How to compare broadband deals

Want to compare broadband deals, but feeling all at sea with the jargon and terminology? Here's what you need to know about broadband – and how to get the best deal

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Want to compare broadband deals, but feel somewhat disoriented by all the jargon: fibre; cable; unlimited; broadband-only..? Broadband internet connection is actually quite simple to understand, and it's easy to choose the best one once you know how the different packages relate to your needs. 

Read this guide and you'll be able to tell your fibre from your cable in no time. Promise. Then, head to our best broadband deals page to grab a bargain. 

What is broadband?

Broadband refers to the internet connection that replaced the original dial-up or 'narrowband' internet everyone used to have (if you are under the age of 25, feel free to skip this bit). 

What are the different types of broadband?

The four different types of broadband connection are:

  • ADSL: by far the most common type of broadband available (though this is likely to change), this is the type of broadband that connects up to your landline; 
  • Cable: this type of broadband connects up via a fibre or coaxial cable, in the same way as cable TV (and you can often get both at the same time). It's much faster than ADSL;
  • Fibre: this type pf broadband uses fibre optic cables to deliver internet either by linking up to standard landline cables, or by running directly up to your home. The latter type is still rare in the UK, available in just 3 per cent of homes. Most fibre broadband will connect to your landline, but it is faster than ADSL.  
  • Mobile: as the name suggests, this type of broadband doesn't require a cable; instead, you are provided with a USB stick or wireless box; there are no landline connections involved, but this type of broadband can be expensive. 

Do I have to get a landline to get broadband? 

In the vast majority of cases, yes, unless you are moving into a rental accommodation that already has an active landline, in which case you'll just need to get the broadband connected. The only alternative is mobile broadband. 

Do I need superfast broadband? 

This depends entirely on your internet usage. Standard ADSL broadband will be sufficient if you mostly use the internet to check emails and watch the odd movie; if you live in a household of avid internet users who all stream online content/games online at the same time, ADSL likely won't cut it. Look into getting fibre broadband; cable is another good option, but it's currently only provided by Virgin Media and WightFibre on the Isle of Wight. 

Bear in mind that fibre optic broadband isn't available everywhere yet, so you'll need to check with your provider if they're offering it in your postcode. 

Use our guide to check out the best current fibre broadband deals.

What is unlimited broadband or 'truly unlimited' broadband?

When you compare broadband deals, you'll often see 'unlimited broadband' in the title. What this typically means is that the amount of data you can use isn't capped (broadband providers used to cap usage in the same way mobile phone providers do). 

However, if you have ADSL broadband, your provider will likely cap your data usage during peak times, because broadband performance is affected by how much people are using it at the same time. This means that your internet connection will be slower at these peak times. If you don't want this to happen, look for 'truly unlimited' in the contract.

What are the different broadband packages? 

There's a range of broadband packages, most of them offering combinations of the following components: 

  • Line rental;
  • Broadband itself; 
  • TV;
  • Some broadband packages will also offer free weekend and evening phone calls – but with so many people using their mobile phones for all calls now, line rental costs are the main consideration. 

The most sensible thing to do is always to go for a package deal where you rent your phone line from the same provider as your broadband – this will always be cheaper than getting the two separately. 

If you're a TV lover, Sky or Now TV will be your best providers. Take a look at the best Sky TV packages for this month. 

What do I get as part of my broadband pack?

As part of your broadband installation process, you will receive a router/hub, which is what will allow you to connect up all your different devices wirelessly. It's very important to check that the router actually works before the engineer has left. Sometimes you will be sent the router separately, however.  

How to compare broadband packages

As with other online comparison services, the internet has made comparing broadband deals a whole lot easier. We like the uSwitch broadband comparison tool, which allows you to type in your postcode and current provider to see what's available in your area (especially useful if you don't know if you can get fibre broadband).

The best current broadband deals: