How do I choose the best broadband in my area?

May 24th, 2022
How do I choose the best broadband in my area?

As there are an array of broadband providers out there, each offering a selection of different packages, it isn’t always easy to decide which service is best for your needs. But making the right choice is important because signing up for a new deal can be a serious commitment, given that many contracts will run for between 12 and 24 months.

So, where do you start?

Firstly, it is vital to remember that there is no single best broadband provider or package that will suit every household. Instead, when you’re choosing a broadband service, the most important thing you can do is carefully think about your personal circumstances and needs.

It can be beneficial to begin by considering these three things:

Connection Speed

To avoid constant buffering or painfully slow page loading times, you need to select a broadband package that can provide you with the connection speed you need. This will depend on how many people there are in your household and what you want to use the internet for.

If there are only ever a few people in your household who want to casually browse the internet, you may not need an ultra-fast connection. A basic ADSL connection could allow you to do everything you want to do online, particularly if you just want to browse social media, access emails and shop online.

For busy households, including large families and houseshares, a faster broadband package is likely to be the best option to ensure that everyone can use their favourite devices at the same time. Higher speed connections are also recommended for households that use the internet for streaming TV in 4K, regularly need to download large files, and gaming.

I need a fast broadband connection, what should I be looking for?

While many households that only need a simple ADSL connection will find 11Mbps more than adequate, households needing faster speeds should be looking for services offering speeds of around 55 Mbps.

Packages and Costs

Standard broadband deals and those with a fixed amount of data are typically cheaper than ultra-fast connections with unlimited usage. Streaming video and gaming uses a lot of gigabytes, so if you want to do either of those activities, an unlimited package is vital to avoid paying more than necessary every month.

You will also need to consider whether you would benefit from a package deal that also includes TV and/or landline services. Many providers will automatically include landline services in their broadband deals, but not all phone services are equal. If you make a lot of calls during the day, it may pay to upgrade a standard phone service to an anytime option which will prevent you from incurring costs outside off-peak times. Conversely, if you don’t use a landline, selecting a pay as you go phone service could save you a good chunk of money each month.

Top tip: when starting your broadband service search, make sure you understand how much you can afford to pay for the right service. It is often a mistake to simply opt for the cheapest option unless you are a very light internet user, however as more of us are experiencing the effects of increasing costs at every turn, knowing how much you can comfortably afford to spend will simplify your search.

If you are finding it difficult to make ends meet, there are several services available that can provide you with valuable advice to ease the pressure. Citizens Advice [1] has a comprehensive debt and money service, which covers everything from budgeting tools to personalised financial advice. Additionally, Money Helper [2] is another service offering free guidance on everything from benefits to everyday money issues.

Contract Length

The maximum contract length broadband providers are permitted to offer is 24 months, however, this is still a significant period of time that needs some thought. If your circumstances may change in the next two years, choosing a shorter contract length could help you to avoid costly cancellation fees.

Although many broadband contracts range between 12 and 18 months, there are also numerous no-contract and short-term packages out there that may be ideally suited to your circumstances.

Will broadband in my area differ from other areas?

Now, let’s move on to the elephant in the room: yes, the providers and packages that are available to households in different parts of the country can vary significantly. In fact, in some cases, the providers and packages that are available in one postcode simply don’t exist in a neighbouring postcode.

While providers will try to capture your attention by adding an array of bells and whistles to their broadband offerings, there are large savings to be made by ensuring that you aren’t paying for features you simply don’t need. Conversely, there may be specific reasons why you may want to choose a package that offers features your internet usage may not suggest you need. One of these factors is your location.

ADSL is the most basic and widespread broadband connection option, as it uses the copper landline phone infrastructure. The infrastructure for cable providers has improved significantly in recent years and many providers are also investing significantly in the rollout of a full-fibre network, which offers additional speed and performance stability. However, cable and fibre connections simply aren’t available everywhere which may impact the selection of services that you can choose from.

