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.

BT Student Broadband

Last minute student broadband offers and options

Posted on 2019-09-12 11:39 in Features Offers Hyperoptic Three Vodafone 4GEE BT NOW Broadband Plusnet Virgin Media

It's the time of year where students around the country are heading to university, either to start their studies or return for a new academic year.

Whether you're heading to uni for the first time, returning to your student accommodation or about to start out in a new student house share, now's the time to look for a good student broadband offer to keep you online over the next 9 months.

To prepare for student broadband season, we updated our longstanding Student Broadband Guide to reflect some of the student-specific offers available this year with student-exclusive 9 month contract offers from BT and student-exclusive cheaper 1 month rolling contract offers from Virgin Media.

Both of those option mean that you can avoid paying for broadband costs should you head home or go off on travels in the 3 months between academic years. But of course you don't need a special student exclusive offer to get short contract broadband from other suppliers, for example NOW Broadband, Plusnet and Hyperoptic also have competitive 1 month rolling contract offers that even undercut BT and Virgin's prices.

This year, we're also endorsing a mobile broadband option for the first time. Well, it's 4G or 5G mobile broadband technology sold as home broadband services. With 4G and 5G home broadband routers from Three, Vodafone and EE you may have to commit to a much longer contract, but you can then take your router with you wherever you travel during summer break. Vodafone even offer a 30 day rolling contract version, although you'll have to pay more than the cost of 3 months contract to get it.

Unlike most mobile broadband solutions, these have large enough usage allowances for many households. Three's home router even comes with unlimited usage!

Even if mobile data usually isn't strong inside your student accommodation, you may get a better connection from a router, or may even be able to get an external antenna installed to boost the signal.

We weigh up all these pros and cons and give you a table of all the relevant offers over on our Student Broadband guide.

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Broadband for Gamers

What's the best broadband for gaming?

Posted on 2019-09-02 17:06 in Features

If you enjoy playing video games you'll know only too well just how frustrating online gaming can sometimes be. Stutter and lag, random disconnections, painfully slow downloads: they're all a seemingly unavoidable part of the multiplayer experience. Expect they aren't - your choice of broadband provider and package can have a huge impact on your Fortnite or Call of Duty sessions.

To help you out we've got a brand new guide on how to find the best broadband for gamers. It shows you what to look for in a broadband deal, and how to understand some of the jargon you might come across when comparing packages. It's well worth checking out - even if you aren't a gamer yourself you might have someone in your household who uses a Playstation or Xbox and who is struggling along with unsuitable broadband.

Before you delve into the full guide, here's a quick heads-up on some of the main things you need to know.

Download speed is important

Your broadband speed matters, but not in the way you might expect. You don't need fast internet for actual gaming - even a cheap standard broadband deal will be fast enough for almost everyone. But downloading massive files is another part of modern gaming. Triple-A games - the industry's blockbusters - will easily clear 50GB in size, and their regular updates might add another 10GB or more to the mix. If your broadband's too slow you'll be looking at a good 10 to 20 hours of continuous downloading before you can even start playing. Upgrade to a fast fibre deal (or something even faster) and you can slash that to a more serviceable couple of hours tops.

Want to upgrade? Check out the latest fibre broadband deals now.

Lag and stutter

Anyone who's ever played an online game will have at some point found that games can start to stutter or lag, where they don't feel as responsive as they should be. These problems are most likely caused by technical issues like latency (or ping rate) and packet loss. Ofcom research shows that all major providers perform well overall in these respects. Yet there are so many things that can cause them - problems on the gaming server, with your broadband provider, or even on your own Wi-Fi network - that there's really no guarantees.

What you can do is use our Speed Test tool to check the latency on your existing broadband connection, and also read the reviews of any providers you're switching to to see if your fellow gamers are reporting any concerns. You can find out more about these technical issues in our guide.

Reliability matters

Good old fashioned reliability also shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to finding the best broadband for gamers. It's annoying enough when your internet drops at any time, but if you're about to smash in an open goal in FIFA a dropped connection will leave you smashing your controller in rage instead.

You can totally relate, right? Then take a look at our guide on speeding up slow internet for tips on making sure your Wi-Fi network is set up properly. If the problem is still there, it may be time to switch to more a reliable broadband supplier. You can check out broadband deals in your area based that have the highest customer satisfaction rating.

4G and 5G home broadband are okay

Finally, if you're thinking of switching to 4G or 5G home broadband, then you can rest assured that both of these are absolutely fine for online gaming. In fact, in some cases they might even be better than the fixed line broadband options available to you. The only caveat is that you should try and avoid broadband plans that have a strict data allowance in place, or those that slow down your speed once you pass a certain usage level. One or two game downloads a month could eat through your data in no time at all.

For more information on how to find the best deal take a look at our in-depth guide to broadband for gamers. It'll help you pin down everything you need in a broadband package, and also shows you the best deals that are available in your area right now.

