Fastest Broadband Deals 2013
Fastest broadband buyers guide
Most broadband users will tell you there’s no such thing as ‘too fast’ when it comes to broadband, and that you should get the fastest connection you possibly can.
But is speed everything and will the fastest broadband really enable you to make the most of the web? Have you asked yourself what faster broadband can really do for you and do you actually need it?
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about fast broadband, from providers and networks, to speeds, download limits, availability and restrictions.
Why choose fast broadband?
Everything you do online eats into your ‘bandwidth’, which makes the fastest broadband ideal for the most demanding internet users, and those that have to share their connections.
Millions of British families are now in the enviable position of being able to get broadband at up to 120Mb. Broadband at ultrafast speeds like this comes into its own if you download HD movies, play online console games, stream high quality video, upload large files and if you have to share your broadband with a large number of family members or housemates.
A word of caution though; the fastest broadband usually costs more than the basic offerings, and if you're not planning on doing any of the heavyweight tasks mentioned above, then a cheaper and slower option may well suffice for you.
Broadband is widely considered an essential utility these days and it’s important to know what you need from a package before you buy. If you don’t, you may end up paying too much for a service that you won’t make the most of, or end up with a package that doesn’t meet your needs.
What’s the fastest broadband in my area?
The fastest broadband in your area is purely down to the state of the local infrastructure. In some areas you might be able to access the Openreach network from a range of providers at up to 76Mbps, or the Virgin network at up to 120Mbps. However, if you don’t live in a fibre enabled area the fastest broadband you can expect may come with a more sedate download speed of up to 14Mbps.
Before you go any further we recommend checking your options with our postcode checker above. This will show you which providers you have to choose from and give you an estimated top download speed based upon your location.
How much faster is the fastest broadband?
According to Ofcom, the UK’s average broadband download speed currently stands at 12Mbps, so with an up to 38Mbps package you could download 3x faster than the average user.
With up to 76Mbps that increases to 6x faster and with the UK’s fastest widely available service, Virgin’s 120Mbps package, you’ll enjoy speeds almost 10x as fast.
To give you an idea of what you’ll be able to do with ultrafast broadband, consider that with up to 100Mbps service you could download:
- An iTunes album in under 10 seconds
- An iPlayer programme in around 30 seconds
- A standard definition movie in around 90 seconds
- A full HD movie in around 5 minutes
Which is the right speed for me?
As the fastest broadband packages cost the most (as a general rule) you should be careful to weigh up the benefits of the top packages compared to your budget. An up to 14Mbps should be able to cope with most activities, while an up to 38Mbps service should be able to pull them off with ease.
As we keep stressing, it’s probably not wise to pay over the odds for 100Mbps broadband if you’re only going to be catching up with friends on Facebook or shopping online. But, if you do play latest-Generation online console games, stream HD movies and share with a houseful of other web fans you may well see a real benefit by going as fast as you can.
What download limit do I need?
The ability to download at the fastest speeds may lead to the temptation to grab every album and movie going – just because you can!
If you choose an unlimited package then this won’t pose a problem, but if you don’t then you’d be wise to keep an eye on your usage.
Most providers will penalise you for downloading more than your fair share, either with a monetary fine or – for repeated transgressions – an automatic upgrade to a more expensive package.
Will I get a free wireless router?
To get the most out of ultrafast broadband you'll need a wireless router that’s up to the task. Fortunately, most providers include a suitable router with all new subscriptions, although you may have to pay towards the cost of delivery.
Bear in mind that if you leave before the end of your minimum term you’ll either have to return your router or pay for it.
Six essential questions before you buy
Before you go any further it will help you to consider your answers to these six essential quesions:
- Can I get superfast fibre broadband where I live?
- Which providers operate in my area?
- How many people will be using my connection?
- Which is the right speed for me?
- Do I need unlimited downloads?
- Do I want or need a landline?
Will I get the advertised speed?
Providers advertise packages with a guideline speed, but the actual download rate you’ll get will depend on a few things - and it is likely to fluctuate at different times of the day and week.
The distance from the exchange to your local cabinet, and the distance from the cabinet to your home will have an impact on your broadband speed; the further the signal has to travel, the slower it is likely to become.
This isn’t as much of a problem with fibre as with standard broadband, but if you choose FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) provider you’ll see more of a drop-off compared to FTTH (Fibre To The Home) customers.
At busier times, such as during weekday evenings and at the weekend, demand on the infrastructure can cause your download speed to drop. Again, for fibre users this shouldn’t be as big a problem as for traditional broadband customers but the effects can still be noticeable.
What is traffic management?
A bone of contention amongst many internet fans is the use of traffic management. This is the deliberate slowing of some activities at peak times to relieve network demand, with Peer-to-Peer filesharing (“Torrenting”) being the most frequently targeted.
Different providers have different traffic management schemes – and some don’t use one at all – so if you're getting broadband with the express intention of sending and receiving very large files at peak times we recommend doing a little research before you buy.