How to compare WiFi broadband deals
In this guide
- The best WiFi deals in September 2020
- WiFi, broadband, and the internet
- WiFi vs wired broadband
- Types of WiFi routers
- Setting up WiFi
- Frequently asked questions
If you're not a tech wizard, then sometimes wireless broadband deals can feel like a foreign language. Luckily, it's easy to break things down and we’ll help you fully understand what you need when it comes to WiFi deals.
WiFi, broadband, and the internet
A lot of us use these words interchangeably, but they don't actually mean the same thing. Before signing up to any home WiFi deals, let's take a look at the difference.
- The internet is what you're using right now to look at this page. It's the enormous, global network of websites, email, apps, and more. Nowadays, most of us need to have home internet access, but there are different ways of getting that.
- Broadband is your physical internet connection, which runs through cables to come into your home and gives you access. Unlike in the early days of dial-up internet, broadband is always connected.
- WiFi is wireless internet access. Your broadband connection creates a WiFi network, which you can then use with your computer, phone, and other devices.
You've probably already used WiFi in public places like coffee shops or bars. That's a great way of getting a connection in a pinch, but if you want WiFi access at home, you'll need your own broadband.
Before looking at any deals, use our tool to see what's available in your area. Broadband access can vary from place to place, and not all providers serve certain postcodes. That's particularly true if you live rurally.
The best WiFi deals in September 2020
TalkTalk Superfast Fibre Broadband
£70 gift card£26 p/mZero one-off cost Get Deal
- 67Mb average speed
- Unlimited usage
- PAYG calls
Virgin Media M100 Fibre Broadband
£44 p/m£35 one-off cost Get Deal
- 108Mb average speed
- Unlimited usage
Plusnet Unlimited Broadband
£60 Reward Card£18.99 p/m£18.99 one-off cost Get Deal
- 10Mb average speed
- Unlimited usage
- PAYG calls
WiFi vs wired broadband
When you subscribe to a broadband deal, you'll be able to use WiFi at home. However, you'll also be able to plug devices in with an ethernet cable, which gives you wired internet access. WiFi is incredibly convenient, so you may be wondering what the point of ethernet, or wired broadband, is. It's likely that they'll both have a role to play in your home.
Benefits of WiFi
- Connect almost any device — Gadget lovers already know about the so-called ‘internet of things’. Nowadays, almost anything can be connected to WiFi. It's not just for your phone and tablet. Many modern gadgets such as kettles, fridges, scales, and smart speakers use WiFi to make your life easier.
- Simplicity — WiFi works in a remarkably elegant way. When you've connected a device once, that device will memorise your password and connect automatically whenever it's in range. Of course, you can turn off this feature if you don't like it, but in general, this is very useful. As soon as you get home, your phone will connect to your WiFi, which is a great way to avoid using too much data.
- No wires to worry about — This is probably the number one reason that we all love WiFi. Think about how often you pick up your phone and take it into another room of your house. Now imagine having to unplug it from one cable and plug it into another every time! Nothing beats the convenience of WiFi.
Benefits of wired broadband
- It's faster — WiFi transmits using invisible, radio-style waves. That's fine, but it often can't compete with the speed of a physical cable. You'll really see the difference if you get superfast broadband. For most basic needs, your WiFi will probably be fine - but if you're downloading large files, watching TV, or gaming, an ethernet connection comes in handy.
- It doesn't have blind spots — If you live in a large house, you may have noticed that the quality of your WiFi changes as you move from one room to another. This can be very annoying, especially if your bedroom is in a WiFi blind spot!
- There's no interference — In a busy neighbourhood, your WiFi is constantly battling other people's connections. This can lead to slow speeds as well as other problems. Other electric items in your home can sometimes cause interference, too; Christmas lights are a common example. A wired connection is immune to these problems.
The good news is that once you have a broadband connection, you can use both WiFi and wired internet at home. You might want to use an ethernet cable for your TV, for example, while keeping the WiFi for your phone and tablet.
Types of WiFi routers
- Virgin Media: Offers the Hub 3, which has five antennae and delivers the fastest 5GHz WiFi. It's extremely powerful.
- BT: You will find a very different router depending on the deal you choose. If you subscribe to BT Superfast fibre broadband, you'll enjoy the very powerful Smart Hub, which has a great range. However, more basic deals just offer a simpler ADSL router.
- Vodafone: The main benefit of a Vodafone router is its so-called ‘beamforming technology’. This is designed to pinpoint areas with a weak signal and specifically boost them. Vodafone could be a good choice if other WiFi routers don't work well with your home layout.
- Sky: Its celebrated Sky Q Hub can connect up to 64 devices at once. This could be ideal if you're addicted to gadgets.
These providers usually offer some of the best WiFi deals, though you may well find something that you prefer from a smaller company.
Setting up WiFi
Don't be daunted at the thought of setting up home WiFi. It's actually a quick and easy process.
- Subscribe to a broadband deal — Use our tool to check what's available in your area. Once you've found the one you like, sign up.
- Wait for your router or engineer — Some companies will just send your router in the post, along with instructions about when to plug it in. Others send an engineer round to take care of it for you.
- Plug in your router and switch it on — Check for any additional instructions, but most of the time this is all you'll have to do to get your home WiFi network up and running.
- Set a WiFi password — Some people never do this, but it's a good idea to change your password. The original password is usually on your router somewhere and is a very long jumble of uppercase and lowercase letters mixed with numbers. Your box will also contain instructions for changing your password to something more memorable. You can personalise the name of your WiFi network, too, if you want.
- Connect your devices — Remember, you'll only have to connect your devices once, and after that, they will memorise your router information — unless you change your password again, of course.
Frequently asked questions
What's the difference between broadband and WiFi?
Broadband is your general home connection and WiFi is the wireless network that your devices can connect to. Your broadband connection creates a WiFi network for you to use.
What does WiFi stand for?
Funnily enough, WiFi doesn't stand for anything! It’s the trademarked name for the wireless technology that uses radio waves to allow laptops, smartphone and other devices to connect to the internet. A common misconception is that WiFi is short for wireless fidelity, but this isn’t the case. It’s just a name.
Do I need broadband to get WiFi?
No. You can buy a router without buying a broadband deal. Although you won’t have access to the internet, by applying some solid technical know-how, you can connect all of your computers to each other. This is called a ‘wireless local area network’ (wireless LAN).
Can I get a WiFi only deal?
You can access only public WiFi hotspots if you wish, but a regular home broadband deal will be cheaper, more convenient and, possibly, faster. Public WiFi hotspots are better for short-term WiFi usage and will soon put you out of pocket.
Is WiFi secure?
It is possible to hack WiFi, but basic security measures will usually be enough to protect you. One of the most important things is setting a password. Leaving your home WiFi network without a password is like leaving your car door open with the keys inside - not a good idea!
What's the fastest WiFi?
A good rule of thumb is to make sure that your router can support 802.11ac WiFi. This will give you access to high speeds.
Is WiFi dangerous?
It would be irresponsible of us to say whether WiFi is dangerous or not. What we can say is that there is no consistent evidence that suggests WiFi poses health risks.