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Football on TV

The cheapest way to watch Premier League football this season

Posted on 2019-08-08 17:18 in Features EE Virgin Media BT Sky TalkTalk NOW Broadband

The Premier League is back, and there are more ways than ever to catch the action. Pick the wrong ones, though, and you could end up paying the best part of a grand for the privilege. Shop around, and there are savings to be had.

Let's look at the cheapest ways to watch the new Premier League season.

Sky Sports

Sky Sports is the self-styled home of football, and Sky have the rights to by far the most games. They'll show 128 in the 2019/20 season, across Friday nights, Saturday evenings, Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons and Monday nights. They get the first pick from all the games from each round, so this is where you'll catch the big derbies and the title deciders.

But Sky Sports isn't cheap. Although it actually only costs £18 a month, you can't get it from Sky TV as a standalone service. You need to take Sky Entertainment, too, which bumps up the price to over £40. Plus you need a dish, and a Sky Q box (with optional UHD viewing), and have to pay any installation and setup fees. And it all comes with an 18-month contract.

If you want the best service and are happy to make the commitment, your best bet for a good deal might to get Sky Sports and the rest along with Sky Broadband as part of a bundle. Check out the latest Sky TV with Broadband deals.

The same goes for Virgin Media customers, you can't just sign up for Sky Sports Premier League, it has to be taken as part of an expensive bundle along with all the other Sports channels and a variety of other premium Entertainment channels. However, if you're already with Virgin Media, this could still make sense for you. Check out the latest Virgin Media Sports offers.

NOW TV - the cheapest way to get Sky Sports

The cheapest way to get Sky Sports on your TV and tablet is through NOW TV's Sky Sports Football Season Ticket. Right now, they've got a 10 month season ticket available for just £199, offer ends on the 26th of August.

Alternatively, if you just want to watch on your phone, you can get the Sky Sports Mobile Month Pass for only £5.99 per month - you're limited to only one smartphone viewing at a time, but that's otherwise an unbeatably cheap way to access Sky Sports Premier League, and 4 other Sky Sports channels!

You can also get a cheap deal on the full Sky Sports Pass when you take it as part of a great value bundle with NOW Broadband. Just choose your preferred broadband plan and you can add the full Sky Sports package for only £20 a month for a year. That's 40% less than the full price. Even better, there's no contract on the TV side of the deal, so you can cancel whenever you want.

The NOW Broadband plans are very competitvely priced, ranking among the cheapest in the UK. They start at just £18 a month for the Brilliant Broadband service, with average speeds of 11Mb. Or if you'd prefer fibre you can get it for £25 or £30 depending on what speed you need. They're all on 12 month contracts as standard, or you can switch to a rolling contract by paying extra £60 upfront. Choose your NOW Broadband and Sky Sports Pass deal here.

If you don't fancy a broadband bundle and don't want to pay for a season ticket pass, you can take a standalone NOW TV Sky Sports Pass and get access to all 11 Sky Sports channels for £33.99 a month on a 30 day rolling deal. This undercuts the Sky Sports + Entertainment deal for Sky TV, and you can save more money by cancelling in June and July when there are no games.

Although the content's the same, the NOW TV experience isn't quite as good as what you get from Sky. There's no UHD, and HD resolution is currently pegged to 720p. You also can't record shows, though you can pause, rewind and watch on demand. For most, though, it should more than satisfy your hunger for the beautiful game.

As a streaming service you'll need to make sure your internet is fast enough to handle it. 4 to 5Mb should be enough for one device to stream 720p HD. If you need to upgrade, use our postcode checker to find the best and fastest broadband deals in your area.

Save on Sky Sports with TalkTalk TV

The other way to get a good saving on Sky's Premier League football coverage is through TalkTalk TV. If you're already a customer of TalkTalk's broadband and TV bundle - or are keen to sign up - you can add the full Sky Sports package to your deal at the half price rate of just £18.99 a month for six months. NOTE: This offer has now ended. That'll save you over £100 against what you'd normally have to pay if you went direct with Sky or Virgin. You can also add BT Sport for £25 a month for 12 months, if you sign up via BT.

This offer is available to new and existing customers. Take a look at the latest TalkTalk TV offers to see what takes your fancy.

Want BT Sport?

BT Sport have the rights to 32 matches on Saturday lunchtimes. BT get second pick of the games for 20 rounds, and fifth pick for the rest, so you might be more likely to get Watford's trip to Burnley than Liverpool vs Man City. They've also got all 20 games from two midweek rounds, and you get the Champions League and FA Cup among other things, too.

You can add BT Sport to your TV package for only £25 a month for 12 months if you're already a Sky TV or TalkTalk TV customer, and you can get a BT/Sky Sports bundle through Virgin Media. EE also offer a three month BT Sport trial through Apple TV 4K, followed by a cheap subscription for mobile users via the app.

But for the most part, BT Sport is for BT Broadband users, when it's included for free via app or included in all BT TV packages. Thinking about switching? Take a look at the latest TV bundle deals on BT Broadband.

