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Choosing internet providers in your area

Superfast broadband? Heavy-use broadband? Beginner's broadband? What type of broadband is right for you? Read our guide and we'll teach you everything you need to know.

When it comes to choosing a broadband package, there are a whole range of criteria to consider. Alongside speed and cost, you're going to have to think hard about download allowances and contract length.

But perhaps the most important factor is what kind of web user you are. Once you've established this, you'll find it's much easier to track down a package that meets your needs.

Below, we outline some of the most common types of internet users and recommend products and broadband provders that we think most closely match their needs.

We'll also explain download limits and how to work out if you need an unlimited download allowance or can make do with one that's more tailored towards light users.

What kind of user am I?

Not all broadband is created equal. With an array of super-fast fibre and standard broadband packages to choose from, there's a lot to get to grips with when you're looking for a product that will tally with your needs.

To help you make the very best buying decision, here we match broadband products and providers to the kinds of web users we think they most suit.

Broadband for beginners

If you're just starting out and don't know yet what you'll use the internet for, it's a good idea to choose an entry-level broadband service.

That way you'll avoid paying for super fast speeds or huge download limits that you may not need if all you're doing is checking emails or watching the odd YouTube clip.

If at a later date you find you need a faster, more expensive broadband product with a substantial download allowance to match, providers will happily allow you to upgrade mid-contract. However, downgrading from an expensive product to a cheaper one generally isn't permitted.

Almost all providers offer some kind of low-cost option that's ideal for beginners. But some of the best are TalkTalk's Essentials or BT's Broadband and Calls package.

Compare beginner's broadband packages at our dedicated page: Beginners broadband

Broadband for movie and TV buffs and gamers

if you enjoy downloading HD movies or streaming entire series of TV shows via a pay-TV service, you're classed as a heavy user.

The same goes if you make extensive use of TV streaming services, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, to watch entire series of must-see TV or download HD movies extensively.

And what about about if you use peer-to-peer software a lot? Or you're big fan of online gaming? You're probably also a heavy user.

If this sounds like you, it's important that you select a package with an unlimited download limit.

That means you'll be free to enjoy the web without worrying that you'll exceed your allowance. If you do go over your permitted limit, you could run up extra charges or have a slower connection imposed on you by your provider.

Heavy users may also want to consider paying extra for fibre broadband. These are faster than standard broadband and mean you'll download movies, music and games a lot quicker, so you'll have more time to do whatever it is you like doing.

Once again, most providers offer unlimited download options, as well as fibre broadband products. The UK's fastest widely available fibre broadband products are Virgin Media's top-of-the-range 152Mbps service and BT Infinity.

Get a good idea of what's on offer for heavy broadband users with our comparison page: Heavy use broadband

Broadband for families

Familes are also almost certain to be heavy users, especially in homes with teenagers who've grown up with the web.

With four or more people in a household, all of whom are likely to be using a range of web-enabled gadgets and going online simultaneously, you'll find it's easy to eat a hole in your web allowance and put a strain on your connection at busy times.

With that in mind, you'll likely want to sign up for the heavy use broadband products we've recommended for gamers and movie buffs. You'll find those in the section above.

We've rated the best family broadband products here: Family broadband deals

Broadband for students

Student broadband is designed with multiple occupancy households in mind. For that reason, student broadband packages typically feature unlimited download allowances.

But the real thing that sets student broadband apart is that contracts last nine months instead of the 12-month or 18-month terms that usually apply.

The shorter contract term means students don't have to pay for broadband during the long summer holiday, during which time they'd likely be at home and not occupying their student digs.

You can sign up for student broadband deals with nine-month contracts and generous download limits from the likes of Virgin Media and BT.

Find a good value student broadband deal here: Student broadband

Broadband for businesses

If you run a business, you'll have to sign up for a broadband package that's tailored to the needs of enterprises.

Business broadband packages differ from standard consumer deals by including extras such as static/fixed-IPs, webspace and email addresses that feature the name of your business.

