Broadband.co.uk Blog: Features

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

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Broadband-related features and articles.

Broadband and Mobile bundles

What you need to know about broadband and mobile call bundles

Posted on 2019-01-11 17:52 in Features

These days most of us have a mobile phone we use regularly - often using it in place of landline phones to make our calls - and we're always looking for a good deal on mobile call packages. Most of us also rely on the internet in our day to day lives, and most households in the UK consider a broadband package as an essential utility.

So wouldn't it make sense to combine broadband and mobile to get a cheaper deal?

With several of the major broadband providers branching out to offer mobile deals and some of the major mobile networks also offering home broadband as well, there are a number of options for getting a good mobile and broadband bundle deal. You can even throw in a TV package to your bundle to make even more savings!

We'll help explore your options and explain in simple terms how mobile from your broadband provider works.

Our new guide on the subject covers:

  • Which providers offer broadband and mobile bundles
  • The pros and cons of mobile bundles
  • What virtual mobile networks are
  • Which mobile networks broadband providers use

Read our guide to getting mobile and broadband bundles.

 

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Stay safe online

PC Security: 5 things you need to do to stay safe online

Posted on 2018-11-29 13:52 in Features Sky Plusnet Virgin Media Vodafone BT NOW Broadband John Lewis EE TalkTalk

As we spend more and more of our lives online - managing our money and doing our shopping - we're more likely to encounter problems. Viruses, scams and other cyber-crimes are continuing to become more common. So what's the best way to stay safe online? Let's take a look.

1. Install anti-virus software

Anti-virus software is a must if you use Windows (less so for Macs, Chromebooks, phone and tablets). It doesn't just protect you against viruses you can get though email attachments or dodgy downloads; it protects against all malware - any software designed with malicious intent. This includes nasties like spyware that steals your passwords, and ransomware, which locks down your computer unless you pay up.

Free anti-virus software from your broadband provider

A lot of the best broadband providers give you a free, or cheap, anti-virus subscription as part of their deal. If yours is on this list, make sure you take them up on the offer:

  • BT: with BT you get the McAfee powered BT virus Protect. You can install it on two or up to 15 machines, depending on your package. You also get Web Protect, which checks websites you visit are safe, and True Key, a secure password manager you can install on five devices.
  • EE: EE Home Broadband gives you a year's subscription to Norton Security Premium for up to 10 devices. After that it costs £39.99 a year, half the normal price.
  • Plusnet: Plusnet Protect, from McAfee, is free for Unlimited and Unlimited Fibre Extra customers. On the standard Unlimited Fibre deal you'll need to pay an extra £2 a month for your virus protection. You can install it on up to seven PCs.
  • Sky Broadband: on one of Sky's Unlimited deals you get a 12 month free trial of the McAfee Internet Security suite for up to three PCs. On the limited packages you get three months. Once the trial is up you can keep it going for £3 extra a month.
  • TalkTalk: with TalkTalk you get HomeSafe, an award winning online security package. This combines some virus protection and parental controls. It isn't a full anti-virus tool, though.
  • Virgin Media: Virgin Media Security is worth £39.95 a year, but is free to all Virgin Media broadband customers. It gives you full anti-virus coverage for up to three PCs.
  • Vodafone: with Vodafone you get a free six month sub to F Secure SAFE anti-virus package for up to five devices. After that, you can subscribe for £39.99 a year - half the normal price.
  • NOW Broadband: with NOW you get the Broadband Buddy service. This helps to protect you against malware-infected sites, but isn't a full anti-virus package.
  • John Lewis Broadband: John Lewis offers a full subscription to the Bullguard security package for Windows users.

If your supplier isn't on the list, there's loads of free anti-virus tools you can get instead. Bitdefender and Avast are among the most highly rated.

Malware isn't just a concern for those who browse the murkier reaches of the internet. Perfectly benign, mainstream websites can become compromised, and even ads can be crafted to try and do bad things without you even needing to click on them.

