New independent research carried out on behalf of the ASA has confirmed what we've long suspected: there's widespread confusion about all aspects of broadband speeds. The ASA was concerned that this could prove to be misleading.
The research found that:
Speed is an important factor for a significant number of consumers when choosing a broadband package
Understanding of broadband speeds is low overall, with many consumers not knowing what speed they need
Most consumers believe they will receive the advertised speed, or close to it, when in practice most won't
A recent report from the BBC's Watchdog also highlighted the problem of misleading speed adverts. Broadband providers are currently able to advertise packages with speeds up to a certain level, so long as 10% of their customers can achieve that level. The vast majority of customers will get slower - and often considerably slower - speeds.
Analysis of speed test results shows that the typically advertised 'up to 17Mb' figure may not even meet these standards - most providers' customers have a top 10% speed closer to 15Mb or, in some cases, 14Mb. Across rural areas, the top 10% speed for products advertised as 'up to 17Mb' is just short of 10Mb.
A period of consultation is underway, ahead of a likely change to be announced in the Spring of 2017.
What you need to know about broadband speeds
Hopefully, the result of all this will be greater clarity, ensuring you know exactly what you're signing up for when you buy a broadband deal. We don't yet know what the solution will be, and in reality broadband speeds are quite complicated. Here's what you need to know.
How broadband speeds are advertised
The current rules state that headline speeds must only be attainable by at least 10% of customers, and must be preceded by the words 'up to'. There should also be additional qualification to help people understand any other factors at play. However, in practice the industry appears to have settled on an advertised speed roughly 2Mb higher than the rules show have allowed.
Broadband speeds are usually much slower than advertised
Use our free Speed Test tool to see what speed you're getting, and how it compares to what you were expecting. We also produce a monthly report showing the average download speeds for the main providers in the UK so you can see which are the best and worst performing.
It's impossible to advertise an exact speed
Even though the 'up to' claims may not be satisfactory, it isn't possible to advertise an exact speed instead. There are numerous factors that affect broadband speeds, to the extent that two houses on the same street with the same deal may get different levels of service.
The main factor that affects broadband speed
The biggest problem is the distance between your home and the nearest street cabinet (for most fibre broadband packages) or nearest exchange (for standard broadband). This is because part or all of the connection runs over copper lines, and the further the signal has to travel over these lines the weaker it gets. It's worse for rural areas, where these distances tend to be much longer, and the rural infrastructure is also less likely to have been upgraded to anything newer or faster.
Virgin is not affected by this
An exception to this is Virgin Media, which uses its own cable network, as well as smaller fibre-to-the-property providers, which bring the connection direct to your home rather than your nearest street cabinet.
Other things that slow down your broadband
There are many other factors at play, too. Smaller providers may slow down during peak hours because they don't have enough bandwidth to service all of their customers at maximum speed. Some providers may have traffic management policies in place to restrict speeds on the heaviest users. Your Wi-Fi router could also be a problem. Many providers supply cheaper, older technology routers that slow down over longer distances or are unable to deliver the full speed of your broadband connection.
How you can improve your broadband speed
It's possible to speed up your broadband in several ways. These include making sure your router is positioned in the best place in your home, and potentially upgrading the router to a faster model. For more tips check out our 12 tips to boost you broadband speed.
What broadband speed you need
The speed of broadband you need depends mostly on two things: how many people will be using your connection, and what you're using the internet for. A small household just using Facebook and the web can get away with a slower package. A large household with people watching Netflix and play games online will need something much faster. Read more in our guide to what broadband speed you need.
Use our free Speed Test tool today to find out fast out how fast your broadband is.
Our revamped listings help to bring much needed clarity to broadband pricing. They now show exactly how much a package will cost you each month, as well as the total amount you'd pay in the first year. In addition, we clearly outline any upfront costs you'd need to pay for things like equipment or installation - the exact kind of things that so often get hidden in the small print.
Broadband pricing has often been complicated and confusing. Our enhanced comparison tables bring greater consistency to the way different providers' offers are presented. By default, packages are sorted by the first year cost - which includes any setup fees - so you'll be able to see exactly how much you would pay in the first 12 months of any deal.
We fully support the new guidelines at Broadband.co.uk. Our purpose is to help you find the best broadband deal at the best price, and we've long argued that greater consistency and clarity was needed in the way that deals were advertised.
With the rules now in effect, we've overhauled the way we present pricing information to you. These are the main changes you'll find:
Full monthly cost - All packages now show the total price you will pay each month, even if the provider is still separating out broadband and line rental charges. You'll always be able to compare like-for-like.
Full first-year cost - Find out how much a package will cost you in the first year, once introductory offers have been accounted for, and including any additional upfront costs you may need to pay. If you'll receive promotional cashback or account credit during the year, this is deducted from the total. (Vouchers and other rewards aren't included.)
Upfront cost - Say goodbye to hidden fees. Any extras like setup, equipment, or delivery charges are now shown as a single all-in total beneath the monthly price. (If you need a new telephone line, additional prices may apply, see More Info or click Go to site.)
Broadband-only deals - Those packages that are sold as broadband-only but still require a phone line - so you need to shop around and pay someone else for separate line rental - are now either shown on their own Broadband-Only tab for the associated provider, or are clearly marked as needing separate line rental.
More info - Hit the More info button to get a full breakdown on each package. This includes the all-in price and how this compares to what's advertised (in cases where the provider still presents differently), along with details of telephone line requirements and what else you get with the package.
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.
If you're shopping for broadband then you won't want to miss the fantastic half-price deals TalkTalk are offering right now. And if you sign up soon you'll get a £75 voucher to spend on the high street, too.
If you prefer to get internet, TV and calls all in the same package you can do exactly that with TalkTalk's Essentials TV offer. £7.50 per month gets you unlimited broadband, evening and weekend calls, plus a YouView box that gives you seven days of catch-up TV and the ability to pause and rewind live shows.
Sign up to any of these deals by 27th September and you'll receive a £75 Love2Shop voucher to spend in over 20 thousand high street stores.
All the offers are on 18 month contracts, are fully unlimited, and come with a free wireless router. You also get a comprehensive security package that protects you against viruses, online scams, and gives you full parental controls for complete peace of mind.
Already with TalkTalk?
It isn't just new customers that get the best deals from TalkTalk. You can upgrade from standard broadband to a superfast fibre service and pay just £7.50 per month - that's an impressive 25% less than the normal price.
Voucher offers are exclusive to new customers who order online, switch from BT, Sky or Plusnet and keep their existing landline number. Speeds dependent on location and distance from local exchange - use our postcode checker to find out what's available in your area. Line rental required at £17.70 per month. Love2Shop voucher offer ends 2016-09-27. Broadband offers end 2016-10-01. Speed of TalkTalk Fibre product compared to UK average of standard (ADSL) download speed from Ofcom UK Home broadband performance report November 2015.
Good broadband is one of the essentials of student life. You need it for coursework and research; you need it for Game of Thrones and pulling an all-nighter on Call of Duty. But with so many broadband packages to choose from, how do you decide which to go with? What factors do you need to be aware of, and where can you find the best student broadband deals? Let's take a look.
When searching for broadband for your student accommodation you don't just need the best deal, you need the right deal. It's important to get the right length of contract - if you finish uni next June you don't want to still be paying for your broadband in August - and you also need to think about what speeds you need. A student house with two people will have vastly different internet requirements to a house with eight people.
Our newly updated Guide to Student Broadband can help you with this. It's got all the advice you need, and will also point you towards the best offers around.
Top student broadband offers 2016
Fortunately, many providers offer exclusive deals for students. They come with nine month contracts - to cover you during term time and no more - and include superfast fibre broadband options. Here's our pick of some of this year's best student offers.
Virgin Media VIVD 200 for Students: for the largest or most demanding households you can get up to 200Mb fibre broadband (so long as you're in a coverage area). Cheaper 50 and 100Mb packages are also available.
Origin Broadband: Origin's basic broadband service isn't a student special, but it is one of the cheapest deals around. Get 12 months of internet access for free, paying only line rental.
NOW TV Fab Fibre with TV pass and Calls: NOW TV offers up to 38Mb fibre broadband with no contract - you can cancel at any time. You get a TV pass, too, with your choices being Entertainment, Sky Cinema or Sky Sports.
