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Sky Box Sets TV Bundle + Sky Broadband UnlimitedIncludes: + +
|Up to*17Mb per second||Unlimited /month||350 channels||
Includes Line Rental
Sky Variety TV Bundle + Sky Broadband UnlimitedIncludes: + +
|Up to*17Mb per second||Unlimited /month||300 channels||
Includes Line Rental
Sky Original TV Bundle + Sky Broadband UnlimitedIncludes: + +
|Up to*17Mb per second||Unlimited /month||270 channels||
Includes Line Rental
TalkTalk TV Plus with Faster Fibre BroadbandIncludes: + +
|Up to*38Mb per second||Unlimited /month||110 channels||
Includes Line Rental
TalkTalk TV with Faster Fibre BroadbandIncludes: + +
|Up to*38Mb per second||Unlimited /month||80 channels||
Includes Line Rental
TalkTalk TV Plus with Fast BroadbandIncludes: + +
|Up to*17Mb per second||Unlimited /month||110 channels||
Includes Line Rental
TalkTalk TV with Fast BroadbandIncludes: + +
|Up to*17Mb per second||Unlimited /month||80 channels||
Includes Line Rental
Virgin Media VIP BundleIncludes: + +
|Up to*200Mb per second||Unlimited /month||245 channels||
£68.5 for 12 Months Then £101
+ £19 line rental
Virgin Media Full House BundleIncludes: + +
|Up to*200Mb per second||Unlimited /month||245 channels||
£35 for 12 Months Then £57
+ £19 line rental
Virgin Media Fun BundleIncludes: + +
|Up to*100Mb per second||Unlimited /month||190 channels||
£26 for 12 Months Then £41
+ £19 line rental
Virgin Media Mix BundleIncludes: + +
|Up to*50Mb per second||Unlimited /month||150 channels||
£18 for 12 Months Then £31
+ £19 line rental
Virgin Media Player BundleIncludes: + +
|Up to*50Mb per second||Unlimited /month||70 channels||
£12 for 12 Months Then £26
+ £19 line rental
WiFi internet explained:
WiFi, or wireless broadband, is the standard for internet use today. It enables users to remotely connect to internet signals in range on their smartphone, laptop, tablet or other device. Previously, internet had to go through cables plugged in to your device, but routers send signals from the internet source (usually a phone line) to the device which is built to pick up the signal.
Routers can be hooked up to any ADSL enables phone cable to transmit the internet signal. The range of the WiFi will depend on various factors, such as the layout of the building, interference from other electronics, the make and model of the router and other considerations (including factors related to the company providing the internet).
While accessing the internet through a cable is still feasible, WiFi has become the norm. The signal will be faster if the cable is connected to the device, but for most people this is not necessary and the convenience of being always connected in any part of the house outweighs any internet performance gains.
Signal strengths are usually sufficient for many people in many rooms of a building to be able to access the WiFi at any time. Furthermore, many devices that connect to the internet, such as phones or tablets, don’t have a cable port to access broadband this way so they rely on a WiFi signal (unless mobile broadband is set up – which is discussed below).
Usually, when starting a new contract, your provider will either give you a free router or provide a good deal on it. If you’ve been with your provider for a long time but haven’t received a router then if you contact them you might be able to get one for free. And if you want an upgrade you might also be eligible. Either way, if you get a new router it can be a simple matter of plugging it into the cable for it to work, but often you will have to reconfigure your settings (which is usually not too difficult at all, especially since the provider will provide instructions).
Another alternative is mobile broadband. This involves internet signal being sent from the same masts as the mobile phone signal. Mobile broadband is enabled by default in many devices like smartphones and tablets, and if needed most laptops can access these signals with a USB device that plugs into the side.
And aside from these options, you can get a MiFi router which works similar to the routers mentioned earlier (in that it locally broadcasts an internet signal it picks up, but from the mobile network instead of a cable) which can then be accessed by several devices just as with a conventional WiFi router.
Another advantage of mobile broadband is that it is not tied to an address, so can be used on the go as well.
How business broadband is different:
For many users, the current home broadband market has offerings that are more than adequate for their needs. For some people who run a business from home or have a simple office setup this can be sufficient for business use as well. However, companies can in many cases benefit from a dedicated business broadband service. Which offers many advantages over standard broadband. Here are some of the reasons to choose business broadband for your company.
One of the simplest but most important reasons for opting for business broadband is the IP address differences. An IP address is the code the internet uses to reach your computer. Unfortunately, there are not enough to really go around at the moment on a fixed basis (although this is being changed), but by dynamically allocating IP addresses as needed the issue is not a problem for providers. So at home your IP address will change over time when you log onto the internet, but it won’t cause any significant issues.
For businesses, static IP addresses are better since they allow some functions that dynamic addresses can’t. One of the most important of these functions is the ability to host a server, which is a vital component of many businesses. It also allows you t host your own site, and also a domain name server, and install intranet and remote log on so that secure access to a local network can be achieved.
