It may have only gone public in the 1990s, but the world wide web is now an integral part of modern life. Today, we rely on the internet for everything, from grocery shopping and attending work meetings to booking holidays and watching television shows.
Whether you’ve just moved house and getting connected is the next thing on your to-do list, or your existing internet contract is about to expire, and you’re thinking about switching providers, it’s likely you have some questions about broadband and how to get it. To accommodate the needs of different households, broadband has been developed in several ways over the past few years, and there are now many different types of broadband offered by a range of providers.
But having all these choices can be overwhelming. Especially when you throw in technical terms like “mobile broadband”, “satellite broadband”, and “fibre optic cables” — which are enough to leave anyone feeling lost and confused.
If you’re wondering how to get broadband, you’ve come to the right place. As well as explaining exactly what broadband is, this article reveals how you can get set up with a new connection in three easy steps.
Broadband is the generic term for any type of internet service that allows you to browse the web, check emails and stream television shows at high speed.
Before broadband emerged in the UK in the early 2000s, households had to manually connect and disconnect to the internet, and when connected, the telephone couldn’t be used at the same time.
The first thing to think about when getting a broadband connection is what type of broadband you need — or are able — to get.
Next, you should choose a provider based on factors like how much you want to pay, the download allowance you require and how long you want to be locked into a contract. Once you’ve found the right deal, you can either get set up by an engineer or do it yourself.
Get broadband in three easy steps
1. Decide what type of broadband you want
There are several different types of broadband to choose from:
- ADSL — Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line is delivered over a standard BT copper phone line, meaning this type of broadband is available to most UK households. To get ADSL broadband, you need to have an active phone line, even if it’s not connected to an actual telephone to make phone calls. ADSL is the UK’s original broadband, but there are now some different types, such as ADSL2+, which allow for faster speeds.
- LLU — Local Loop Unbundling is similar to ADSL, but broadband providers use their own equipment rather than renting it from BT. In the past, it was both a cheaper and faster alternative, however, as mentioned above, ADSL has since been upgraded to provide faster speeds.
- Cable — Also referred to as “Fibre Optic” by Virgin Media, cable broadband is delivered over coaxial cables and, unlike ADSL, it does not lose speed with distance, meaning it’s faster and less variable. There are two types of cable broadband: Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) and Fibre To The Property (FTTP). Most UK households have FTTC, which means the broadband is only fibre optic to the nearest BT street cabinet and will be delivered to your home over your normal phone line from there. With FTTP broadband, you will have fibre optic broadband all the way to your property, however, there’s only a limited number of suppliers that offer it, the most popular of which is Virgin Media.
- Satellite — As long as you can install a satellite dish without any obstructions, you can get this type of broadband wherever you are in the country because it connects to the internet using geostationary satellites. Be warned, though, that it can cost significantly more to set up and run.
- Mobile — This type of broadband uses the mobile broadband network to connect to the internet. Mobile broadband is a good option for those who live in remote areas with a good mobile signal, those who are on the move a lot or those who simply want broadband without a landline. The downsides to mobile broadband are that it’s not as cheap as other types of broadband, and it’s usually only fast enough to do basic internet browsing and a limited amount of streaming.
When deciding between getting a home or a mobile broadband connection, you might find it helpful to consider the following questions:
- Do you only need broadband at home, or would it be useful to have it on the go?
- Does your home have an existing phone line, or would you need to get one installed?
- What’s your internet usage like? Do you do a lot of streaming, or do you only use the web for light browsing and checking emails?
- How much downloading do you do?
- Is fibre broadband available in your area?
- Are you happy to sign up for a home broadband contract, or would you rather pay as you go?
2. Choose a service provider
As mentioned earlier, there’s a multitude of broadband service providers to choose from. So, to make your decision of who to go with a little easier, here’s a list of some of the things to look for:
- Availability — Before you even start comparing deals, it’s wise to know what’s available in your area so you don’t waste time researching something you can’t even get. You can do this using Ofcom’s broadband checker.
- Contract length — Different providers will offer different contract lengths, so if you’re not comfortable being locked in for a long period of time, whittle your decision down to the ones that offer shorter contracts or choose to pay as you go.
- Cost — As with any purchase, the price will probably be a big factor in your decision. When deciding how much you’re willing to pay for broadband, bear in mind that, in most cases, the cheaper you go, the less you will get. And remember to check for hidden costs or prices that increase after an introductory period.
- Download allowances — These vary dramatically between providers, but you can work out which is the best deal for you by determining what you need to use the internet for.
- Download speeds — When comparing download speeds, it’s important to remember that this is the maximum speed the service provider offers and can be less depending on where you are. To check the speeds in your area, again, you can use Ofcom’s broadband checker.
- Equipment — While some providers will supply you with free routers and dongles, others will require you to buy your own, so it’s worth factoring this into your decision.
- Technical support — You may be particularly tech savvy and not need much support in getting set up and resolving technical difficulties, but if not, it might be worth choosing a provider that’s rated for its customer care.
You might also find it helpful to ask friends and family members who their broadband provider is and whether they’re happy with the service they receive. Alternatively, there are plenty of customer reviews and forums online, which may give you an insight into who is the best broadband provider for you.
3. Get set up
Once you’ve decided on the type of broadband you want and you’ve got a good deal from a service provider, you’ll need to set up your equipment in order to get connected.
Can you set up broadband yourself?
If you’re getting a new type of broadband installed in your home or you need a new phone line, you’ll usually need an engineer to come to your home. Most of the time, the work is done on the outside of your property, meaning you wouldn’t even need to be home for this.
If you’re sticking with the type of broadband that’s already available at your property, it should be relatively straightforward to set up your broadband connection yourself. Here are the steps you will typically need to take to do this:
- On your activation date, connect your router to the master phone socket using the provided micro-filters if you need to
- Turn on the router and wait for it to indicate that it’s online
- Connect all of your devices to the new hub
With most broadband providers and all of those which use the Openreach network (such as BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone), you will need a phone line to get broadband because your internet will be connected through those cables. It’s worth noting here, that you don’t need to set up a physical telephone in your home — it’s up to you whether you want to do this. Some providers will include the connection and phone number for free, while others will give you a discount for choosing a broadband-only package.
Other providers, like Virgin Media, Hyperoptic and Wightfibre, do not require you to have a landline, as they will connect you to broadband using their own separate cables. However, these cables are only available in certain areas.
Broadband is the generic term for any type of internet service that allows you to browse the web, check emails and stream television shows at high speed. Broadband is an integral part of modern life. We rely on it for everything, from grocery shopping and attending work meetings to booking holidays and watching television shows.
If you’ve just moved house and getting connected is the next thing on your to-do list or your existing internet contract is about to expire and you’re thinking about switching providers, you probably have some questions about how to get broadband. The first thing to do is decide what type of broadband you need — or are able — to get. There are several different types of broadband available, including ADSL, LLU, Cable or Fibre Optic and mobile broadband. Next, you should choose a provider based on the availability in your area, how long you want to be locked into a contract, how much you want to pay, the download allowance and speed you require, what equipment is included and how much technical support you need. Once you’ve decided on the type of broadband you want and you’ve got a good deal from a service provider, you can either get set up by an engineer or do it yourself.