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Beginner's broadband

For all intents and purposes, broadband is a high-speed internet connection, provided either at home or through your mobile.

There are three different types of broadband: cable broadband (fibre-optic), mobile broadband (3G or 4G mobile phone signal) and ADSL broadband (telephone line).

Broadband is a very competitive market, so it's unsurprising that the main factors that sway people's decisions are speed, price and reliability.

Broadband for beginners

Speed

The speed of your internet connection determines how much data can be sent or received. The faster your connection, the more you can do at once. The speed of your connection depends on two key factors:

  • Where you live. Urban areas generally have faster broadband speeds. Additionally, with ADSL broadband and some types of fibre broadband, the distance of your house from the telephone exchange affects your average speed. Use our broadband postcode checker to find the fastest broadband in your area.

  • The type of connection you have. Mobile broadband is quick, especially 4G connections; however, ADSL broadband is much quicker, and cable is lightning fast.

Test the speed of your current internet connection with our broadband speed test and see how you compare to other people in your area.

Price

ADSL broadband requires a home phone line, so even with the cheapest package, there is usually an added fee per month to pay in BT line rental, which is factored into the all-in cost. Despite the rental fees, ADSL remains the cheapest type of connection available. Click here to compare our best-selling ADSL broadband deals.

3G and 4G broadband requires no landline, but because it runs over mobile networks, the monthly data allowances are a lot lower. This means a higher charge if you go over your allowance and some very high charges for using the internet abroad. Compare 3G mobile broadband deals and 4G mobile broadband deals at uSwitch now.

Cable is usually the fastest connection but also the most expensive. It typically has no additional built-in costs or data charges, however, and requires no landline. See uSwitch's best cable broadband deals here.

Reliability

ADSL will work as long as the telephone line works and you pay your bill. If there is a problem, however, then you may have to wait a while for it to be fixed, as there's a good chance that you will have to deal with BT, BT OpenReach and your internet provider. This can take days.

The main problem with ADSL is that the quality of line and the distance you live from your phone exchange have a massive effect on your connection and speed — not a problem in cities, but if you live in the country, it can affect you quite badly.

3G and 4G connections are as reliable as a mobile phone — on the whole very good, but at peak times and in certain areas, you will notice a drop in signal.

Cable broadband provides the most reliable connection. It usually connects to the BT cabinet in the street outside your home, thus the amount of copper BT wiring is greatly reduced. Providers will have their own support and technicians, so fault-handling times will also be reduced.

When it comes to assessing the reliability of broadband providers, personal recommendations are always worth listening to. At uSwitch we try to give an overview of the broadband market. On our broadband provider pages, we display customer reviews, awards and comments. Visit our broadband provider page and see what people are saying about your provider.

Other considerations