Routers for the home are available in a range of models each with different capacities, but in general even the cheaper models will be sufficient for most homes. They will also be sufficient for a handful of computer connections (up to about 12) for businesses. However, businesses with greater demands from their modems will need routers tailored to greater signal dispersal and security, as well as having filtering, VPN and firewalling capabilities. The security software in general for business broadband is more strict than with home broadband, which is another benefit.
While providers all claim to have the best home broadband customer service, the added premium paid for business broadband is of higher standard again. Usually there are dedicated support resources allocated for business customer cohorts, with support being prioritised for companies and 24 hour calling lines open.
One of the most important benefits to businesses of these broadband services is the pledges of service levels that are often given. Sometimes home customers might need to wait a few days for a repair in the event of a disruption, but often business broadband customers will have the guarantee of a fix on a next-day basis. There may be a compensation structure set up in the event it cannot be resumed in the stated timeframe, similar to insurance almost.
There may also be a minimum uptime guarantee or even an average speed guarantee, although this is more rare.
As with the phone support offered, there are priorities given to broadband users in terms of resource allocation. Broadband networks often become congested, but if this is the case then business customers are often given priority bandwidth which will mitigate against speed reductions at peak times which can hamper home broadband services significantly.
So there are several primary reasons for businesses to choose tailored broadband services. But there are other features, such as email domain names and free mobile broadband, which also increase the value of these offerings. So while it might not seem worth it up front, business broadband is like many products tailored to companies in that it provides a wider range of benefits which are in many cases essential for running a professional organisation. For most business owners, it would be best to get a deal with more of these offerings since it is usually best to have the benefit of them in advance rather than find out later that you should have paid for them.
This alone usually justifies the cost, which can be significant – but given how critical internet is for business today the price is worth in with the competitive offerings out there.
While new rules mean that broadband companies are required to give a more complete price including all charges when advertising their offerings, there are still several things to take into account which can at times leave consumers uncertain of how much getting new broadband or switching provider will cost them overall.
This is particularly true for new connections to buildings that do not have an existing phone line. However, there are several interesting options available, and this coupled with the greater transparency now enforced means that there are now more options and a more straightforward way of choosing between them.
Especially for those lacking an existing phone connection or those who travel a lot, mobile broadband can offer a great alternative to fixed line connections. This is especially true with the wider dispersal of 4G broadband. Most of the population will be able to get a very high speed connection for a reasonable price.
There are some setup costs, but these are generally lower than with fixed line broadband. You may have to purchase a modem such as a dongle which might cost around £10-£50, but in many cases will be free if you bundle it with other products or agree to a contract of a certain time period. There are other prices and charges to consider, such as roaming charges (which are being brought under control across Europe this year), but they can be sidestepped by being careful and aside from this there are no other up front costs to be too concerned about.
This is the standard for most homes and businesses – and involves the setup costs mentioned earlier in the event that there is no existing phone line available in the building. This would require you to spend around £130 and it will take around 15 days to get set up. On top of this, there will be a line rental of around £15 to pay per month.
It’s worth bearing in mind that long-term there is no need to stay with BT for your broadband services – even from the start you can sign up for a provider’s service that uses the BT network but uses the providers software and systems. The opening up of the BT network is part of a process called local loop unbundling, implemented in order to make the broadband market more competitive.
But there are alays a few more costs to consider with ADSL. You will often be able to get a free modem (also called a router) with your contract but if you have to pay for it then it will cost from £20-£180 depending on the model.
And of course there are the monthly charges to pay, which will vary depending on your subscription. Thanks to the new advertising rules mentioned earlier the total cost should be easier to calculate. And of course if you speak to a sales representative you should be able to get a lot of information easily.
Some other costs apply to nearly all types of broadband. There is often a cancellation fee which the providers use to recoup some of the costs spent on any free equipment or introductory offers. In many cases there will be a minimum contract period after which the cancellation fee will be waived. This is particularly true for bill pay mobile broadband, since the cost of the dongle or MiFi that comes with the start of the contract can be recouped by the provider quickly.
This minimum period is likely to be longer in the case of ADSL, Cable, or Fibre broadband types.
Connection fees are another cost to factor in – often waived, these fees are a one-off for starting the service.
And finally, there are always fair-use policies for nearly all broadband plans, which define how much you can download or upload. While some services are truly unlimited, most have caps, after which you will face limitations on your services, fees, or even cancellation of the service (although rare).
Cable and fibre rely less (or not at all usually) on the phone network, so there are no line rental charges to factor in. There are installation costs, which vary a lot since it can be required for you to get a complete new line from your home to the fibre exchange in the case of that service, but for cable the setup can be easier if there is an existing cable connection (for example if you have Virgin Media digital tv). There will be other charges in some cases – mainly relating to the hardware you might have to buy (such as a set top box for cable).
Overall fibre and cable show a wider range of variation in setup costs due to the relative novelty of the offerings, but in general should not be more than ADSL setup so this shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
4G mobile broadband explained:
In the past few years 3G mobile broadband services have been replaced by 4G services for most providers. 4G stands for “4th generation”, in that it is the next progression of communication systems or technologies used in the mobile network. It allows for greater speeds and less congestion over the network with the new technology it uses.
