Hopefully, holidays are back on the agenda this summer. And do we need them. But whether you're planning a staycation, or have decided to venture abroad, you'll also need Wi-Fi, so you can get local information, stay in touch with the rest of the world, and keep yourself entertained as you travel.
Fortunately, you've got a number of options, and they won't cost you a fortune to use them. Let's take a look at the cheapest ways to get Wi-Fi when you're holiday at home or abroad.
The best way to get Wi-Fi when you're abroad is likely to be through your hotel. Most have it these days, and many hotels and hotel chains offer it for free, sometimes with the option to upgrade to a faster service.
But you may need to take a precaution.
The rule when it comes to any public Wi-Fi service is that a password protected connection is better than something that's fully open, but that's still no guarantee that it's completely secure. This applies equally to your Airbnb rental or airport Wi-Fi as it does to hotels.
You don't need to worry about this if you're only doing some casual browsing. But if you're planning to log in to sensitive sites like your bank account, then you should set up and install a VPN first. This ensures your connection and data are fully encrypted. Alternatively, you could just use your phone and its data connection for these tasks, so that you bypass the Wi-Fi altogether.
Hotel Wi-Fi can vary quite a lot in terms of performance. Some may or may not be very good, and you might find that some bandwidth-heavy services like Netflix are blocked. If you have the chance to upgrade to a faster service then that would be the best way to use these types of sites, but keep in mind that you'll likely be paying for 24 hours of access, so the fees could rack up over the course of your stay.
Another good option for getting Wi-Fi at home or abroad is through a mobile broadband service from providers like Virgin Mobile, EE, O2, Vodafone and Three.
These use the 4G or 5G phone network to give you internet access through a personal mobile router to which you can connect all your devices. You can also use it with a dongle connected to your laptop, or on a SIM-enabled iPad, although both of these options make it a little harder to share your connection with your other gadgets.
Mobile providers haven't reintroduced roaming charges post-Brexit, so you can use your mobile broadband allowance in many other countries. You should check where before your sign up - coverage is mostly for EU countries, so if you're heading further afield the price may be prohibitively expensive.
Even within the EU you might have fair usage limitations placed on some packages. And, of course, you'll be reliant on mobile coverage wherever you are. Head off for a city break and you'll be fine; go camping in the countryside and you might want to check the coverage maps for the area first.
Staying in the UK? You can use our Signalchecker service to check mobile phone coverage throughout the country.
Your phone's plan
Don't forget also that iPhones and Android phones can be set up as wireless hotspots, enabling you to get your laptop or tablet online wherever you are.
You'll find the option in Settings > Personal Hotspot on most iPhones, and on most Android phones you'll find it by swiping down twice from the top of the screen to open the Quick Settings panel, then tapping the Hotspot or Mobile Hotspot option.
Using your phone as a hotspot works in the same way as a separate mobile broadband plan, and can be a good option if you've got a decent data allowance. You'll get the same coverage without roaming charges across the EU, but will have to pay a lot more elsewhere. In either case, keep an eye on your data use. You'll have to buy top-ups in advance if you overshoot what your plan allows.
There may be other restrictions, too. If you've got an unlimited plan, check that it allows for tethering (connecting devices via the hotspot feature), and note that there may be a fair use policy in place.
Any one of these methods, or a combination, could be right for you. If you decide that you want the security and flexibility of a personal Wi-Fi system, check out the best mobile broadband deals available right now.
Were you planning to upgrade your broadband or TV in time for the holidays? It's now the middle of December, so it's probably too late, right? Oh no it isn't!
We can still save your Christmas with faster broadband and more TV than you could ever possibly watch. Here's what you can do.
If you aren't sure your current broadband will hold up under the strain of endless Zoom chats, Netflix bingeing and PS5 gaming, you still have options.
Although it is too late to get a new fibre deal connected in time for Christmas, mobile broadband can still give a decent internet boost.
There are 4G home broadband plans that offer you unlimited data at speeds on a par with a basic fibre deal. And if you're lucky enough to live in a 5G area, you can switch to something that is potentially a whole lot faster than the broadband you've currently got.
What makes it better is that you don't even need to make the switch permanent, since providers like Three and Vodafone let you sign up on 30-day plans. So if you just want to add a bit more bandwidth alongside your existing service for a few weeks, or are visiting family and need to take a decent internet connection with you, then this could work a treat.
Among the best deals available:
Three have unlimited 4G on deals up to two years long. You can get a 30-day plan for £30, plus £49 for a wireless hub (which you'll be able to continue using in future, too). They also do 5G in select areas, with unlimited data and speeds up to an impressive 200Mb. Prices start at £29 a month.
Vodafone have a range of mobile broadband plans, including some with the very highly rated GigaCube wireless router, for both 4G and 5G. You can pick up both on 30-day deals with unlimited 5G data, or up to 300GB on 4G.
EE and O2 also offer mobile broadband, albeit with lower usage allowances or on longer deals. And don't forget that your phone also offers a tethering feature, where you can make it function as a wireless router. Just be careful that you've got a big enough data allowance, as you can burn through it pretty quickly and don't want to be hit with any excess charges.
Parties might be off the agenda this Christmas, so we'll all be relying on boxsets, movies and Premier League football to keep ourselves entertained.
You can access Sky TV without a dish, installation or commitment through NOW TV. This streaming service lets you choose which bundle of channels you want through a range of TV Passes. Among the best offers are:
Entertainment Pass with NOW TV Boost gives you all the Sky entertainment channels including Sky One and Sky Atlantic, while the Boost add-on lets you watch in full HD on up to three TVs at the same time.
