Home Broadband Buyers Guide
We know from consumer feedback how daunting it can be when looking to choose a broadband deal. The marketplace is crowded with companies looking to entice you to sign up with them. Choosing your service may seem outwardly simple, "it's just internet access surely?", but start to investigate providers and you'll be hit with a storm of jargon which to many people makes little or no sense at all. But fear not! Our sole mission is to help you understand the broadband marketplace in the UK and find the best possible deal for you.
Why compare broadband?
What's the argument for comparing the options available? Well quite simply it's because every supplier and its deals and offer is different and your needs as a customer will be different from the next person.
The key reason for comparing is to match the right provider and package to your needs as an individual (or household if you are buying for your family). It's more difficult to argue to not to compare broadband, making a considered comparison just makes sense, pure and simple.
Before you start
Now that you've decided that you want to compare your options, you need to work a few things out for yourself beforehand:
What are your key motivators? - Are you only motivated by price? or is good technical support your need? What about speed and download allowances?
You have to be clear in your mind as to what you are after from the start as this will help you immediately begin disregarding deals that don't meet your criteria. Say you've decided that only a deal with unlimited downloads will do, then you can discard all broadband deals which are not unlimited.
Why pay more?
The number one motivator for most customers is price, they purely and simply want the cheapest price and it's hard to knock that motivation for most people.
However, we would just say that the old adage "you get what you pay for" can quite often be true. Not that a deal is bad just because it is cheap, but you may find that a super cheap deal does not meet all your requirements (unless of course you are willing to sacrifice every other factor just to achieve the lowest price). The best strategy for most people is to find the deals that match their criteria and then compare them by price, just starting off with price straight off the bat may lead you to choose unwisely.
Getting the best deal
Getting the best deal for you means having to do a little homework, but that doesn't mean it has to be difficult, we are here to help you each step of the way.
Generally as long as you have the postcode of the property you want to get a broadband supply for then we can help, either via our postcode checker or over the phone. You'll soon have all the info you need to make a comparison, keep reading and we'll explain how to use that knowledge to best effect.
Things to compare
Some things are easy to compare:
- Price - Easy at first glance, but always look at the full first year cost and, if the contract is for more than 12 months, look at the full monthly cost for the rest of the minimum term
- Speed - Depending on where you live, the speeds that deals offer may vary a lot from the advertised headline speed, always use a postcode checker to see exactly what can be achieved at your house. If you have a BT line rental phone number then add this for improved accuracy
- Download allowance - The higher the number of GB the more you can download per month. Unlimited deals have no limit in theory, in practice many have traffic management slowdowns at peak times (those that don't are labelled 'truly unlimited in our results).
- Contract Length - Long contracts can often mean free connection or lower prices per month, but if you want to change providers or stop your service completely for any reason there will be a penalty to pay (read the smallprint when signing up to learn what this is, in many cases it can be the full cost of the remaining months).
Other things can be much harder to compare such as models of router that you may be sent to you when you sign up, and extras such as "security". To compare routers, consider whether they offer the 'N' rated wireless technology which gives faster connections and a greater range with compatible devices. For security extras, look into whether they're subscriptions to standard products installed on your home computer, like McAfee or Norton, or if they're provided by your provider as a parental lock against inappropriate usage on all devices.
You can use the table above to aid you in your comparison, click on the names of the deals for further information presented in a standard format, or click 'Go to site' to read the providers' own product pages.
Work out what you need
Most suppliers will happily take your cash in return for the service you choose, it's not in their interest to down-sell you, they will go for the up-sell at every opportunity.
So it's important to work out what you need so you don't end up paying for what you don't need. The key things to gauge right are:
- Download allowance - The very cheapest deals tend to have small allowances, and the most expensive tend to have larger allowances. If you only use the Internet a few times a week then don't fork out for an unlimited allowance! Likewise if you are online watching video on demand every day then you really need that unlimited allowance and choosing a deal with only 2GB allowance per month will soon cause you problems.
- Download speed - You may not get a choice on this one, but those with the good fortune to be in an area serviced by fibre optic broadband suppliers may find this an option. Quite simply just don't pay for speed you don't need and on the flip side if you need super-speeds then don't scrimp on the cost. Those who benefit most from fibre either have the slowest standard broadband speeds or a busy household with lots of family members or housemates using the same connection.
- Add-ons - Many suppliers will try and provide add-on services such as access to wi-fi hotspots when out of the house. But if you don't use broadband on the move then this will be no use to you. With every add-on that your deal has remember it's something that ultimately you pay for, so a more no frills deal might be better for you.
