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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 cover 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.

The most important factor in choosing your broadband package 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 providers 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 meet your needs.

To help you make the very best buying decision, we've matched 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. This way, you'll avoid paying for super fast speeds that you may not need if all you're doing is checking e-mails or watching the odd YouTube clip.

Starting out small and working your way up is a better bet for beginners than buying too much: 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. Downgrading from an expensive product to a cheaper one generally isn't permitted, however.

Almost all providers offer some kind of low-cost option that's ideal for beginners, but we've compiled a list of some of our best beginner's broadband deals on our site.

Broadband for movie and TV buffs and gamers

If you enjoy downloading HD movies or if you make extensive use of TV streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, you're classified as a heavy user. The same goes for if you use peer-to-peer software a lot, are a big fan of online gaming or are constantly streaming or downloading music.

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 as you want to without worrying that you'll exceed your allowance and run up extra charges or have a slower connection imposed on you by your provider.

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

Most providers offer unlimited download options, especially with fibre broadband products, nowadays. You can get a good idea of what's on offer for heavy broadband users with our comparison page for heavy use broadband deals.

Broadband for families

Families 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. You'll likely want to sign up for the heavy use broadband products we've recommended for gamers and movie buffs in the above section.

We've also rated our best family broadband deals here, most of which offer parental controls so you can keep your kids safe online.

Broadband for students

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

What sets student broadband apart from heavy use broadband, though, 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're likely to be at home and not occupying their student digs.

You can find a good value student broadband deal here.

Broadband for businesses

If you run a business, you're probably better off signing 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 e-mail addresses that feature the name of your business. They also offer business-grade security to keep sensitive information away from prying eyes, and you'll also get better customer support to minimise the financial impact if your connection goes down.

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

Broadband for laptop or tablet users

If you access the internet primarily from your laptop, mobile broadband via 4G networks 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, making it great for frequent travellers and remote workers. 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 MiFi you'll need because there's no USB slot for a dongle in tablets. If you've got a laptop, however, you can take your pick between a MiFi or a dongle.

Check out our mobile broadband packages here.

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 or if you've got multiple users, each with multiple devices.

With that in mind, we've worked out what we think you're likely to get through in a month depending on your usage habits. It should hopefully save you some time and spare you the need 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 40-80GB per month
Browsing, on-demand TV, movie and music downloads and online gaming 40GB or unlimited*

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. Unfortunately, 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 e-mail, share pictures, watch YouTube, check Facebook and play games. Fast broadband — typically fibre-optic broadband products — appeals mainly to those who download more or less constantly and have very demanding applications.

Do I need free phone calls with my broadband package?

If you use your landline, bundling your telephone and broadband packages can save you money and time, and most providers have package deals for the two. Take a look at our broadband and home phone packages site to see which deals are available in your area.

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 premiers and glossy, must-see US dramas. You'll also be able to see Premier League games live, as well as a host of other crown-jewels sports events.

You can compare broadband and digital TV deals at our dedicated broadband and digital TV page.

Will my package provide the hardware I need to get wireless internet?

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 simply visiting nefarious sites, opening email attachments and downloading files, it's imperative that you protect your computer and data against these attacks.

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