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Regular Broadband-related news and comment from the Broadband.co.uk team.

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Broadband-related features and articles.

WiFi in the garden

How to get Wi-Fi coverage in your garden

Posted by Andy Betts on in Features

Summer's almost here again, so we can all look forward to spending some time relaxing in the garden, hosting barbecue parties, and maybe even trying a little al fresco working-from-home.

And if you do all that, chances are that you'll quickly bump up against the limits of your home Wi-Fi network.

Because while you probably spent time making sure your internet signal stretches to all the rooms in your house, you might not have given as much thought to your garden.

Or maybe you just assumed that it was off limits, and there was nothing you could do about it.

Fortunately, you and your guests don't have to be completely wireless-less this summer. If you want to get Wi-Fi in your back garden, here are some of your options.

Reposition your router

It's hard to judge the range of a wireless router.

It might typically be around 50 to 100 feet, depending on the design and spec of the router itself, plus how many obstacles the signal has to pass through - the signal will be much stronger with a line of sight connection than if it has to pass through thick walls.

The simplest place to start, then, is just to move your router closer to the garden, and where it has a clearer view. To do this, you might need to run an extra length of wire between the router and the phone or wall socket that it's connected to.

When you move it, make sure you don't inadvertently reduce the signal in other parts of your house. And don't put it too close to other gadgets that can cause interference - the microwave, for example, if you're moving it to the kitchen.

Install a Wi-Fi extender

If moving the router doesn't work, you could try using a Wi-Fi Extender, which rebroadcasts the wireless signal beyond its normal range. You can pick them up for prices starting at around £20 or £30.

You should position the extender somewhere in your house where it has a strong connection to your main router but is also as close as possible to your garden. The device might show up as a separate network with its own password, so you may have to log in again to connect to it.

It's also worth looking at providers like BT, who offer a Whole Home Wi-Fi service that includes a number of mini routers called Discs that help cover any dead spots around your property.

There are other types of device that can extend your wireless coverage. These include powerline adapters, which pass the internet signal along your existing electrical cabling. They need to be plugged in, though, so are only an option if you've got a readily accessible power socket outside.

Use a long ethernet cable

As a temporary solution, you could connect a long ethernet cable from the back of your router to your laptop in the garden. As long as it's less than 100m you should be fine, and could even get a faster and more reliable connection than you would with wireless.

It isn't Wi-Fi, though, so it won't work with your phone, tablet, or countless other devices you might want to use outside. You can buy and attach a wireless access point to fix that, but like powerlines, this is perhaps a better choice for your shed office.

Use mobile Broadband

Mobile broadband is a great option for outdoors Wi-Fi coverage. All but the most remote parts of the UK now have great 4G access, and a growing number of regions are getting the much faster 5G as well.

You can get a great mobile broadband deal, with either a cheap contract or pay-as-you-go plan, and use it with a personal hotspot or dongle. And don't forget the data allowance on your phone either. You can set iPhone and Android devices to function as personal wireless hotspots, so that you can connect other devices to them to share your data plan.

Get faster broadband

One other factor to consider is that the download speeds you get on your devices will get slower the further you are from your router. You might actually be able to get a weak wireless signal in your garden, but if you've got a slow connection to begin with, it still may not be usable.

If you haven't switched to a new broadband plan for a while you might have a slow connection, and you might have been supplied with an old, slow router as well, which exacerbates the issues - it's less able to broadcast over longer ranges. An upgrade could solve these problems.

If you want to upgrade your broadband in time for the summer, use our postcode checker to find out what deals are available to you today.

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Man relaxing with a laptop

How to find the best broadband for light use

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesVodafoneHyperopticJohn LewisTalkTalkPlusnetEECommunity FibreNOW BroadbandOnestreamThree

You know how it goes. Whenever you start shopping for a new broadband deal, you find yourself being steered towards the faster, flashier and more expensive services.

The thing is, not everyone needs an upgrade. Some of us are happy with what we've already got, and some don't even need that.

If you don't have a house full of kids who are all online 24/7, or if you live on your own, or are part of the generation that's less computer-reliant, then you may be able to get away with a much more basic broadband service. It could even save you some money in the process.

Let's take a look at your options.

How light is light use?