While 3G was useful and represented a big step up from the previous capacities of mobile phones, 4G offers a new standard that is even more advanced. With 4G users can stream content, browse quickly, and send emails without hassle, and more importantly the speeds needed for these activities are accessible in the vast majority of locations (whereas before there was a greater variation in signal capacities depending on the area).
4G is also known as LTE (long term evolution) technology. It enables much greater speeds than 3G which mirrors the development of common internet usage from simple communication to downloading and streaming of HD content and more frequent internet use. The International Telecommunication Union are the organisation that have set the standards for 4G communication and defined the minimum speeds needed.
4G has enabled a new range of smartphone usage patterns. These include increased use of cloud technologies, with many users auto-syncing their files automatically with services such as Google Drive. This is very popular in particular for business and their staff, since it allows for a lot of mobile working and frequent backup of files to the cloud – increasing efficiency, cost effectiveness and security. 4G makes it possible for mobile devices to have nearly the same cloud access capabilities as desktops.
Another pattern is the increased use of multimedia services like calls and messages. Previously, there were a lot of obstacles to video calling and MMS sending, but these issues are basically resolved, mobile users would not think twice about sending pictures on their phone or using Skype for mobile nowadays thanks to 4G.
And the associated costs of these services and usage patterns are significantly lower than they were before 4G. Both bill and prepaid customers now use many times more data per day than before, but providers offer these data levels at much the same prices that someone would have been paying on an average day in the pre-4G era. So data consumption has increased but prices have been kept low.
This is all enabled by the different benefits of 4G and their related underlying technologies. One issue than has been improved significantly is the congestion of networks on 4G compared to its predecessors. There are many more devices than device users and huge demands on the network, which results in patchy service particularly at peak times of the day. So even if speeds can be high, the sheer amount of users will congest the network.
4G has implemented some advances to get around this issue and allow more users to get peak services for more of the day. It is much more efficient and has a higher capacity.
And of course, the speeds possible with 4G are the main reason they can enable the new wave of mobile broadband possibilities mentioned earlier. In fact, while 3G was capable of download speeds of up to 21Mbps, 4G can reach 1Gbps for stationery connections and 100Mbps when the user is traveling at high speed (such as while traveling), making it many times more capable and even fast enough to rival terrestrial broadband speeds in some cases (1 Gbps is very fast) – although these speeds are heavily dependent on the signal.
ADSL2 and ADSL2+ differences explained:
The terms ADSL, ADSL2 and ADSL2+ might seem a bit irrelevant to broadband users – implying technical complexity. This is not really the case though – as with 3G and 4G, they simply refer to technological advances that underpin different broadband offerings.
As with many developments in broadband, the advances that make ADSL2+ possible are mostly based on the different software used by providers. There is in fact not much hardware difference in the cables used with the different types of DSL, which mainly run on the BT infrastructure. This software improvement enables speeds up to four times faster than the previous ADSL.
The International Telecommunication Union defines the different standards for DSL as with 3G and 4G. While they define the minimum standards for DSL performance, other factors such as a homes distance to the exchange and other factors have a big impact on the speeds that will be possible in practice.
This distance relates to the DSL Access Multiplexer distance from the home, and this component is what enables providers to provide broadband to multiple homes at high speeds. And with ADSL2 speeds of up to 24Mbps are common.
While fibre and cable broadband allow the fastest speeds available, up to 200Mbps at times, ADSL2 and ADSL2+ offer good alternatives for most. This is even the case when the user might even download a lot of HD movies and games, since ADSL2 will still probably be sufficient. ADSL2 is also more widely available than fibre and cable across the world, as these often require a separate connection aside from the phone line.
And ADSL2 is offered by nearly all providers, although this is slightly limited by geography. It has a high penetration rate applying to the vast majority of broadband users. And providers will be able to tell you right away if you are eligible for an ADSL2 offering. It is worth bearing in mind that to get the fastest speeds from one of these connections there will be often new equipment like modems to purchase.
Although broadband services are often referred to as “unlimited”, it is usually a good idea to be informed of how download limits work (not least because in practice many plans are not really unlimited). This is especially true for some kinds of broadband, such as mobile broadband. So it is worthwhile to be up to speed on how limits are calculated, what the different practices and limits are for different types of broadband, and what the ramifications are for exceeding the broadband limits that might be part of your contract.
The first thing to bear in mind is that the terms used to measure broadband speeds usually are not identical to the terms used to measure the amount of data used. There is a distinction between a bit and a byte – bytes are usually what customers think in terms of, while bits are used by engineers when speaking of performance. So your monthly allowance is dealt with in bytes, but since broadband speed is a closely related to overall network performance, it is discussed in terms of bits by both the provider’s engineers and also for the consumer in advertising. You might have a 20Mb (megabit) connection speed with a 100MB (megabyte) per month download limit, for example.
