Best Broadband Providers – everything you need to know
Choosing the best broadband provider is a tricky business. You need to weigh up cost, speed, availability in your area and contract length. We’re here to help with advice on all aspects of picking a broadband deal and details of the best broadband providers.
How to choose the best broadband provider
There is a lot to consider when choosing a broadband provider. These days contracts lock you in for at least a year, so you want to make the right choice. The basics you need to think about are:
- What you use the internet for
- How you’ll connect to the internet
- How much data you need
- How long a contract you want
- Whether you should bundle your broadband with your TV and phone deals
Read on to learn more about broadband, the best broadband deals and how to choose the right one for your needs.
Check your coverage
First things first, before you start choosing an amazing super-fast broadband deal check what is available at your address. Tap your postcode into a comparison website and you’ll be able to see what is available in your area. This will tell you whether fibre optic broadband is an option.
You can also use Ofcom’s broadband coverage checker to see what broadband speeds are available in your area.
How will you connect to the internet?
The way you connect to the internet will affect what deals are available to you. These are the options:
- ADSL broadband – This is the standard broadband provided down your home phone line. BT owns the landline infrastructure in the UK. The lines are made mostly from copper wire. Speeds and performance vary significantly depending on where you live. There are two different types – ADSL1 and ADSL2, the latter is faster.
- Fibre broadband – Also known as ‘superfast broadband’ this is faster and more consistent than ADSL broadband. You can find out if fibre broadband is available in your area using the government’s postcode checker.
- Cable – This is faster than ADSL because it uses a mix of fibre optic and coaxial cables.
- Satellite – You receive your internet signal via a satellite dish rather than cable. This is an option in rural areas where there is poor network coverage.
- Mobile broadband – Another option if your cable options are limited is to use your mobile signal to connect to the internet.
Best broadband speed in your area
Superfast broadband is useful if you are a gamer or regularly download films. It can also be handy if there are several people using the internet at the same time. But it isn’t essential. You don’t need it if you are a small household using the internet for emailing, uploading the odd photo and watching catch-up TV and online streaming services. Netflix recommends a minimum broadband speed of just 1.5Mbps.
If you want the fastest broadband in the UK, then you need to be looking at Virgin Media. Its top package has average download speeds of an astonishing 362Mb. To put that in context the average fibre optic speed is between 63Mb and 67Mb.
Next fastest is fibre which is offered by the big-name providers BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone as well as many smaller firms.
If you can’t get fibre broadband, then you can get an average 10Mb with standard ADSL broadband. This is also offered by many firms via the Openreach network including Plusnet, BT, TalkTalk, Post Office and EE.
Broadband providers have to advertise their average download speeds with their deals. This is an easy headline rate to compare. But it isn’t fool-proof. Providers don’t have to tell you how consistent that speed is, or how reliable their service is. So, it’s worth checking some reviews of a company before you sign up.
How much data do I need?
The days of data limits are pretty much over. Most providers don’t put a data cap on how much you can download anymore. Sky Broadband is one of the few that still imposes a cap on some of its deals. But, just for guidance this is an estimate of how much data you’ll get through depending on what you use your broadband for.
- Browsing and emails: up to 10GB a month
- Browsing and on-demand TV: 10-30GM a month
- Browsing, on-demand TV, movies and music downloads: 40-80GB a month
- All of the above with gaming as well: 40GB or more
We would recommend you opt for an unlimited data deal so you can’t be stung with unexpected charges.
Broadband contract length
Most broadband contracts are between 12 and 24 months. They tent to levy hefty exit penalties if you want to leave early. Make sure you are happy with the deal before you sign.
If you sign up to a broadband deal by phone, post or, in most cases, online then you have the right to cancel within 14 days. This is thanks to consumer regulations on distance selling. So, if you aren’t happy cancel quickly.
Work out the total cost
You will pay your broadband bills monthly but always compare the total cost of different deals over the length of the contract. Make sure you include any set-up costs. This will give you a simple figure so you can compare like with like. It will stop you getting lured in by a low initial cost only to find an introductory deal ends and you are left paying through the nose for your broadband.
Also, make a note of when your contract ends and make sure you shop around for a new deal. Loyalty, when it comes to broadband at least, never pays.
What else should I watch out for?
Do some research online into the router your broadband firm will give you. The quality of the hardware can affect your Wi-fi speeds so you may be better off buying your own.
What about broadband bundles?
Most broadband providers also offer telephone and TV services. If you need these too then look at bundled deals. You will usually save money by going for a bundled package.
When do I need to get broadband?
There’s plenty to think about when moving house, but most of us should put broadband pretty high up the list. These days most of us will want internet up and running as soon as possible after we move.
If you have broadband at your current property you may well be able to move your current contract to your new home. You will need to speak to your provider to see if they can provide the same service at your new address. If they can then simply tell them your move date and they should be able to activate broadband at your new address that day.
