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Wireless broadband deals explained

You'd be hard-pressed to find a home or business that still relied on a wired internet connection, as pretty much all broadband deals are now wireless broadband deals.

Wireless broadband connections can handle some of the fastest internet speeds widely available, and wireless broadband deals have long been the standard for getting access to the internet at home, at work and in public spaces.

Wireless broadband means that everyone at home can get online via their smartphones, laptops and tablets, and everyone at work can log on with whatever device they use for work.

To set up a Wi-Fi connection in your home or workspace you'll need a wireless router, which comes included in all the Wi-Fi deals available from major UK providers. They’re usually free of charge and are very simple to plug in and set up, with no technical skills required.

Our best wireless broadband deals on Uswitch.com September 2021

PackageBroadband speedContract length
TalkTalk Unlimited Fibre 65 and Phone Line67Mb average*18 months
Virgin Media M100 Ultrafast Fibre Broadband & Phone108Mb average*18 months
BT Fibre 2 Broadband67Mb average*24 months
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra & Phone Line66Mb average*18 months
NOW Broadband: Super Fibre & Anytime Calls63Mb average*12 months
Virgin Media M200 Ultrafast Fibre Broadband & Phone213Mb average*18 months
SSE Unlimited Fibre Plus and Line Rental Only63Mb average*18 months
Plusnet Unlimited Broadband & Phone Line10Mb average*12 months
NOW Broadband: Fab Fibre & Anytime Calls36Mb average*12 months
Virgin Media Big TV Bundle, Ultrafast Fibre Broadband & Phone108Mb average*18 months
More broadband deals

Where are the best Wi-Fi deals available in the UK?

Great Wi-Fi deals are available from every major broadband provider, and there are many different types of wireless broadband connection to choose from.

The type of connection you have will impact the speed and reliability of your wireless internet. But the availability of each type varies across the UK, so you likely won't have a choice of all of them.

Superfast fibre broadband is more widely available than most people realise, and its prices are very similar to standard broadband deals, despite being three times faster. So it’s always worth checking to see if there are fibre Wi-Fi deals available where you live. Chances are, there certainly will be.

When comparing Wi-Fi deals, here are the key options that you should be aware of:

  • Standard broadband — Also known as ADSL (which stands for Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line), this is the most basic broadband type and is available almost everywhere. It operates entirely through the UK's copper telephone network and offers average speeds of around 10Mbps.
  • Superfast fibre broadband — Available to more than 95% of UK homes, ‘fibre-to-the-cabinet’ (FTTC) broadband runs on the Openreach fibre network and offers a significant speed boost compared to standard broadband. Average speeds vary between 30Mbps and 70Mbps, depending on the package.
  • Cable broadband — Available from Virgin Media, this uses a different technology to deliver broadband to your home. It can offer speeds of up to 600Mbps and is available to around 52% of homes.
  • Full fibre broadband — While most fibre packages still use copper cables to connect your home to the nearest street cabinet, full fibre (or ‘fibre-to-the-premises’) sends fibre cabling directly to your home. It's the least widely-available service — only about 21% of homes currently have it available to them — but it can deliver lightning-fast speeds of up to 1,000Mbps (1Gbps) and is rapidly growing its coverage across the country.

Can I get wireless fibre broadband?

You can get wireless broadband wherever fibre broadband is available, and the vast majority of homes in the UK can access fibre broadband, but there are still a few places that miss out.

Hard-to-reach rural parts of the UK might not have access to fibre broadband yet, and some urban areas are still not connected, often due to difficulties in laying the necessary fibre cabling (especially in purpose-built flats).

However, this applies to less than 5% of UK properties, and if you are affected, there may be more suitable options at a similar speed to fibre, such as 4G and 5G mobile broadband.

What's the wireless broadband speed in my area?

To find out what speeds are available in your area and if you can access fibre, just put your address into our Postcode Checker and we'll show you what speeds you can expect and what wireless broadband deals are available where you are.

How does a router work?

A wireless router works by sending signals throughout your home in the form of Wi-Fi. Read on for some slightly more complicated tech-speak.

Almost all computers, laptops and mobile devices will have an inbuilt receiver that can connect to the internet without the need for wires. Though if you have an older machine, you can still connect wirelessly through an internet dongle or external network adapter.

While there's a lot of jargon related to Wi-Fi, there are a few key numbers you need to look out for — 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac (also called Wi-Fi 5) and most recently 802.11ax (or Wi-Fi 6). These refer to international standards for Wi-Fi that indicate how fast your wireless network will be and how many devices it can handle at any one time.

Older and cheaper routers will only use the 802.11g standard, which transmits in the 2.4GHz bandwidth — a signal that has a good reach but is slower than some more modern connections. Newer models may be listed as 802.11n, which still uses this bandwidth, but comes with better technology for faster speeds.