The amount of data used by different types of internet use vary widely, more than you might think. An email will only use a few KB in many cases, while a long HD movie could use a few hundred thousand times more than that (around 2GB). It’s very easy to see the common data requirements of different usages by searching online, for example the average song is about 3MB.
Download limits can be particularly relevant for those who stream HD content often. Even with a high speed mobile broadband service that allows downloading of movies quickly, mobile broadband usually has a limit applied so in many cases you will use up your available data for the month if you download a few movies in HD.
Many providers advertise unlimited broadband, but then have various fair usage policies which if infringed upon will activate warning, usage caps, usage throttling or even service cancellation.
While this seems unfair if the broadband is advertised as “unlimited”, in reality this means that normal use is unlimited so there will be no barriers if you are using it within these “normal usage” boundaries. The reason that this is not so unfair is that due to the nature of broadband connections where one users service will be negatively impacted in the event that another exceeds the normal threshold of usage. To provide a satisfactory service to all customers, there needs to be caps on how much resources are taken up by any one user.
The provider will initiate warnings, speed throttles, or monthly lowered caps if the user exceeds the fair usage policy regularly. It is therefore important to consult the terms and conditions when signing up for a new subscription
While it is hard to exceed the fair usage policies of mobile broadband services in most cases, this is not true for mobile broadband (in particular prepaid), since the networks are under higher pressure so there are therefore lower thresholds for exceeding the limits.
Another risk especially with bill pay phones is that you will be charged a higher rate for every MB you use above your allowance. His can really add up. Prepaid mobile broadband is not as cost effective in normal circumstances but precludes the risk of high surcharges (if you’re credit is gone then your service stops automatically).
What is SIM-only mobile broadband?
Many customers will have heard of prepaid mobile broadband which functions similar to a credit plan for mobile phones, or a mobile broadband bill-pay contract that comes with the purchase of a tablet or smartphone, but SIM only mobile broadband contracts function as a halfway between these 2 options.
In essence they give you the benefits of a bill-pay contract with the convenience of a prepaid plan. This happens by setting up a 30 day contract that has better rates than prepaid broadband and also removes the danger that your service will be cut off due to credit running out. You usually also have a set amount of data to use at a minimum but can go over and pay a reasonable rate for the data you use.
But it also has the flexibility of a prepaid plan since there is no device tied to the contract and it can be cancelled with a month’s notice in most cases. So if you want to move to another provider, you are not tied into a lengthy agreement with the original provider.
Another benefit of SIM only broadband is that you can usually use a dongle you already have and just plug the new SIM into the device. This means that you can save money when switching provider, but dongles are usually not 3G to 4G cross compatible, meaning that a 3G SIM will not work in a 4G dongle in most cases (it would probably work the other way around as the SIMs are downwards compatible, but you should certainly verify this before making a switch to a new provider).
Overall, SIM only broadband can be great if you are just testing the market, or if you want the benefits of prepaid broadband with a better cost plan and more data availability.
What is USB Mobile broadband?
Mobile broadband is no longer just for phones, technology including 4G have made it a legitimate alternative to terrestrial broadband for many users. In most cases uses will employ a dongle, a kind of USB stick which acts as a transmitter, to access a connection. Mobile broadband can be bought from any of the major mobile networks.
There are several things to consider in terms of benefits and drawbacks of dongles. While they are not as fast as ADSL (terrestrial) broadband, with 4G some providers offer speeds that are in the same ball-park and will suit the needs of users who don’t need to stream or download large amounts of content or much HD content. Data limits play a role here as well, as if you are using your connection for heavy use content such as this there would be a big risk that you would go over your data limits.
From an ease of use perspective dongles are very suitable, since there are not much setup costs or hassle. They can be plugged in to any laptop or computer which makes them very versatile. And of course there are no physical limitations on where you bring the modem, although some areas will have poor reception.
This is not such an issue with ADSL since line checks are done before the service commences. Most places will have sufficient coverage for good mobile broadband, but it is worth checking. The final consideration is that you should try not to use your dongle too much abroad as there are high surcharges.
EE are the network who first made extensive 4G roll-outs, and one of their dongles and mobile broadband packages could get you speeds of up to 60Mbps. 42Mbps is possible with a dongle from Three, and 21Mbps from Vodafone (who are noted for having large amounts of data available).<
Previously there was only really one practical broadband connection type, that of ADSL connections that go through the phone line. In the early days of broadband, mobile broadband was not very fast at all, and wasn’t very practical or accessible for many consumers. These days, ADSL is not the only good option, since cable, fibre optic and mobile broadband are viable alternatives for most users.
Mobile broadband is increasingly popular as a primary means of accessing the internet. The main difference between mobile broadband and other types is that cable, ADSL and fibre rely on a physical connection to the users home, while mobile broadband can be transmitted over the mobile phone networks wirelessly from phone towers. In this way it operates similar to the normal signal you get on your mobile phone.
Nearly all mobile devices (tablets and phones) are equipped to receive this mobile internet signal with built-in receivers, while computers can be enabled to pick up the signal with the aid of a dongle or MiFi router, a USB stick, a PC card, or can have technology built-in similar to phones.