2. Keep your software updated

It's so tempting to turn off automatic software updates. They always pop up at the worst possible time, and if it happens to be a Windows update you can write off the next half hour waiting for it to finish.

Except, software updates are really important. Especially the Windows ones.

They don't just bring new features or improved performance, they make your computer more secure. Bugs in software can create the kind of security risks that malware thrives upon. Not only do they allow the malware into your system, they can also enable it to spread from one machine to another.

Updates shut down these vulnerabilities. At the very least, don't turn off updates to Windows or your web browser, such as Google Chrome. Better still, allow all your apps to update as they need to.

3. Learn how to recognise online scams

Malware is designed to exploit weaknesses in computer systems, but the truth is the weakest points of all are us, the users. You can lock down your laptop but it won't stop someone trying to trick you into handing over your passwords.

Phishing scams, as they're called, have moved on a lot since the days of the Nigerian prince who wanted to send you tens of millions of dollars. They're now a whole lot more sophisticated and difficult to spot. And it isn't just online that you need to be wary. You might get a text message purporting to be from your mobile network, or you could get a scam call from your broadband provider.

So, how do you spot scams? Here's a few tips:

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes in emails are a dead giveaway. Also, does the email greet you by name or a generic title?
  • Beware of emails demanding urgent action. Scammers try to scare you into responding, like telling you there's been a security alert on your account, or you're overdrawn, and you must log in to fix it.
  • Be wary of links in emails. Don't assume that the link is going to take you where you think it will.
  • Or just don't click links at all. Instead of clicking a link to one of your online services, manually type their address into your browser instead. Or pick up the phone and give them a call.
  • If it sounds suspicious, it probably is. If you didn't buy a lottery ticket, you didn't win the lottery.
  • Don't assume a fancy website means that a site is reputable. This is a rule to follow when shopping online, too.

Anti-virus software and web browsers will help you to sniff out phishing scams. What better reason to keep them up to date?

4. Use better passwords

We all know the importance of using strong passwords and not re-using them. But it can be difficult, since strong passwords are so much harder to remember. There are three things to try to make your life easier:

  1. Think in terms of passphrases instead of passwords. A sentence of eight random words is easier to remember - and type - than a password of eight random characters, but it's just as hard to crack.
  2. Consider using a password manager. Don't save your passwords in your web browser, use a dedicated password manager instead. This saves all your logins under a single, more secure password. With BT Broadband, the True Key offers exactly this feature and is worth trying out. Alternatively, take a look at LastPass or 1Password, both of which are free.
  3. Use two factor authentication. A large and growing number of services offer two factor authentication. When you log in you need to enter both your password and a second, unique code sent to your phone via an app or text message. It's a lot more secure.

5. Keep an eye on your privacy

Finally, keep an eye on how much information you're sharing online. If you use social networks you're probably sharing a lot more than you realise. Check the Privacy section in Facebook and other services to lock them down, and make sure your kids do this, too.

And speaking of kids, most broadband providers offer some form of parental controls that you can use to manage what people can see, or how long they can go online. These are worth setting up, but remember that they are by no means foolproof.

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Broadband Price Rises

What to do when your broadband provider puts their prices up

Posted on 2018-11-15 13:44 in Features

We've all been there. You seek out the best value broadband service; it all goes swimmingly for a few months; and then - Blam! - a letter lands on your doormat telling you that the price is going up.

Mid-contract price rises are the worst part of any broadband deal, and they're mostly unavoidable. But if the increase is larger than you're expecting you don't have to accept it. Depending on how much extra you're being asked to pay, and whether you knew about it before you signed up, you may have options.

Let's take a look at what you can do when your broadband supplier puts up their prices.

Are broadband suppliers allowed to put their prices up?

Nobody likes it when prices go up, but sometimes broadband providers are indeed allowed to start charging you more. In fact, in a lot of cases you'll have agreed to it. Here are the three main scenarios where you might encounter price hikes.