First of all, you need to work out how much you actually use the internet, to make sure your usage is as low as you think it is.

If your usage is mostly things like web browsing, shopping and bill paying then that's definitely light use. TV streaming counts as well, so long as there's only one person in your house doing it at any given time, and that you don't want to watch in the highest quality on your massive 4K TV.

But there are lots of other things as well that you don't tend to think about: Windows updates on your laptop that happen in the background, downloading movies and TV shows to your Sky Q box, playing games, and sharing large files for work. And all those other little devices you've got connected to your Wi-Fi. Some of them won't be downloading much, but it all adds up.

Chances are that you do use more bandwidth than you realise, so do make sure that you buy a broadband service that's right for your needs.

Broadband for light use

The slowest broadband you can get is standard broadband. This is the old pre-fibre service that runs entirely on the copper phone network. It offers average speeds of around 11Mb, which is enough for general web use or for one person to watch Netflix in HD.

Standard broadband is old tech and is set to be phased out in a few years, but you can still get it right now. It doesn't offer huge savings - standard broadband will typically save you a couple of pounds a month, but over the course of a year they do amount to the cheapest deals you can get.

Take a look at NOW Broadband, Plusnet and John Lewis for the cheapest standard broadband packages, with prices under £20 a month.

If you don't want to go quite that slow, the most basic fibre deal you can get is from Onestream. Their 17Mb service is the cheapest widely available fibre broadband package.

Most suppliers' entry-level fibre offers more than double that speed, at around 36Mb. Almost every broadband company has a deal at this level, so there's bags of competition on price and service. TalkTalk, Vodafone and EE all have deals around the same price point for the same speed services.

36Mb is ideal for light use - it's affordable but not too restrictive. It can handle many people online at the same, with even two or three streaming movies simultaneously, so has plenty of headroom for when you have guests round.

You could also consider some specialist providers. Hyperoptic and Community Fibre have great value full fibre packages - at 30Mb and 50Mb respectively - but they're both available in only very limited areas. Or you could go for a mobile broadband deal, running on the 4G network (or 5G in some areas), such as the 18Mb plan from Three.

You don't always have to buy the best or fastest broadband deal around. Pick what you need, and if you only need something basic then you've got plenty of choices.

Ready to start shopping for a new broadband deal? Just enter your postcode into our postcode checker and you'll be able to see exactly what offers are available in your street right now.

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Man using a laptop

7 tips to get the best broadband deal

Posted by Andy Betts on in Features

There's a lot to take in when you're shopping for a new broadband deal. Should you be looking mainly at the speed, or the price? And with many packages that seem quite similar, how can you decide between one provider or another?

Here are some tips to help make sure you find the broadband deal that's right for you.

1. See what's available

The absolute most important thing is to know what deals are available to you right now, so you know what your options are. The way to do this is to use our postcode checker.

Just type in your postcode and we'll show you all the best broadband deals that you can pick from. This enables you to home in on your priorities. Cheap, ultrafast, short-term, whatever else you want, you'll be able to find it.

2. Don't pay for more than you need

It's tempting to assume that you should just sign up to the fastest deal from the biggest name provider offering the most bells and whistles. And while this might be the easiest way to shop, it can leave you paying for stuff you don't actually need.

So try and figure out what it is you do need. Big household with loads of kids? Fast downloads are a must. Work from home? Reliability and fast uploads are important. Only use the internet for shopping and paying bills? A bare bones package might be right for you.

This isn't just true of speed, but also applies to the extras that broadband suppliers offer. If you've got modest requirements, you might not need a high-end router. Or if you're more tech savvy, you might not want free anti-virus software. We all like getting free stuff, but it doesn't always add value to your deal.

And if you don't make many landline calls, don't be tempted into paying an extra five or ten pounds a month for a calls package you won't ever use.

3. Bundles can cut the price

That said, bundles can help to save money in the longer run. If you do make a lot of calls, then a call plan is likely to work out cheaper than paying for each call separately - especially if you have family overseas. Likewise, it's worth exploring the bundles available from the like of Sky, Virgin Media, BT and NOW if you're looking to take out a premium TV subscription.

