The internet has come a long way since the days of 56K dial-up modems and the Netscape Navigator browser. Today we have streaming movies, internet radio, tablet computers and smart-phones. With today’s internet, we can catch up with last night’s soaps, play online games and phone relatives both at home and abroad. All of this is thanks to broadband technology.
According to official figures published by Ofcom, a UK domestic household with a fixed broadband connection now uses on average 17Gb of data. This is the equivalent to downloading more than 11 films per month or streaming 12 hours of BBC iPlayer HD video. The report also states that the London Internet Exchange shows that traffic over its network, which connects UK internet service providers, has increased seven fold in the past five years.
To keep up with the growing demand, there are many broadband deals currently available on the market, often bundled in with TV and land-line access. As you can see in the table above, we have pulled together the current best deals for you to compare and help you choose the right package for you.
What is broadband?
Broadband is an internet connection that has a high bandwidth and is now the standard for internet access in the UK. Using either cable telephone networks, satellite or mobile phone networks, broadband carries a large amount of data to your PC, smart-phone, lap-top or tablet. The average speed of residential households in Britain is 12 Megabits per second (Mbps), although this varies depending on the area that you live in.
There are several types of broadband currently available, with ADSL being the most common and is delivered through the Openreach copper wire telephone network. Speeds range between 2Mbps and 17Mbps. Then there is LLU (Local Loop Unbundled), where providers install their own set-ups at Openreach telephone exchanges. Cheap deals are often offered by providers in the areas that they operate in (usually towns and cities).
Fibre Optic broadband is much faster than ADSL, but is currently less available. Delivered through fibre optic cables, speeds can reach up to 100Mbps, although speeds can vary. Virgin Media and BT are the most well-known providers of this type of connection.
There are also satellite broadband and mobile broadband deals on the market, although satellite can be very expensive if you don’t have it combined with a satellite TV deal. Mobile broadband allows you to connect to the internet wherever there is 3G or 4G coverage, and is just the solution for those who need internet access on the move.
What deal is best for me?
To establish which type of broadband deal is best for you, you’ll have to ask yourself a few questions about the way you use the internet. If you only check emails and view websites, then you won’t need a super-fast connection. There are good limited download packages available at a cheap price that might suit your needs.
On the other hand, if you game online, regularly use TV catch up services or VoIP telephone programmes, then you will need the fastest connection you can afford. An unlimited broadband package is probably the best choice for you.
If you need a portable connection, then mobile broadband is the one to go for. Ideal for business people and students, mobile internet access is great for those on the go. However, if you are a heavy user, be aware that there are few unlimited mobile broadband deals available.
You should also be aware that most Internet Service Providers require you to sign up to a 12 -18 month contract. However, shorter contracts are available, particularly for mobile broadband.