What is broadband?
Broadband is a type of information transfer delivered at high speeds. Broadband allows for faster downloading and uploading of data, and this makes for a faster internet connection. Broadband can be provided through copper phone lines, or the significantly faster fibre-optic network.
What speed is broadband?
If you have fibre-optic broadband then you could get a package offering anything between up to 30Mbps and up to 100Mbps. If you choose a more advanced package, then you can get a faster maximum speed. You should also find that speeds are consistently close to the advertised maximum.
With ADSL the speed is far more unpredictable, due to the use of copper phone lines. You might choose a package offering up to 24Mbps, but only get 8Mbps on average. This is down to external factors such as distance from exchange and local web traffic.
What is fibre-optic broadband?
Fibre-optic broadband delivers information much faster than ADSL, utilising ultra-thin glass fibres which can transfer data through pulses of light. With fibre-optic you can download a song in a couple of seconds, or an HD movie in just a few minutes.
What does Kbps and Mbps mean?
These are both terms used to measure the speeds available on a broadband connection. Kbps is short for Kilobits per second, whilst Mbps is Megabits per second. Mbps is the standard rate of data transfer used to represent the download speed of a broadband package.
Does everyone in the UK have access to fibre-optic broadband?
Sadly it is not possible for everyone, but providers are working on expanding and improving the superfast network.
Can I get fibre-optic broadband where I live?
You can check with any fibre-optic provider if they cover your area. Please use our broadband comparison tool to check general broadband availability in your area.
Will I need a telephone line to get broadband?
If you are looking for ADSL broadband, you’ll need an active phone line to receive the service. You may live in an area which uses the Virgin Media cable network, in which case the phone line is not essential, but other types of fibre-optic broadband still utilise the copper phone line to some extent.
Mobile Broadband services don't require a phone line because they utilise a mobile internet network.
What is bandwidth?
Bandwidth is a term used to define data transfer rate, meaning the amount of data that can be moved from one place to another in a specific time frame. It is usually measured in bits per second, or bps.
What types of broadband are there?
See our types of broadband page for a full comparison of the types of broadband available.
How do I get broadband?
Have a look at our broadband comparison page for some of the best deals on the web. We keep our site updated with the latest offers and features from top broadband providers.
You can also search the availability of broadband providers in your area by entering your postcode in our availability search tool.
Can I stay online for as long as I want?
Broadband providers may limit your broadband usage; most will charge you a monthly fee and let you download a certain amount of data, or restrict heavy downloading until a certain time (usually after peak hours).
You can also get unlimited usage, which is ideal for heavy downloaders. Unlimited can come with a range of different packages from medium ADSL to superfast fibre-optic.
Can my provider raise their charges during my contract?
You will need to have a look at your contract with your provider to find out whether they are within their rights to do this.
Most contracts include a provision for price increase but there is also usually another clause which says they have to let you know in advance.
If you think they have acted in breach of the contract then complain directly to the provider and if you don't receive a satisfactory response, you may want to pass the complaint to Ofcom.
Why does my broadband speed vary throughout the day?
At peak times, when several people are connected to the internet at once via ADSL, you may experience slower than usual connection speeds.
This is less of an issue with fibre-optic broadband, as the technology copes far better with heavy traffic.
Also, if you have been excessively downloading and your provider has initiated some usage control, you may find that your connection has been throttled temporarily, which would account for the slowdown.
The number of people who share your connection and your browser settings (you should refresh/restart your browser every couple of hours or so) can also affect your speed.
How can I protect myself and my computer from computer viruses?
Please see our page on broadband security for more information on this.
How do I switch to a different broadband provider?
Please see our page for detailed information on changing broadband providers.