A growing number of broadband providers also offer mobile deals, including Plusnet and Vodafone, that can often be added as part of a broadband and mobile bundle. Getting multiple services from the same company can often work out cheaper, and it's simpler to manage your bills as well.

4. Look for rewards

A lot of broadband suppliers offer rewards to entice new customers. The best of these are the cash rewards, like cashback which effectively gives you a month or two of free broadband use, or cash-equivalent rewards, like vouchers that you can spend on the high street.

Some rewards also come in the form of free gifts, like wine or tech products. These are in some ways more exciting, but you should probably think of them as being a bonus - unless you happened to be planning to buy that same product anyway.

5. Check the yearly price

When you compare broadband deals it's a good idea to order them by the total cost in the first year, not the monthly price. This is the best way to see exactly what you'll be paying, and makes it a lot easier to pitch one deal against another.

There shouldn't be any hidden fees in the small print of any broadband contract, but there are still extra costs like setup and postage fees that you might overlook if you only focus on the cost per month. These are factored in to the yearly price.

Even then, there may still be a few extra costs beyond the norm, like if you want to pay in a certain way, need paper billing, or are planning to move house during your contract period. Keep an eye out for all of these in your broadband contract.

Also, make sure you know how much the price can rise during the length of your contract. Most deals specify rises in line with inflation, but a few providers go further than that - and if it's written in the contract you won't have grounds to complain when it happens.

6. Read the reviews

Price and speed aren't everything, of course. If you're committing yourself to a provider for a year or more, you want to be confident that you'll be happy with the service you're getting.

Reading the reviews of broadband suppliers is a good place to start. They'll give you an idea of what kind of service you'll get, how reliable it is, and - perhaps most important - what the customer service is like if you ever need it.

7. Never stay on an out-of-contract deal

Among all the tips for getting the best broadband deal, perhaps the most important is to ensure you never stay on a deal once your contract has ended. In fact, doing so will only get you the worst possible deal, as you get hit by frequent price rises that leave you paying way over the odds for what you're getting.

Your provider should contact you before your contract comes to an end, and remind that you're out of contract every year after that. But it's better to take matters into your own hands. Simply renewing with your existing provider will usually bag you a price cut, and is a great option if you're happy with what you've got. But if you're willing to switch providers, you'll open yourself up to a whole new range of options and deals.

Ready to start looking for a new broadband deal? Use our postcode checker to find the best deals that are available in your area right now.

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Man using a laptop

The Pros and Cons of a Short Broadband Deal

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesVirgin MediaHyperopticNOW BroadbandCuckoo

When you're shopping for a new broadband deal one of the main things you will need to decide is what length of contract you want to sign up for. In most cases this means a choice between a 12 month, 18 month or a maximum two year deal. But there is another option: the short-term plan.

Some broadband suppliers offer 30-day deals that come without a contract. They work more like a subscription service - it automatically renews each month, then when you no longer need it you just cancel and move on.

Not every provider offers these kinds of deals. In fact, most don't. But they aren't just limited to niche suppliers and you can find them at a whole range of speeds.

They aren't right for everyone, so let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of short-term and no-contract broadband.

Benefits of no-contract broadband

The main benefit to no-contract broadband is that it gives you the ultimate flexibility - no strings, no long-term commitment.

This makes it ideal for anyone who is not in a position to sign up for a long contract, such as those living in a short-term let or student housing. Students, for instance, will only be living in their digs for nine or ten months, so even a 12 month deal might not be ideal, let alone anything longer.

The same applies if you're planning to move house. While it's easy enough to take your broadband with you when you move, you do still have to move somewhere where your broadband provider is both available and delivers good performance. If either of those things aren't true, too bad. So if you're moving soon and your current broadband is coming to an end, you might be better off taking a 30-day deal for now, and then buying a new plan from scratch when you settle in to your new home.

Because there's no contract with a short-term broadband deal, there are no penalties when you decide to cancel and switch providers. You can do it any time you like.

No-contract deals also make it easier to upgrade if your needs change, or if better services become available in your area. While providers will be happy to let you upgrade to a faster plan before your contract is up - if you sign a new deal - you can't switch to a different provider without paying a penalty.

