Broadband.co.uk Blog: Features

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

All posts labeled Features:

Broadband-related features and articles.

Home Office Broadband

How to find the right broadband for your home office

Posted on 2019-10-11 14:49 in Features BT Virgin Media Plusnet John Lewis

Over one and a half million of us in the UK work from home, and the number is growing rapidly. But balancing out the sheer joy of being able to work in your pyjamas is the knowledge that you no longer have an IT-guy to sort out all your tech troubles.

And the biggest of all these troubles is your broadband: if it goes down, you'll lose money.

Let's take a look at how to find the right broadband for your home office.

What speed you need

Whenever you compare broadband deals, finding the right speed is your first priority. For your home office, any fibre deal should offer fast enough downloads for most needs.

However, you need to consider who else will be using your internet while you're working. If it's just you, then fine. But if your kids are going to be jumping onto YouTube and start FaceTiming as soon as they get home from school, you might want to opt for a faster fibre deal to ensure you won't have any interruptions.

Don't overlook the upload speed, too. You need a good upload speed if you do a lot of video conferencing, or need to send large files to clients. For this reason we'd recommend steering clear of a cheap standard broadband plan, as the upload speeds are usually dreadful.

Reliability and support

When you rely on your internet connection to earn a living you need to be confident that it will work reliably. If there are problems you need access to good customer support to fix them. To make your decision a little easier take a look at our customer reviews for all broadband providers. They show ratings for speed, reliability, support and overall satisfaction.

There's often a link between reliability and support, and price. Cheaper services from less established players tend to attract more negative reviews and lower satisfaction levels. It might be worth paying a little extra for a plan from one of the bigger brands.

Also, keep an eye out for speed and performance guarantees from the different broadband suppliers, which will help you avoid being left high and dry should problems strike. On BT Plus plans, for example, you'll be sent a 4G Mini Hub to keep you connected if your broadband ever develops a fault.

Static IP address

So far, the issues we've looked at are ones that you'd consider when buying any broadband service. Next up is a factor that mostly applies only to a subset of remote workers: the need for a static IP address.

In simple terms, an IP address is the address of your computer on the network. With all home broadband packages it's assigned dynamically, so you get a new one each time you connect. A static IP address means you keep the same address permanently.

Why might you need a static IP address? There's plenty of reasons, like if you're running a server or hosting your own website, or if you need a secure way to remotely log in to your employer's computer systems.

You get a dynamic IP address with all home broadband products and you'll need to check if your chosen provider can offer you a static address instead. As an example, Plusnet will give you a static IP for a one-off fee of £5, but BT won't let you have one on their residential packages. You need to switch to a business plan instead.

Full Wi-Fi coverage

You don't just need to find the right broadband, you need to get it working well enough, too. And that means making sure your Wi-Fi coverage extends to wherever you set up your office. Now, if you're just working from your dining room then you're probably already good to go. But if you're planning to convert your loft - or even your shed - into an office, you should hold off on that trip to Ikea until you're sure you've got your internet sorted first.

Your Wi-Fi signal is less likely to reach into the furthest corners of your house or garden. Even if it does, a weaker signal will mean slower speeds. Grab your laptop and head out to your office location, then use our Broadband Speed Test tool to find out if your connection and speeds are up to scratch.

If it isn't see our guide on how to speed up your broadband for tips on the best ways to extend your Wi-Fi coverage.

Business vs home broadband

Finally, you might be wondering if you need a specialist business broadband package when working from home, or if you're okay with a normal home deal. It depends on what type of work you're doing, and what's specified in your provider's terms and conditions.

BT say that their broadband is only for personal use; John Lewis Broadband say that "occasional home working is acceptable"; while Virgin Media offer the HomeWorks upgrade for £9.99 a month, which adds remote worker-friendly features to a residential plan. In all cases, a residential call plan will be strictly limited to personal use - so don't go setting up a call centre in your kitchen.

Business broadband will get you the option of a static IP address, better customer support - usually 24/7 - and better security options as well. Prices from suppliers like Plusnet aren't all that much higher than what you'd pay for home broadband.

Want more on finding the right internet service for your remote working needs? Check out our full guide to home office broadband.

Comments

What is a VPN?

What is a VPN and why might you need one?

Posted on 2019-10-03 16:03 in Features

If you've ever looked into ways of improving your security or privacy online, or want to access content in a different country, you might have come across the idea of using a VPN. At which point you probably asked yourself: what exactly is a VPN?!

Let's take a look and see what a VPN can do for you.

What is a VPN?

By default, the internet is not terribly private or secure. Your broadband provider can see every website you visit; every website you visit can see where in the world you're located; and this information is often just floating around for anyone else to snoop on if they were so inclined.

A VPN - or virtual private network - fixes this. It encrypts your connection and hides your location. It can significantly enhance your security and privacy online, and bring other benefits, too.

To use a VPN you need to install special software on your computer, phone, tablet or other device, and to sign up to a VPN provider. When you run it all of your internet activity is filtered through a secure connection between your computer and one of the VPN provider's servers. This makes it hard for anyone to snoop on your data or online activities, including your broadband supplier.