Amazon Prime enters the field

The big new signing for the season is Amazon, who'll be showing games through their Prime Video service. They've got the rights to an impressive 20 matches spread over a rather less impressive two rounds played on Boxing Day and another as yet unspecified bank holiday. With staggered kick off times you might be able to catch more three or four games in total, if you want. But on the whole we'd regard this as a nice addition to the whole Prime package rather than a reason to sign up on its own.

If you're not on Prime Video yet, Amazon will often offer free trials of Prime that can be easily cancelled. If there's a particular Prime Video exlusive game or games that you have to watch, your cheapest option may be strategically timing when you begin your trial membership in order to cover the most matches.

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Man with laptop

Can you keep your email address when switching broadband providers?

Posted on 2019-07-26 16:56 in News Features

So you're ready to switch broadband providers. You've compared the best deals, you're going to get a faster service, and save heaps of money. But there's a snag: your old provider also supplies your email address. Can you take it with you?

Free email offers are not quite as common as they used to be, and they're certainly less of a selling point. This means that if you do have an email address from an ISP, you've probably had it for a very long time.

Trouble is, they own that address. If you choose to switch providers there's no guarantee you'll be able to keep using it.

The process to switch broadband provider has been made much easier, and switching will certainly save you money. But the prospect of losing your email address can be a pretty compelling reason to stick with what you've got. So what can you do? Let's take a look.

Can you switch broadband suppliers and keep your email?

There's no simple answer to whether you can keep your email address after you leave a provider. Each company has their own policy, and you might need to contact them before you switch to find out exactly what will happen.

Here's what you can expect from the main providers:

  • Sky: Sky's now-discontinued email service was provided by Yahoo, so you can carry on using it as normal. You can even sign in via the Yahoo website.
  • BT: You can keep your BT email address if you're willing to pay. You have to sign up to the BT Premium Mail service which will set you back a hefty £7.50 a month. We wouldn't recommend that unless there's some reason why you absolutely need to keep your address.
  • Plusnet: By default, your Plusnet email account will be closed when you close your broadband account. However, you can keep it open by requesting your account gets downgraded to a mail-only package, costing £1.06 a month. It's important to note that you must request this when you contact them to close your account - don't wait until afterwards.
  • Virgin Media: When you leave Virgin Media you'll continue to have access to your email for 90 days after you close your account. This should give you enough time to set up and switch to a new email address.
  • TalkTalk: On TalkTalk you need to pay to keep access to your email address. You do this by signing up to the TalkTalk Mail Plus service, which will cost you £5 a month, or £50 a year.

Bear in mind that even if you can keep your email address now, there's no guarantee you'll be able to keep it forever. Providers can change their policies, or discontinue services, at any time. And if you're no longer a customer of that provider you won't really have grounds to complain.

With this in mind, we'd always recommend against using an email address tied to a specific provider. And if you already use one, it's worth switching.

How to switch email addresses the easy way

The simple solution to all of the above is to switch to a new email address. Most of us have already got Google or Microsoft accounts, which give us free Gmail and Outlook email, respectively. Or if you don't fancy giving all your data to one of these tech giants, you could try a free, privacy-focussed service like Proton Mail instead.

The idea of switching email addresses sounds like a bit of a faff, but with some planning you can make it reasonably painless. The trick is to open and start using your new address at least a month before your old address gets shut down. That way you can get everything sorted and there should be no interruptions to your email access.

Here's a checklist of things you need to do:

  • In your old account, set up email forwarding. This automatically sends a copy of all new messages to your new account.
  • Log in to all your main online services and change the email address associated with those accounts. Prioritise the important ones first - banking, bills, subscription services like Netflix, social media accounts, and so on. Don't forget to change the main email account on your phone, too.
  • Export your contacts from your old account. Send an email to your key contacts to let them know you've got a new address.
  • If you used webmail on your old account, manually forward any important mails you need to keep to your new address. Alternatively, if you're switching to Gmail you can use the Import Mail and Contacts features to pull it all across in one go.
  • Finally, for security purposes you could delete all the emails in your old account, and set a new, strong password. Although the account may shut down on its scheduled date, there's no guarantee that will happen. It might lie dormant for several months, which could leave it at risk of being compromised.

If you do miss any services that are linked to your old email address, don't worry. You'll still be able to log in to them after the account has closed down, as long as you can remember the password.

Once your new email address is up and running don't forget to sign up for our exclusive newsletter. It'll keep you bang up to date with all the hottest broadband deals and offers in your area.

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People using mobile phones

5 things you need to know about 5G

Posted on 2019-07-19 17:01 in News Features

5G is now up and running in the UK. EE and Vodafone have both launched their fifth-generation mobile networks, Three will launch theirs in August, and O2 is set to join the party a month later.

Great! But wait - what exactly is 5G, and what will it mean for you? We've got an in-depth guide to 5G, with the full lowdown on the new tech and why it's so important. But if you'd prefer a quick and easy bluffer's guide, here's what you need to know.

1. 5G is fast

Think the 20-25Mb speeds of 4G are already pretty quick? How does 200-250Mb grab you? Typical 5G speeds are ten times faster than 4G right from day one. Find the perfect conditions and it can go way beyond even that, with Three claiming that their network will hit a potential 2Gb.

And it doesn't stop there. Industry experts reckon 5G could eventually deliver speeds up to a mind-blowing 20Gb.

What do the faster speeds mean? It'll improve everything you do online, from simple browsing to sharing huge files, it'll deliver instantaneous app downloads, and even allow you to watch Netflix in 4K on your daily commute.

2. It'll work in crowded places

5G fixes one of the biggest frustrations of 4G, its limited capacity. You'll know the signs: you try to use your phone in a crowded place and have to struggle along with a grindingly slow connection - if you get a connection at all. The network simply isn't equipped to handle the amount of traffic we're throwing at it.

The 5G network will enable two and a half times as many devices to be connected at once, and to download a whole lot more data while they're there. That means no more waiting around when you want to go online.

3. 5G will be great for broadband

The faster speeds and higher capacity are so important. They don't just mean that we'll get faster streaming and sharing on our smartphones, they will also completely revolutionise mobile broadband.

If you need a data connection on your laptop while you're on the road, you can expect more reliable performance, faster speeds, and - best of all - significantly higher data allowances. In time, 5G could even become a decent option for home broadband, especially in more remote areas where the existing fibre network is so poor.

4. You'll need new devices

Here's the bad news: your existing 4G-enabled phones, tablets, laptops, watches and dongles will not work on the 5G network. You'll have to replace them all. That includes your iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, and everything else.

The good news? There's no rush. There aren't many 5G devices right now, and they carry a price premium. Unless you're an early adopter itching to try it out, you can probably wait a couple of years before 5G gear is a must. And by then, devices will support it as standard anyway. Meanwhile, your 4G kit will continue to work just as well as it always has.

5. The rollout will take some time

So when will you be able to use 5G? It's available right now in major cities like London, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. By the end of the year it'll be available in over 30 locations, from Bournemouth to Birkenhead, and then in over 50 places by the end of next year. Different networks will target different places, so you might need to switch.

But the rollout will take some time. Even areas that do have 5G won't have blanket coverage, and if you're in smaller town it might be two or three years before 5G arrives.

For more information on 5G, including how it works and why it'll be a complete game changer in so many other ways, take a look at our full 5G guide. Or, if you'd prefer, have a look at some of the best mobile broadband deals you can buy today.

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Laptop uploading a file

What are upload speeds and are they important?

Posted on 2019-05-24 13:46 in Features

When you compare broadband deals you'll see that most providers sell their services based on how fast they are. When they do this they're almost always only talking about the download speed. That's fair enough - it is one of the two most important factors you need to consider, along with the price.

But there's another speed spec that providers don't shout about, and is often quite difficult to find anywhere. The upload speed.

So what exactly is this, and is it something you need to worry about? Let's take a look.

What exactly are upload speeds?

As you probably know, the download speed represents the speed at which data is transferred from the internet to your computer. Well, the upload speed is the opposite. It's how fast data moves from your computer to the network.

Broadband providers place all their emphasis on download speeds because the vast majority of the stuff you do online involves downloading. Everything from opening a simple web page to streaming 4K video on Netflix is affected by your download speed. By and large, the faster it is the better your experience will be.

But you're uploading all the time, too. Every time your computer communicates with a website or other online service it does so by uploading packets of data to those services. This is how it opens a web page or logs you in to your online bank account. However, the amount of data involved is so small that it's unaffacted by your upload speed. It all happens instantanesouly.

This means that your upload speed is irrelevant for day-to-day web use, which is just as well because it's usually a lot slower than your download speed. Broadband providers know that downloading is more important, so they configure their system to give that priority.

Where it does matter is when you're uploading large amounts of data. If you like to share your holiday photos and videos on Facebook, for instance, your upload speed will determine how quickly that will happen, and it can be a massive difference. Uploading one gigabyte of images would take around two and a half hours at a 1Mb speed, or just 14 minutes at 10Mb.

Or if you make video calls on Skype or FaceTime your upload speed dictates whether you can broadcast yourself in glorious high definition or will have to settle for a more low-res, pixellated image. Skype requires an upload speed of 1.5Mb for full HD.

So, what speed am I getting?

The easiest way to find out what upload speed you're getting is by using our Speed Test tool. You should then use this figure when you start to shop for a new broadband deal, because it's technically possible to switch to what looks like a similiar or better package, and end up with slower upload speeds in the process.

Most providers offer similar upload speeds, just as they do download speeds. For standard broadband with download speeds around 10-11Mb, uploads are usually around 1Mb. On an entry-level fibre deal - 36Mb download - it's around 9Mb, and is around 18Mb on the high-end fibre deal (typically 64-67Mb downloads). Providers that use different technolgies, such as Virgin Media or fibre to the home suppliers like Gigaclear, offer different speeds. But remember, they're always only average speeds, so you might get better or worse.