If you're waiting for faster technologies to be rolled out where you live, a short-term deal could be just the thing in the meantime. And to make sure you're fully up to date with what broadband services are available in your area, sign up to our free Broadband Autopilot service. It constantly scans for the best and fastest deals you can get, so you'll never miss out.

One final thing to note about short-term broadband is that even though the contracts are different, the performance isn't. Whether you're choosing a basic fibre-to-the-cabinet deal or a cutting edge full fibre service, the speed and everything else will be exactly the same as it would be if you'd signed up for two years.

Downsides to short-term broadband

There are some downsides to choosing broadband without a contract, the main one being that you will have to pay a little more than you would for a comparable long-term deal. Typically, you can expect to pay around £5 to £10 a month extra compared to the lowest price alternatives. And while this can add up over time, remember that most short-term deals aren't really intended for long-term use anyway.

You'll also have to pay a higher setup fee, sometimes as much as £60. This covers the activation fee and the router that you'll be sent to get online.

The best thing you can do before you sign up is to ignore the monthly price and calculate the total price you'll pay instead. So, if you want the service for nine months, work out how much that will cost, factoring in the monthly payments and the setup fees. Then compare it to the total price you'd pay on a 12-month contract. This can easily cancel out a lot of the price difference.

Other downsides to short-term broadband? You get less choice, inevitably, although there are some big name providers and even gigabit options that you can choose from. And you also miss out on any introductory offers like free gifts, bill credit, shopping vouchers and so on.

Which providers offer short-term deals?

There are a number of providers that offer broadband on one month deals. They include NOW Broadband and Virgin Media, while Cuckoo is a new provider that only offers a single, contract-free plan. Some full fibre providers like Hyperoptic also let you sign up to a rolling 30-day service, if it's available where you are.

If you think no-contract broadband might be right for you, or you want to see what else is available, use our postcode checker to find the best broadband deals you can get right now where you live.

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How to understand your broadband contract

How to understand your broadband contract

Posted by Andy Betts on in Features

When you sign up to a new broadband deal, either because you're switching to a new provider or renewing with your current one, you will have to sign a contract.

This contract sets out all the terms you're agreeing to - not just your obligations, but those of your ISP as well.

And while it's tempting to just give it a quick glance over before you sign, that's not a great idea. Not every provider has the same terms, so if you're committing for as long as two years, you need to know what you're agreeing to.

Here are a few of the things you should look out for in your broadband contract.

Basic terms

The main gist of a contract is to set out the basics of your deal: what service you're getting, the length of the initial contract period and the start and end dates, the price, the availability of support, and so on.

Although you should obviously read the contract before you sign it, you do get a 14-day cooling-off period should you change your mind afterwards. We wouldn't recommend treating it like a try-before-you-buy scheme, but it does at least give you immediate protection against buyer's remorse.

Price and price rises

When you're looking for a new broadband deal, the headline price is likely to be the main figure you'll focus on to see how much a plan will cost. But there are other charges that you may have to pay as well. And while Ofcom rules state that they should all be made clear, and not hidden in the small print, you can still overlook them.

The main thing to look out for is information on mid-contract price rises. Annual increases in line with the consumer price index are allowed; anything above that, and not specified in your contract, means you can potentially walk away from your deal without penalty.

Recently, BT, Plusnet, EE and John Lewis have all introduced a policy of annual rises equal to the CPI inflation rate plus 3.9%. This will be in your contract, so you won't be able to complain when it happens.

In addition, installation, activation and postage fees are all pretty common, and they can range anywhere from £5 to £50. It's important that you know which end of the scale your deal sits.

And be aware of any other additional costs that you might not be expecting. Among other things, they might include:

  • extra charges for choosing to pay by a method other than direct debit
  • late payment penalties
  • paper billing costs
  • fees for moving house

Equipment and installation

Your broadband contract will outline important information about the equipment you'll get, and any installation process involved in setting up your new connection.

Every provider will give you a new router when you take out one of their packages, and sometimes it'll be yours to keep and other times it'll just be a loan. In the latter case the contract will tell you how to return it when your deal ends, whether you need to keep the box, and any other relevant details. Warranty info should also be included here.

Most broadband services don't need any specific installation, you can just plug in your router and get on with your day. But if you're going with Virgin Media or a full fibre provider like Hyperoptic, then the install is often a lot more involved, with an engineer needing to visit your house.