Cinema Pass with NOW TV Boost gives you over a thousand movies to watch on demand. You can also get Entertainment and Cinema in a single bundle.
Sky Sports Day Pass with Mobile Month Pass lets you watch Sky Sports for 24 hours for a one-off fee of £9.98. It's ideal if you want to enjoy specific football matches.
Sky Sports Month Pass with Boost gives you the full Sky Sports experience for a full month.
Kids Pass is the perfect way to keep the kids quiet, with ad-free shows. This no longer includes the Disney channels, though, which have switched over to Disney+.
All the monthly deals auto-renew, so make sure you cancel if you only want them for a month. You can cancel early so that you don't forget, and you'll still be able to watch until your month ends.
Better yet, the Entertainment and Cinema Passes come with a seven day free trial. If you haven't signed up before (or if you've got a different email address and payment card you can use), and you're feeling particularly sneaky, you can time your signup so that you get your free week over Christmas - and then cancel before you pay anything.
In fact, you can get a few nice Christmas treats by making good use of free trials on a few other streaming services. Amazon Prime offers 30 days, and Apple TV and BritBox both give you a free week.
Sadly, Netflix and Disney+ no longer do free trials. But you can spend around £15 in total for a month of the two, more than enough time to binge through the latest series' of The Crown and The Mandalorian while troughing the last of the Quality Street.
And if you're ready to upgrade your broadband in 2021, use our postcode checker to find the best Christmas and New Year broadband deals in your area today.
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.
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.
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.
December 2015 saw average download speeds for fixed line providers recorded by users of our broadband speed test remain stable in comparison to the results from November, coming in at 20.56Mb. Average upload speeds saw a 0.15Mb drop to 3.68Mb.
Of the big 5 home broadband providers, Virgin Media remained in first place but their average download speeds appear to have levelled out since rolling out their 200Mb service, remaining stable at 46.57Mb, with upload speeds at 5.66Mb. BT Broadband retain second place with average download and upload speeds steady at 17.58Mb and 4.42Mb respectively. TalkTalk move up to third place, with download speeds stable at 12.8Mb and upload speeds dropping by 0.21Mb to 1.86Mb. Plusnet drop into fourth place, dropping by 0.59Mb to 12.6Mb for average download speeds with a 0.39Mb decrease to 2.85Mb for average upload speeds. Finally, Sky remain in fifth place with a 1.1Mb fall in download speeds to 10.92Mb, while their upload speeds decreased by 0.41Mb to 2.47Mb.
Results from users testing with mobile-enabled devices including phones and tablets suggests that mobile broadband speeds saw an overall rise since November. Taking mobile broadband separately from home broadband, EE Mobile retain first place, with download speeds increasing by 1.1Mb to 17.55Mb and upload speeds holding at 3.87Mb. Vodafone are in second place, seeing download speeds fall slightly by 0.19Mb to 13.76Mb and upload speeds steady at 2.82Mb. O2 are in third place with download speeds at 11.78Mb - a respectable 1.4Mb increase over last month - and upload speeds at 2.53Mb. Three are still in fourth place, with average download speeds of 9.84Mb and upload speeds of 2.56Mb.
When mobile broadband and home broadband average speeds compete on the same table, 4GEE is head-to-head with BT's second place with a difference of only 0.03Mb. 4GEE and Vodafone mobile broadband sit in overall 3rd and 4th places beating all home broadband providers' averages bar Virgin Media and BT. This suggests that 4G broadband may have higher uptake levels relative to 3G compared to uptake of the fastest possible fibre broadband products relative to cheaper options.
This month's supplementary broadband providers table (see page 4 of the report) found Post Office Broadband had the UK's slowest broadband speed overall with only 2.55Mb average downloads and only 0.33Mb average uploads. Hyperoptic was fastest overall with 102.1Mb average downloads and 92.13Mb uploads.
October 2015 saw average download speeds for fixed line providers recorded by users of our broadband speed test rise by 2.76Mb in comparison to the results from September, coming in at 21.88Mb. Average upload speeds saw a 0.4Mb increase to 4.65Mb.
Virgin Media's average download speeds rose by 6.31Mb to 48.66Mb, with upload speeds also improving to 6.64Mb. Virgin have recently begun rolling out their 200Mb service for new and existing customers, which accounts for the significant increase in download speeds.
BT Broadband retain second place with average download speeds increasing by 1.32Mb to 18.84Mb, and upload speeds increasing by 0.45Mb to 5.59Mb. Plusnet hold third place, remaining stable at 15.09Mb for average download speeds with only a 0.33Mb decrease to 4.25Mb for average upload speeds. TalkTalk stay in fourth place, with download speeds at 12.89Mb and upload speeds at 2.32Mb. Finally, Sky are in fifth place with a 0.87Mb rise in download speeds, putting them at 12.76Mb, while their upload speeds increased by 0.38Mb to 3.64Mb.
With the recent improvements to our speed test, we're now able to record results from mobile users on their phones and tablets. EE Mobile are in first place, with download speeds averaging at 17.81Mb and upload speeds at 5.36Mb. Vodafone are in second place, with download speeds at 12.95Mb and upload speeds at 3.79Mb. O2 are in third place with download and upload speeds at 11.03Mb and 3.81Mb respectively. This leaves Three in fourth place, with average download speeds of 9.03Mb and upload speeds of 3.45Mb.