When connected, you also adopt the IP address (the address of your computer on the network) of the VPN's server. Most VPN services offer multiple servers based around the world, so you can give the impression that you're connecting from another location, or even another country. That has its own advantages.

With all this in mind you might be wondering, are VPN's legal? Simple answer: Yes! In fact, VPNs aren't just completely legal, they're absolutely necessary. As much as we'll focus on the consumer benefits of the technology, the fact is that any business that allows its teams to connect to a work server from outside the office will do so using a VPN.

Why do you need a VPN?

When you talk about masking your online activity it makes it sound like you've got something to hide. That isn't true - there are many reasons why all of us should use a VPN:

  • It's more secure. Your connection to the VPN is encrypted. This means all the data you download or upload is also encrypted, including the login details for all your online services. This is important at the best of times, but even more so if you ever use public Wi-Fi hotspots, like those in a hotel or when you hop on the network in your local Costa. You just don't know who else is connected to those networks, and if they're trying to intercept your data. Encrypting it protects you.
  • It protects your privacy. Normally, when you connect to the internet you publicly broadcast your IP address. This is the virtual address of your computer on the network, but it can often translate to a very precise physical location. Take a look at whatismyipaddress.com and you'll see the location information every site you visit receives. All those location-aware ads you keep seeing around the web? This is one of the ways they track you. A VPN gives out, in effect, a fake IP address, making it much more difficult for sites to follow you online.
  • It stops your activity being logged. Broadband providers are legally required to maintain a log of all the websites you have visited in the last 12 months. You don't need to be doing anything dodgy to regard this as a bit of an invasion of privacy. A VPN will allow you to browse the web in peace.
  • You can bypass region restrictions. VPNs can also help you if you're on holiday abroad or an ex-pat living in the UK and want to access region locked content from your home country, such as local television streaming services or content in your first language. You may even be able to access region locked content on Netflix. VPNs offer you a choice of servers around the world. When you connect to one overseas you'll be able to access previously unavailable content specific to that area. Just select the country you wish to connect via and then access the web or apps as normal. Of course, there's no guarantee that some services won't block access to your account in future, and there are already services, particularly for video games, that already enforce region locking based on payment address or the origin of your payment card.
  • VPNs can bypass internet restrictions. A VPN will enable you to access blocked websites, and you should probably also know that your kids can use one to bypass your broadband provider's parental control filters...

What are the downsides to a VPN?

Nothing comes without potential downsides, of course, and VPNs are no different.

  • A VPN can slow down your internet connection. You should always shop around for one with the best performance. Most fast fibre broadband deals will be good enough to withstand any performance overheads, though.
  • They require trust. Because all your traffic goes through the VPN, the VPN provider can potentially see which sites you're visiting. The best ones have clear privacy policies that state they don't log your activities, but not all are like this. Either way, a little trust is needed, although the encryption will at least ensure your data itself is never compromised.
  • They can block region-specific content. Remember how we said you can access international versions of Netflix with a VPN? It works the other way, as well. Log into BBC iPlayer with your VPN running and it won't let you watch because it'll assume you're not in the UK. VPNs can also interfere with any other location-dependent services.
  • Free VPNs may not actually be very private. Free VPN apps on phones and tablets often have a reputation for hoovering up your personal data - they have to fund their service somehow! You're usually better off going for a paid option.

Where can you get a VPN?

VPNs are a growing industry, so there are loads to choose from, some better than others. Many come with a free trial or money back guarantee, so it's worth trying a few before you settle on one. You should also check their policies, including the privacy policy and details of what they do and don't allow on their service - some will block file sharing services, for example.

The big brands include companies like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. We also like some of the smaller ones such as the Sweden-based Mullvad and Swiss-based ProtonVPN, which is developed by MIT and CERN scientists.

Using a VPN can help to beef-up your security and privacy online. It's not the only thing you can do. Take a look at our guide to the broadband providers offering free anti-virus software, and also see how to set up parental controls to limit what your kids can do online.

Comments

Parental Controls

What you need to know about parental controls

Posted on 2019-09-23 16:47 in Features

It's so important to keep your kids safe when they're on the internet. But they rack up so many hours a day online that it's impossible to monitor everything they do. A little helping hand is always welcome, and making use of the free parental control software offered by broadband providers is one of the best places to start.

Research shows that nine out of 10 parents think that these tools are useful, and even 65% of 11-16 year olds are in favour. So who offers these parental controls, how do you use them, and do they actually work? Let's take a look.

Who offers them?

All broadband providers have some form of parental controls, and you can take into account what each one offers when you're comparing broadband deals. Here's a quick summary of what you'll get from the big players:

  • Sky Broadband - Broadband Shield is free for all users. You can restrict content via three age range settings, or for specific categories or websites. There's also the option to pay extra for the Sky Broadband Boost service, which gives you access to the Broadband Buddy app and the ability to fine-tune your settings.
  • Virgin Media - All broadband users get access to the Web Safe service which includes Child Safe, a tool that automatically blocks eight categories of web content when activated, along with more that you can add optionally.
  • BT Broadband - BT Parental Controls lets you set strict, moderate or light filtering levels, and configure them to allow or restrict access to specific sites. You can also control the hours during which the filters work. On top of that, there's the Homework Time feature to limit access to the web at certain times of the day.
  • Plusnet - Plusnet SafeGuard lets you block websites based on category, as well as up to 30 individual sites of your choosing.
  • TalkTalk - HomeSafe is free for all users. It blocks websites in 11 optional categories as well as access to sites known to be infected with malware, although it is not a replacement for anti-virus software.