However, if you aren’t tied into a contract then a home move can be a great time to shop around for a better deal. Once you’ve exchanged contracts on your new home it is time to start arranging utilities.
We’ve partnered with Just Move In to give all our members a free Home Move Concierge Service. They’ll handle your move, removing the tedious administration, saving you time, hassle and money. They’ll help setup your council tax, water, energy, broadband, media, removals, cleaning, storage and more.
Getting broadband in a new build home
If you are moving into a new build home, or anywhere else that doesn’t yet have internet? You’ll need to arrange to have a broadband line installed and activated. Most providers, including BT and Now Broadband, will offer you free phone line installation if you sign up to a broadband package with them.
Getting internet set up for the first time can take two weeks. Make sure you start making arrangements early – right after exchange is ideal – to make sure you’ll be up and running as soon as you move in.
You might have trouble working out what broadband is available at your new home. This is because your new postcode may not be working in broadband checkers yet. You can find out more about postcode problems with our guide to what you need to do when moving into a new build home.
How long does it take to get broadband?
It’s impossible to give you a precise answer to this as times will vary by company. But, allow around 10 working days.
Can I get broadband without a phone line?
Most broadband packages – except satellite or mobile broadband – require you to have a phone line. That’s because your broadband is provided via your phone line.
In most cases you have to pay line rental even if you have no plans to use the landline for telephone calls. However, a limited number of providers do offer a discounted price for broadband only.
What if something goes wrong with my broadband?
There are rules to guarantee you get the broadband speed you signed up for. Your provider must provide you with a minimum guaranteed speed when you sign up. If your speed drops below that level for longer than a month you’re allowed to leave your contract without penalty. The rule is part of a voluntary code that providers can sign up to. BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – who cover 95% of home broadband customers between them – have all signed up to the code.
You can also leave mid-contract without penalty if your provider puts up their prices by more than the current rate of inflation (as measured by the retail price index (RPI)).
The best broadband providers 2019
Virgin Media Broadband
When it comes to speed Virgin Media can’t be beaten. It offers speeds of up to 362Mbits/sec, according to Ofcom. The watchdog found that Virgin delivers its advertised speeds. It also has an excellent reputation for reliability.
Unfortunately, we can’t all enjoy these super speeds. You need to live in an area that has Virgin’s cable network. You also have to pay a lot for Virgin’s speed, so it may not be worth it if you don’t need top speed broadband.
Virgin Media Broadband packages start from £35 a month including line rental for Vivid 50 broadband. This has an average speed of 54Mbits/sec. Prices rise to £50 a month for Vivid 350 fibre broadband with that 362Mbits/sec superspeed.
You’ll pay a £25 set up fee. There’s unlimited usage and the contract lasts 12 months.
If you want flexibility, then Plusnet is a good option. You can choose from 12-month, 24 month or a one-month contract. You also don’t have to pay line rental if you won’t use a landline telephone.
You are also likely to be a happy customer – Ofcom’s survey places Plusnet in the number one spot for customer satisfaction.
Prices start from £19 a month for ADSL broadband with an average speed of 10Mbits/sec. If you want fibre broadband, then you’ll get an average speed of 66Mbits/sec for £28 a month.
There’s a £5 set-up fee and unlimited usage.
EE offers a range of broadband options from ADSL up to Fibre Max which has a download speed of 300Mbits/sec. The provider fares well in Ofcom’s survey with fewer complaints than other providers.
ASDL broadband at 10Mbits/sec costs £21 a month. At the other end of the scale you can pay £47 a month for 300Mbits/sec fibre broadband.
Set-up fees range from £10-25 depending on the package you choose. All offer unlimited usage and 18-month contracts.
Sky comes second only to Plusnet for customer satisfaction according to Ofcom. Just make sure you shop around for a new deal when your contract ends. Sky has a nasty habit of hiking prices.
At the moment you can get ADSL broadband (11Mbits/sec) for £25 a month with a 12GB usage cap. Or you can pay up to £27 a month for fibre broadband with speeds of 63Mbits/sec and no usage cap.
There is a £29.95 set up fee and contracts last 18 months.
BT is the biggest broadband provider in the UK and it impressed Ofcom. Their recent survey found that its ADSL services exceed the advertised average speed and broadband performance is consistent.
Prices are a bit higher than some competitors, but you get a lot of extras thrown in with BT. If you would use free weekend calls, Wi-Fi hotspots and 200GB of cloud storage then it is certainly worth a look.
Packages start from £25 a month for 10Mbits/sec ASDL broadband rising to £55 for 65Mbits/sec fibre broadband.
Set up fees go from £30 for the basic package down to £10 for fibre. There is no cap on usage and contracts last 18 months.