Here are the average upload speeds for the UK's biggest broadband providers:

  • BT, EE, italk, John Lewis Broadband, Plusnet, and Vodafone : 1Mb upload on the standard broadband plan, 9Mb on the basic fibre and 18Mb on the faster fibre deals, where available.
  • Sky: Sky's fibre speeds are the same, but their standard broadband upload speeds fall a little short at 800Kb.
  • NOW Broadband: NOW's fibre upload speeds are the same as above, but on their standard broadband deal you get a paltry 700Kb.
  • TalkTalk, Post Office, Shell Energy and SSE: these providers' fastest upload speeds are a slightly lower 17Mb.
  • Virgin Media: speeds are 3Mb on the slowest VIVID 50 plan, 6Mb on VIVID 100, 12Mb on VIVID 200, and 21Mb on VIVID 300.
  • Direct Save: mostly above average upload speeds ranging from 5Mb on the 25Mb plan to 30Mb on the 300Mb plan.
  • Gigaclear and Hyperoptic: these fibre to the home providers offer 'symmetric' services, meaning the upload and download speeds are the same. This results in the UK's fastest upload speeds of 900Mb on the top end plans!

Do I need to care about upload speeds?

Unless you're lucky enough to live somewhere covered by Gigaclear or Hyperoptic - and that's only around half a million homes between them - your upload speeds are typically going to be limited to between 1Mb and 30Mb (on average).

So how much weight should you give this when choosing a broadband deal? It depends on how you spend your time online. We've established it doesn't matter for normal web use - browsing, social media, streaming TV, or even if you use your broadband for gaming. But there are certain tasks where you'll definitely benefit from faster upload speeds. These include:

  • using cloud services like Dropbox
  • sharing photos online to places like Instagram or Google Photos
  • using P2P file sharing services
  • making VoIP phone calls
  • making video calls over services like Skype or FaceTime
  • uploading videos to YouTube
  • live streaming games on services like Twitch

You might also want it if you work from home, especially if you work with large files or need to do video conferencing, etc. And a larger household with many users online together will also benefit from faster speeds.

For many, though, the upload speed is something that's good to know but not essential. In all cases the most important thing is to make sure you get the broadband speed you need based on how you use the internet.

Our broadband listings show the upload speed for all plans. If you're ready to start shopping for something faster, use our postcode checker to find the best broadband deals in your area now.

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Piggybank

How to cut your broadband bill without switching providers

Posted on 2019-04-26 14:33 in Features

The obvious advice for anyone who wants to cut their broadband bill is to switch to a different provider. It's so easy to compare broadband deals, and more often than not you'll be able to find something better or cheaper than what you've currently got.

But what if you don't want to switch? What if you're happy with the service you're getting, and would just rather pay a little less for it?

Well, there are a few tried and tested ways to pay less for your broadband without switching providers. Let's take a look.

Don't stay on your old deal after it expires

The first step is a no-brainer, yet it's something that millions of us fail at. Don't stay with your old deal after the initial contract has ended.

When you sign up for a broadband deal you get a price and a minimum contract period. When that contract period ends the price will start to go up. In fact, it might go up the very next day. A recent Which? report suggest that customers who don't bother switching deals end up paying as much as £690 more each year than they otherwise would.

If you only take one thing away from this post, it's that you need to know when your deal ends. That way you can make an informed decision about what to do.

At the very least you can call your supplier and see what they can offer you if you take a new contract. That ought to be better than what you've currently got. But remember that these companies reserve their most attractive offers for new customers, so don't assume that their first offer is the best you can get.

Master the art of haggling

Haggling is not terribly British and our collective refusal to do it is costing us hundreds of pounds a year.

But it's actually easier - and less terrifying - than you'd think. Just use our comparison tool to find a better broadband deal, then call your provider armed with this information. Tell them what you can get elsewhere and see if they can match it.

If the thought of haggling brings you out in a cold sweat, don't worry. Write yourself a little script first. Try this one for size:

"My contract's ending soon and I'm looking at my options. I can get this deal from this provider for this much per month. Can you match it?"

Or this one: "My contract's come to an end and I'm trying to cut my bills. My budget is this much a month. What can you do for me?"

And then follow it up with: "Hmmm… I was hoping for something a little better than that…"

You'll speak to the regular sales team first, and they're limited on what they can offer you. If you aren't happy you can tell them that you'd switch providers instead. This will get you put through to the Retentions department. Retentions exists purely to stop customers leaving, and they have more scope for offering you better deals.

A lot of people don't want to take it this far because they're worried that they'll be forced into starting the switching process even when they don't really want to. But you don't have to make any decisions over the phone there and then. Just tell them you were hoping for a better offer, and that you'll have a think about it and will call them back tomorrow.