Speed and performance

When you sign up to a new broadband deal the provider will give you a speed estimate so you know exactly what level of performance you can expect. Make a note of this figure because it might not be the same as the average speed that they advertise.

Make sure you're happy with estimate before you sign up, especially if it's a lot lower than the advertised rate. It will also enable you to make a claim for compensation in future if the performance drops below what you've agreed to.

Other than that, keep an eye out for:

  • details of any speed guarantee, and what you can do if it isn't met
  • usage restrictions like data caps, fair use policies and so on, although these are fortunately quite rare now
  • an acceptable use policy, standard across all providers, that bans you from doing anything illegal on the network
  • whether or not you can use your own router - you probably can, but you might not get any support for it

Special offers

A lot of broadband suppliers entice new customers with special offers including vouchers and assorted gifts. In most cases, these won't be delivered to you automatically. You have to claim them, and do so within a specified time frame.

Read more on how to claim your broadband rewards.

The end of your contract

Broadband contracts last between 30 days and two years. Your contract will outline what you can do if you want quit early. In the case of the short term deals you usually just have to give a month's notice. For longer plans, you'll have to pay a termination fee, which will be a proportion of whatever is left on your contract.

But do remember that you are legally allowed to quit your contract if the service you're getting isn't up to scratch.

Once your contract period has ended, your broadband service will continue as normal. However, many of the protections specified in the deal will no longer apply. This is especially true of the price, which is very likely to go up, and which is why you should never stay on an out-of-contract deal for long.

Are you ready to start shopping for better broadband? Use our postcode checker to find the best deals available where you live.

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Broadband without a phone line

How to get broadband without a phone line

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesVirgin MediaDirect SaveBTGigaclearEE

How often do you make calls on your landline these days? Chances are, it's not often at all.

The number of landline calls has been slashed by well over a half over the last few years. Millions of us now only have landlines because we need them for our broadband. But that's about to change.

A new wave of standalone, broadband-only services are on their way, spearheaded by BT and EE. And it's not just a passing trend. Within five years this will be the norm.

So why is this happening now? Simple answer: the days of the landline are numbered. The UK's ageing phone network is set to be switched off in 2025, to be replaced by a combination of mobile and internet calls. The transition is already under way.

What's happened is that Openreach, the BT-owned company that runs the network, has effectively split the phone service out from the copper wire network that it works on. So where you'd normally automatically get a phone sevice whenever you signed up to a broadband package that uses the copper network (which is most of them), now you won't.

Most fibre services still need to use the copper lines, but increasingly you won't get a phone number or dial tone unless you really need one.

Broadband-only

This is leading to the launch of new broadband-only packages (the technical name for these is SOGEA broadband, but you don't need to worry about that). Our newly updated guide to Broadband Without a Phone Line has got all the details you need.

Leading the way in this new generation are BT and EE.

  • BT are offering their Fibre Essential, Fibre 1 and Fibre 2 deals as broadband-only packages, on two-year contracts and priced at the same rate as the equivalent with-landline deals.
  • EE offer as standard all their regular fibre packages as broadband-only on 18-month contracts. If you do want to keep your landline you have to add it during checkout, and also pay a little extra for a call package.

This is awesome news for those of us whose landlines attract cold callers and scammers and nothing else. But you do need to be slightly cautious before you sign up. When you take on broadband-only you will give up your phone line and lose your number. If you later have second thoughts, you'll be able to get a new line, but you won't get your number back.

If you're in any doubt, a simple compromise solution is to stick with what you've got for now and just unplug your phone. There's no real cost difference either way, at the moment.

These new services aren't your only options for landline-free internet. The biggest provider that can give you this is Virgin Media, who offer all their broadband deals with or without a phone connection. Either way, you don't need a BT line installed to get them.

There's also the small but growing band of full fibre providers, like Gigaclear and Direct Save. They have limited coverage, which is expanding all the time, and come with the added benefit of delivering the fastest broadband in the UK. You can get top speeds averaging around 900Mb - around 13 times faster than the most popular fibre deals.

If you're keen to switch to broadband-only, or want to find out what your options are, use our postcode checker to see the best broadband deals available in your area today.

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Christmas Broadband and TV

Missed the deadline for broadband or TV installation? You can still upgrade for Xmas!

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesExpiredO2EE MobileVodafoneThreeNOW Broadband

Were you planning to upgrade your broadband or TV in time for the holidays? It's now the middle of December, so it's probably too late, right? Oh no it isn't!

We can still save your Christmas with faster broadband and more TV than you could ever possibly watch. Here's what you can do.

Broadband

If you aren't sure your current broadband will hold up under the strain of endless Zoom chats, Netflix bingeing and PS5 gaming, you still have options.

Although it is too late to get a new fibre deal connected in time for Christmas, mobile broadband can still give a decent internet boost.

There are 4G home broadband plans that offer you unlimited data at speeds on a par with a basic fibre deal. And if you're lucky enough to live in a 5G area, you can switch to something that is potentially a whole lot faster than the broadband you've currently got.

What makes it better is that you don't even need to make the switch permanent, since providers like Three and Vodafone let you sign up on 30-day plans. So if you just want to add a bit more bandwidth alongside your existing service for a few weeks, or are visiting family and need to take a decent internet connection with you, then this could work a treat.

Among the best deals available:

  • Three have unlimited 4G on deals up to two years long. You can get a 30-day plan for £30, plus £49 for a wireless hub (which you'll be able to continue using in future, too). They also do 5G in select areas, with unlimited data and speeds up to an impressive 200Mb. Prices start at £29 a month.
  • Vodafone have a range of mobile broadband plans, including some with the very highly rated GigaCube wireless router, for both 4G and 5G. You can pick up both on 30-day deals with unlimited 5G data, or up to 300GB on 4G.

EE and O2 also offer mobile broadband, albeit with lower usage allowances or on longer deals. And don't forget that your phone also offers a tethering feature, where you can make it function as a wireless router. Just be careful that you've got a big enough data allowance, as you can burn through it pretty quickly and don't want to be hit with any excess charges.

To unwrap the best festive offers, check out the best mobile broadband deals available today.

TV

Parties might be off the agenda this Christmas, so we'll all be relying on boxsets, movies and Premier League football to keep ourselves entertained.

You can access Sky TV without a dish, installation or commitment through NOW TV. This streaming service lets you choose which bundle of channels you want through a range of TV Passes. Among the best offers are:

  • Entertainment Pass with NOW TV Boost gives you all the Sky entertainment channels including Sky One and Sky Atlantic, while the Boost add-on lets you watch in full HD on up to three TVs at the same time.
  • Cinema Pass with NOW TV Boost gives you over a thousand movies to watch on demand. You can also get Entertainment and Cinema in a single bundle.
  • Sky Sports Day Pass with Mobile Month Pass lets you watch Sky Sports for 24 hours for a one-off fee of £9.98. It's ideal if you want to enjoy specific football matches.
  • Sky Sports Month Pass with Boost gives you the full Sky Sports experience for a full month.
  • Kids Pass is the perfect way to keep the kids quiet, with ad-free shows. This no longer includes the Disney channels, though, which have switched over to Disney+.

All the monthly deals auto-renew, so make sure you cancel if you only want them for a month. You can cancel early so that you don't forget, and you'll still be able to watch until your month ends.

Better yet, the Entertainment and Cinema Passes come with a seven day free trial. If you haven't signed up before (or if you've got a different email address and payment card you can use), and you're feeling particularly sneaky, you can time your signup so that you get your free week over Christmas - and then cancel before you pay anything.

In fact, you can get a few nice Christmas treats by making good use of free trials on a few other streaming services. Amazon Prime offers 30 days, and Apple TV and BritBox both give you a free week.

Sadly, Netflix and Disney+ no longer do free trials. But you can spend around £15 in total for a month of the two, more than enough time to binge through the latest series' of The Crown and The Mandalorian while troughing the last of the Quality Street.

And if you're ready to upgrade your broadband in 2021, use our postcode checker to find the best Christmas and New Year broadband deals in your area today.

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Christmas Broadband

Upgrade your broadband and TV in time for Christmas

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsFeaturesExpiredNOW BroadbandTalkTalkSkyBTVirgin MediaPlusnet

Christmas is going to be a bit different this year.

Even with the hope of relaxed restrictions, it's likely that for many of us, large family gatherings will be replaced by virtual get-togethers, and nights out at pubs and parties will be swapped for nights in with a boxset.

And what does this mean? Our internet connections are going to be more important than ever.

So why not treat yourself to an early Christmas present by upgrading to a fantastic new broadband deal? If your current contract is coming to an end - or maybe it ran out a while back and you haven't got round to sorting it yet - now is the perfect time to start shopping.

There's loads of festive offers on right now, and if you act quickly there's still time to get connected before the holiday season kicks off.

You can even sign up to a premium TV service, so you can catch the latest movies, the hottest new shows, and enjoy the Premier League's hectic Christmas schedule.

  • Sign up to Virgin Media by 9th December for guaranteed installation by Christmas. You can get both broadband and TV, and activation is free - saving you £35!
  • You can still get Sky TV bundles up and running in time for Christmas.
  • For other TV and broadband bundles, check out the latest deals from BT and TalkTalk - TalkTalk packages still come with the promise of no mid-contract price rises.
  • Plusnet have seasonal offers available until 16th December.
  • You can get NOW Broadband with a range of TV Passes, covering your choice of entertainment, movies and sports.

When choosing a new broadband deal, always make sure you pick the right speed for your household. Put simply, the more people in it, the faster you need. So while one person making a video call or watching Netflix can get away with a relatively low speed, a few people all doing the same together will need much faster.

And keep in mind any large downloads you need to make. For example, games for the Playstation 5 or new Xbox consoles typically start at around 50GB, and can be double that. To make things a little easier, schedule these downloads to happen overnight, so they're ready and waiting the following morning.

You'll have to hurry if you want to get your broadband set up in time for Christmas. Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband bargains available where you live right now.

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BT Group logos

BT, EE, Plusnet and John Lewis announce mid-contract price hikes - what can you do?

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsFeaturesEEBTJohn LewisPlusnet

Make sure you read the terms carefully when you take out a new broadband deal: there's a growing trend for some providers to sneak in new clauses promising significant mid-contract price rises.

The four BT Group brands - BT, EE, Plusnet and John Lewis - have now all announced new policies to allow bigger price hikes on their deals. They will see annual increases equal to the consumer price index (CPI) inflation rate - plus an extra 3.9% on top.

Previously, ISPs would typically peg their rises to the CPI, or in some cases promise none at all.

Plusnet, for example, have effectively replaced their heralded fixed price guarantee with the guarantee of at least one - and potentially two - price rises over the course of a broadband deal.

BT, meanwhile, no longer offer contracts shorter than the two-year maximum that Ofcom allows. That means you'll be paying at least 7.95% more at the end of your deal than you were at the start.

Here's what they've announced:

  • BT and EE are using the CPI published every January. The price rises go into effect from 31st March each year, and apply to customers who signed up after 1st September 2020.
  • For the 2021 increase, Plusnet and John Lewis are using the CPI published in April and applying the increase from 1st June. After that, they're using the CPI published every January, and adding the increase to bills from 1st March. It affects customers who signed up from 7th October.

If you're on an older deal and still within your initial contract period you won't be affected by these changes until the time comes for you to renew. If you're out of contract you will be affected, although you should never stay on an out-of-contract deal for long.

So how much more will you be paying? For reference, the CPI rate for December 2019 was 1.3%, so that's the rate by which your price would have gone up on most deals. Under the new policy, that increase would have been a hefty 5.2%.

The Bank of England's target for the CPI is even higher at 2%. Of course, with the uncertainty that comes from the UK being in the middle of the biggest economic slump in 300 years, it's hard to predict what that rate will be in future. Needless to say, negative inflation won't result in a discount as that 3.9% will stay in place regardless.

What can you do?

Ofcom rules state that you can quit your contract without penalty if your broadband provider introduces "unexpected" mid-contract increases. But by announcing these plans, and writing them into your contract, they won't be classed as unexpected, so there's no escape.

What you can do instead is ensure you factor in the changes in your monthly charges when you're comparing broadband deals. And also keep in mind the date you sign up. If you take out one of these deals in February or March you'll be hit by an immediate price hike.