1. Your minimum contract period has ended.

To attract new customers, most broadband suppliers offer a bonus price that covers the minimum contract period, normally between six months and two years. When this period ends your broadband service will continue, but the price will shoot up by sometimes more than 50 percent. You can easily end up paying an extra £20 a month. What's worse, if you stick with this package you're likely to see annual price hikes way above average. To put it simply, when your minimum contract period ends you must start shopping for a new deal. And make a note of the date it ends, too, so you don't forget.

2. Your contract terms specify allowed price hikes.

On a variable deal, your provider will state in the contract that they can bump the price by maybe five or ten percent after a certain time. As long as they stay within this agreed amount, it's fine. But here's the thing: information on agreed price increases can't be hidden away in the small print where you might miss it. Everything you're agreeing to should be made clear before you sign up.

3. Prices go up in line with inflation or tax rises.

Providers can put up their prices if tax rates go up, or to keep in line with inflation. You can only leave penalty free if the price hike goes above the 2.5% allowed for inflation. Even fixed-price deals can be hit by this, as long as it's stated in the contract terms, so be sure to check the small print.

Other mid-contract price rises

Price rises aren't just limited to the ones that are written in your contract. Broadband providers might still jack up their prices for any number of reasons. Perhaps they want to bring you in line with their revamped pricing structure. Maybe they're improving the service, like making it faster. Or maybe they just need more money.

Whatever, you don't have to accept these increases. If it wasn't what you signed up to you have the right to cancel your contract without paying a penalty.

What needs to happen when the price goes up?

When your ISP decides they want to hit you up for a little extra cash, they must inform you in writing 30 days before the new prices come into effect. Make sure you keep an eye out for the letter or email because the timing is really important.

If you're eligible to leave mid-contract you will need to inform your provider during this 30 day period. If you wait longer than that you're effectively accepting the new prices and are stuck with them until your deal ends.

How you can cancel your contract without penalty

So, you've received a letter telling you that your broadband prices are going up, and by a larger amount than what you agreed to. You now have the right to find a new supplier, and you won't have to pay a termination fee even if you've got still got months left on your deal.

What you need to do is inform your provider of your plan to leave. Send them a letter or email, or give them a call to start the process in motion. Make sure to mention that you're leaving because of the price rise. You must do this within 30 days of receiving the letter informing you of the price rises. This is a legal right, so you shouldn't face any obstacles.

What are your options?

When you tell them that you're leaving, your provider might offer you a deal to get you stay. If you're happy with the service you've been getting then by all means try and negotiate for the best deal you can get. But remember, it's easy to switch broadband providers these days. Don't assume that staying with your old provider is the simplest option.

At the same time, start looking for a new package. Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband deals in your area. Providers reserve their best deals for new customers, so you should be able to save a heap of money over what you're currently paying. You can also use these prices if you decide to haggle with your existing provider instead.

Price rises are going to hit all of us eventually. But you can minimise the risks while shopping for a new deal. Some suppliers, like TalkTalk and Plusnet, are starting to offer more fixed-price deals. You can also pick up some fantastic introductory offers, with very low prices over the first year.

Click here to compare broadband prices and start shopping now.

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Best TV Deals

How to get the cheapest deals on all the TV channels you want

Posted on 2018-11-06 16:55 in Announcements Features

We're living in a golden age of TV. There's never been so many incredible shows to watch, and never so many different services to watch them on.

There's a bewlidering array of choices, and it presents you with a bit of a problem. Sign up to just a few channels and you might not able to get all the programmes you want; sign up for them all and you'll end up paying a fortune.

So what's the best way to make sure you don't miss all the unmissable new shows? Do you need Sky or can you stream instead? Should you pick Netflix or NOW TV? And what's the cheapest way to watch live Premier League football?

In the search to get all the channels you want, it's so easy end up with a lot more than you actually need. That's a waste - and completely unnecessary.

Our new in-depth guide to getting the best value TV services cuts through all the confusion. Whether you want boxsets, live sports or the hottest new movies, we'll tell you how to get it for the best possible price.

