Does it really matter which broadband provider I choose?

May 19th, 2022
Does it really matter which broadband provider I choose?

Choosing the right broadband provider in the UK is an important decision, especially as it usually means being tied into a contract that could last for as long as two years. Making the wrong choice can leave you paying for a service that doesn’t work for you and the demands of your home and family, or paying more than you have to for the broadband you receive.

Choosing the right broadband provider

So, you now know that it is important to pick the right broadband provider, but what about the all-important matter of actually making that decision. How should you choose your broadband provider?

There are generally five things that you need to think about when considering a provider. These are:

  • Price – use our service to compare deals to ensure you don’t pay more than you have to. Just make sure that the one you choose offered the features that you need.
  • Speed – this will depend on factors such as where you live and what you use your broadband for. You can check your broadband speeds online using sites such as BBC Watchdog [1].
  • Download limits – this is especially important if you or your family like to play games or watch videos online, for example.
  • Bundle – consider whether a bundle is the right choice for you as you don’t want to regret not adding TV to your broadband, for example, in the months to come.
  • Area – be aware that some providers may not cover the area in which you live. For example, some countryside locations will not be able to receive cable broadband services such as Virgin Media and so you will need to ask yourself ‘who is the best broadband provider in my area?’

You may also want to consider the specific attributes of different providers and compare these to your own priorities. Do your research about providers you are thinking about and see what the consensus of opinion is. We discovered that:

  • Many people believe that Virgin Media is the best for speed
  • BT is known for its reliable and robust connection.
  • PlusNet does well when it comes to customer service, according to online reviews.
  • NOW Broadband may offer good value for money.
  • Sky Broadband may be a good choice if you’re looking for a bundle including TV channels.

Of course, there are many more broadband providers out there that you may want to consider but it demonstrates how you can begin to start comparing your own priorities with those of the providers you are thinking about using. This will be really helpful in narrowing down your options when it comes to comparing broadband deals.

What kind of broadband user are you?

Choosing the right broadband provider is important but it can seem really complicated, especially if you’re just starting out using broadband or paying for it yourself. It doesn’t have to be complex if you break things down, however. Start off by thinking about the type of broadband user you are as this will influence the type of broadband you need. For example, if you are new to broadband and don’t know what your usage is really going to look like, you might want to look at an ADSL package. This is standard broadband that means you won’t be paying a premium for extremely fast speeds when all you want your internet connection for is to check emails and save documents to the cloud.

No downgrade options

As a general rule of thumb, start out small with your broadband contract if you’re unsure. Providers will usually let you upgrade if you find you need more expensive broadband but they won’t let you downgrade to something cheaper. If, however, you know that you will be a heavy user thanks to your use of Amazon Prime Video and Netflix then you will need to consider this from the outset.

Here's savings for you on your broadband

Full Fibre 74

  • New customers only
  • UK-based customer service
74Mb average* speed
Unlimited Downloads
£0.00 Setup costs
24 Month contract
Pay as you goCalls
£23.99per month

Full Fibre 200

  • New customers only
  • Up to £3/month saving for existing mobile contract customers
200Mb average* speed
Unlimited Downloads
£0.00 Setup costs
24 Month contract
Pay as you goCalls
£30.00per month

Fibre 2 Only

  • New customers only
  • Free access to BT Wi-Fi hotspots
67Mb average* speed
Unlimited Downloads
£0.00 Setup costs
24 Month contract
Pay as you goCalls
£16.99per month

Considering the price of your broadband

It is always a good idea to let us help you to compare broadband deals but it is also important that you ensure that you choose the right broadband and provider for you and not just opt for the cheapest price. If you live near a telephone exchange and aren’t too worried about broadband speed and download limits etc, then it may be as simple as just comparing prices and choosing the cheapest one.

If, however, you live in a rural location where standard broadband is super-slow, for example, or you are likely to want to move properties before the end of the contract, then you may need to consider other factors as well. It is also worth noting that providers can charge differing amounts according to where you live in the country. This means that just because your friend in Northampton has a great deal from one particular company, it doesn’t mean that you will be eligible for the same offer when it comes to your London flat. So, alongside thinking about who is the best broadband provider for my area, you may also want to consider how your location will affect the price that you will pay.

Thinking about broadband speed

If your needs go beyond basic surfing then you’ll want to think about speeds to ensure your Netflix watching or gaming binges aren’t slow and sluggish affairs. There are broadband speed checkers available to tell you what kind of a download rate you should be able to expect. This will let you know whether you can go for standard broadband or if you need fibre broadband or even satellite broadband if you can’t rely on a hard-wired connection. Once you have established this, you will be in a better position to consider the providers that offer the specific service that you need at the most competitive prices.

