Are All Broadband Providers Essentially the Same?

When you start looking at choosing broadband for your home, it is easy to start believing that all broadband providers are alike, and that you can go for any of the choices. The reality is that there are different technologies that are used for home broadband and there are different providers that are best suited for different areas. In this article we will try to give you the lowdown on some of the differences between the providers to help you choose the right solution for your home fixed broadband. To start with, we will just have quick note on mobile broadband.

Mobile Broadband as Fixed Broadband
Mobile broadband has become better and better over the years. We now have 4G connectivity which is offering speeds up to a hundred megabits per second on download. The speed really is competitive in the industry. However, so far, mobile broadband has only been rolled out to urban areas. You are unlikely to find particularly good service in suburban and rural areas. As time goes by, this will change.

With Wi-Fi devices, it is now possible to use your mobile broadband as you would your home broadband with the device acting as a router. You can get five devices on the same connection. So for small households that dont need much data, mobile broadband can be a solution. If you are looking at this solution, then make sure that you check the coverage in your area rather than just using the postcode coverage checks on the provider website. Its best to actually find out how the broadband works through different providers. When friends come in to your house, ask them to try connecting to a website on their mobile broadband and see how it performs. Make sure that they are not working off your Wi-Fi as this will not tell you anything.

The Fixed Broadband Technologies
There are two main types of broadband technology and these are ADSL and fibre optic broadband. ADSL works through the telephone port of your home. Normally you need an active telephone line and therefore will have to pay line rental. This is very different to fibre optic broadband that generally wont need an active line rental contract.

With fibre optic broadband, there are again 2 main types. There is fibre-to-the-cabinet and fibre-to-the-home. Essentially, fibre-to-the-home means that the optical fibre cables come all the way into your home and you dont go through the telephone port at all. With fibre-to-the-cabinet, the final portion of the journey of the internet from the telephone exchange is over the copper cables of the BT infrastructure into your telephone port.

The Differences between ADSL and Fibre Optic Broadband
ADSL runs over the copper cables of the BT Infrastructure for the full journey from the telephone exchange. The cables are not good at carrying internet signals and so the speeds are slower than with fibre optic broadband. The fibre optic cables for fibre optic broadband are purpose-designed for carrying high speed data and therefore they are able to carry data faster and with greater integrity. So speed is one main aspect of difference between ADSL and a fibre optic connection. However, there are others. It turns out to be the case that the upload speed is also better on fibre optic broadband. However, the latency which is the time it takes to get a response from the server, the “ping” rate, if you like, tends to be better with some ADSL Broadband connections. Therefore, some gamers and people that need a fast latency speed would go for ADSL over fibre optic broadband.

The Cost
The cost of the cheapest fibre optic broadband package on BT is around the same as the most expensive ADSL package. With the cheaper packages on fibre optic broadband, you may not get unlimited broadband and so its important to consider the different allowances of the different packages you are considering. In order to do this, you need to understand your own usage profile and whether you are a light, medium or heavy consumer. Once you have a handle on this, you will be much more able to choose the best package for your requirements based on the right amount of data and the speed you require.

Understanding Your Profile
Understanding your profile is not that easy if you dont understand how much data different activities consume. The easiest way to do it is to go and do a broadband usage calculation on one of the many websites offering this service. Simply type in “broadband usage calculator” into Google and youll be brought up many options where you can simply put in the activities that you do online into simple forms and then be given an estimate of the amount of data you consume in a month.

So youve seen that packages and providers differ on the amount of data they allow and speed they provide. Lets see what else they differ on.

Contract Length
Some providers offer contracts as low as 9 months which are ideal for students. Other providers require a 24-month contract. Even within one providers packages, there are very different contract lengths, therefore, this is an aspect of different packages that you should consider.

Customer Service
The Customer Service levels of different providers vary greatly. Take a look at reviews online but take them with a pinch of salt. Naturally, people normally go online to complain rather than to praise, and so, it is also good to look at Ofcom assessments and surveys of consumers to find the best providers on customers service. When you have technical issues, some providers may make you pay for premium rate phone calls. This can dramatically increase the actual cost of your broadband and therefore you should look for free calls wherever possible. You should also look for providers that have long opening hours for their customer support so that you can get solutions when you need them. Problems may not only occur during the day and you may actually use your broadband more in the evenings.

Traffic Management and Fair Usage Policies
Providers have different traffic management and fair usage policies. Traffic management policies are designed to ensure that the network is stable and that everyone gets a certain level of service. The reality is that certain customers are throttled or restricted in the activities they can do at certain times of the day to ensure the stability of everyones connections. Other providers have no traffic management policies whatsoever. Fair usage policies relate to the amount of data you can actually consume. Even unlimited policies sometimes have certain limits. The transparency of the advertising in this regard has improved but still watch out for whether you will be data-capped at certain times of the day.

More on Differences between ADSL
Different providers have different levels of service in different areas. If your provider has their equipment installed in your local telephone exchange, they will be able to offer better levels of ADSL. There are ADSL2 and ADSL2+ options and these will be faster or more stable than standard ADSL. It is well worth checking whether providers have their oewn equipment installed in your local exchange as this will be an immediate determinant of the price and the quality of broadband that you receive. To do this, you can jump on to a website called “SamKnowsBest” and find out exactly where your telephone exchange is and who has their equipment installed there.

Phil Turner was looking into different broadband connections so he checked all the ISPs at sites like uSwitch to find out what service they offered in his area.


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