In the UK there are three main ways of connecting to the internet - ADSL, Mobile broadband via 3G or faster 4G technology and Cable. Your connection options will depend mostly on where you live.
Check to see which packages and connection types are available in your area and whether high-speed cable internet is on offer with the uSwitch broadband postcode checker.
Most of the broadband connections in the UK are ADSL, which means that they use BT phone lines to transmit data. The great thing about ADSL is that because it is delivered via the aforementioned existing telephone-network infrastructure, you can still get a connection via your landline in the event that fibre-optic cabling hasn't yet reached your part of the country.
The bad news and the downside of ADSL is that you might decide that you don't want or need a landline. After all, with ADSL lines you’re looking at monthly BT line rental, service charges on top, and most likely a 12-month contract, which means that a landline is no small outlay.
Given that most mobile operators offer various forms of internet connection, it could be more in your interest to speak to them and see what they can offer, either with a new mobile broadband package, or by using your existing mobile phone and tethering it to your laptop. The advent of 4G means that mobile broadband speeds are much more comparable with fixed line services.
There are also a number of cable options available from the likes of Virgin Media, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and more. But it's worth bearing in mind that when it comes to cable providers only Virgin Media's wholly fibre optic broadband products truly offer a 'broadband without phoneline' service.
Alternatives to ADSL
With average speeds of 2.1Mbps this isn't the right choice for the heavy broadband user, but for those who have basic needs like Facebook, email and Skype it should be more than enough. Watch out for small data allowances, too. Mobile broadband on average offers much less generous download limits than fixed line deals.
The USB connection will always be with you - at home, on the train, or even abroad. If you have small internet demands, and love the idea of mobility, then haggle with your mobile provider and get a cheap deal.
Compare uSwitch's best-selling USB internet packages now!
Tethering a mobile is the process of connecting it to a laptop (either wirelessly or with phone-USB cable supplied with your handset) and using it as a gateway to the internet. This is a lot more straightforward than it sounds, and your provider can advise you on how to do it.
The main disadvantage of mobile broadband is reception – some areas of the UK still don’t have adequate mobile coverage. To check before purchasing, use the following links to see the coverage maps on the provider websites.
- Three coverage map
- T-Mobile coverage map
- Orange coverage map
- Vodafone coverage map
- Virgin coverage map
- O2 coverage map
4G is a newer mobile broadband technology than 3G. Like its predecessor, 4G is delivered through the mobile phone network and requires a 4G dongle or MiFi unit. However, 4G delivers much faster connections than 3G, with speeds of up 80Mbps available with EE's 4G service. That means it's a much more viable alternative to fixed line broadband.
However, 4G is available much less widely than 3G, even though EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone now all offer 4G services. 4G is also significantly more expensive than 3G and typically offers less generous usage limits.
Although only available in certain areas, it is blisteringly quick (speeds of up to 300Mbps are available in certain areas served by BT's Infinity fibre service) and incredibly reliable. Data allowances are BIG, in most cases unlimited, and there are some superb package deals on TV and calls.
This comes at a slightly higher cost than other packages, but the benefits far outweigh the extra outlay, especially as there is no line rental to pay.
Compare our best-selling super-fast cable packages from Virgin Media, BT, Sky and TalkTalk now!