Business broadband packages also offer business-grade security to keep sensitive information away from prying eyes.

You'll also get better customer support to minimise the financial impact if your connection goes down.

Highly rated business broadband is available from Plusnet, TalkTalk, BT and Virgin Media's business division.

Got a business? Find broadband deal that'll help you grow at our business broadband comparison page: Businesses broadband

Broadband for laptop or tablet users

If you access the Internet primarily from your laptop, then mobile broadband is worth considering.

Mobile broadband is usually delivered through a 'dongle' (modem) that you plug into the USB slot on your laptop to access the Internet wherever there's mobile phone coverage.

MiFi dongles are also available and allow you to share a single mobile broadband connection between multiple web enabled devices simultaneously.

If you want to use mobile broadband on a tablet, it's a Mi-Fi you'll need. This is because there's no slot for a dongle in tablets.

However if you've got a laptop, you can take your pick from a Mi-Fi or a dongle.

Get up to speed with mobile broadband here: Mobile broadband.

Working out your download allowance

Working out exactly what size download allowance you require can be time-consuming. That goes double if your usage patterns change from month to month.

With that in mind, below we've worked out what we think you're likely to get through in a month depending on your usage habits.

We think it'll save a lot of time and spare you having to get your calculator out.

What do I use it for? What monthly download limit do I need?
Browsing and email 2GB per month
Browsing and on-demand TV 10-30GB per month
Browsing, on-demand TV and movie and music downloads 20-80GB per month
Browsing, on-demand TV, movie and music downloads and online gaming 40GB or more*
  • If you're using 40GB or above, it's probably best to opt for a product that offers unlimited downloads.

More factors you'll need to consider

What kinds of broadband are available in my area?

If you live in a city or built-up area it's very likely you'll be able to take your pick from nearly every package on the uSwitch site.

If, however, you live in a more rural location, you should check which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operate in your area.

You're much less likely to be able to sign up to a super-fast fibre broadband service in a remote part of the UK than you are in built-up areas.

You can use the uSwitch broadband postcode checker to see which packages are available. It's also smart to double check with the provider because availability is constantly changing as providers improve the reach of their infrastructure.

Do you need fast broadband?

With all this talk of megabits and download times, it's sometimes easy to think that speed is the be all and end all in a broadband package.

That's true to a certain extent, but it's also worth remembering that connection speeds of over 2Mbps are easily sufficient to carry out most online activities without problems.

A broadband connection of 8Mbps will allow you to email, share pictures, YouTube, Facebook and play games. Fast broadband appeals mainly to those who download more or less constantly and have very demanding applications.

The fastest broadband services are those fibre optic broadband products, such as BT Infinity, products from Sky and O2 that use BT's infrastructure, or Virgin Media's top-end broadband offerings.

Do I need free phone calls with my broadband package?

Bundling your telephone and broadband packages can save you money and time - take a look at our broadband and home phone packages.

Do I need digital TV with my broadband?

Opt to add digital TV to your broadband bundle and you'll get a much wider choice of programmes to choose from, including movie premieres and glossy, must-see US drama.

You'll also be able to see Premier League games live, as well as a host of other crown-jewels sports events. Sign up for BT and you'll get BT Sport completely free of charge.

Cost-conscious consumers who want digital TV might want to consider TalkTalk's TV products. But if it's a top-of-the-range digital TV product, Sky, Virgin Media and BT are the ones to look at.

Compare broadband and digital TV deals at our dedicated page: broadband and digital TV package.

Will my package provide the hardware I need to get broadband?

As noted earlier, all ISPs now provide free wireless routers with their packages. These are vital if you have multiple devices, such as laptops and gaming consoles, connecting to a single line.

Do I need internet security software?

Internet security should be a priority for everyone. With viruses able to infect computers from visiting nefarious sites, opening email attachments and downloading files, it's imperative that you protect your computer.

The good news is that, as with wireless routers, security suites are included in most broadband packages.

Compare all the best broadband deals at uSwitch now.

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