Friday, January 18, 2013

How To Choose A Broadband Provider Gives An Advice About Choosing A Broadband Provider

The current Broadband market is literally flooded with broadband providers all clamouring for our attention with what are often confusing offers, veiled in secrecy and often hiding clauses and limits which are not immediately obvious when you purchase the package. We all know that everything comes with small print, but we rarely take the time to read it, and with broadband providers when their small print comes back to bite us in the behind it usually leaves with a chunk out of our wallets as well. So what should you consider when choosing a Broadband ISP (Internet Service Provider) and what do the current ISPs in the UK offer that makes them stand out from one another? This guide should help clear through the jargon and techno-babble to the hard facts that will affect your choice of Broadband Provider.

Broadband Providers - The Jargon Buster

  • Upload and Download Speeds - Most ISPs today offer `up to` 8 megabits per second download speeds on a standard BT phone line. At a consistent speed of 8Mbits ps you would be able to download a song in a few seconds and a movie in a few minutes. The `up to` refers to the real life variable speeds experienced by most lines. The further you are away from your local `exchange` where all the phone and internet is dealt with and passed on to larger hubs around the world, the slower your speed. There are many websites that offer to check the current download speeds you are experiencing, so you can get a better idea of what the real speed you`ll be getting is. In terms of upload, this will tend to be a lot slower than your download, around half a megabit, and this is something the average user shouldn`t worry too much about. Only if you are constantly uploading or using your computer as a server should you consider specialist services offering higher upload speeds.
  • Wireless Routers - Most ISPs will also bundle a `free` wireless router for their new customers, which allows you to connect modern laptops and wireless devices to the internet without the need for plugging in network, giving you freedom to spread your Broadband connection around your home. On some plans you will need to commit to a certain contract length to get the router for free however.
  • Connection and Set-up Fees - Some ISPs will require that you pay a one-off set up fee in order to get your connection set up, though most will offer this service for free if you sign up for a longer contract. This fee varies between providers, but is usually not necessary to pay if your line is already enabled for broadband with another provider.
  • Download Limits and Fair Usage - Some providers will give you a limited download allowance, in Gigabytes, each month, and should you exceed this amount you may be charged for the extra usage. Some ISPs offer an `unlimited` usage limit, which is only constrained by a fair use policy, which will usually state that you cannot download large amounts during peak periods in the afternoon and evening. If you do `break` the fair use policy, which is often defined at the discretion of the ISP, you may have your download speed `throttled` during peak periods, limiting your ability to use the internet.

Broadband Providers - The Big Players and their Differences

  • BT - Consistent speeds and the convenience of combining your phone, Broadband internet and TV services into one package is desirable, though no longer a unique selling point as other ISPs are beginning to offer similar services. The BT homehub which combines home phone and wireless router capabilities in a stylish box almost makes up for the irritating advertising behind the BT Broadband brand, but be warned that the cheapest packages will have quite strict download limits imposed. This is obviously one of the most widely available broadband services as well because BT own and operate most of the traditional phone lines in the UK
  • Virgin Media - Having taken over the failing NTL cable TV and Broadband services and turning it around, Virgin have also taken on BT in offering on demand TV and Broadband internet for one monthly price. In some areas Virgin has the unique selling point of fibre optic internet connection, offering download speeds in excess of 20Mbits per second, which trumps BT thoroughly. However,fibre optic cabling is limited to only a few areas of the UK, so don`t get your hopes up. You can check whether you have fibre optic in your area on the Virgin website, and they also offer standard 8Meg broadband over existing BT phone lines, much like any other Broadband provider.
  • Tiscali - Affordable Broadband services with no download restrictions, subject to a fair use policy of course, along with the option to combine home phone and the newly introduced TV service with on-demand movies and 70 channels, making competition for the established services provided by BT and Virgin Media, Tiscali suffers most from a very poor customer service record.
  • BE Broadband A pure broadband service, offering up to 24 meg download speed if you are close to your exchange. The main problem is the availability of service.
  • Plusnet - Broadband with packages aimed at gamers, prioritising gaming ports and giving you good latency for online gaming sessions. Limited downloads is a drawback however.
  • Sky - Offering good download speeds and best bought as part of a TV bundle, Sky, like BT, is limited on downloads but offers good speed.
Switching Provider and Comparing Offers - If you get tired with poor service, speeds or restrictive download limits with your current Broadband provider it is relatively simple to switch over to an alternative ISP, but there are a couple of hoops you`ll have to jump through before you can do this. First of all you will have to wait for your contract with your current provider to expire, and most but not all providers offer a 12 month contract which you can`t escape from before the end of the first 12 month period. If you do choose to stop your service before the end of your contract you will probably have to pay an early leavers fee which may be quite high, but most Broadband Providers will tell you about this before you sign up, so it`s worth looking. You will have to let your current provider and your intended new provider know that you are intending to migrate your broadband service across, at which point your current provider will give you a MAC code which you will then have to give you your new provider, with which they can then transfer over your service to them once they have contacted your current provider. Sounds confusing right? Well, this process is usually quite smooth and won`t result in much downtime on lines that have already had a broadband connection active, and as long as you follow the ISPs guidelines everything should go okay. If you think you will get a better connection speed with a different provider, it might be worth using a Broadband Speed check website to see where you could benefit from a switch. All of these factors above should affect your broadband choice, and it is essential that you compare Broadband Providers before committing to a contract.

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