It can be tempting to go for the highest speeds possible but it is important to consider whether you really need them. Speeds of more than 10Mbps, for example, are plenty enough for the majority of small homes where only basic online activities are carried out. Even just 8Mbps may be enough if you just want to check your email, watch a bit of Netflix, and check your Facebook account.

Did you know, however, that you may actually be entitled to expect a download speed of at least 10Mbps in your area? If you didn’t, you’re not alone as a survey by National Broadband found that 63 per cent [2], almost two thirds, of UK broadband users are unaware of the Universal Service Obligation. The Government’s USO went live in 2020 [3] but there are caveats and so a little research may be needed to discover whether this is relevant to you.

Benefits of fibre broadband

If you want or need faster broadband, then fibre may be the way to go when you’re’ searching for ‘the best broadband provider my area has to offer’. It offers quicker speeds than standard broadband, making it faster to download the likes of games, music, and movies. Fibre broadband may also be the right option for you if you’re in a larger household with at least four people living there. Your broadband will need to cope with the demands of lots of different people and fibre broadband can offer the smoothest connection.

Going forward, it is also important to keep up to date with new technology and broadband solutions. For example, research has discovered that standard copper telephone wire which is already used around Britain can already offer three times the speed of standard broadband [4].

Consider contract length

If you’re planning on moving home next year, you don’t want to be lumbered with a contract that will mean you have to pay for a service on your old home even if you’re not using it. Most contracts are either a year or 18 months and broadband providers can only tie you into a contract for two years at most but this is still a long time if you are paying for broadband, you cant use. If you cancel a contract early, there are likely to be hefty cancellation fees and so always think about contract length when choosing your provider. If you think that time may be an issue, there are no-contract and short-term options available.

Student broadband

Providers do offer student broadband packages with contracts that last just nine months rather than the usual longer terms. This prevents students from having to pay out for the summer holidays when most will be making use of their broadband at home. Just be cautious if you do choose a student deal, however, as a lot will demand that you pay a set-up fee. When added onto the contract fees, it may actually be cheaper to opt for a regular 12-month or longer deal and so make sure you do your sums and compare broadband options before you commit.

Don’t limit yourself

When you compare broadband providers and packages, you will see that many of the very cheap deals limit how much you can download. This may not be an issue for you if you’re a basic surfer but it is something to consider if you are a big Netflix fan or live in a house of gamers. There are lots of limitless broadband contracts but be aware that even unlimited deals may still have what is known as a ‘fair usage’ limit. Paying for extra usage can be an expensive affair so choosing the right limits at the outset is really important.

Bundle up

Bundle deals can seem like an attractive proposition, allowing you to combine your TV and broadband contracts with one provider. This may seem like a no-fuss, affordable option but don’t get drawn into bundle deals for the sake of it. Ensure you really need the TV channels being offered and that you can really afford the added costs.

There are also broadband and landline bundles, which may be popular with people who still like a home phone and only use the internet for an occasional surf. Pensioners, for example, may find this sort of bundle particularly appealing, although there is bound to be interest from all age groups.

Parental controls

Different broadband providers offer different safety features such as parental controls and so this is something that you may want to consider if you have younger children. This is one of the easiest ways to protect your kids online. Most providers these days will include parental controls as a standard feature but do double check if this is a priority for you.

Business broadband

If you need your broadband to run your business, then you may want to look at a specialist package. Business broadband deals typically offer extras compared to standard, domestic broadband packages. These include things like business-specific email address, webspace, and fixed/static IPs. Business packages can also offer enhanced customer support if you lose your connection, for example, and provide additional security to keep any sensitive information safe and secure.

Home security

Internet security is a priority for most people and, thankfully, most broadband providers in the UK now include security suites. It is still worth checking out that this is a feature offered by the provider you’re thinking about, however, and what exactly it involves.

Make the switch

Many people find a broadband provider and then stick with them but this can be a costly mistake, especially as many of the big names have increased their rates by around 9 per cent recently [5], adding significantly to the bills of existing customers. It can be tempting to adopt a ‘better the devil you know’ mentality but this can lead to you paying far more than you have to or not receiving the product you really want or need. We are on-hand to make switching as easy as possible by offering a simple and efficient way of comparing the deals available.

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