In terms of the actual signal picked up, there is also a difference between 3G and 4G, with 4G being faster. Which you can pick up will depend on your device and network, as well as your location.
Mobile broadband can be cheaper depending on your usage, easier to set up, much more flexible, and certainly faster than dial-up. It can also be bundled with your phone service since all major phone networks offer mobile broadband.
Even with so called unlimited broadband deals, fair usage policies are very common and apply to nearly all services. Different plans differ in their application of fair usage (or “fair use”) policies, but generally there will be a monthly or weekly threshold for download limits, which if you cross multiple times in a short period you will be judged to have infringed on the fair use policy and will have your broadband service limited in some way, whether by capping how much you can use per day or throttling the connection speed (limiting it to a much lower speed like 56kbps) for either the whole day or peak times.
The more information you get from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) the better in this regard, especially if you plan on doing a lot of downloading, since policies vary from ISP to ISP. In general though, most packages (including many of those labelled “unlimited”) will have a monthly cap of around 100GB of downloads, although this can vary wildly.
Vodafone for example have a 300GB per month fair usage policy but this is only used as a benchmark for which they will contact you to enquire if you are intending to make those downloads (to avoid viruses using your broadband). If you give them the all-clear then they lift the restriction. Sky were the first provider to offer “truly unlimited” downloads with no cap in 2008.
Mobile broadband users in particular need to be wary of download limits, even when a plan is labelled as unlimited there can there are normally lower fair usage caps per month than with terrestrial broadband, sometimes as low as 15GB. The “fair usage” intended by these plans means that they consider the service unlimited as long as you stick to normal internet usage like browsing and communication. With the advent of 4G, it can be quite easy to go over 15GB in a month by streaming high-quality video.
For mobile broadband, heavy usage at peak times can also put you at greater risk of setting of the fair usage policy limit.
In any case, you should check the terms and conditions if you think you may end up going over the fair usage limit. If still in doubt, contact an ISP representative and they should be able to give more information.
In some cases the ISP will contact you and give a warning if they see a pattern of what they consider heavy data usage. If the heavy usage persists, they will either throttle or cap you usage for a period. If this happens multiple times they may consider terminating the service. It is therefore quite avoidable, and in some cases if you justify your usage as personal you can reach an agreement.
Note that some users of some services may be hit with limits sooner, however, especially in the case of mobile broadband.
Many consumers are justifiably skeptical of the term unlimited broadband since it is often far from that. For example, downloading a high definition movie over your mobile broadband once every 3 days would put you over a 15GB limit, and watching a couple of movies a week would not be considered unreasonable or unfair.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, someone running a professional file-sharing setup (such as some users making money from Steam games) maxing out their broadband for nearly 24 hours a day could be considered as taking advantage of an offering aimed at conventional consumption.
This makes more sense when you consider the way broadband works. The contention ratio refers to the amount of users that share one line and can be quite high. Since one user downloading a lot especially at peak times will limit the amount of bandwidth available to other users, the ISP groups users based on their downloading patterns and allocates peak time bandwidth accordingly.
Since it can impact other users it is easy to see why fair usage policies can be sensible. In any event, if you consult your ISP before starting the contract then you can be sure the service is for you and what way it should be used then you can be sure it meets your needs and you can use it hassle-free.
WiFi hotspots and how to access them:
Mobile broadband can be extremely useful for those on the go, especially those who work while commuting or out on business. However, mobile broadband plans and data bundles can be somewhat costly if used intensively.
Thankfully, public wifi hotspots are a great way to reduce your mobile broadband bill while you are out – businesses offer free wifi to their customers to improve their experience at the establishment, and by logging on to the wifi network you can avail of free internet and in many cases faster connection than offered by your mobile broadband.
This is because the connection you are accessing is not provided by your phone company over their mobile network, but instead you are independently accessing ADSL broadband from the place you are located, just s with your broadband signal at home. The same principle is in practice when you access the network when at work.
Most of the time you simply have to check your device for open networks in the area when you are in a cafe, shopping centre, restaurant, or shop, and the name of the business (often followed by “free wifi” or something to that extent) and log on – often in cafes there will be a password required which you can request from a staff member.
You would be forgiven for thinking that home broadband was always the best option for home and mobile broadband was the best for your phone. But in fact, mobile broadband can be a legitimate alternative to home broadband. That being said, there are many pros and cons of both, so here we will discuss the relative merits of each.
Home broadband speeds are on the whole much faster than the mobile equivalent. While 4G networks have drastically improved the speed of mobile connections, the slowest home broadband speeds would still compete with this. 4G speeds are generally around 21Mbps, while the fastest home broadband is over 10 times that speed.
Home broadband is also generally much more reliable in that mobile broadband depends heavily on the area, but one advantage mobile has over home is that if you are in an area that generally receives good reception, the chances of it dropping for an extended period are very low, whereas with home broadband if there is a fault in your connection you may have to wait for a repair.
For many users, one of the better aspect of mobile broadband is that the startup costs are basically zero in most cases, and it is easy to switch provider or even have more than one. This is especially the case for prepaid mobile broadband. There is also much lower effort needed to have it installed, and a phone line is of course not needed. The convenience of being able to use it on the move is also a big advantage, especially for those who live in student accommodation.
Mobile broadband is nearly always subject to much lower data caps or allowances – and there are sometimes costly surcharges for exceeding your limit. Home broadband is for most customers unlimited now, subject to fair usage policies.
MB for MB, home broadband is much cheaper, and also has less surcharges. For overall setup costs and for those who use very low amounts per month, mobile can work out better as an ultra low-cost option. Another cost advantage of home broadband is that it can be bundled with other products for greater price savings – while mobile broadband can be bundled also, providers offer less savings with this (TV and a mobile internet bundle would be rare, for example).
Most heavy internet users will have heard of VoIP, it is the technology that allows you to make calls over an internet connection, and notable companies offering this service are Skype, Facebook (with their Messenger service), and the chat function of Google Hangouts.
VoIP sends compressed voice files through the internet connection in high speed, basically providing a live voice connection through the internet. Since data transfer via broadband internet is substantially faster than conventional phone connections, the service can be provided for a much lower cost than a phone connection. Calls with VoIP apps like Skype are free to other users, and because of the capabilities of broadband, more than one call can take place at a time.
You can pay to call landlines and mobiles from your VoIP service, and generally the price will be much lower than with conventional phone connections (especially if you are calling long-distance where the savings are even greater).
Another benefit of VoIP is that the service is not tied to a specific address in the case of most services like Skype. You can use it from any computer that has the provider’s app installed, or smartphones as well.
It is worth mentioning here the difference between VoIP services and VoIP apps: the former is the actual service provided of the transmission of the call, the latter is the actual software on your device that allows you to access the service. In most cases, they are provided as the same offering from the same company, but many offerings include just one or the other, so you can choose a different VoIP app with a VoIP service provider and vice versa. In fact, some VoIP services are offered for conventional phones (especially for business customers), so you wouldn’t really notice that you are not using a standard phone line.
And an obvious advantage of VoIP is that it allows video calls which is unusual for conventional phone lines. It is also beneficial for businesses that require a lot of phone capacity since the setup times and costs are lower than with conventional phone lines.
Downloading movies or TV programs in high-definition (HD) can be very taxing on broadband speeds and limits. While a standard definition (SD) movie can be downloaded in a file size as small as 800MB, HD movies can be over 5GB in size. This makes downloading them over standard broadband connections quite slow at times. HD broadband allows much faster download time. This allows you to get very high-quality video and audio (almost as good as HDTV) to your laptop, computer or mobile device.
HD broadband isn’t really a separate concept to high speed broadband, but it is a useful term with regards to the offerings of many providers, since it implies high-speed broadband bundled in many cases with TV on demand (and in some cases IPTV).
HD broadband offerings also usually address the other issue of downloading lots of HD content: usage limits. While the speed aspect of other bundles might be enough to download lots of HD content, the amount of content you download might be capped by a fair usage policy. So you might have no problem downloading HD movies quickly with a standard high speed broadband plan, but you may not be able to do so as often as you would want to.
This is not usually the case with HD broadband plans, as they come with a higher download limit (or in most cases unlimited, subject to very high fair usage caps). With many broadband plans with lower limits, you could face the risk of extra charges and/or throttled speeds if you exceed the limit, but the risk of this is much lower with HD broadband plans.
There are several main companies providing this kind of service:
Sky are well known for their HDTV offerings, and the same is true of their HD broadband. Sky have one of the widest ranges of TV and movie offerings also, so if you’re into film this is a good option. Another advantage is that they offer a new ultra HD service.
Virgin Media have possibly the fastest broadband of any of the main providers, with speeds of up to 200Mbps. This means you could download 5GB HD movie in a matter of minutes.
BT have a wide range of movies and channels also, and use the YouView set top box which can allow very high speeds.
TalkTalk also provide their service with the YouView box.
In the early days of broadband, the network was mainly run through the BT infrastructure. This is still the case for the most part, but in many ways the market and the networking options have opened up a lot. Phone-line broadband is also known as ADSL.
Depending on your needs there are a range of ISPs to choose from, some may use the BT ADSL network while others don’t. This largely depends on your choice of service (broadband, mobile broadband, fibre, or cable).
For the most part, ISPs use the BT ADSL network, so even if you choose for a different provider there will be some line rental to pay to BT (which goes through the normal pricing, so you won’t have 2 bills to pay). There are other networks, notably TalkTalk, as well as some more niche independent operators mainly focused on fibre optic broadband (such as thinkbroadband). There are even some villages that have laid their own superfast broadband networking!
But mostly if you aren’t opting for mobile, fibre optic or cable broadband, the ISP you choose will probably run their services on the BT network. This is not too much of a problem, since BT are contracted to provide the same high level of service they provide for their own customers.
