contract. This can easily cancel out a lot of the price difference.

Other downsides to short-term broadband? You get less choice, inevitably, although there are some big name providers and even gigabit options that you can choose from. And you also miss out on any introductory offers like free gifts, bill credit, shopping vouchers and so on.

Which providers offer short-term deals?

There are a number of providers that offer broadband on one month deals. They include NOW Broadband and Virgin Media, while Cuckoo is a new provider that only offers a single, contract-free plan. Some full fibre providers like Hyperoptic also let you sign up to a rolling 30-day service, if it's available where you are.

If you think no-contract broadband might be right for you, or you want to see what else is available, use our postcode checker to find the best broadband deals you can get right now where you live.

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