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Internet Service Providers (ISPs) explained

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.

Mobile broadband

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.

Bundled services

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.

Cable and fibre-optic broadband

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.