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Broadband Guides

UK broadband service providers

Compared to 15 years ago, the range of options for internet access are much wider. Between standard ADSL, mobile broadband, cable and fibre (and even satellite broadband), most providers offer a wide range of services and there is healthy competition in the market.

It is useful to classify broadband services by their type and also by supplier to get an idea of who sells what and at what price.

ADSL broadband

This is the standard and most popular option. Since the BT phone line network is already quite extensive and most homes have a connection – most users find ADSL to be the easiest to set up and best value option. Many providers offer the actual broadband service over the BT phone lines, and if you go with them you will have a line rental fee to pay to BT (which is usually not too costly).

These are the main providers in the ADSL broadband market:

  • BT
  • TalkTalk
  • EE
  • PlusNet
  • Sky
  • Virgin Media

Mobile broadband

While ADSL is the standard choice for most people, some customers might find mobile broadband more suited to their needs. Mobile broadband sticks, Mifi routers, and even tethering from a mobile phone all allow more flexibility in terms of where they can be used, the ease of setup (not requiring a landline), can usually involve lower startup costs, and require less hardware.

And with the advent of 4G mobile technology, the internet you access via the mobile network can be nearly as good as conventional connections.

Of course, the major mobile networks all offer mobile broadband, and here are the main providers:

  • EE
  • Vodafone
  • O2

As well as other niche and local networks. In most cases you will have to buy a dongle or Mifi router, but in many cases this will be throw in as part of a billpay contract, and you can always just use mobile tethering from your smartphone.

While mobile broadband is usually good enough for communication, browsing and streaming of standard definition music and video, it is not generally fast enough for HD streaming or downloading and there are also stricter limits on the amount of data that can be used. It is also not possible to get good signal in all areas so therefore it’s advisable to get an idea of the signal strength in your area and building before opting for mobile broadband.

Cable and fibre broadband

These broadband delivery methods are in many ways the next-generation of broadband. Cable uses the same network as is used for cable TV, while fibre uses glass cables to transmit the connection. Both enable higher speeds than with conventional broadband. Virgin has the fastest speed of nearly any provider, reaching 200Mbps in many cases. While these connections are more expensive and not available everywhere, they are also the best choice for those that need high speeds for e.g. downloading HD movies quickly.

There are many niche providers, particularly in the fibre optic for business market, but the main providers are:

  • BT Infinity
  • Virgin Media
  • EE
  • Plusnet
  • TalkTalk
  • Sky