However, for the highest performance, you should look for routers that are 802.11ac certified. This means they can also transmit on the 5GHz frequency, which translates to much faster performance between device and router.

The next generation of Wi-Fi routers is 802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6. It's expected to make Wi-Fi much easier to use in busy areas like stadiums and airports, and eventually our homes too, given its larger capacity for bandwidth and more devices.

While some providers offer this new technology in their more advanced routers, more basic options on cheap broadband packages usually won't have this capability, so you may have to buy your own router to take advantage of it.

How to set up a router

Most routers provided with broadband packages will already be set up to automatically supply your home Wi-Fi network, so you'll have to do very little to get them up and running.

In the majority of cases, if you're choosing a standard or fibre broadband package, all you'll have to do is plug your new router into your home's master phone socket, connect it to a power socket and you’re good to go.

Some types of broadband, such as Virgin Media's cable connections and full fibre packages, may require an engineer to visit your home to install the necessary hardware for a fee. If this is the case, you can arrange this when you sign up to a service.

Which broadband provider has the best Wi-Fi router?

You may not choose your broadband provider based on who has the best wireless router, but it doesn’t hurt to consider it. All the major broadband providers have invested in their products in order to ensure they have the best Wi-Fi router available for new customers.

Here are the routers that come with the most popular broadband providers' packages:

  • Sky Hub and Sky Q Hub
  • BT Home Hubs and Smart Hubs
  • Virgin Media Hub 3.0
  • TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub and Super Router
  • EE Smart Hub and Bright Boxes

There are some slight differences between each provider’s Wi-Fi hub, but perhaps the biggest difference is between old routers and new ones. If you’re on an old contract with your provider, upgrading to a new router (or getting one for free when you switch to a new provider) could improve your Wi-Fi strength and the broadband speeds in your home.

Here are a few things that your new router should be capable of:

  • All new wireless routers offer some type of automatic 'channel switching', allowing your home hub to switch to less-congested Wi-Fi channels in order to keep your broadband running fast.
  • Most new wireless routers should also offer wired gigabit-capable connections on at least one port, giving you more options when you're using an ethernet connection.
  • All the latest wireless routers are easily set up. In most cases, it will simply be a matter of plugging the router into the main internet socket and a power outlet.
  • All the wireless routers supplied by the main broadband providers are well-designed and compact, so you can position them in your home without embarrassment.

What if my Wi-Fi isn't working?

In most cases, once your Wi-Fi router is set up, you should immediately be able to connect to your home broadband. But if your wireless internet isn't working, or is slower than expected, there are a few simple things you can try to fix this.

  • Check your device — It may be the case you haven't turned on Wi-Fi access on your computer or smartphone, or haven't connected to the right network, especially if your router has multiple Wi-Fi signals. Check that everything is working on your device first.
  • Reboot your router — If the issue isn't with your device, it might be your router. Switch it off and unplug it and wait for a couple of minutes before turning it on again to reboot the network.
  • Move your router — If your Wi-Fi signal is weak or unreliable, try moving your router. Make sure it's in an open spot near the centre of your home with no obstructions or other electrical items nearby that could interfere with the signal.

If these tips don't work, check out our guide to internet connectivity problems for more information.

A new kind of wireless broadband

Recently, a new type of wireless broadband technology has emerged, currently being trialled in certain areas of the UK.

While wireless broadband traditionally means that you can connect your device to your home router wirelessly, this new type of wireless broadband is transmitted by a broadband provider to your home.

This means that physical broadband cables, like fibre-optic or copper lines, wouldn't need to be installed at your property for broadband to be connected. Instead, all you'd need installed is a receiver that can pick up the wireless broadband signals.

It's big news for many people because it will could ultrafast internet speeds to get to homes that currently can't access them. It costs a lot of money for providers to lay fibre-optic cables to every single property, so installing one wireless transmitter per area would be a lot easier and more cost-effective.

But you shouldn't expect it to be available to you anytime soon. It's very early days for the technology, and it'll be a long while before it's commercially available to the country.

Find our best broadband and free router deals.

Check out our range of wireless mobile broadband deals.

Is wireless internet better than wired?

Wireless broadband lets you access the internet from anywhere in your home, on any device, so it gives you more freedom than a wired connection. However, it may not offer the same speeds as a wired alternative, which is something to consider if you need the highest performance.

Does wireless internet cut out more often?

Today's wireless routers are highly reliable and should give a level of consistent performance similar to that of wired connections. However, they may have trouble penetrating to every corner of a home, which may mean you need a booster to enhance the signal.

How does wireless broadband work?

Home wireless broadband will need a Wi-Fi router. These are included for free in most broadband deals and come preinstalled with the right settings, so should be simply plug-in-and-play. You can buy your own if you prefer, but you'll have to set it up yourself - your internet provider can provide instructions for how to do this.

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