Buyer's Guide: What You Need to Know Before Buying Broadband in the UK

Whether you're switching broadband providers or you're buying broadband for your home for the first time, there are many things that you need to consider before making up your mind which service you should choose. Details about the different broadband deals need to be looked at carefully. Remember - always compare like with like.

Most important factors include speeds and download limits, cost per month, set-up cost, contract length and bundles (like free phone calls and TV channels). We've detailed below the main things you need to consider when comparing and buying broadband.

Your Needs

Make sure you know what you need before you even start shopping around for broadband deals. What volume of downloading will you do? How fast you need your broadband connection to be? Are you just sending/receiving emails or you need to download big files? In addition to your home broadband, do you need a home phone or home digital TV?

Make clear what your requirements are so you will not be paying for something you do not need and use. And when you are in a long 18 or 24 month contract it is essential amount of money in total.

Providers & Cost

Most major broadband providers on the UK market come up with new broadband deals regularly. Many of the broadband providers like TalkTalk and BT are now offering a single price per month for broadband and anytime UK landline phone calls. One of the cheapest on the market now comes from Plusnet (line rental is included). Others, like Sky and Virgin, are offering a TV package bundled with superfast broadband.

Availability

ADSL broadband is available wherever there are BT phone lines. However, almost the whole country is yet linked into the fibre optic cable network. If you're in one of the areas without coverage, it means that fibre optic broadband will not be an option for you. In other words, you broadband connection will need to be made along a copper telephone line and the quality of the service will depend on the distance of your home from the local telephone exchange.

Most major ISPs now have the option to check broadband availability on their websites by simply entering your post code. Use that before signing up for a specific deal as there is now point in paying for 30Mb broadband service when all you can have is max 3Mb.

Speeds & Caps

The term 'up to xMb' where 'x' is a number, refers to the maximum speed of the broadband deal on offer. It refers to the download speed as upload speeds are generally not advertised. Speeds may vary depending on the quality of the phone line and the distance from the telephone exchange. If you'll just be using broadband for surfing, email & downloading some music and videos, 20Mb will be all you'll need. However, if you download or stream lots of HD videos, you may not be happy with less than 30Mb. If you're one of those who need even more, broadband service providers such as BT, BE and Virgin Media offer up to 300Mb in some areas.

Some providers impose a download usage cap or limit while others will offer you unlimited data (but still 'fair usage policies' may apply). If you don't use too much, it's not really something to consider. However, if you're a heavy downloader, be careful with download caps.

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