When it comes to choosing a broadband package, there are a whole range of criteria to consider, including speed, cost and contract length.
The most important factor in choosing your broadband package is what kind of internet 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.
What kind of user am I?
Not all broadband is created equal. With an array of superfast 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 ADSL broadband package. 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, providers will happily allow you to upgrade mid-contract. Downgrading from an expensive product to a cheaper one generally isn't permitted, however.
Broadband for film and TV buffs
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, so it's important to make sure whatever broadband package you sign up for has unlimited downloads. Nearly all packages these days do, but it's a good idea to make sure.
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 spend less time waiting and buffering and more time enjoying your entertainment of choice.
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 likely want to sign up for a fibre broadband package to ensure your connection is smooth.
It's also worth keeping an eye out for which broadband providers offer parental controls so you can keep your kids safe online. Most providers do include it as standard, but before signing up for a package, check the provider's website.
Broadband for students
What sets student broadband apart from other broadband packages 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.
Be careful, though: a lot of student broadband packages include set-up fees, so it pays to sit down and do the math to see whether you're better off with a student broadband package or a cheaper, longer contract.
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 a broadband deal that'll help you grow at our business broadband comparison page.
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 can use the uSwitch broadband postcode checker to see which packages are available.
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 10Mbps are easily sufficient for most small households to carry out basic online activities without problems.
A broadband connection of 8Mbps will allow you to e-mail, share pictures, watch Netflix, 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 TV with my broadband?
Opt to add 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 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.