Cable and fibre optic is a different story. Virgin Media (who bought the cable network of NTL Telelwest group) have their own cable broadband offering (with high speeds), and there are several niche fibre optic broadband providers for home and business that can also provide very high speeds on their own fibre network.
Everything seems to be powered by the internet these days, and TV is no different. Internet Protocol TV is sent to the screen via the broadband connection, as opposed to via radio frequencies used in standard TV. The same effect happens when you stream video on demand like Netflix online, but IPTV is very different in that it sends a TV signal via the internet designed for use by TV sets. The efficiency gains of this service is why IPTV is said to be the technology of the future.
The efficiency and capabilities of IPTV mean that users can get an extremely broad range of channels through the service. This is enabled with a set top box, which most providers (including TalkTalk, BT, Sky and Virgin Media)will install without fees and give the service for a very low introductory rate. This also allows easy recording of shows to watch later.
IPTV is offered by the main providers of broadband in most cases. These include BT TV from BT, Now TV from Sky, and YouView which can be used with a subscription to TalkTalk or Plusnet among others. Amazon Fire TV and Android TV are also interesting offerings.
And if bundled with your broadband and phone services, you can stand to make substantial savings overall as well as availing of the benefits of IPTV. A common bundle is Voice-over-IP (VoIP), broadband, and Video-on-Demand (VOD).
There are several factors when considering if IPTV is a good solution for you. Firstly, consider the savings you can avail of when bundling it with other services. If there are significant savings, you should then try factor in if the installation costs will make it still worth it. Even if it’s not, maybe the benefits of IPTV still outweigh the costs, especially if you already have a fast connection. This can also be a reason to make the switch to IPTV, since with many providers like Virgin Media have very fast broadband offerings – so if you switch to them you could upgrade your broadband and TV in one go.
What’s important to note is that your options are further increased with the advent of IPTV, and since it is offered by the best broadband providers there are substantial upgrades and savings to be gained with a bit of research.
Government and universities were the first organisations to use and provide internet services, but as of the late 80s the market was opened up to other companies to provide the service to consumers. In the early days of broadband, it was quite a closed market with few companies providing services to customers.
Now, the market has opened up, and depending on your needs there are a range of ISPs to choose from. Here are some good options for the main types of broadband available: mobile, DSL and cable/fibre.
This is a great option for those that need internet on the go on their mobile obviously, but also for those that don’t want a long contract fixed to a specific address (such as those in student accommodation) or those that work during their commute a lot.
All major networks provide mobile broadband over the phone line, and there are a few providers that stand out in their offerings. Here are some details on the 4 major mobile operators:
- O2 have a good offering, with high speed 4G and extensive coverage available.
- Three have very good value options, including deals from £10 per month.
- EE have some of the fastest speeds of any provider, and were the first 4G network in the country.
- Vodafone are another popular provider, especially for business customers where their rates are very competitive.
Most customers with conventional ADSL connections to their homes will choose to bundle the broadband service with other options to reduce the cost overall.
Depending on your other priorities (whether they be premium TV, low cost phone tariffs, or mobile packages), there are few packages that stand out:
- Sky: Known for their origins as a satellite TV provider, Sky offer some of the best deals for those interested in the widest range of movies and sports on TV.
- BT: Are good all-round in the areas of Broadband, TV (with offerings like BT sport), and of course phone (for which the company was known for originally)
- Virgin Media: While they also provide high standard TV, mobile and home phone services, they are noted for their very high speed fibre broadband. There are Virgin bundles that combine the four services.
- TalkTalk: Are well known for their phone service, with particularly good value international rates. They also have a high standard broadband offering for a competitive price.
There are slight differences between cable and fibre-optic broadband, but they both essentially offer higher speed broadband than ADSL. EE, Sky and TalkTalk use the same network as BT and therefore have roughly the same speeds. The following are the most notable cable/fibre offerings on their own network:
BT: Along with their TV and phone offerings mentioned earlier, BT have good fibre speeds with their 76Mbps-156Mbps cables (speed depending on your area). Their fibre also comes with a free Homehub router.
Virgin Media: They have the fastest speeds of the main providers (up to 300Mbps in some places). This is very, very fast, and when bundled with their other services this can be a very good option for those that need the fastest connection.
There is often confusion between these terms that are used to compare and measure broadband speeds. Further complicating the issue is the matter of the higher denomination size for each – megabits and megabytes respectively – since they are both referred to as “megs”.
What these terms all refer to is amounts of information – the same system is used for the storage available on your computer or smartphone. It is based on the binary system, where a bit represents a closed or open binary switch, and a byte was conventionally the smallest number (8) of bits needed to represent an alphabetical letter or charactr.
What this basically means is that there are different units of memory represented by these terms. There are 8 bits in a byte, 8 megabits in a megabyte and so on. Bits are mainly used as terms by engineers only, and users will hear more talk of bytes in most cases.