Check out our Guide to Student Broadband for the lowdown on all these deals and many more, plus answers to any other questions you might have. Keen video gamer? Want to watch Premier League football? Need mobile broadband on your laptop? That's all covered, too!
What comes to mind when you think of the British countryside? The rolling hills? The quaint tea rooms? Cricket on the village green? How about terrible broadband?
Back in March Ofcom released the results of its latest broadband performance survey, and it was gloomy reading for rural households.
Ofcom's data showed that internet speeds in rural areas are less than a third of those in urban areas. It showed that speeds for country dwellers have barely budged in the last three years, and that 75% of households are stuck on internet connections of 10Mb or slower.
It's even worse in the most remote areas. Another survey from the NFU suggested that more than half of its members were getting by on speeds of less than 2Mb.
Meanwhile, Europe's Digital Progress Report, from the European Commission, highlights just how far the UK's rural broadband infrastructure lags behind the rest of the continent. Just 45.9% of British rural homes have access to superfast broadband, compared to 97% in The Netherlands, 89% in Switzerland, and approaching two-thirds in rural parts of former Eastern bloc states like Slovenia and Lithuania.
The cause of slow rural broadband
The causes of slow internet speeds mostly relate to location and infrastructure.
Most people in the UK get at least part of their broadband connection delivered over the copper telephone network. Even most fibre broadband services are actually only part fibre. The further your connection has to travel over copper lines, the slower it gets, so the distance you live from your nearest telephone exchange (for standard broadband) or street cabinet (for fibre), the slower your service will be.
In towns and cities these distances tend to be shorter, so the speeds are faster. In rural areas, the opposite is true.
To make matters worse, upgrades to the infrastructure often only occur where it is economically viable. This inevitably results in areas of low population density being excluded. Many rural exchanges and cabinets have not been upgraded to be able to provide faster broadband speeds.
A faster future?
There are plans in place to improve broadband speeds across the UK, especially in hard to reach areas.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is a Government-funded body tasked with this, with the aim of extending superfast coverage to 95% of UK households and ensuring a modest 2Mb service is available to everyone.
The Better Broadband subsidy scheme has been set up for the latter. It targets around 300,000 of the most remote properties, and subsidises the installation of a wireless or satellite broadband service to the tune of around £350. You may be eligible if you're unable to get a 2Mb service currently, so long as there are no plans to install fibre in your area in the next 12 months.
However, as our guide to rural broadband explains, these alternative services do not come without a few caveats to be aware of.
So, what are your options?
While there's no magic solution, you do have plenty of options if you want a service that offers more than the bare minimum performance.
Our rural broadband guide gives you everything you need to know about getting the fastest internet access in the countryside. It explains all the factors that can hit fibre and standard broadband speeds — you can use our coverage checker to find out whether you are likely to be affected.
And if broadband from the main providers isn’t going to work out for you, we’ve got a full lowdown of the other services you can choose. These range from smaller, local providers bringing ultrafast fibre broadband to select regions using their own infrastructure, to mobile broadband, to niche services like satellite and fixed wireless broadband.
You don’t have to settle for sub-standard internet performance. Check out our rural broadband guide today to help get your service up to speed.
Game of Thrones Season 6 is well under way, and it's still the hottest show on TV. But what's the best way to keep up with the action in Westeros? Read on to find out how you can watch Game of Thrones legally in the UK. And we'll keep the post spoiler-free, because if you want to binge on the boxsets right from the start there are ways to do that, too.
Sky Atlantic and Sky Go
The only way to watch Game of Thrones on broadcast TV in the UK is through Sky Atlantic. For the keenest fans the show goes out at 2am on Mondays, simulcast with HBO in the States. This is followed by a more reasonable 9pm repeat.
If you're a Sky+ customer with Sky Atlantic, you also get access to Sky Go through a web browser or mobile app. This enables you to watch the show live as it's broadcast, or on catch-up afterwards. The cheapest Sky+ deal with Sky Atlantic is priced at £20 per month. There are also lots of great value Sky broadband and TV bundles available. If you're a Sky Q customer you can of course watch your Sky TV shows anywhere.
The kicker is that Sky Atlantic is only available if you have got a Sky satellite dish. If you're a Virgin, BT or TalkTalk customer, you'll need to look to other online services to get your GoT fix.
Game of Thrones on NOW TV
The easiest way to watch Game of Thrones online without being a Sky TV customer is with a NOW TV subscription. This Sky-owned streaming service has packages starting at just £6.99 per month for the NOW TV Entertainment pass, which includes Sky Atlantic. Among the 11 other channels in the package is FOX, which means you'll be able to watch the next season of The Walking Dead online, too.
With NOW TV you can watch live or on catch-up, where shows are available for 30 days. It comes with a two week free trial and there's no contract so you can cancel at any time.
You can watch NOW TV on pretty much any entertainment device you can think of. Your options include a dedicated NOW TV box (priced from £14.99), a Chromecast, the PS3 and PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, some LG smart TVs, YouView boxes, Android and iOS phones and tablets, or just a regular web browser. A broadband speed of at least 2.5Mb connection is recommended. For mobile viewing you need at least 450Kb - make sure you have a large enough data allowance to avoid any excess charges.
Watch Game of Thrones boxsets online
If you've fallen behind with the show - or have never seen it - you can watch Game of Thrones boxsets online to get up to speed with the action.
Sky customers can catch up through a Sky+ or Sky Q box, or the Sky Go app. However, shows are only licensed for a set period of time, so may not always be available. Even if you download the episodes they will disappear from your Planner when they expire. It's the same situation on NOW TV, with shows appearing and disappearing on a regular basis.
You can buy seasons 1-5 to download and watch. Season 6 won't be available until after the it has finished broadcasting on Sky. On iTunes the prices range from £12.99 for Season One to £23.99 for Season Five, or £2.49 for single episodes. On Google Play all seasons are £17.49, and single episodes £1.89. On Amazon Instant Video (not including Prime Instant Video) prices go from £9.99 for Season One to £17.99 for Season Five, with episodes between £2.49 and £2.99 each.
Broadband pricing is set to become a whole lot more straightforward later this year, thanks to a new ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority.
From 31 October, broadband ads will be required to clearly show the total monthly cost for the service, as well as give greater prominence to up-front costs, post-discount pricing, and contract length. The move should bring increased transparency to broadband prices, and make it easier for users to compare services from different providers.
Until now, broadband suppliers have been able to entice new customers with very low and attractive introductory rates, hiding in the small print the line rental fees that typically add an extra £15 or more to the tariff. Additional costs, including price increases after an introductory offer ends, and one-off charges for things like installation and hardware, are also frequently de-emphasised or even hidden in ads. Under the new guidelines, all of these will need to be made clear.
ASA guidelines for price claims in broadband ads:
Show all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs; no more separating out line rental
Give greater prominence for the contract length and any post-discount pricing
Give greater prominence for up-front costs
TalkTalk is the first major broadband provider to announce it will be adopting the changes. The company has said it will scrap separate line rental fees in favour of a new all-in pricing model.
“As long as line rental and broadband are priced separately, the temptation to advertise deals in this way will always be there," said Tristia Harrison, TalkTalk’s Consumer Managing Director. "But it’s time for providers be honest about this - it’s a bad habit we have all been guilty of, it doesn’t serve customers well and it’s time it stopped."
The action comes after a survey by the ASA and Ofcom found that less than a quarter of people could identify the monthly cost of a broadband package after a single viewing of an ad. A further 81% of those questioned were not able to calculate the total cost of a broadband contact.
However, a few concerns have been raised within the industry. Chiefly, these revolve around the requirement to combine broadband and line rental pricing, and how it will affect smaller providers that do not offer line rental, or those that allow customers to take line rental from a different provider. Virgin Media has also complained that the ASA's review of broadband advertising has not addressed claims on broadband speeds, when the quoted speeds are often only attained by 10% of users.
For most customers, the changes should be a welcome step towards bringing clarity to internet pricing. It remains to be seen what new promotions providers will offer to differentiate their products.
Each month hundreds of thousands of broadband customers test their speeds with our broadband speed test. Since the end of 2015 there's been little change in average speeds from home broadband with average download speeds for March 2016 coming in at 20.41Mb and average upload speeds at 3.73Mb.
However, our test also supports users testing on tablets and smartphones, meaning we can report on mobile broadband speeds from 4G and 3G networks. While home broadband has been stable, mobile broadband average download speed has risen by a full 2Mb since December and upload speed by 1.6Mb, the average mobile broadband speeds for March 2016 were 15.31Mb download and 3.71Mb upload.
