So the UK government has pledged to make ultra high-speed (“ultrafast”) broadband, such as BT fibre broadband, available to all residents sometime this year. Governments in Europe are reaching a consensus on international data roaming and other things internet, and broadband services in other parts of the world are increasing in availability and/or affordability.
But what’s the right broadband option for you? And how do you go about making that judgement? This guide will explain.
What Kind of Web User Are You?
This is the simple but crucial question that’s going to influence the decisions you make regarding which type of broadband service to use.
Everyone’s unique, but it is possible to classify internet users into both generalised and logical groups – with each group sharing typical needs, browsing habits and activities that influence the type of connection speeds they’ll require, and the size of their data allowances.
Broadly speaking, web users may be classified as:
- Beginners, or entry-level users
- Students and institutional users
- Power users
- Enterprise users
- Mobile users
Entry-level broadband services are the thing to go for if you’re relatively new to the internet and aren’t quite sure what you’ll need your connection for. They’re usually low-cost options with what might be considered moderate connection speeds and data limits, and are suitable for light browsing, checking up on emails, and watching the occasional video or media clip.
If you’re just starting out with broadband it may seem a little illogical to begin with a limited service, but there’s a sound economic reason for this. Most providers will readily allow their subscribers to “trade up” to a faster or more data-rich plan – on many occasions, even halfway through an existing contract.
But realising that the unlimited broadband scheme you shelled out for is way too much for your actual needs and trying to downgrade to a cheaper plan is another matter. If it’s even possible, there may be penalties or surcharges involved.
Broadband for Students
Cash-strapped undergraduates and interns may not yet need BT fibre broadband, but nonetheless require fast and stable access to the internet, to enable them to monitor timetables and activities in their departments, stay in touch with lecturers and project team-mates, do research, and catch the occasional movie or sporting event after those hard nights at the Student Union.
Student households are often multi-tenant arrangements, and costs may be shared. And student broadband packages are typically at the lower cost end of the spectrum. They’ll usually include generous download allowances, with unlimited access recommended for households of three persons or more.
Though providers in the past required student subscribers to sign a 12-month contract as a minimum, an increasing number of services are offering 9-month plans that don’t oblige customers to pay for connectivity they aren’t using over the extended summer holiday period.
Power Users: Media, Games – And Families
Fans of streaming entertainment services like Netflix, hardcore gamers, users of peer-to-peer software, and the average suburban family fall into the category of heavy internet or power users. Extended periods online, substantial data streams or downloads, and a variety of different devices sharing the same connection are characteristic of this group.
Unlimited download allowances and fast speeds are essential to broadband for the power user. A plan based on fibre broadband (significantly faster than the standard type) may be worth considering – even though it may have a somewhat higher price tag attached.
Business users are catered for via a specialist selection of enterprise broadband packages. Providers may advertise bundles put together with a standard or idealised enterprise in mind, with options to tweak their offerings to suit the specific needs of a particular organisation. It’s a competitive market with attractive prices and superfast broadband speeds typically on offer, BT fibre broadband of course being one example.
Enterprise or brand-specific email addresses and facilities for creating corporate websites are often featured, together with the option of having a fixed or static IP address, in which the identifying number of your internet connection never changes. This enables companies to run their own file and email servers, and to more easily construct and manage their own websites and portals.
Broadband packages for business usually also include a suite of internet security tools and software, and may feature enhanced technical support and customer service.
Individuals and remote corporate workers who need or prefer to access the internet from a laptop or tablet will require a mobile broadband package.
Connecting requires a “dongle” of some kind: a portable modem device (some you can carry in your pocket) which plugs into a slot on your laptop or tablet. USB dongles are typically used for laptops, while a “MiFi” hub (which can share a single connection between several devices) is required for tablets, which don’t ship with a USB slot.
The broadband connection occurs over a standard 3G or 4G mobile network, and services may be subscribed to on an individual basis, or as additional features of an enterprise broadband package.
Estimating the amount of data you’re likely to consume in a month is another part of the broadband selection equation. Fortunately, comparison websites like MoneySupermarket.com have drawn up tables of typical consumption figures that you can refer to.
As a guide:
- 2GB of data per month are required for general browsing and email
- Browsing and on-demand television require 10-30GB per month
- Add movies and downloaded music, and you’re up to 40-80GB per month
- The addition of online gaming will push you into unlimited download territory – though this could really apply to any usage above 40GB per month
Your Broadband Location and Speed
For the moment, that UK government pledge re ultra high-speed service is just that: a pledge. We’ve yet to see the blanket coverage that’s being promised. And if you’re living outside the UK, there’s a wide variation in the quality and coverage of the broadband services that may be available to you. That said, there are some general conditions that typically apply across the board.
Users in built-up urban areas will generally have their pick of all the broadband speed categories, often including the option of BT fibre broadband. Price and package features will be the determining factors.
Users in remote or rural locations may have to shop around and make some enquiries as to which ISPs (Internet Service Providers) operate in the area – and what speeds they have to offer.
Broadband and Telephone Bundles
If your telephone and broadband services originate from the same provider, it’s likely that they’ll offer a package deal, bundling your phone and broadband contracts into a single, lower-cost account. But you’ll need to weigh up your usage requirements against what’s on offer, to avoid paying for more than you can realistically consume.
Broadband and TV Bundles
Likewise, many providers offer packages combining broadband access with subscriptions to various satellite, cable, and/or digital TV services. Telephone subscription may also be part of the deal.
As well as download limits and connection speeds, you’ll need to consider the range of channels on offer, the length of the contract, and any installation costs or hidden extras.
Essential Hardware and Software
For all consumer and enterprise broadband services, including BT fibre broadband, the provision of a free wireless router to enable the connection should come as standard. And if it’s not included in the package, a suite of internet security software is pretty much an essential, these days.
With these thoughts in mind, go forth and shop wisely.
If you need advice on which broadband option is right for you and your business, and whether BT fibre broadband is necessary, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experts at LG Networks.