Choosing your provider and package
There are many things to consider as well as speed when choosing your provider. You want the best speed possible but, at the same time, you don’t want to pay for more than you need. Here are a few things to consider:
- Type of connection available at your premises (Fibre/Cable, Copper, Wireless, Mobile or Satellite connections)
- Advertised Speed
- Price (including installation, p&p, extras and introductory offers)
- Contract length
- Provider reputation
You should visit a comparison page such as our as at our broadband comparison page. These tables allow you to filter or sort by various criteria to help you choose the best for you. For example, you can sort by speed and then look at the first-year cost to see which offers the best value after installation costs and offers have been applied.
Type of connection
Your choice of provider and package could be limited by the type of connection available. This mainly depends on where you live with rural properties being less likely to have fibre or cable connectivity than more urban areas. However, there are many good and reasonably priced options for wireless, mobile or satellite connections available.
If you are not sure what type of connection you have in your property then you should enter your postcode into the comparison page and it will only show you what is actually available at your property. This can show providers that don’t normally show on the general comparison page because they are only available in your local area.
You can also check the availability of 3G, 4G and 5G connections on our mobile signal checker page.
Fixed connections normally provide the fastest and most reliable service. These require a cable (fibre, copper, telephone) to be connected to the premises.
- Cable. Uses fibre-optic cables to transmit large amounts of data very quickly to a local exchange and then coaxial cable (much faster than copper) to the home. Not widely available but this is improving.
- Fibre. Uses fibre-optic cables to transmit data to a local exchange and then copper (slower than coaxial) to the home. Full fibre is currently available for 20% of the UK but 30 Mbps fibre is available for 95% (May 2021).
- DSL (similar to phone line). Uses cable similar to phone lines but capable of transmitting data at much higher speeds than dial up. Most people with a landline can get this.
- Dial-up. This is almost obsolete but for some remote properties that have a standard landline this can be used to provide basic internet access.
Wireless connections do not require the laying of cables from exchanges to the property and are therefore available anywhere (almost everywhere).
- Satellite. A dish is fitted on your property to receive data from satellites orbiting the planet. All you need is a clear view of the sky. Can provide speeds up to 100 Mb/s.
- Fixed Wireless. An antenna (or dish) is fitted to your property to receive data from a nearby transmitter. They require a clear line of sight for best performance and can be affected by weather. It can provide speeds greater than 4G and with higher data caps.
- 4G / 5G Mobile. Your mobile phone is all that is needed to receive data from 4G and 5G phone towers. 5G is faster and has better latency than 4G but is yet to be widely available. 4G is usually slower than fixed wireless with higher latency and lower data caps. Check which providers supply 4G and/or 5G using our mobile signal checker.
Providers are no longer able to promote “speeds up to”. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) sets rules about how companies advertise broadband speeds. They must show the average speed that at least 50% of their customers receive at the network’s busiest time (8-10pm). This is particularly helpful when you enter your postcode into a comparison page such as ours because packages that are not available will not be shown. You will find the actual speed available to you when you click through to the provider site.
Some providers are giving minimum speed guarantees when you sign up with a promise to provide compensation if this is not achieved. These are not enforceable but could be something to consider when choosing a provider.
Introductory offers are great but be careful to compare the first year and ongoing costs (the cost per month after the introductory offer has expired). Particularly if you are tied into a long contract term.
Installation and delivery costs can make the difference between a good deal and a bad deal. Always check the first year cost as provided in our comparison table.
Bundles that include TV and/or mobile phone plans can also be very attractive. Remember to check that the package still meets your needs at the end of the contract and negotiate a better deal if you can.
Most contracts are for 12 months after which time you are free to move with no severance fee. If you cancel during the contract term then you can expect to pay a severance fee that can be up to the full cost of the remaining months. Most providers will allow you to transfer to a new property but if you are unable to or choose not to transfer then the fee will still apply.
Some providers offer a monthly contract that tends to be more expensive but may be a good idea if you need the flexibility. You can always convert to the cheaper, longer contract if your circumstances change.
If the service fails to meet the promised level of service or the provider puts up the price by more than inflation then you can leave the contract with no penalty within 30 days of being notified. See this Ofcom page for more information about this and other rights that you have.
Ofcom produces a report every year on the reputation of broadband providers. In August 2020 it shows that the reputation of the most widely used providers range from 75 to 93% for overall service, reliability and speed of service. The comparison was between BT, EE, plusNet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin.
The report also compares the number of complaints and how they are handled for these and other, smaller providers.
Ofcom also runs a voluntary scheme for automatic compensation. Currently (2021), the following providers are members: BT, Sky, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, Zen Internet, Hyperoptic and Utility Warehouse.
Where can I get more information about providers?
If you need more advice about broadband providers and packages then you can use the "Call the broadband expert" service at broadband.co.uk or read their useful Broadband Speed Guide.