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Guide to broadband

The number of households in the UK with a broadband internet connection continues to rise, with lots of homes now even having access to super-fast broadband. A report has also found that broadband contributed to over 7% UK GDP – more than transport and utilities.

What is Broadband?

Broadband is a way to connect to the Internet with much higher speeds that dial-up, which uses the telephone line and a modem.

Broadband is the first high-speed Internet option and is achieved by connecting through ADSL – an improved telephone line. As broadband is ‘always on’, it removes the need to dial up to the connection.

Broadband was introduced to the UK in 2000, but due to technological advances and an increased use in mobile devices, demand for higher speeds has increased further. This has led to super-fast broadband, using Fibre Optic cables, coming onto the market.

Phone line requirements

ADSL broadband is the most common type of connection in the UK, but it requires an active phone line. BT owns the UK telephone infrastructure so in order to get broadband; households will need to pay BT for a phone line. However, the LLU (local loop unbounding) process allows other providers to offer the line with their broadband and phone package.

There are broadband options for customers that don’t want a phone line: cable, 3G or 4G mobile broadband, which will depend on the signal strength in the area.

Packages available

There are a variety of UK broadband packages available, from a number of different providers.

When looking at broadband packages, UK consumers need to consider their data usage and the download allowance on offer. Low users, perhaps checking emails and logging on to digital banking, would be able to have a much smaller package than a heavy user who is online for several hours a day who may be downloading music or streaming videos.

The majority of UK households now have a bundle package, which generally includes telephone and television, also mobile phone plus broadband. These can sometimes offer value for money, but in some cases can cost more. It’s important that consumers do compare broadband packages to see what the best value is for them.

What's new?

What is ‘super-fast broadband’? Rather than getting an Internet connection with an upgraded telephone line (ADSL), users are able to access via fibre optic cables, which offer speeds up to six times faster than traditional broadband.

These fibre optic cables deliver the service to homes instead of the traditional phone line, but the implementation of these glass or plastic cables is a long process because they are located underground. However, it is being made more widely available, with plans for it to spread across the UK in the near future.

Switching providers

With so many broadband packages on the UK market, it’s important that households are getting the best value for money. Consumers will typically be locked into a contract for 12-24 months when they initially sign up to broadband, so it’s worth remembering the renewal date, as this is when it’s best to compare packages and switch provider – if necessary.

The switching process has drastically improved over recent years, so it’s no longer a huge inconvenience. When subscribers mention switching, the ISP is likely to improve their current package, but the best thing to do is weighing up the pros and cons before making a decision.