How to set up parental controls

Most parental control systems are centrally managed. As the account holder it's your job to set them up, and they'll apply to every device connected to your broadband network. In a few cases the provider will offer you a security suite instead. That combines things like content filtering and anti-virus, but needs to be set up on all your devices, assuming they're compatible.

When you first sign up to a new broadband deal you'll be prompted to set up your parental controls, which you can do via your provider's website. They're usually pretty simple - it's just a case of picking what content you want to restrict, as well as any other options you're given. The online safety organisation InternetMatters.org has instructions for many leading broadband providers. It may take a couple of hours for your settings to start working, and you can change them again later if you need to.

You mostly restrict content by category, and the available categories vary from one provider to another. Some offer large numbers of categories, ranging from obvious areas like adult content or violence, to more benign subjects such as fashion or gaming. Others can be much more vague - blocking things like 'inappropriate content', whatever that means.

Providers use large, continually updated lists of websites in each category and block access to those blacklisted sites. By default, they can't differentiate between users, so if you block your kids from seeing gambling sites you won't be able to see them either. Broadband suppliers normally strike a balance between security and privacy: you won't be alerted if someone tries to access a blocked page.

Parental controls can offer other features, too, including being able to limit access to the internet at certain times of the day. These work best when the provider also offers a mobile app that lets you customise the limits for specific family members.

Do parental controls work?

Having parental controls in place can give you peace of mind, especially as it isn't possible to supervise your kids' internet use constantly. But there are still some nagging questions: how good are they, and could your kids bypass them if they wanted to?

So do they work? There are few things to consider:

  • Parental controls will block every site on their blacklist in each of your chosen categories. But that doesn't mean they will block every single site that exists in that category, or that they won't block perfectly acceptable sites by mistake. There's often a lack of transparency about what exactly is being blocked - you might not know until you chance upon one of the taboo sites.
  • In most cases the controls affect all devices connected to your network. Set them too strict and you'll end up blocking sites that you want to look at yourself.
  • Some providers let you tailor your controls for specific users. Sky, for example, offer the Broadband Buddy app that enables you to set different filter levels for different family members, and also limit their internet time. However, these controls are device specific, and only available on phones and tablets.
  • Your broadband provider's parental controls only work on your broadband network. When your children take their tablets or phones to friend's house, or even connect via a mobile network, the safeguards will no longer be in place.
  • While most providers will let you restrict access to social networks there's a good chance you won't want to do this - you might use them yourself. So even though you can block access to certain categories of website it won't stop your kids from seeing similar content on services like Snapchat, Reddit or Twitter.

Can your kids bypass parental controls?

Any tech-savvy child - or one with a tech-savvy friend - will know that there are a few ways they can easily bypass content filters.

They can use proxy sites that divert their traffic and hide it from the broadband provider so that it cannot be blocked. Some of these sites can actually be pretty dodgy themselves, serving up assorted malware to infect PCs or hijack web browsers.

They can also install a VPN app. A VPN encrypts the connection between a device and the broadband provider's servers, so that the provider doesn't know what pages are being accessed and is unable to block them. There are loads of free VPNs in the iOS and Android app stores and they don't need any know-how to set up.

Failing that, a quick web search will show up plenty of results with suggestions for bypassing the parental controls of specific broadband providers.

Parental controls should really be seen as making up one part of your toolkit for keeping your kids safe online, not as a complete solution on their own. They'll help to prevent your children from stumbling upon content that they wouldn't want to see, but they aren't perfect and they aren't foolproof. It isn't a replacement for supervising internet use as far as you can, or for teaching your children about online safety, including the importance of not sharing personal information.

Content filters are only one part of a PC security system. For more, see our guide on how to stay safe online.

Comments

BT Student Broadband

Last minute student broadband offers and options

Posted on 2019-09-12 11:39 in Features Offers Hyperoptic Three Vodafone 4GEE BT NOW Broadband Plusnet Virgin Media

It's the time of year where students around the country are heading to university, either to start their studies or return for a new academic year.

Whether you're heading to uni for the first time, returning to your student accommodation or about to start out in a new student house share, now's the time to look for a good student broadband offer to keep you online over the next 9 months.

To prepare for student broadband season, we updated our longstanding Student Broadband Guide to reflect some of the student-specific offers available this year with student-exclusive 9 month contract offers from BT and student-exclusive cheaper 1 month rolling contract offers from Virgin Media.

Both of those option mean that you can avoid paying for broadband costs should you head home or go off on travels in the 3 months between academic years. But of course you don't need a special student exclusive offer to get short contract broadband from other suppliers, for example NOW Broadband, Plusnet and Hyperoptic also have competitive 1 month rolling contract offers that even undercut BT and Virgin's prices.

This year, we're also endorsing a mobile broadband option for the first time. Well, it's 4G or 5G mobile broadband technology sold as home broadband services. With 4G and 5G home broadband routers from Three, Vodafone and EE you may have to commit to a much longer contract, but you can then take your router with you wherever you travel during summer break. Vodafone even offer a 30 day rolling contract version, although you'll have to pay more than the cost of 3 months contract to get it.