We'll show you:

  • The best way to catch prestige shows like House of Cards, The Crown and Game of Thrones, and how to find great deals on streaming services.
  • How you can save up to £100 a year on Premier League football by streaming with NOW TV instead of getting it direct from Sky.
  • How to put your old Sky dish and box to work and get access to 150+ free satellite channels.
  • Where to find the most - and the cheapest - HD movies, TV and sports.
  • How to get the best deals on broadband and TV bundles.

And this is only the start. The sheer range of TV options available to us all today is as vast as it is exciting. If you're still trying to figure out which services are right for you, and how you can spend the least amount of money to get them, check out our TV guide now.

Once you've decided what you need, take at the look at the latest TV and broadband bundles, or make sure your internet speed is ready for streaming with our top ultrafast fibre broadband deals.

Read our guide to getting the best TV services at the lowest prices.

 

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Man With Laptop

All change for broadband advertising, average speeds are here

Posted on 2018-06-27 14:39 in News Features

If you haven't compared broadband speeds for a while, you may have been surprised to find that the way they're talked about has changed. Where did all those "up tos" go and has everything got a little slower overnight?

Well it's not broadband speeds that have changed, it's the rules for how they're advertised. Everything's become a little more representative of what the typical customer can expect to receive from their broadband.

New guidance from the Advertising Standards Authority means that broadband providers can only advertise internet speeds that at least half of its customers can get. Described as an "average speed", it will give you a far clearer picture of how you can expect a provider's service to perform.

How has broadband advertising changed?

Here are the key changes:

  • Broadband providers can no longer advertise their packages with an "up to" speed.
  • They must display an "average speed" attained by at least 50% of their customers during peak hours, between 8pm and 10pm.
  • Any providers that wish to deviate from this policy must be able to show that their advertising will not mislead customers.
  • Providers must also be more transparent about other factors that will affect the speed of their services. This includes any traffic management policies they have in place.

Previously, the advertised speeds only needed to be available to 10% of users. That led to the industry standardising on figures such as "up to 17Mb" or "up to 38Mb", and was essentially meaningless. It gave you no indication of real world performance and no way to compare providers. Those who understood how the industry worked came to assume they'd get slower than the advertised speeds; those who didn't would often end up disappointed with what they'd bought. Either way, it was misleading. The new rules fix that.

As a result, the speeds now advertised are slower than they were a few months ago. Remember, it's only the advertising that has changed - the speeds you'll get are the same as you would have got anyway.

One of the big consequences is that it's now easier to compare providers based on speed. You can find the UK's fastest broadband provider using our price comparison tool. Just click here to view all our home broadband deals sorted in order of their average speed.

What else do you need to know?

The new rules remove any doubt from broadband ads. They give you a much clearer picture about what you can expect from a particular provider. But there's still a few other things to consider when you're looking to switch broadband suppliers.

1. There's no guaranteed speed

The average speed is calculated from the median speeds recorded during peak hours. This means that half of all a provider's customers will achieve the quoted speed or faster, and half will get something slower. What it doesn't tell you is which side of the line you'll fall. Treat it as guidance, not as a guaranteed level.

Ofcom's guidance requires providers to give you an accurate speed estimate when you sign up. This is what you should judge your real world performance on.

2. Small speed differences may not matter

While it's now easier to compare average speeds of providers, it isn't a given that faster means better. For example, a provider advertising slightly slower average speeds might simply have a higher number of customers in rural areas, where broadband infrastructure is notoriously patchy.

3. Infrastructure is the main factor in broadband speed

The infrastructure a provider uses - rather than the provider itself - is the biggest factor that determines your broadband speeds. So, if you switch between two providers using the same infrastructure - the Openreach network, for example - you'll get broadly the same speeds. If you switch from a provider that uses Openreach to one with its own network, like Virgin, you could see vastly different speeds.

That doesn't mean there aren't many other benefits to switching broadband providers. Improved reliability and better customer service are among the best reasons to switch.

4. Other things can affect your broadband speed

Finally, remember that lots of other things can affect your broadband speeds. If your internet performance is well below what you are expecting, check out our guide on how to speed up slow broadband for tips on improving the situation.

