A step-by-step guide to tracking down the best broadband internet deal for you First things first, you need to determine what kind of internet user you are. This will help you rule out unnecessary packages and make your search easier.
Most internet service providers (ISPs) now offer a range of broadband packages to suit different user needs. Take Sky, for example. They offer three tiers of broadband internet products – Everyday Lite, which is free to TV and line rental customers, Broadband Unlimited, and Fibre Unlimited.
Light broadband users
If you only plan to use the internet for browsing, emailing, and occasional streaming or downloading, you’re a light internet user. This means that basic packages should meet your needs just fine.
Basic packages tend to have monthly usage limits in place – 2GB per month in the case of Sky’s Everyday Lite. As long as you’re not doing a lot of downloading or streaming, this won’t be a problem, and if you do exceed your monthly limit, you’ll usually get an email to let you know, and you may have your broadband speed capped, or be automatically upgraded to the next tier for the following month.
On the plus side, these basic, usage-capped deals are usually the most affordable, and there’s no point in paying for bandwidth that you won’t use.
As a guide to monthly usage, 2GB will allow you to:
- Browse the web for 60 hours or
- Send 1,300 emails or
- Download 120 songs or
- Download three 30-minute videos
- Average broadband users
If you’re going to be downloading or streaming more content than that, or you find that you’re regularly exceeding your ISP’s basic monthly usage allowance, you should look at more generous, or unlimited broadband internet products that won’t limit your monthly usage at all. Broadband Unlimited is Sky’s equivalent of this.
The Which? consumer website has a useful broadband calculator tool that you can use to work out how much bandwidth you’ll need for your average monthly usage.
Heavy broadband users
If you like to stream or download a lot of movies and TV shows, or need to be able to upload and download large files on a regular basis, an unlimited package will be far better suited to your needs, and you’ll avoid having your speeds capped.
The latest broadband connections are fibre-powered. Using fibre optic cable allows you to transfer data more quickly, these new connections can offer much greater speeds, compared to the average UK broadband speed of 7.6Mbps (according to PCadvisor.co.uk).
If speed is important to you, you might want to consider a fibre optic broadband connection, although it will cost a bit more than a standard broadband connection Fibre networks are just beginning to roll out, with 33 per cent of the UK currently covered by Openreach. You can use online postcode tools to check whether fibre broadband is available in your area.
When will you use the internet?
If you’re more likely to use the internet between 7pm and 9pm, your usage will usually fall between the peak usage hours for most ISPs. These are the hours where the majority of customers are online. As a result, some ISPs implement traffic management policies during these hours, so that everyone can have equal access to bandwidth when they go online. In practical terms, this means that your bandwidth may be capped by your ISP, leading to slower browsing, streaming and downloading.
If you want to avoid this, make sure that you check out the traffic management policies of the ISPs you’re comparing, and look for ISPs like Sky, who don’t cap user speeds during peak hours.