Unlike most mobile broadband solutions, these have large enough usage allowances for many households. Three's home router even comes with unlimited usage!

Even if mobile data usually isn't strong inside your student accommodation, you may get a better connection from a router, or may even be able to get an external antenna installed to boost the signal.

We weigh up all these pros and cons and give you a table of all the relevant offers over on our Student Broadband guide.

Comments

Broadband for Gamers

What's the best broadband for gaming?

Posted on 2019-09-02 17:06 in Features

If you enjoy playing video games you'll know only too well just how frustrating online gaming can sometimes be. Stutter and lag, random disconnections, painfully slow downloads: they're all a seemingly unavoidable part of the multiplayer experience. Expect they aren't - your choice of broadband provider and package can have a huge impact on your Fortnite or Call of Duty sessions.

To help you out we've got a brand new guide on how to find the best broadband for gamers. It shows you what to look for in a broadband deal, and how to understand some of the jargon you might come across when comparing packages. It's well worth checking out - even if you aren't a gamer yourself you might have someone in your household who uses a Playstation or Xbox and who is struggling along with unsuitable broadband.

Before you delve into the full guide, here's a quick heads-up on some of the main things you need to know.

Download speed is important

Your broadband speed matters, but not in the way you might expect. You don't need fast internet for actual gaming - even a cheap standard broadband deal will be fast enough for almost everyone. But downloading massive files is another part of modern gaming. Triple-A games - the industry's blockbusters - will easily clear 50GB in size, and their regular updates might add another 10GB or more to the mix. If your broadband's too slow you'll be looking at a good 10 to 20 hours of continuous downloading before you can even start playing. Upgrade to a fast fibre deal (or something even faster) and you can slash that to a more serviceable couple of hours tops.

Want to upgrade? Check out the latest fibre broadband deals now.

Lag and stutter

Anyone who's ever played an online game will have at some point found that games can start to stutter or lag, where they don't feel as responsive as they should be. These problems are most likely caused by technical issues like latency (or ping rate) and packet loss. Ofcom research shows that all major providers perform well overall in these respects. Yet there are so many things that can cause them - problems on the gaming server, with your broadband provider, or even on your own Wi-Fi network - that there's really no guarantees.

What you can do is use our Speed Test tool to check the latency on your existing broadband connection, and also read the reviews of any providers you're switching to to see if your fellow gamers are reporting any concerns. You can find out more about these technical issues in our guide.

Reliability matters

Good old fashioned reliability also shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to finding the best broadband for gamers. It's annoying enough when your internet drops at any time, but if you're about to smash in an open goal in FIFA a dropped connection will leave you smashing your controller in rage instead.

You can totally relate, right? Then take a look at our guide on speeding up slow internet for tips on making sure your Wi-Fi network is set up properly. If the problem is still there, it may be time to switch to more a reliable broadband supplier. You can check out broadband deals in your area based that have the highest customer satisfaction rating.

4G and 5G home broadband are okay

Finally, if you're thinking of switching to 4G or 5G home broadband, then you can rest assured that both of these are absolutely fine for online gaming. In fact, in some cases they might even be better than the fixed line broadband options available to you. The only caveat is that you should try and avoid broadband plans that have a strict data allowance in place, or those that slow down your speed once you pass a certain usage level. One or two game downloads a month could eat through your data in no time at all.

For more information on how to find the best deal take a look at our in-depth guide to broadband for gamers. It'll help you pin down everything you need in a broadband package, and also shows you the best deals that are available in your area right now.

Comments

Football on TV

The cheapest way to watch Premier League football this season

Posted on 2019-08-08 17:18 in Features EE Virgin Media BT Sky TalkTalk NOW Broadband

The Premier League is back, and there are more ways than ever to catch the action. Pick the wrong ones, though, and you could end up paying the best part of a grand for the privilege. Shop around, and there are savings to be had.

Let's look at the cheapest ways to watch the new Premier League season.

Sky Sports

Sky Sports is the self-styled home of football, and Sky have the rights to by far the most games. They'll show 128 in the 2019/20 season, across Friday nights, Saturday evenings, Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons and Monday nights. They get the first pick from all the games from each round, so this is where you'll catch the big derbies and the title deciders.

But Sky Sports isn't cheap. Although it actually only costs £18 a month, you can't get it from Sky TV as a standalone service. You need to take Sky Entertainment, too, which bumps up the price to over £40. Plus you need a dish, and a Sky Q box (with optional UHD viewing), and have to pay any installation and setup fees. And it all comes with an 18-month contract.

If you want the best service and are happy to make the commitment, your best bet for a good deal might to get Sky Sports and the rest along with Sky Broadband as part of a bundle. Check out the latest Sky TV with Broadband deals.

The same goes for Virgin Media customers, you can't just sign up for Sky Sports Premier League, it has to be taken as part of an expensive bundle along with all the other Sports channels and a variety of other premium Entertainment channels. However, if you're already with Virgin Media, this could still make sense for you. Check out the latest Virgin Media Sports offers.

NOW TV - the cheapest way to get Sky Sports

The cheapest way to get Sky Sports on your TV and tablet is through NOW TV's Sky Sports Football Season Ticket. Right now, they've got a 10 month season ticket available for just £199, offer ends on the 26th of August.

Alternatively, if you just want to watch on your phone, you can get the Sky Sports Mobile Month Pass for only £5.99 per month - you're limited to only one smartphone viewing at a time, but that's otherwise an unbeatably cheap way to access Sky Sports Premier League, and 4 other Sky Sports channels!

You can also get a cheap deal on the full Sky Sports Pass when you take it as part of a great value bundle with NOW Broadband. Just choose your preferred broadband plan and you can add the full Sky Sports package for only £20 a month for a year. That's 40% less than the full price. Even better, there's no contract on the TV side of the deal, so you can cancel whenever you want.

The NOW Broadband plans are very competitvely priced, ranking among the cheapest in the UK. They start at just £18 a month for the Brilliant Broadband service, with average speeds of 11Mb. Or if you'd prefer fibre you can get it for £25 or £30 depending on what speed you need. They're all on 12 month contracts as standard, or you can switch to a rolling contract by paying extra £60 upfront. Choose your NOW Broadband and Sky Sports Pass deal here.

If you don't fancy a broadband bundle and don't want to pay for a season ticket pass, you can take a standalone NOW TV Sky Sports Pass and get access to all 11 Sky Sports channels for £33.99 a month on a 30 day rolling deal. This undercuts the Sky Sports + Entertainment deal for Sky TV, and you can save more money by cancelling in June and July when there are no games.

Although the content's the same, the NOW TV experience isn't quite as good as what you get from Sky. There's no UHD, and HD resolution is currently pegged to 720p. You also can't record shows, though you can pause, rewind and watch on demand. For most, though, it should more than satisfy your hunger for the beautiful game.

As a streaming service you'll need to make sure your internet is fast enough to handle it. 4 to 5Mb should be enough for one device to stream 720p HD. If you need to upgrade, use our postcode checker to find the best and fastest broadband deals in your area.

Save on Sky Sports with TalkTalk TV

The other way to get a good saving on Sky's Premier League football coverage is through TalkTalk TV. If you're already a customer of TalkTalk's broadband and TV bundle - or are keen to sign up - you can add the full Sky Sports package to your deal at the half price rate of just £18.99 a month for six months. NOTE: This offer has now ended. That'll save you over £100 against what you'd normally have to pay if you went direct with Sky or Virgin. You can also add BT Sport for £25 a month for 12 months, if you sign up via BT.

This offer is available to new and existing customers. Take a look at the latest TalkTalk TV offers to see what takes your fancy.

Want BT Sport?

BT Sport have the rights to 32 matches on Saturday lunchtimes. BT get second pick of the games for 20 rounds, and fifth pick for the rest, so you might be more likely to get Watford's trip to Burnley than Liverpool vs Man City. They've also got all 20 games from two midweek rounds, and you get the Champions League and FA Cup among other things, too.

You can add BT Sport to your TV package for only £25 a month for 12 months if you're already a Sky TV or TalkTalk TV customer, and you can get a BT/Sky Sports bundle through Virgin Media. EE also offer a three month BT Sport trial through Apple TV 4K, followed by a cheap subscription for mobile users via the app.

But for the most part, BT Sport is for BT Broadband users, when it's included for free via app or included in all BT TV packages. Thinking about switching? Take a look at the latest TV bundle deals on BT Broadband.

Amazon Prime enters the field

The big new signing for the season is Amazon, who'll be showing games through their Prime Video service. They've got the rights to an impressive 20 matches spread over a rather less impressive two rounds played on Boxing Day and another as yet unspecified bank holiday. With staggered kick off times you might be able to catch more three or four games in total, if you want. But on the whole we'd regard this as a nice addition to the whole Prime package rather than a reason to sign up on its own.

If you're not on Prime Video yet, Amazon will often offer free trials of Prime that can be easily cancelled. If there's a particular Prime Video exlusive game or games that you have to watch, your cheapest option may be strategically timing when you begin your trial membership in order to cover the most matches.

Comments

Man with laptop

Can you keep your email address when switching broadband providers?

Posted on 2019-07-26 16:56 in News Features

So you're ready to switch broadband providers. You've compared the best deals, you're going to get a faster service, and save heaps of money. But there's a snag: your old provider also supplies your email address. Can you take it with you?

Free email offers are not quite as common as they used to be, and they're certainly less of a selling point. This means that if you do have an email address from an ISP, you've probably had it for a very long time.

Trouble is, they own that address. If you choose to switch providers there's no guarantee you'll be able to keep using it.

The process to switch broadband provider has been made much easier, and switching will certainly save you money. But the prospect of losing your email address can be a pretty compelling reason to stick with what you've got. So what can you do? Let's take a look.

Can you switch broadband suppliers and keep your email?

There's no simple answer to whether you can keep your email address after you leave a provider. Each company has their own policy, and you might need to contact them before you switch to find out exactly what will happen.

Here's what you can expect from the main providers:

  • Sky: Sky's now-discontinued email service was provided by Yahoo, so you can carry on using it as normal. You can even sign in via the Yahoo website.
  • BT: You can keep your BT email address if you're willing to pay. You have to sign up to the BT Premium Mail service which will set you back a hefty £7.50 a month. We wouldn't recommend that unless there's some reason why you absolutely need to keep your address.
  • Plusnet: By default, your Plusnet email account will be closed when you close your broadband account. However, you can keep it open by requesting your account gets downgraded to a mail-only package, costing £1.06 a month. It's important to note that you must request this when you contact them to close your account - don't wait until afterwards.
  • Virgin Media: When you leave Virgin Media you'll continue to have access to your email for 90 days after you close your account. This should give you enough time to set up and switch to a new email address.
  • TalkTalk: On TalkTalk you need to pay to keep access to your email address. You do this by signing up to the TalkTalk Mail Plus service, which will cost you £5 a month, or £50 a year.

Bear in mind that even if you can keep your email address now, there's no guarantee you'll be able to keep it forever. Providers can change their policies, or discontinue services, at any time. And if you're no longer a customer of that provider you won't really have grounds to complain.

With this in mind, we'd always recommend against using an email address tied to a specific provider. And if you already use one, it's worth switching.

How to switch email addresses the easy way

The simple solution to all of the above is to switch to a new email address. Most of us have already got Google or Microsoft accounts, which give us free Gmail and Outlook email, respectively. Or if you don't fancy giving all your data to one of these tech giants, you could try a free, privacy-focussed service like Proton Mail instead.

The idea of switching email addresses sounds like a bit of a faff, but with some planning you can make it reasonably painless. The trick is to open and start using your new address at least a month before your old address gets shut down. That way you can get everything sorted and there should be no interruptions to your email access.

Here's a checklist of things you need to do:

  • In your old account, set up email forwarding. This automatically sends a copy of all new messages to your new account.
  • Log in to all your main online services and change the email address associated with those accounts. Prioritise the important ones first - banking, bills, subscription services like Netflix, social media accounts, and so on. Don't forget to change the main email account on your phone, too.
  • Export your contacts from your old account. Send an email to your key contacts to let them know you've got a new address.
  • If you used webmail on your old account, manually forward any important mails you need to keep to your new address. Alternatively, if you're switching to Gmail you can use the Import Mail and Contacts features to pull it all across in one go.
  • Finally, for security purposes you could delete all the emails in your old account, and set a new, strong password. Although the account may shut down on its scheduled date, there's no guarantee that will happen. It might lie dormant for several months, which could leave it at risk of being compromised.

If you do miss any services that are linked to your old email address, don't worry. You'll still be able to log in to them after the account has closed down, as long as you can remember the password.

Once your new email address is up and running don't forget to sign up for our exclusive newsletter. It'll keep you bang up to date with all the hottest broadband deals and offers in your area.

Comments

People using mobile phones

5 things you need to know about 5G

Posted on 2019-07-19 17:01 in News Features

5G is now up and running in the UK. EE and Vodafone have both launched their fifth-generation mobile networks, Three will launch theirs in August, and O2 is set to join the party a month later.

Great! But wait - what exactly is 5G, and what will it mean for you? We've got an in-depth guide to 5G, with the full lowdown on the new tech and why it's so important. But if you'd prefer a quick and easy bluffer's guide, here's what you need to know.

1. 5G is fast

Think the 20-25Mb speeds of 4G are already pretty quick? How does 200-250Mb grab you? Typical 5G speeds are ten times faster than 4G right from day one. Find the perfect conditions and it can go way beyond even that, with Three claiming that their network will hit a potential 2Gb.

And it doesn't stop there. Industry experts reckon 5G could eventually deliver speeds up to a mind-blowing 20Gb.

What do the faster speeds mean? It'll improve everything you do online, from simple browsing to sharing huge files, it'll deliver instantaneous app downloads, and even allow you to watch Netflix in 4K on your daily commute.

2. It'll work in crowded places

5G fixes one of the biggest frustrations of 4G, its limited capacity. You'll know the signs: you try to use your phone in a crowded place and have to struggle along with a grindingly slow connection - if you get a connection at all. The network simply isn't equipped to handle the amount of traffic we're throwing at it.

The 5G network will enable two and a half times as many devices to be connected at once, and to download a whole lot more data while they're there. That means no more waiting around when you want to go online.

3. 5G will be great for broadband

The faster speeds and higher capacity are so important. They don't just mean that we'll get faster streaming and sharing on our smartphones, they will also completely revolutionise mobile broadband.

If you need a data connection on your laptop while you're on the road, you can expect more reliable performance, faster speeds, and - best of all - significantly higher data allowances. In time, 5G could even become a decent option for home broadband, especially in more remote areas where the existing fibre network is so poor.

4. You'll need new devices

Here's the bad news: your existing 4G-enabled phones, tablets, laptops, watches and dongles will not work on the 5G network. You'll have to replace them all. That includes your iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, and everything else.

The good news? There's no rush. There aren't many 5G devices right now, and they carry a price premium. Unless you're an early adopter itching to try it out, you can probably wait a couple of years before 5G gear is a must. And by then, devices will support it as standard anyway. Meanwhile, your 4G kit will continue to work just as well as it always has.

5. The rollout will take some time

So when will you be able to use 5G? It's available right now in major cities like London, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. By the end of the year it'll be available in over 30 locations, from Bournemouth to Birkenhead, and then in over 50 places by the end of next year. Different networks will target different places, so you might need to switch.

But the rollout will take some time. Even areas that do have 5G won't have blanket coverage, and if you're in smaller town it might be two or three years before 5G arrives.

For more information on 5G, including how it works and why it'll be a complete game changer in so many other ways, take a look at our full 5G guide. Or, if you'd prefer, have a look at some of the best mobile broadband deals you can buy today.

Comments

Laptop uploading a file

What are upload speeds and are they important?

Posted on 2019-05-24 13:46 in Features

When you compare broadband deals you'll see that most providers sell their services based on how fast they are. When they do this they're almost always only talking about the download speed. That's fair enough - it is one of the two most important factors you need to consider, along with the price.

But there's another speed spec that providers don't shout about, and is often quite difficult to find anywhere. The upload speed.

So what exactly is this, and is it something you need to worry about? Let's take a look.

What exactly are upload speeds?

As you probably know, the download speed represents the speed at which data is transferred from the internet to your computer. Well, the upload speed is the opposite. It's how fast data moves from your computer to the network.

Broadband providers place all their emphasis on download speeds because the vast majority of the stuff you do online involves downloading. Everything from opening a simple web page to streaming 4K video on Netflix is affected by your download speed. By and large, the faster it is the better your experience will be.

But you're uploading all the time, too. Every time your computer communicates with a website or other online service it does so by uploading packets of data to those services. This is how it opens a web page or logs you in to your online bank account. However, the amount of data involved is so small that it's unaffacted by your upload speed. It all happens instantanesouly.

This means that your upload speed is irrelevant for day-to-day web use, which is just as well because it's usually a lot slower than your download speed. Broadband providers know that downloading is more important, so they configure their system to give that priority.

Where it does matter is when you're uploading large amounts of data. If you like to share your holiday photos and videos on Facebook, for instance, your upload speed will determine how quickly that will happen, and it can be a massive difference. Uploading one gigabyte of images would take around two and a half hours at a 1Mb speed, or just 14 minutes at 10Mb.

Or if you make video calls on Skype or FaceTime your upload speed dictates whether you can broadcast yourself in glorious high definition or will have to settle for a more low-res, pixellated image. Skype requires an upload speed of 1.5Mb for full HD.

So, what speed am I getting?

The easiest way to find out what upload speed you're getting is by using our Speed Test tool. You should then use this figure when you start to shop for a new broadband deal, because it's technically possible to switch to what looks like a similiar or better package, and end up with slower upload speeds in the process.

Most providers offer similar upload speeds, just as they do download speeds. For standard broadband with download speeds around 10-11Mb, uploads are usually around 1Mb. On an entry-level fibre deal - 36Mb download - it's around 9Mb, and is around 18Mb on the high-end fibre deal (typically 64-67Mb downloads). Providers that use different technolgies, such as Virgin Media or fibre to the home suppliers like Gigaclear, offer different speeds. But remember, they're always only average speeds, so you might get better or worse.

Here are the average upload speeds for the UK's biggest broadband providers:

  • BT, EE, italk, John Lewis Broadband, Plusnet, and Vodafone : 1Mb upload on the standard broadband plan, 9Mb on the basic fibre and 18Mb on the faster fibre deals, where available.
  • Sky: Sky's fibre speeds are the same, but their standard broadband upload speeds fall a little short at 800Kb.
  • NOW Broadband: NOW's fibre upload speeds are the same as above, but on their standard broadband deal you get a paltry 700Kb.
  • TalkTalk, Post Office, Shell Energy and SSE: these providers' fastest upload speeds are a slightly lower 17Mb.
  • Virgin Media: speeds are 3Mb on the slowest VIVID 50 plan, 6Mb on VIVID 100, 12Mb on VIVID 200, and 21Mb on VIVID 300.
  • Direct Save: mostly above average upload speeds ranging from 5Mb on the 25Mb plan to 30Mb on the 300Mb plan.
  • Gigaclear and Hyperoptic: these fibre to the home providers offer 'symmetric' services, meaning the upload and download speeds are the same. This results in the UK's fastest upload speeds of 900Mb on the top end plans!

Do I need to care about upload speeds?

Unless you're lucky enough to live somewhere covered by Gigaclear or Hyperoptic - and that's only around half a million homes between them - your upload speeds are typically going to be limited to between 1Mb and 30Mb (on average).

So how much weight should you give this when choosing a broadband deal? It depends on how you spend your time online. We've established it doesn't matter for normal web use - browsing, social media, streaming TV, or even if you use your broadband for gaming. But there are certain tasks where you'll definitely benefit from faster upload speeds. These include:

  • using cloud services like Dropbox
  • sharing photos online to places like Instagram or Google Photos
  • using P2P file sharing services
  • making VoIP phone calls
  • making video calls over services like Skype or FaceTime
  • uploading videos to YouTube
  • live streaming games on services like Twitch

You might also want it if you work from home, especially if you work with large files or need to do video conferencing, etc. And a larger household with many users online together will also benefit from faster speeds.