What speed do you need?

It's important to know what broadband speed you're getting to ensure that it's suitable for your needs. We've got a post outlining what internet speed you need, depending on what you're doing online and how many people there are in your household. You can then use our Broadband Speed Test to find out how fast your internet is, and if you're getting the level of service you're paying for.

And if you decide it's time to switch, compare fibre broadband deals in your area now.

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Man using computer

How to spot if you've been contacted by a broadband phone scammer

Posted on 2018-03-12 14:34 in Features

Phone scams are unfortunately common these days, and many people fall victim to them as the scammers can be very convincing and catch vulnerable people unawares. Most people are aware of financial bank scams, or people claiming to be from Microsoft saying there's a problem with your PC so they can get you to install malicious software. Similarly, broadband customers are reporting that they're getting contacted by scammers claiming to be from BT Openreach, and that there is something wrong with their router.

It's easy enough to make sure you're not caught out by this, and we've got some information to arm yourself with so that you can stay safe.

BT Openreach will never contact you directly out of the blue

BT Openreach don't provide internet service directly. They're responsible for running and maintaining the phone/broadband network and aren't directly involved with the public. If BT Openreach need to be involved then it's to do with needing to fix faults on the line, and your Internet Service Provider will deal directly with them. In the case of a faulty router, BT Openreach wouldn't be involved at all, as it's either you or your provider who supplied the router.

Your ISP is also highly unlikely to contact you out of the blue like this

If there are problems with your individual router, your ISP won't know about them, and you'd need to contact customer support to report a problem yourself. In the event a problem is discovered with a batch of routers, your ISP would make an official statement on the matter, most likely this would be via the email registered to your account, or via letter.

If there was a genuine problem with your router

There are simple checks to be done before you even get to checking the router itself, such as replacing cables or filters. These are basic first steps that all staff will ask a customer to run when they are contacted.

You won't find any information by running some random command on your PC. For example, 'perfmon' is a common command scammers ask you to run, which is related to the performance of your PC, nothing to do with your router or your internet speeds. You'd need to access the router directly to get useful information, usually by putting the local IP address to it into your internet browser (such as 192.168.1.1).

There are some simple things to do to check if a scammer has contacted you

  • Ask them who your ISP is - they either won't know, or if your ISP is BT, the anwer should not be BT Openreach. Genuine BT customer support staff all know this.
  • Ask them what model your router is - odds are they'll give you a generic answer of 'BT Hub' because they have no way of knowing. If there's a problem as they claim, then they'd know that information.
  • Ask them how to access your router to find the information - they have no good reason to insist you run checks on your PC.
  • Take note of the number that called you, and do a Google search for it - usually the first results will reveal it is a known number used for scams. If it's a number associated with your ISP, that will be obvious in the search results.

Remember, it's always better safe than sorry when it comes to phone scams

If you're really unsure of whether it is a scam or not, say you'll contact your ISP customer services directly and hang up. If the call is genuine, then the caller will have your security interests at heart and won't mind you hanging up to run checks to verify that they're legitimate.

If you do contact your ISP directly, be aware that some scammers keep the line open so they can pretend to be the company you're trying to contact. It would be a good idea to contact your ISP with a different phone (such as your mobile) or use other methods of contact, such as live chat online, or call someone you know to clear the line first.

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speedtest-main

Our enhanced broadband Speed Test tool shows how fast your internet really is

Posted on 2017-10-04 15:00 in Announcements News Features

Is your broadband up to speed? Is it delivering what you hoped for when you first signed up? Or should you be switching to a faster provider? Our newly enhanced broadband Speed Test tool has all the answers.

Already used by over 400,000 people every month, the Broadband.co.uk Speed Test service is the quickest and best way to get the true picture of how your internet is performing. This completely free tool now boasts upgraded features that make it better than ever.

With the Speed Test you can:

  • test your download and upload speeds
  • compare your results to the best speeds available in your street
  • save and view your entire test history, using our new Facebook integration feature

Having access to your test history enables you to judge the performance of your broadband over time, and also to identify any patterns or trends in the speeds. It isn't uncommon for internet speeds to drop during peak hours as more people go online. By running the test on different days, and at different times of day, you can quickly spot any problems. Our results page also highlights faster services available in your area. If you're ready to switch providers, or upgrade to fibre broadband, you'll know what your best options are.

In addition, you can carry out speed tests on various devices in different parts of your house. If you're experiencing slowdown in particular rooms, it may be because the Wi-Fi signal is being blocked or does not reach far enough. If you find that you're having this problem, we've got a guide that can help.

We also collate all the results to determine the industry's best and worst performing providers. We update our performance chart every month so you can clearly see which companies are worth your business, and which should be avoided.

To carry out a Speed Test, just click here.

Test your broadband speed today

Getting started with our broadband Speed Test couldn't be simpler. It takes just a couple of clicks, and the whole process lasts barely 20 seconds. It runs from within any web browser, and it works on your phone, too. You can use it to test both Wi-Fi and 4G speeds.

Visit the Speed Test page (1). Enter your postcode if you want to compare your results to other services in your area (or you can leave it blank if you prefer). Now just click Start Test.

The entire process lasts about 10 to 20 seconds (2). It's a good idea to carry out the test when you aren't using the internet for anything else, so pause any downloads, and disconnect videogames and streaming services until it has finished.

Once done, you'll see your results page (3). The first screen shows your upload and download speeds, compared to those achieved from other providers in the same postcode.

To see the rest of your results, all plotted on a similar chart (4), click Login with Facebook to see your full history, then follow the onscreen instructions. With regular tests you'll be able to build up a complete picture of how your broadband is performing, whether it is meeting expectations, and whether you'd be better off switching to a new provider.

If you do decide to switch, our Buyers' Guide provides an Ofcom-approved comparison of all the standard and fibre broadband offers available to you right now. It's constantly updated, and completely independent. You can be confident that we will always point you toward the deal that's right for you.

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Man using computer

EXPIRED: How to avoid BT and Sky price rises - penalty free!

Posted on 2017-02-02 14:19 in News Features Expired Sky BT

BT and Sky have both announced that they're hiking up their prices once again - but you don't have to pay them. Under Ofcom rules, any unexpected price rises mean you can quit your contract early without paying a penalty fee.

BT's price increases are all in the region of an inflation-beating 5-6% on standard and fibre broadband deals. They include:

  • Standard broadband: a £2 per month increase from £33.99 to £35.99 for the "all-in" deal including line rental, as of 2nd April
  • Fibre broadband: a £2.50 per month increase from £39.99 to £42.49 for Infinity 1, and £51.49 to £53.99 for Infinity 2, as of 2nd April
  • BT Sport: will cost £3.50 per month via BT TV from August (it was previously free). Via Sky TV the price goes up from 2nd April by £1.50 per month if you have BT Broadband, or £1 per month if you don't
  • Calls packages: also increasing across the board from 2nd April

Sky's price rises are mostly limited to line rental, but customers on older deals will also see increases:

  • Line rental: up 9% from £17.40 per month to £18.99 from 1st March
  • Older broadband and TV deals: will rise on average just under £3 per month from 1st March. The exact amount will vary depending on what deal you're on

How to cancel your broadband contract without penalty

If you aren't happy about the proposed price increases then you do have options. Ofcom states that you can end a contract without penalty if there's a price rise you weren't warned about when you first signed up.

If you're still within the minimum terms of your contract (eg. you're six months into a 12 month deal), you must tell your provider of your intention to quit within 30 days of being informed of the price rise. Both Sky and BT began informing their customers toward the end of January, so move quickly if you want to switch.

If you're outside the minimum terms of the contract (eg. you signed a 12 month deal 18 months ago), you're free to leave at any time regardless.

Switching broadband providers is likely to be your best option for saving money. The best deals are almost always reserved for new customers. Our postcode checker shows what packages are available in your area.

And what if you're happy with your provider? You can, of course, try haggling. You can sometimes get a better deal if you're willing to enter into a new contract. Even so, it's still worth arming yourself with information on the best broadband deals so you know what you're asking for. And if no offer is forthcoming remember the golden rule of haggling — always be willing to walk away.

Use our postcode checker now to find the best broadband deals in your area. Also take a look at our guide to switching broadband providers. The process has been streamlined recently, and is probably a lot easier than you expect.

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Sky Q Hub

Why getting a new router can speed up your broadband

Posted on 2016-11-22 11:35 in News Features Virgin Media Origin TalkTalk Zen EE Vodafone Plusnet Sky BT

If you find broadband speeds confusing, you're not alone. What speed broadband providers advertise and what you actually get are rarely the same thing. The ASA has recently announced that it will be taking steps next year to bring clarity to the entire issue.

But that's a way off. In the meantime there are steps you can take to ensure you achieve speeds closer to what you were expecting.

You may not know that your Wi-Fi router can have a massive impact on the internet speeds you get throughout your home. Since the provider supplies the router we tend to assume that they're automatically good enough. But that isn't always true - sometimes they're old or slow, and not capable of handling a superfast broadband connection.

In these cases, upgrading to a more powerful router can help speed up your broadband dramatically.

How a new Wi-Fi router can help

Let's start with the technical bit.

The performance of a router is determined by the wireless standard that it uses. The best modern routers use the latest standard, called 802.11ac. It's the fastest available, and it runs on the 5GHz band which is clean and interference free.

802.11ac superceded the 802.11n standard. This is much slower - perhaps half or even a third of the speed - and it commonly runs on the 2.4GHz band which is much more prone to interference from other electrical devices in your home. As a result, the signal is not just slower but it gets much weaker the further it travels.

The router as a bottleneck

Many broadband providers supply an N-rated router with their packages, and it may not be up to the job. Tests show that 802.11n routers have a real world top speed of 50-100Mb, at close range. At a distance of 20 metres, and with a few obstacles like walls and floors in the way, that speed can be slashed in half - or worse.

So, if you've got a high-end fibre package and are getting speeds of 50Mb or more, then an N-rated router simply won't cut it. Your broadband is faster than your router, and the router becomes a bottleneck. Even on an entry-level fibre deal, with speeds of 25Mb, you'll be pushing it. You might find you get good speeds downstairs, but that they fall off sharply in the bedrooms.

In both cases, upgrading to an AC-rated router is likely to give you a major speed boost. The exception is standard broadband. Here, the speeds top out at 16Mb, and in practice are usually somewhat slower. An N-rated router should be able to handle this.

An easy way to check if you're affected is to use our free Speed Test tool. Stand next to your router and run the test on your laptop. Then head to the furthest corner of your house and run it again. If there's a major discrepancy in your results then it could be a sign that you need to upgrade your router. (Or it could mean you need to find a better position for your router.)

Do you need a new router?

You can see why a slow router can mean you don't get the broadband speeds you were expecting. So do you need to upgrade?

When you're shopping for broadband deals, all our comparison tables have icons to show what kind of router you're getting. Click the More Info button to see whether there's an option to upgrade to a better router when you sign up.

What router do you get?

  • Many of the major providers now supply AC-rated routers with all their packages. This includes TalkTalk, Vodafone and Virgin, while Sky also provides the new Sky Q Hub if you are a TV customer.
  • BT, Plusnet and EE supply 802.11ac routers with their fibre packages, and N-rated routers with standard broadband. BT offers a paid upgrade for standard broadband customers, but the other two don't.
  • Origin customers get an N-rated router, and need to pay at checkout to upgrade to a faster AC-rated unit.

If you've been with a provider for some time it's possible you're still using an older N-rated router and aren't getting the fastest possible speeds from your broadband. In this case it's worth checking with the provider to see if they'll swap your router for a newer model for free. Some may give you one in exchange for you signing a new contract. Just make sure you know exactly what you're getting, and that you aren't charged or placed on a new contract without knowing.