This move makes genuine fixed price guarantees more valuable than ever, especially if you're signing up for longer than 12 months. TalkTalk, italk and SSE are among the suppliers still offering them, so if you want clarity over what your bills will look like over the next couple of years they're worth checking out.

If you're ready to find a better deal on your broadband, use our postcode checker to see what's available in your area.

 
 

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What is latency?

What is latency and is it slowing down your broadband?

Posted by Andy Betts on in Features

While we always do our best to guide you towards your perfect broadband deal in a jargon-free way, you cannot avoid bumping up against technical terms from time to time.

One such example is latency, a hidden spec that broadband providers don't advertise, but which can make even a lightning fast internet connection feel slow.

Put simply, latency is a measurement of the time it takes to send data and receive a response. If you think of your broadband speed as being like the top speed of a car, then it's latency is more like how long it takes to get the car moving when you first start the ignition and push down the accelerator pedal. And, although it's recorded in milliseconds, this delay can happen every time you send or request new information from the internet, which can quickly add up.

Often called the ping rate or ping time, latency affects everything you do online. Like when you're filling in an online form and there's a lag between you tapping the keyboard and your words appearing on screen. Or when you click a link and the lack of an immediate response leaves you wondering if you need to click it again.

The net result is that high latency leaves even fast internet connections feeling a lot slower and less responsive than they should do. It doesn't affect the speed itself - you can still stream a Netflix movie in 4K, but all the button presses you need to queue up the movie in the first place could be the digital equivalent of wading through mud.

Latency is most often discussed in relation to online gaming: it's the delay between pressing a button on your gamepad and seeing the resulting action on screen. It's especially important for multiplayer gaming. If you've got a higher latency connection than your opponent it's going to be like you've got much slower reactions. It puts you at a real disadvantage, and if it's too bad you can even get kicked out of a game.

In fact, for gamers, latency is a bigger problem than a slow connection. Online gaming doesn't actually need that much bandwidth, so you can get away with gaming on slow broadband as long as your ping time is good enough.

And latency is affecting many more people today, as we spend more and more time in video conferences, for work, education, social and family gatherings. Your latency could be affecting how long the delays are between what you say and what everyone else in the meeting or hangout hears. Your high latency could be the reason why you end up talking over other people, or why they're talking over you. It could making Zoom, Teams or Meet more awkward than it needs to be.

How can you improve latency?

So what does this mean for you? How do you measure latency, and is there anything you can do about it? Part of the problem is that broadband suppliers cannot guarantee a certain performance level because there are too many factors that affect it.

You're most likely to experience high latency when there are high traffic levels on the network. Ofcom research showed that latency increased by 2% in March as a result of the surge in internet usage at the start of the lockdown. You might generally find it's worse during peak hours, which are mostly during the evening.

High latency can be caused by a fault somewhere on the network. It can happen if the website or service you're connecting to is busy, or if there's a lot of traffic on your own router. Things like Wi-Fi extenders, used to improve the wireless throughout your house, can increase latency a little.

It can also be a factor of the type of internet you're using. So, full fibre is likely to be better than fibre-to-the-home, which is better than an old standard connection that runs fully on copper cables. Niche broadband services for rural users - like satellite broadband - will have the highest latency of all.

You can find out how your own broadband connection is doing by using our Speed Test tool. It only takes a few seconds, just run the test, and you'll see the results - your download and upload speeds, plus your ping time, in milliseconds. Ideally, you'll be in the region of 50ms or less; 100ms is the point where you might start to notice it; and 150ms or more could cause you problems, and might even make online gaming impossible.

What can you do about it? To be honest, not that much, since the problem will often be with your service, not with you. But there are some things you can try.

A wired connection should have a lower ping rate than a wireless one. If that isn't an option, check that you've got a good Wi-Fi signal and that your router is set up properly. You could also consider upgrading to a newer, better router. If you've got a large number of devices connected, you could try removing a few that you aren't using.

If the problem keeps on, or gets too bad, speak to your broadband provider to see if there's a problem on their end that they can fix.

For more information, check out our guide to broadband for gamers. To upgrade to a better internet service, take a look at the best broadband deals available right now or use our postcode checker to see what's available where you live.

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