Our beginner's guide is a good starting point to help you find out about broadband - which is simply a name used to describe any kind of high speed internet connection.
We'll provide you with a straight forward overview of what broadband is, how it works and the different types available, including different speeds. We list the top 5 benefits of having a broadband internet connection, advise you how to get one & also list the top 5 factors to consider when choosing a provider package. We'll then let you know what to do next.
What Is Broadband & How Does It Work?
Broadband is the name used for any way of connecting your computer to the internet at high speed. Connecting to the internet via broadband means most websites appear at least 40 times faster than via a traditional ‘dial-up’ modem, and you can download audio and video files much more quickly. With broadband you do not need to worry about dialling up or disconnecting after set periods of time as it is always on and you pay a flat fee per month.
Unlike dial-up internet, you are also able to make normal telephone calls whilst using broadband. As the connection is always open, it only uses a certain part of the signal that then leaves space for voice calls.
The Different Types Of Broadband
All broadband services require you to choose an internet service provider (known as an ISP) that offers a broadband service in your area and a wireless router for your computer.
As broadband is now available to 99% of the UK population the marketplace has become really competitive with most internet service providers offering a free wireless router and free connection as standard. The two main types of broadband access currently available are ADSL (Copper) and Fibre.
ADSL Broadband (Copper Broadband)
ADSL stands for asymmetric digital subscriber line and is the most popular type of broadband in the UK as it covers nearly 99% of the population. Using a modem or router supplied by your ISP, ADSL broadband is sent through your existing telephone line and provides speeds typically up to 17Mbps.
There are many internet service providers that offer ADSL broadband via your telephone line including TalkTalk, BT and Plusnet. You can read our review of their latest packages by clicking the respective link.
It's worth noting that when you receive your starter pack from your chosen ADSL supplier, it will include a set of microfilters. These help prevent the ADSL signal from causing interference with your normal telephone calls. Simply fit them to all your telephone sockets as per your ISP's instructions.
Fibre Optic Broadband
Fibre optic broadband is much faster than ADSL broadband and can offer broadband speeds up to 200Mbps.
Covering over 55% of UK homes, fibre optic broadband is being rolled out across the UK by the likes of Virgin Media and Openreach (a BT Group business) to help satisfy our growing demands for faster wireless broadband, online gaming, social networking and Internet connected TV services like the BBCiPlayer and Netflix.
Wireless Broadband (Wi-Fi)
Wireless or Wi-Fi means that with your laptop, smartphone, tablet or gaming device, you can access your broadband connection around the house via your wireless router. You can also use public Wi-Fi locations, such as the 5 million hotspots provided by BT across the UK, to access the internet when out and about (charges may apply if you're not a BT customer).
Mobile broadband gives you access to the internet using your laptop or smartphone together with a suitable 3G or 4G mobile phone connection. In the case of laptop access, you may also need to plug in a seperate USB modem or dongle supplied by your mobile ISP. Mobile broadband means you can use your broadband wherever you want as opposed to fixed line home broadband or wireless hotspots, however connection speeds are typically lower, while data usage must be monitored.
When choosing a supplier you also need to decide on the broadband speed you require. Up to 38Mb is becoming pretty standard in the marketplace following the continued rollout of fibre, with providers like Virgin Media offering speeds up to 152Mb. As a general rule, you'll pay more per month for the faster speeds.
The term 'up to xMb' refers to maximum download speeds only (upload speeds are slower). If your telephone line won't support up to, say, 38Mb, your chosen ISP will offer you the best available speed/package that your line will support.
The Top 5 Benefits Of Having A Broadband Connection
1. Increased Speed
Connecting to the internet via broadband means your favourite websites, music & video files, plus email & messenger will work at least 40 times faster than via a traditional ‘dial-up’ modem - thus making a far more pleasurable internet experience.
2. Always On Connection
With broadband you do not need to worry about dialling up or disconnecting as it is always on. You can also make normal telephone calls at the same time.
3. Fixed Fee Per Month
You pay a fixed fee per month for your broadband connection and in most cases, you can use it as much as you like. However, it's worth noting that some packages have monthly download usage limits, meaning they may charge you more if you go over your limit.
4. Your Phone Line Will Not Be Engaged
Unlike dial-up internet, you are also able to make & receive normal telephone calls whilst using broadband.
5. More Fun
Having a broadband internet connection means you can do more fun things online, like download music and videos, listen to your favourite radio stations, play online games with gamers around the world and watch great videos, movies & documentaries on demand.
How Do I Get Broadband?
You need to choose a package from one of the UK's broadband suppliers and order it from them. When you choose a package it's often best to order it online on the providers website to secure the cheapest deal - And receive online exclusives like FREE shopping vouchers or bill credits.
The Top 5 Factors To Consider When Choosing A Broadband Package
1. The Cost Per Month & Any One Off Fees
There will be a fixed monthly fee, plus in some instances, a one off fee for installation or connection and delivery of the wireless router.
2. Broadband Speed
If you'll just be using broadband for online shopping, email & downloading some music and videos, then ADSL copper broadband speeds up to 17Mb should suffice. If you're a multiple household streaming TV, downloading films, gaming and social networking simulataneously, then fibre optic broadband with speeds up to 38Mbp or higher is recommended for the best possible experience.
3. Monthly Download Usage Limits
Some broadband providers offer unlimited monthly download usage whilst others impose a download usage cap. If you don't do too much downloading, its not really something to consider. However, if you're a heavy downloader or watch plenty of TV online on demand, its worth considering the monthly download usage limits that apply, plus the broadband speed.
4. Package Combinations (Bundles)
Package combinations, known as 'Bundles' are now a common feature with broadband packages. Several providers such as TalkTalk and BT offer a single price per month for Broadband, TV & Calls - and in some cases Mobile SIM's are also included.
5. Contract Length
Most ISP's like to tie you into a 12 or 18 month contract which is fine for most people. However, if you're after some flexibility, there are some providers like Plusnet that offer a no minimum term contract tie in when you switch to them and bring with you your own modem or wireless router.
What Do I Do Next?
So, now you're up to speed with what broadband is all about, we recommend you go to our broadband comparison homepage where you'll be able to search for and find a comprehensive list of UK broadband provider packages and bundles available in your postcode area. You'll be able to compare speeds, download limits, bundled extras like phone calls & TV, contract lengths & costs per month for all packages.