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Slow broadband connections

Sick of slow broadband speeds? Find out how to get out of the broadband slow lane.

The main types of broadband in the UK are ADSL, 3G/4G mobile broadband and cable. They all provide different connection speeds and use different technologies, with cable being the most reliable and fastest.

If you have a cable connection, you shouldn't be plagued by slow broadband. With fibre-optic broadband, you can expect the best, most robust service around.

If you're worried about having slow broadband, the first thing to do is perform a speed test. This will tell you whether your connection is above or below the UK average and suitable for what you need it for.

Use the uSwitch broadband speedtest to compare your connection to other people around you.

slow broadband

Location problems

ADSL broadband is available wherever there's a phone line, but the speed depends heavily on the local cabling infrastructure. The distance you are from your phone exchange is the biggest factor in determining how good your connection is. If you live 5km away or more, you may get no connection at all.

If you live in a town or city, you can typically expect a fast, stable speed. The telephone equipment, cabling and exchange points will be maintained and upgraded regularly, and there should be plenty of mobile reception, including good 4G coverage.

If you live in the thick of the countryside, however, it'll probably be a different story. Mobile phone masts may not be nearby, and because it's not cost-effective to maintain a cable or network for a handful of customers, ADSL users will probably use the same phone cables that have been there for years.

3G broadband is available wherever there is mobile signal, so parts of the country that are far away from the signal masts (for example the New Forest, rural Wales or rural Scotland) won't be able to connect, or will connect incredibly slowly.

4G coverage is improving but is still less readily available than 3G networks, so rural areas probably won't be able to access these speeds. If you're in a large town or city, though, you should have no problem finding a provider offering a 4G service.

Slow broadband at certain times of the day

Cities have the infrastructure needed to provide you with a quick, reliable connection with all types of broadband, but connections may still be slower on evenings and weekends. This is because internet lines are shared; a customer doesn't have a single line to themselves. If all the people sharing a line decide to use it at once, the speed will be heavily reduced. This depends on how many people are using it, and what they are using it for.

Providers will try and shape the internet traffic so that the service is as good as possible for everybody. ADSL users won't find this hampers their experience unduly, but 3G and 4G users may notice a real difference.

In these cases there will be little the provider can do, so if you find this regularly happening to you, it might be worth considering other options.

Alternatives?

The only real alternative to ADSL and 3G/4G is cable, or in some extreme cases, satellite.

Cable, also known as fibre, is the fastest type of connection available but is only on offer in major cities and high-density population areas. Although BT and Virgin Media plan to eventually roll out their fibre connections almost all UK homes in the coming years, they're not quite there yet.

Satellite connections will have no signal blackspots but will not offer the same connection speeds as cable and will be more expensive. Satellite connections have proved very successful in Scotland, thanks to some landmark partnerships between the Scottish Government and Avanti Communications.

Check which packages are available to you using uSwitch's broadband postcode checker, or compare high-speed packages now at our fast broadband page.