Lastly, a handful of providers, including Plusnet, Zen and Origin, allow you to use own router, so you can shop around and check independent reviews to get the best model for your needs.

The router is a frequently overlooked part of the broadband service. It's natural to assume that broadband problems are the fault of the provider, but the reality is that if your router is too slow you can easily be cutting your internet speed in half without even realising.

Give your router a quick check now to see if you would benefit from an upgrade.

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Data limits: Are they right for you?

Posted on 2016-10-21 12:19 in Features BT Plusnet Sky

We're all keen to shave a few pounds off our monthly bills, so when we're shopping for broadband and find an entry level package that looks the same as the more expensive alternatives, it can prove pretty tempting. Many broadband providers - from the industry's biggest and smallest names alike - offer these. They can be extremely cheap, but they come with pretty hefty restrictions.

Sky make a compelling offer with their cheapest fibre deal. It gives you the opportunity to upgrade to the benefits of fibre broadband and get it completely free for the length of the contract, while paying only line rental. Except there's a catch - you're limited to 25GB of data each month.

BT's lowest priced fibre deal also comes with a 25GB limit, and their cheapest standard broadband just 12GB. Many other providers also impose limits on their most affordable packages, ranging from 100GB down to a paltry 5GB.

Not only do these limits restrict how you can use the internet, they can also prove more expensive in the long run. Exceed your limit on BT, for example, and you'll pay £1.80 for every additional gigabyte you use. The price can rack up quite quickly.

Now, this doesn't mean you should avoid data limited packages outright. For lighter users in smaller households they might be ideal. Just make sure you know how much data you will be using before you sign up.

How much data do you need?

The amount of data you use depends what you do online. Casual browsing, shopping and banking, email and Facebook are not especially data intensive. If that's the extent of your web use, and there's only a couple of people in your household, then you might be okay with a data limit.

Anything media-related, on the other hand, eats through data rapidly. Here's a rough guide to how much data common apps use:

  • Netflix - the TV streaming service Netflix uses around 1GB of data per hour for standard definition, and 3GB per hour for HD. For BBC iPlayer, you can expect to use 2GB per hour of HD viewing.
  • Sky TV on demand - On-demand downloads through your Sky box will also count towards your data allowance - even if you use Sky broadband. A typical movie will use 1.5GB of data for SD and 4GB for HD.
  • Music streaming - The Spotify music streaming service uses around 115MB per hour at the highest quality setting.
  • Gaming - Tests have shown that online video gaming can use anywhere between 20MB and 200MB, depending on the title. Stream your gameplay over the Twitch service and you'll use up to 1.6GB per hour.
  • Video calls - Skype can use between around 200-600MB per hour for video calls, although it can be lower depending on the quality of the connection.

And then there are the numerous other things that will burn through a data allowance. Regular updates for your laptop, phone and games console, for example, stretch to several hundred megabytes or more. They may be mandatory, and they may even happen in the background without you realising.

Uploads count, too. use iCloud or OneDrive for your files, back up your important files to DropBox or Google Drive, share your holiday snaps on Facebook or Google Photos, or upload funny videos to YouTube or Snapchat, and that's another chunk of your data gone.

A false economy?

A cheap broadband deal with a monthly data allowance can be tempting - why pay any more than you need to, right? But it can prove to be a false economy, and you certainly shouldn't choose one in the hope that you'll be able to ration your usage.

Some providers, like BT, will start charging the moment you exceed your limit. Others, like Sky, will allow you to go over once every six months, before automatically upgrading your broadband to their more expensive Unlimited package. And in some cases, the difference between limited and unlimited isn't even all that great. At the time of writing you can get an unlimited fibre deal from Plusnet for just £25 more per year than Sky Fibre.

If you're only a light internet user, going online to pay bills and the like, then the cheapest, limited deal may suffice. For everyone else, you'd be better off steering clear and picking the best unlimited deal that suits your needs.

Use our postcode checker to find your best broadband deal today.

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