How much do internet speeds vary in the UK?

In 2021, residents of Wistaston Road in Crewe received average speeds of 0.25Mbps [3]. To put that in some context, it would take more than two days to download an average-length movie in HD!

Conversely, residents of Haul Fryn in Swansea, who experienced the fastest average broadband speeds in 2021, could download the same film in under a minute. The three streets receiving the best broadband connectivity in 2021 received speeds of 639Mbps, 568Mbps, and 563Mbps respectively.

Is broadband connectivity set to improve?

Currently, just over 65% of households in the UK can now receive gigabit speeds which represents an increase from just over 41% in 2020 [4]. Additionally, the number of households that can now receive full fibre broadband connections has increased from 24% to 30%.

It is hoped that the government’s investment of £5 billion [5] as part of the Building Digital UK scheme will ensure that even properties in difficult to reach locations will start benefiting from faster broadband speeds in the near future. Many are also calling for additional support to ensure that the 1.5 million households across the UK [6] that don’t have an internet connection have the option to access this essential service.

Why is my broadband connection not reaching the same speed as my neighbours’?

The type of property you live in and how far away from the telephone exchange your property is located are two additional factors that can affect the broadband speeds you will receive. If your property simply isn’t securing the speeds you need, you may wish to consider mobile broadband services instead.

When looking for broadband packages, the first thing you should do is enter your postcode into our postcode checker to determine precisely which connection options are available where you live. Then, you can start delving into the different connection speeds associated with each service.

Top tip: providers must only promote connection speeds that are available during peak times to at least 50% of their customers. However, this doesn’t automatically mean that this is the speed your connection will deliver.

Should I be looking for a specific provider?

There are myriad broadband providers out there, ranging from well-known names like Sky, Virgin Media and BT, to businesses in the energy, mobile phone and retail sector branching out into this type of service. As new names enter the market, the promotions and offers available can vary significantly throughout the year.

While it can be tempting to stick with the same provider you’ve been with for years at the end of your initial contract, prices change all the time which means switching providers could offer you much better value for money. This isn’t always the case, however, which is why it is recommended to conduct a price comparison to ensure you won’t end up paying more after switching.

My household plays video games regularly, what type of service do I need?

Slow internet speeds can lead to frustrating lagging that will impact your gaming experience. For those wanting to play their favourite games seamlessly at all times of the day, a high quality internet connection is vital. In addition to ensuring that your chosen service offers unlimited usage at no extra cost, you’ll want to look for speeds of at least 35Mbps.

Which broadband service do I need if I stream a lot of TV shows and movies?

To prevent buffering at the most dramatic point of your favourite film or TV show, you’re going to want to choose a broadband service that will provide speeds of at least 15Mbps. If you have a busy household and it is likely that multiple devices will be in use at the same time, a higher speed connection will be beneficial.

What is unlimited broadband?

Many providers offer unlimited broadband packages, which allow you to use the internet as much as you want and need throughout the month. Busy households and those that stream a lot of online content or play online games often will benefit from this type of deal, however some providers will have certain traffic management measures in place which could lead to buffering and lagging. Before switching or signing up to a new unlimited deal, always double check whether your chosen provider offers a truly unlimited deal.

Are there upfront costs associated with broadband deals?

This is something that will vary between providers but yes, there are a variety of upfront costs that could be attached to your chosen package. The most common examples include router delivery costs, new line fees, and set-up fees.

So, which provider should you choose?

As we have seen, the answer to this question really depends on what you need from your provider. When conducting your search on Free Price Compare, you’ll need to pay close attention to the services that are available in your postcode, the speeds you can expect from potential providers, the length of the contract you will be locked into, and the monthly costs associated with your preferred packages.

Although this is a lot of information to keep in mind, taking the time to properly explore your options is what will ultimately help you to select the best broadband service for your needs in your area.

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