Don't accept mid-contract price rises

It's a lot easier to cut your broadband bill when your contract is coming to an end (or has already ended). It's a lot harder when you're still in your initial contract period, but there are a few things you can use to your advantage. One is poor performance, the other is a mid-contract price rise.

In the right circumstances, both of these can lead to you being allowed to leave your deal early without penalty. If you're getting terrible performance then you might want to switch anyway. But you can use a price rise as leverage to get a better deal. Not only might they waive the increase, but they might throw in another sweetener, too.

You have to act quickly, though. You've got 30 days from when you're informed of the price rise. After that you're regarded as having accepted the change.

Cut services you don't need

Another simple way to reduce your bill is to cut services you no longer need. This is easiest if you've got a TV bundle, as you can dump those channels that you don't watch. Or maybe you took out a call plan and now find you don't make as many calls as you thought.

You can even think about what type of internet service you've got. Do you need that ultrafast broadband package, or could you downgrade to a slower speed without noticing the difference? Our guide to what broadband speed you need explains more.

Find different ways to pay

If you've got a chunk of cash sat in your bank account just waiting to be spent, you could potentially make savings on your broadband by paying some or all of it up front. It's rare for providers to allow you to pay all your bill in one go - and we wouldn't necessarily recommend it either - by a few still offer a line rental saver option.

Plusnet and BT both let you pay the line rental part of your deal up front, which can knock as much as £30 off your annual bill. Not a huge saving, granted, but still the equivalent to a month or month and a half of free broadband, and definitely not to be sniffed at.

Paying up front protects you against price rises, but does come with a small risk. If you need to exit your contract for any reason (including something like moving house) you're unlikely to get your money back.

Seek out bundles for better value

Do you get your broadband, phone, TV and mobile from different providers? If so, there's a good chance you can make savings by bringing two or more of them under the same roof. Many broadband providers offer bundles for various services, and it often works out cheaper than buying products from lots of companies. It's more convenient, too, since you no longer have to juggle multiple bills each month.

What's good about this is that you can often do it when you're in the middle of a contract. When you ask your provider if you can give them more money each month they're unlikely to turn you away. Just make sure that your deals for these services with other providers have run out, otherwise you could be penalised for moving them.

Be willing to walk away

Okay, you don't want to change providers, but you're in a far stronger position if you're willing to do so regardless. Not only does it improve your chances of getting the best deal with your current supplier, but it also opens you up to all those incredible 'new customer' offers from everyone else.

And while it sounds like a hassle, the good news is that the process to switch broadband providers is now easier than ever. In some cases your new provider will do all the work for you!

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Laptop and phone

Are broadband bundles or standalone deals right for you?

Posted on 2019-04-11 14:01 in Features EE Hyperoptic TalkTalk NOW Broadband BT Sky Virgin Media

Is it better to get your broadband, TV and phone services as part of a single bundle from the same provider, or should you shop around for the best standalone deals?

Is it simply a question of convenience versus flexibility? And does one work out cheaper than the other?

Let's take a look.

What kind of bundles can you get?

There are three types of broadband bundle. Where providers offer more than one you might see them described as triple or quad-play providers.

Broadband and call bundles

Most broadband services need you to have a traditional phone line, the price of which will be included in your broadband bill. Many providers - even some of the smaller ones - make the most of this requirement by offering you a call plan as part of a bundle. You can add off-peak, Anytime or International calls for a few extra pounds a month. If you don't add a plan the price for any calls you make just gets added to your bill.

Even some providers who don't require a landline will still offer you call bundles, and that can work out cheaper even if you don't intend to use them. For example, Virgin Media's broadband with phone options are cheaper than just standalone broadband for the offer introductory period of. After this, it goes up by £2 a month, but you always have the option of ditching the phone portion at the end of your minumum contract, or some people might consider the extra £2 worth it for extra piece of mind in an emergency. Of course, this isn't always the case, as with Hyperoptic who charge more for a phone bundle than they do for a standalone product. But it's worth investigating to see whether a potential provider requires a landline or not, and if you can make a saving by getting calls bundled in.

Broadband and TV bundles

Broadband and TV bundles are the next most common types of deal. These are generally restricted to the bigger name providers like Sky or BT, and can give you access to premium TV channels that show Premier League football or the latest movies. But beware, they aren't all like this. Some TV bundles, such as the basic TalkTalk or Virgin TV deals, don't offer many more channels than you can get with Freeview. You get a set-top box that lets you record or pause shows, but doesn't include any pay TV channels unless you choose to upgrade. Take a look at our guide on the cheapest ways to get pay TV for the full lowdown.

Broadband and mobile bundles

The other type of deal you can get is a broadband and mobile bundle. Again, these are rarer. Your options are split into two groups: either money off your bill, or a bonus added to your mobile plan, usually in the form of a bigger data allowance. The good thing about the latter is that you can add it to an existing plan if you're already a customer, without needing to take out a new deal.

How do the prices compare?

So how do the prices of bundles compare to buying all your services separately? And do they work out cheaper? Well, it's complicated. When you compare like-for-like services, bundles will usually give you a decent saving. But if you're willing to make compromises on what you need, they might not be the best option.