For many, though, the upload speed is something that's good to know but not essential. In all cases the most important thing is to make sure you get the broadband speed you need based on how you use the internet.

Our broadband listings show the upload speed for all plans. If you're ready to start shopping for something faster, use our postcode checker to find the best broadband deals in your area now.

Comments

Piggybank

How to cut your broadband bill without switching providers

Posted on 2019-04-26 14:33 in Features

The obvious advice for anyone who wants to cut their broadband bill is to switch to a different provider. It's so easy to compare broadband deals, and more often than not you'll be able to find something better or cheaper than what you've currently got.

But what if you don't want to switch? What if you're happy with the service you're getting, and would just rather pay a little less for it?

Well, there are a few tried and tested ways to pay less for your broadband without switching providers. Let's take a look.

Don't stay on your old deal after it expires

The first step is a no-brainer, yet it's something that millions of us fail at. Don't stay with your old deal after the initial contract has ended.

When you sign up for a broadband deal you get a price and a minimum contract period. When that contract period ends the price will start to go up. In fact, it might go up the very next day. A recent Which? report suggest that customers who don't bother switching deals end up paying as much as £690 more each year than they otherwise would.

If you only take one thing away from this post, it's that you need to know when your deal ends. That way you can make an informed decision about what to do.

At the very least you can call your supplier and see what they can offer you if you take a new contract. That ought to be better than what you've currently got. But remember that these companies reserve their most attractive offers for new customers, so don't assume that their first offer is the best you can get.

Master the art of haggling

Haggling is not terribly British and our collective refusal to do it is costing us hundreds of pounds a year.

But it's actually easier - and less terrifying - than you'd think. Just use our comparison tool to find a better broadband deal, then call your provider armed with this information. Tell them what you can get elsewhere and see if they can match it.

If the thought of haggling brings you out in a cold sweat, don't worry. Write yourself a little script first. Try this one for size:

"My contract's ending soon and I'm looking at my options. I can get this deal from this provider for this much per month. Can you match it?"

Or this one: "My contract's come to an end and I'm trying to cut my bills. My budget is this much a month. What can you do for me?"

And then follow it up with: "Hmmm… I was hoping for something a little better than that…"

You'll speak to the regular sales team first, and they're limited on what they can offer you. If you aren't happy you can tell them that you'd switch providers instead. This will get you put through to the Retentions department. Retentions exists purely to stop customers leaving, and they have more scope for offering you better deals.

A lot of people don't want to take it this far because they're worried that they'll be forced into starting the switching process even when they don't really want to. But you don't have to make any decisions over the phone there and then. Just tell them you were hoping for a better offer, and that you'll have a think about it and will call them back tomorrow.

Don't accept mid-contract price rises

It's a lot easier to cut your broadband bill when your contract is coming to an end (or has already ended). It's a lot harder when you're still in your initial contract period, but there are a few things you can use to your advantage. One is poor performance, the other is a mid-contract price rise.

In the right circumstances, both of these can lead to you being allowed to leave your deal early without penalty. If you're getting terrible performance then you might want to switch anyway. But you can use a price rise as leverage to get a better deal. Not only might they waive the increase, but they might throw in another sweetener, too.

You have to act quickly, though. You've got 30 days from when you're informed of the price rise. After that you're regarded as having accepted the change.

Cut services you don't need

Another simple way to reduce your bill is to cut services you no longer need. This is easiest if you've got a TV bundle, as you can dump those channels that you don't watch. Or maybe you took out a call plan and now find you don't make as many calls as you thought.

You can even think about what type of internet service you've got. Do you need that ultrafast broadband package, or could you downgrade to a slower speed without noticing the difference? Our guide to what broadband speed you need explains more.

Find different ways to pay

If you've got a chunk of cash sat in your bank account just waiting to be spent, you could potentially make savings on your broadband by paying some or all of it up front. It's rare for providers to allow you to pay all your bill in one go - and we wouldn't necessarily recommend it either - by a few still offer a line rental saver option.

Plusnet and BT both let you pay the line rental part of your deal up front, which can knock as much as £30 off your annual bill. Not a huge saving, granted, but still the equivalent to a month or month and a half of free broadband, and definitely not to be sniffed at.

Paying up front protects you against price rises, but does come with a small risk. If you need to exit your contract for any reason (including something like moving house) you're unlikely to get your money back.

Seek out bundles for better value

Do you get your broadband, phone, TV and mobile from different providers? If so, there's a good chance you can make savings by bringing two or more of them under the same roof. Many broadband providers offer bundles for various services, and it often works out cheaper than buying products from lots of companies. It's more convenient, too, since you no longer have to juggle multiple bills each month.

What's good about this is that you can often do it when you're in the middle of a contract. When you ask your provider if you can give them more money each month they're unlikely to turn you away. Just make sure that your deals for these services with other providers have run out, otherwise you could be penalised for moving them.

Be willing to walk away

Okay, you don't want to change providers, but you're in a far stronger position if you're willing to do so regardless. Not only does it improve your chances of getting the best deal with your current supplier, but it also opens you up to all those incredible 'new customer' offers from everyone else.

And while it sounds like a hassle, the good news is that the process to switch broadband providers is now easier than ever. In some cases your new provider will do all the work for you!

Comments