Rob Clymo writes on behalf of www.broadbandgenie.co.uk, the independent comparison website for broadband and mobile broadband. Check out his girl geek guide to broadband.
What would we do without the internet? It’s hard to imagine not having access to the web or email and things look set to get even better now that broadband is giving us increasingly faster surfing time. Many of us already have a broadband provider but by shopping around it’s possible to squeeze even more speed out of the services that are on offer, while also snapping up a competitively priced monthly package.
If you’ve already got an internet connection and you’re looking to upgrade then there are now a wealth of options to explore. Broadband isn’t much different to a standard dial-up connection, so if you’ve got that then the migration to a faster speed service is easy. You won’t find much that’s different in the way of setup either, generally speaking broadband is piped into your home through the phone line using a modem-style device. There are numerous benefits for having broadband, one of them being that it’s ‘always on’ allowing you unlimited surfing time for a fixed monthly price. This instantly allows you to use the internet for much more interactive purposes like watching movies, listening to music, playing games online and also downloading lots of content and all in mere minutes and seconds.
Alongside angling for a better speed, broadband deals can be plentiful and as a result, prices can be very variable. Much of this depends on your requirements. Generally speaking the faster the speed then the more money you’ll end up paying, but this isn’t always the case. If you can afford to pay extra then improved download speed will be worth the extra cost. For example, if you’ve been used to downloading a five minute song from the web using dial-up on a standard old-style 56k modem then this would have taken you over ten minutes. Something like 1 megabyte broadband would get the song to you in less than a minute, while super fast broadband such as an 8 megabyte supply would download a track instantaneously. You’ll also be able to ‘stream’ content using this faster style connection, meaning that content like movies and music flow directly into your computer without the need for downloading it first.
The Important Bits
After shopping around and investigating the many and varied broadband deals that are available, you’ll need to sign up with an Internet Service Provider if you’re not already contracted to one. If you are, either for a dial-up service or slower broadband supply, then you may have to notify your current supplier if you want to move to another and there may also be terms and conditions attached to your existing contract. This is unlikely to be the case for dial-up but it’s worth checking before you do anything. After you’ve signed a contract with a new broadband supplier (while carefully checking contract length, terms and conditions and cancellation rules) they will agree a start date for the new supply and send you the hardware and software you need to get set up. This is often in the shape of a CD or DVD for the software while any modems or routers will also be posted to you. In some cases an engineer might come round and do it all for you, although this depends on who you’re signing up with.
There are essentially two different types of broadband supply for the home and these are ADSL, or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line or cable, which is just that; a cable network that runs outside your house. There are pros and cons for each, and cable isn’t always available to all geographical locations in the UK. ADSL is generally supplied through your existing BT telephone line via a modem or router and you can still use this line to make or receive standard phone calls. With an ADSL connection you need to have something called a micro filter on each telephone connection. These allow you to enjoy broadband whilst also still being able to make those standard voice calls and they’re generally supplied with the service you’re subscribing to.
Cable often allows you to receive a TV supply through the same modem or router device and in areas that have fibre-optic cable added to the broadband network you’ll often find that much faster services are available than internet which is supplied via existing telephone cables, because they’re generally less efficient. You can also consider wireless, satellite and mobile broadband, which are also widely available in an array of different packages. These are often worth investigating if you live a long way away from a telephone exchange so speed suffers or you have limited access. At the same time, it’s important to check that you’re also in an area that can receive wireless and satellite signals. This can occasionally be a more expensive route to take as well.
Depending on your usage requirements you should also take time to read up on ISP terms and conditions regarding usage limits. For heavy broadband users with the need to download (or even upload) lots of data such as movies and music, there can often be penalties if you go over the agreed limit in relation to your particular package. Make sure that you select a package that’ll allow you to carry out the internet browsing chores you need without any heavy penalties being imposed. Download limits can be anywhere from 1 gigabyte per month through to anything like 30 gigabytes per month. The price of the package will also dictate what these levels are to a large extent. An average internet user who does a little bit of everything should be happy with 15 gigabytes a month but you need to examine the various deals on offer very carefully before signing a contract that you may soon outgrow.
There are countless deals available but on average expect to pay around £15 per month for an average style package. Again, there are many different packages to suit many different needs, so use a price comparison website like Broadband Genie first to help you better understand what you want the service to do for you, and how much you’re prepared to pay for it as a result. There are always lots of deals on offer, some of which throw in additional extras like a free laptop to get you up and running in no time and this can be worth a try if you’ve got a computer that you think is potentially too old to be able to sustain the demands from a faster speed connection. Generally speaking however, as long as the ISP supplies the kit you’ll need to get hooked up, most modern machines are more than able to work reliably with a bang-up-to date broadband service.
There’s plenty of terminology in relation to broadband that can end up leaving you stumped, but getting yourself plumbed into a super-speedy broadband supply is actually quick, invariably easy and requires very little in the way of technical knowledge. Nevertheless, an idea of what the commonly used terms mean can be handy.
If you do any kind of research on the internet, you’ll soon start reading about Local Loop Unbundling. This is a method used by ISP’s to provide a broadband supply while using the BT network. An agreement between the two allows a wealth of different packages to be on sale through a variety of different suppliers. Aside from that, the following jargon is worth getting to grips with:
ADSL – Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line
Bandwidth – The measurement used to determine how fast your connection is.
Broadband – the service itself, which is invariably much faster than a traditional dial-up connection.
Cable – This is a version of broadband that is plumbed into your home using an alternative network to the traditional BT one. Can also supply you with TV programmes and is often much faster.
Dial-Up – an older style service that was much slower and required you to dial up and connect in much the same way as sending an old style fax message.
Download – A way of transferring digital data such as music and movies from the web to your own computer.
E-Mail – We all know what it is but remember that by signing up with a new ISP you may be required to have a new email address so consider the implications of what you do with your existing one.
Gigabyte – A form of storage capacity measurement. There are 1024 megabytes in a gigabyte.
Megabyte – A form of storage capacity measurement, there are 1024 kilobytes in a Megabyte.
Micro filter – A small plastic device used to bridge the gap between your phone line and the computer, they usually come supplied with an ADSL broadband supply.
Modem – this is the bit of kit used to receive the broadband supply to your home computer.
Mobile broadband – An increasingly popular way of getting internet and the email which uses a computer with a plug in device called a dongle to help you access the web while you’re on the move.
Router – A device that can be used to receive broadband and then distribute it between more than one computer.
About the author: Rob Clymo writes on behalf of www.broadbandgenie.co.uk, the independent comparison website for broadband and mobile broadband.