Here's an example. Let's say you want to sign up to Sky TV.

As of April 2019 you can get Sky Entertainment with 63Mb Fibre in a bundle from Sky for £42 a month. By contrast, if you took the cheapest fibre deal with an average 63Mb speed, from TalkTalk, plus the same Sky Entertainment package from Sky it would cost you a total of £47 a month. It's the same story for different speed broadband, and when you add more TV channels the gap increases further.

Bundles are cheaper when you compare like-for-like services. But - and there's always a but - it isn't quite as simple as that.

If you take that 63Mb TalkTalk Fibre plan and add a NOW TV Entertainment Pass instead of the Sky subscription, the monthly price plummets to just £33. In fact, add the NOW TV plan to Sky Fibre and it works out £7 a month less than the Sky bundle.

What gives? The important thing here is to compare the small differences in the services you're getting. NOW TV is cheaper and gives you the same channels you get through Sky, but it's also a far less premium service. You can't use it to record shows, access red button services, watch 4K broadcasts, or plenty of other things.

In summary: if you want the full monty, a bundle will almost always be cheaper. But if you're willing to shave off some of the extras, you might be able to make savings by buying separately.

Are bundles right for you?

Money aside, the big selling point of bundles is convenience. A bundle gives you one contract, one bill, and one customer service department to deal with. In most cases you'll be able to renew at the same time, too. And you could argue that getting all your services from the same provider will give you more leverage when it comes to negotiating the best deal. The more you pay, the keener they'll be to keep you.

But buying standalone deals has its merits, too. You get more choice, for a start, since there aren't many triple or quad-play broadband providers. And more flexibility, which lets you pick up a faster broadband package than your chosen TV provider can offer, for example. Plus, there's the possibility of taking shorter deals. Sky TV comes with an 18 month contract, Virgin 12 months, and NOW TV just 30 days.

Call plan bundles are the easiest to decide upon. Lots of us don't even have phones plugged into our landlines anymore, so don't need them. But if you make a lot of landline calls - especially international calls - then go for it.

For TV, make sure you know what you want before you sign up. For the full pay-TV experience a Sky or Virgin Media bundle will work out cheaper. If you just want a few extra channels, like from NOW TV or the handful of premium channels offered by BT, a standalone deal might actually work out better.

And as for mobile, keep an eye out for indirect savings. Sky TV customers, for instance, are automatically eligible for unlimited free calls and texts, which means they only need to pay for a data plan. The cheapest they offer is just £6 a month - almost certainly less than you're paying at the moment. EE give 5GB of mobile data to their broadband customers each month. This won't show as a saving on your broadband bill, but is likely to enable you to switch to a much cheaper mobile plan and make your savings there instead.

The main thing is to know what you need and how much it will cost you separately. The you can compare it to how much an equivalent bundle will set you back. Use our comparison tool to find your perfect broadband bundle to get started.

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Six things that could be slowing down your broadband

Posted on 2019-03-21 15:56 in Features

Slow broadband is bad enough at the best of times, but when slowdowns occur out of the blue it's really annoying. Especially as there isn't always an obvious reason why it has happened.

So what's the explanation? Read on to find the six things most likely to be slowing down your broadband. And when you're done, sign up to our newsletter and claim your exclusive free guide, 12 ways to boost your broadband speed.

1. Problems with your connection

One of the most common things that causes your internet to slow down is one you can't control - it's a problem with your connection. How can you tell if this is happening to you?

When you signed up for your broadband deal you should have been given a speed estimate indicating the performance level you can expect to achieve. Use our Speed Test tool to compare this estimate to what you're actually getting. We'd recommend disconnecting all other devices when you run the speed test, and standing right next to the router. Better still, connect your laptop to your router via an ethernet cable, if you've got one.

When done, compare the test result to your estimate. If it's significantly slower it may indicate the problem is with your connection. To be sure, reboot the router and try the test again, perhaps with a different device. Now give your broadband supplier a call.

Make sure you know your rights, here. If they don't sort out the problem to your satisfaction you might be entitled to a partial refund, or even to quit your contract without penalty, especially given Ofcom's new Code of Practice for broadband speeds. See our guide on how to complain to your broadband supplier for more info.

Of course, if your speed test doesn't indicate service problems and you still think it's too slow, it's possible you've simply outgrown your particular broadband package. Many providers will allow you to upgrade to a faster deal mid-contract. If you're coming to the end of your contract you can start shopping round for the fastest home broadband deals.

2. Your router's in the wrong place

The position of your wi-fi router is another common cause of broadband slowdowns. Without getting into the technicalities, a wi-fi signal gets weaker the further it travels and the more physical objects it has to pass through. The weaker it is, the slower it will be.