When the big mobile broadband and home broadband providers' average speeds compete on the same table, it's only Virgin Media's DOCSIS 3 cable broadband that outperforms mobile broadband, clocking in 46.95Mb, with upload speeds at 5.9Mb.4GEE is ahead of BT Broadband with download speeds clocking in at 18.71Mb, faster than BTby 1.07Mb. 4GEE and Vodafonemobile broadband sit in overall 2nd and 4th places beating all home big broadband providers' averages bar Virgin Media, with Vodafone's 16.26Mb average mobile download speed only 1.38Mb behind BT.
Of the home broadband providers Post Office Broadband still has the UK's slowest broadband speed overall with only 4.38Mb average downloads and 1.67Mb average uploads, well below the average speeds expected for copper phoneline broadband. Three tested with the slowest mobile broadband at 12.09Mb downloads, but this still beat home broadband offerings from Sky and EE.
When the supplementary broadband providers table (see page 4 of the report) is included we can see that fibre to the building provider Hyperoptic tested as the fastest broadband overall with 91.7Mb average downloads and 77.3Mb uploads.
In these cash conscious times we're all looking for ways to save a little on our bills each month. But how often do you check whether you're still getting a good deal on your broadband? Chances are, not often enough. A recent survey by NatWest shows that only 55% of us regularly compare broadband deals, while nearly a third never do it. Meanwhile, a massive 39% reckon they aren't getting good value for money.
These stats are not unrelated. Without taking the time to shop around, you'll be left paying over the odds for something that doesn't do the job. It need not be the case; cutting your broadband bill is easy if you know where to start.
1. Compare prices
Finding the best deals available to you is as easy as typing your postcode into our price comparison tool. We'll show you every package you can get, including standard and fibre broadband deals as well as phone and TV bundles. There'll almost certainly be something cheaper than you've already got — just decide how much you want to pay.
2. Pay for what you need
If you're not sure what speed broadband you need, it can be tempting to plump for the most high-end service just to be on the safe side. This isn't a great plan, as your perfect package can vary wildly depending on how many people there are in your household, how many internet-connected devices they've got, and what they'll be using them for. You can easily end up paying a lot more than you really need to (or, just as bad, taking a cheaper service that doesn't do what you need it to).
3. Buy bundles
Buying broadband, phone and TV services together in a single package will often work out a lot cheaper than buying them separately. It's easier to manage, too, since it'll all be included in the same bill. According to the NatWest survey, more than a third of us are already taking advantage of this.
Naturally, choosing a TV bundle will restrict you to only the largest broadband providers. And our point about only paying for what you need becomes really important here: don't subscribe to a bunch of TV channels you aren't going to watch. If you only want the movie channels, for example, you might still be better off with a smaller broadband provider and a Now TV subscription.
All broadband providers offer an array of attractive deals to entice new customers. Loyal, longstanding customers, meanwhile, get short shrift. However, if you're nearing the end of your contract — or it is already up — you can often negotiate a sizeable price cut. You may need to sign a new contract, but the savings should be worth it.
Haggling isn't as scary as it sounds. Every provider has a 'retentions' team whose purpose is to prevent customers from leaving. Tell them you can get a better price from another provider and there's a good chance they'll beat it. Alternatively, they might offer add-ons or upgrades for no extra cost. It's worth trying even if you're happy with your supplier, but if you're actually willing to go through with a switch you'll be in an even stronger position to get a better deal.
5. Understand what you're paying
Those introductory offers are very appealing. Words like FREE jump off the page, and can be hard to resist. But remember that virtually all broadband deals include line rental, and there can be as much as £4 difference from one provider to another. New rules from May 2016 should bring clarity to broadband pricing. Until then, when you're comparing prices make sure you compare the total you will be paying — internet and line rental — both during the introductory period and once it has ended. Offers that appear cheaper at first might not always turn out to be so.
The upshot is this: you can slash your broadband costs if you're willing to shop around. It's easier than ever to switch broadband suppliers, and even if you're happy with your current provider simply approaching them for a better deal can knock pounds off your monthly bill. What are you waiting for?