Yet again it's a case of being prepared in your mind knowing what you do and don't want that will make the comparison much easier and quicker.
Things to watch out for
There are a few things that we know from experience you have watch out for:
- Headline prices - Some deals come with great introductory prices, but after a certain amount of time the price is increased, so you need to look at the full first year deal cost to really be able to compare. Helpfully our comparison tables include first year cost, with set up, connection and equipment postage costs included.
- Line rental - Unless you're buying Virgin Media cable, you're going to need a phone line for your broadband service to work. Many suppliers let you sign up for a bundle including line rental and calls and will even let you save more money by paying line rental a year up front. Click on 'More Info' links to see the full first year cost with line rental also added on. Some deals are 'stand alone', you still need line rental but you can shop around and find it from the very cheapest phone supplier, or just keep the provider you've always used.
- Long contracts - Many providers will only make a profit on you if they lock you into a long contract, for some people this isn't a problem, but it's something you need to be aware of, especially if you plan on moving house soon and you may wish to go for a short contract broadband deal instead, it might cost more either upfront or per month but will allow you the flexibility of cancelling any time you wish.
- Bundle features - To cut costs, some providers with phone bundles only offer inclusive weekend calls, rather than evenings and weekends, or may not offer any inclusive calling periods at all. Some may only allow inclusive 01, 02 and 03 landline calls, not 0845 etc numbers, or may charge for extras like caller display and directory enquiries. If you don't use your landline for calls, this may not be a problem, but don't get caught out assuming all phone services are the same. Similarly bundled television services aren't all alike, some may use your broadband service to provide TV channels, so might experience problems if other people in your household are using the connection. Others might not offer the ability to record programmes on their very cheapest package.
- Small print - Watch the small print on every deal for hidden costs such as setup fees, high postage costs on "free" equipment and a whole host of other things that the provider is hoping you won't notice before you sign up.
Remember, once you have signed up you are in a contract and the only way to terminate will be to pay an exit fee, so make sure you fully understand the deal before you sign.
Reviews, the intangible comparison
It is of course easy to compare providers on the numbers; download allowance, price, speed are all simple to compare on, we don't need to explain how you do that.
But we all know that even if on paper two providers deals look identical, the experience of being a customer is going to be different with each supplier. In an ideal world everyone would sign up with the provider of their choice, everything would set up without a hitch, the service would be impeccable at all times and you'd never have a single problem. Whereas down here in the real world we know that this is most definitely not the case for every customer! So what's the best way to find out what the customer experience is with each provider? Well you simply have to browse our customer reviews, these are written by real customers of each provider (you can even leave your own for you current supplier if you like while you are there).
Always remember that people tend to be quicker to complain than they are to praise, and it's normal for there to be more negative reviews than positive. Always try and watch out for people with a vendetta, but browse a good number, you'll soon have a feel as to what a provider is like to their customers.
You can also compare the star ratings each provider has received covering satisfaction, reliability, speed and customer service.
If you'd like more guidance, we've prepared buyers guides for all the suppliers we list, at the bottom of each of their provider pages.
What's best in my area
The frustrating thing for many people is that unfortunately not all suppliers and deals are available in all areas.
Even within a small area there can be massive variations in speeds and types of broadband available and the capabilities. It's not unusual to see people on neighbouring streets receive huge variations in download speeds and even access to individual suppliers. There are even cases where one side of a street can get cable broadband and the other side can't!
this makes broadband a uniquely complex and localised product. Therefore it's really important to use our postcode checker tool to find out just what is available in your area, if you supply your BT line rental telephone number as well as your postcode we can be even more accurate.
We boil down what would otherwise be many hours of research into a 2 second form with your details and then we'll narrow down and filter our huge database of broadband products to leave you with just those deals available to you along with details of the capabilities of the different types of broadband in your area.
A good tip when using our comparison tables is to click the column headers as this will cause the table to sort the deals by the information in that column so, for example, clicking Usage will sort by monthly usage allowance with truly unlimited deals first, while clicking Reliability will give you those providers rated most reliable by users of our speed test and customer reviews.
If at any point you thing you could do with some friendly expert advice then you can call us up and speak to one of our advisers, they are all broadband experts and can even help you switch suppliers over the phone, a great service and one that's accredited by Ofcom who are the government communications regulator in the UK.
More Home Broadband
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