Try and position your router somewhere central in your home, preferably raised off the floor. This will help the signal reach the furthest corners of your home. Be aware that some electronic devices, such as phone bases, can interfere with signals, as can metallic ornaments. Try and keep it in a fairly open space, not on a shelf hemmed in by other objects. And don't cover it up, either. A lot of the broadband hubs you get for free from your internet provider are designed to lay flat. It's very easy to start piling stuff on top of them without thinking.

3. Your signal doesn't cover your whole house

Even when you do find the sweet spot for your router there are still limits to how far its signal will reach. If you've converted your loft into an office, for example, the signal might have to pass through several walls, floors and doors to get there. There's no guarantee that it will. Older buildings can be a problem as well, as some of the building materials, or even just the thickness of the walls can have an effect on how far a wi-fi signal can reach.

Look into wi-fi extenders or Powerline adapters as a way to increase the wi-fi coverage in your home.

4. There's too many people downloading

What's an obvious reason why anything slows down? There's just too many people using it! That's as true of your broadband as it is of the M25 at rush hour.

A standard phoneline broadband connection in the UK has an average speed of around 10 to 11Mb, and sometimes quite a bit slower. Netflix alone needs a speed of 5Mb to play HD video - that's half of your available speed. Now, add in someone else watching YouTube videos, someone playing online games, and another person downloading large files for work. It adds up pretty quickly, and something has got to give.

This can also apply to the area you live in. The more built up the area, the more customers there are connected to your local street cabinet. This means that speeds can get slower at peak times, because everyone is home from work and school and making use of the internet. You can work around this by setting updates - such as for phone and computer operating systems and games - to download overnight when less people are using the internet.

A lot of routers are good at prioritising certain types of traffic. This means time-critical downloads like streamed video aren't interrupted, but file downloads might be slower. Not all do, though. If you've got a busy family sharing limited bandwidth, rationing your usage might be the way to go.

You're less likely to get this problem on a faster fibre deal. For more on this, check out our blog post explaining what broadband speed you actually need.

5. Background downloads

While it's easy to get your kids to ration their Netflix use, it's still possible that your broadband will be slowed down by other downloads that you don't know about.

These hidden downloads happen all the time. Like when your laptop automatically downloads and installs an update to Windows. Or your phone gets updated, your TV box, or pretty much anything else you've got that's connected to the internet. These updates might be a couple of gigabytes in size, and on a standard broadband connection could take an hour or more to complete.

Video games are even worse. They often have updates that run to 10 gigabytes or more, and could clog up your system for the rest of the day. The same goes for downloading boxsets from Sky or other premium TV services. Not everyone makes the connection between downloading something on a TV and slowing down their computer, but it's all part of the same thing.

6. Viruses and malware

When your internet becomes slow all of a sudden, and for no obvious reason, it's worth checking that your computer and anti-virus software are both fully up to date and working properly.

Viruses and other types of malware won't slow your internet specifically, but they will slow your hardware and make browsing and other online activities feel a lot more sluggish.

Run an anti-virus scan to try and solve the problem. Lots of broadband providers offer free security software when you sign up, so make sure you're using it if yours does. Also, keep an eye out for other warning signs. This includes your browser's home page changing unexpectedly, or your computer's fans spinning fast and loud even when you aren't using it. This can be a sign of dodgy software running in the background.

How to speed up your broadband

There's a lot more things that can slow down your broadband. Maybe your router's settings need changing, or perhaps your phone cables are the problem. Or maybe your broadband isn't slow at all - maybe your computer is.

So how do you find the answers? Start by downloading our free guide, 12 ways to boost your broadband speed. It's packed with essential tips that are easy to follow and require very little technical know-how.

And if you do decide you need a faster service, use our broadband comparison tool to find the speeds that you need.

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Broadband Rewards Explained

Unwrapping the mystery of free gifts and rewards that come with broadband deals

Posted on 2019-03-08 17:03 in Announcements Features Offers BT

It's becoming common these days for broadband providers to entice customers into buying a broadband package by offering tempting rewards, such as gift cards, shopping vouchers, bill credit and cashback, and even shiny tech like tablets, Amazon devices and TVs. All the big name providers do it and some rewards, such as BT's current offer with a choice of tech and a reward card on top, may seem too good to pass up on.

But such offers may not be the best deal for you, even if they look really good at first glance. Before you rush to take advantage of a deal with rewards, you need to stop and ask yourself a few important questions, including:

  • What exactly are all these different rewards and how do they work?
  • Will these reward deals still save you money on your broadband contract?
  • Is the reward on offer something you already want or even need?
  • Could you spend less by getting a cheaper broadband deal and buying the reward yourself?
  • How do you get your rewards - are you automatically given them or do you need to claim them yourself?

We've got a brand new page in our Help section all about broadband rewards for you that gives you the answers to these questions and more, so when you decide to buy a broadband deal with a reward, you'll know how much money you'll really be saving, exactly what you're getting and how to get it.

Armed with all that information, you're all set to find the best deal with rewards for your needs - use our postcode checker to find out what's available in your area right now!

Read our Broadband Rewards Explained help page.

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