The difference between the two can be read by the case of the “b” in the abbreviation. Bits are represented by a lowercase “b”, while bytes are represented by an uppercase “B”. So Mb stands for Megabit and MB stands for megabyte. A strange exception is kilobits, which has all lower case, both “k” and “b”. The most important thing is to be able to differentiate between megabytes and megabits for broadband purposes but if you want to learn more about the denominations you can have a look here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Quantities_of_bits
What this means in practice is that the length of time it takes to download a 10 MB text file on a connection that downloads at speeds of 20Mb per second (Mbps) will be 4 seconds, since 20Mb equates to 2.5MB (as we mentioned earlier, there is one Mb or megabit in an MB or megabyte). Uppercase B = byte = the bigger of the two, lowercase b = bit = the smaller of the two; bits are bigger than bytes. An easy way to remember this is how you might explain it to a child: there are 8 “bits” (slices) in a pizza, and if you were hungry you might eat it in one “byte”.
Interestingly, the word “bit” does not come from the other word “bit”, it is a contraction of “Binary Information Digit”. Byte comes from the word “bite”, but a “y” was added to avoid confusion with the already existing term “bit” (programmers type fast, and one key pressed out of line shouldn’t cause havoc).
There are more prefixes that denote greater units of bits and bytes, such as kilo-, giga-, tera-, and peta-.
Everyone is familiar with Broadband, which replaced the dial-up connections that was used previously; however, you may not be up-to-date on what broadband entails, so here are a few facts.
Broadband is how you connect to the internet today. It is similar to a phone line connection that runs constantly, giving you access to the network at any time. There isn’t only one kind of broadband – mobile broadband for phones runs on the 4G network via the mobile phone signal. And for terrestrial broadband, both ADSL and cable broadband types exist.
Broadband is so-named for its functionality that allows a wider range of information to be transmitted, a very narrowband channel would only transmit Morse code, for comparison. Frequencies are in different channels on the line with Broadband, meaning that you don’t have to stop using the phone line to use the internet as you did with dial-up, the predecessor of broadband.
This is a way to tell if you already have broadband, if you can use the internet while using your phone you have it installed.
ADSL broadband is the standard kind, which is transmitted over BT phonelines. Through your broadband modem or router, you connect with the copperwire phone network and via this the telephone exchange. A microfilter partitions the signal between phone and internet for your usage. Your signal quality will depend on your distance from the exchange. It is available to nearly everyone in the country. This is all possible with the BT fixed line access network.
There are 5 main providers of broadband/ADSL: BT, EE, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Plusnet, and Sky Broadband.
The alternatives are mobile broadband (4G, and in some cases still 3G, with 4G LTE-A providing the fastest service). cable or fibre-optic broadband. Mobile broadband can provide a viable alternative to ADSL these days, particularly in areas with good signal strength. Fibre-optic broadband and cable could be considered steps beyond ADSL, with extremely fast download and upload speeds.
Many confuse cable and fibre, since they’re both next generation broadband options. They are similar, in that they offer faster speeds than ADSL and cost more, require separate installation and are independent of the phone line. Cable is more expensive but more available and easy to have installed. Fibre is faster but tricky to install, but also requires less maintenance.
BT and Virgin Media are the two main cable companies. Sky have also a large share of the cable market.
Fibre-optic or fibre broadband will be available to 95% of UK customers by the end of 2017. The main providers are the same as with ADSL, but with a few niche offerings such as those of Zen Internet.
Fibre-optic broadband is seen as the future, and there has been huge customer uptake for the technology in recent years. There are a range of smaller companies offering fibre, and availability is rising in all areas just as with cable.
Generally though, fibre-optic and cable are very similar and the terms are used interchangeably by many advertisers, so don’t be surprised if you see “fibre-optic cable” on offer. Just have a read of the details and it should be clear which is being offered.
So you can think of the main types of broadband by how they are delivered: ADSL is through the BT phoneline, cable and fibre are installed separately or sent through the cable TV connection, and mobile broadband is transmitted on the mobile phone network.
If you use mobile broadband on your phone, tablet or via a wireless model like a dongle, there’s a good chance you use 3G, which has been replaced by 4G by many companies but has widespread availability and usage still.
The “G” in 3G refers to the generation of mobile internet it is, so 3G means it is the third major mobile internet standards update, offering more functionality than 2G but less than 4G. 3G has been around since the early 2000’s, and revolutionised mobile usage (2G was very limited in its functionality).
The jump from 2G to 3G could be compared to terrestrial to digital TV, so it was a big improvement. Before 3G mobile internet was almost prohibitively expensive and slow.
It was enabled by two main technological developments, high speed upload packet access and high speed download packet access. Essentially, these advances allow for faster data transfer (up to 21Mbps download and 1.76Mbps upload) – this is the main benefit.
Now though, 3G has largely been replaced by 4G, which offers a further upgrade of broadband performance. Vodafone still offer 3G services, but most other providers have moved on to 4G.
3G was a major advance in mobile internet, and the development of smartphones would been very different without it. If you are still using a service that uses 3G you can still expect it to work well, although not as fast as 4G. Vodafone are currently the only provider in the UK still offering 3G.
3G quick facts: