Speedy internet has become a necessity for most people, a reliable broadband connection is something we depend on not only so we can work remotely from home, but a vast number of people are now streaming a large percentage of home entertainment through the internet using streaming services like Netflix and Sky Cinema. In fact, broadband has become such an important factor in people’s day-to-day lives that it’s one of the top must-haves on most homebuyers’ wish lists.
So, with fast broadband now an essential for most buyers, we’re giving advice on what people need to consider when purchasing a property in a new area, or if you’re thinking about switching providers.
Checking broadband speeds
Checking potential broadband performance is easy (and free) but there are a few things you should know in order to get the most accurate information.
First off, any Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as Sky, Virgin and TalkTalk can check broadband coverage. This can be done via their website or by calling up the support or sales line. However, an ISP is only going be interested in telling you about the services they provide, which is fine if your intention is to stick with the same provider, but it can be a good idea to get a broader, unbiased overview.
Here’s what you should be looking out for:
- Download speed: The rate at which information is transferred from the internet to your device. Better download speeds mean you can get photos, music, and video from the internet faster than if you're using a slow connection. You'll also be able to watch films and TV shows online with fewer pauses for loading.
- Upload speed: The speed at which information is transferred from your device to the internet. The faster the upload speed, the smoother the online experience you'll have. Upload speeds also determine how quickly you can send emails, post photos on social media or upload large videos or batches of photos to streaming sites, like YouTube and Flickr.
- Response time: measured in milliseconds, the response time is the speed at which you get a response after you've sent out a request.
Typical home broadband upload speeds are considerably slower than download speeds, so don't be alarmed if you notice a difference between the two. Providers give 'downstream' data priority as most of us are more concerned with how quickly we can download stuff than how long it takes us to upload files.
How accurate are broadband speeds?
When you sign up for a new broadband deal your ISP should always provide you with an accurate speed estimate, but this will usually be a range showing the potential lowest and highest speeds.
The national average broadband speed is 18.5Mbps, with upload speeds averaging 4.3Mbps and download speeds around 46.2Mbps. You can check your speed using Which? broadband speed test.
Are there different types of broadband?
There are, and you have three different kinds to choose from, all of which vary in price and each with their own pros and cons. There’s cable broadband (otherwise known as fibre optic), mobile broadband (which uses 3G or 4G mobile phone signal) and ADSL broadband (which requires a telephone line).
Because ADSL requires a home phone line, there is usually an additional monthly line rental fee to pay on top of your broadband package costs to BT. Despite this, ADSL remains the cheapest type of connection currently available.
Mobile broadband runs over 3G and 4G networks so doesn’t require a landline. But because of this the monthly data allowances tend to be a lot lower, and if you exceed your data allowance, you can be charged quite significantly. This type of connection is as reliable as a mobile phone – which overall, you’ll find is fairly good – but at peak times and in certain areas, you will notice a drop in signal.
Cable (or fibre optic) broadband usually has the fastest connection and typically has no additional built-in costs or data charges and doesn’t require a landline. It also provides the most reliable connection as it usually links to a BT cabinet in a nearby street. You will have to pay a setup fee for fibre however and depending on the type of speeds you’re looking for, packages can get pretty pricey.
Do I really need fibre optic broadband?
Superfast broadband sounds appealing, but just how fast is it and do you really need it? Fibre is worth considering if you have a large family or live in a shared house, where several people use the web simultaneously across lots of connected devices, watch a lot of on-demand TV services, or regularly download movies, music, games and TV to watch offline.
For browsing the internet, checking emails, uploading the odd photo to Facebook and even streaming from BBC iPlayer or Netflix, you don't need a superfast connection.
One last piece of advice
If you’re moving into a new home, it is common to experience a delay in the set-up of your broadband or to be without it completely, so make sure to contact your ISP as soon as you can to change your connection – do not leave it until the day you move.
Most companies need at least two weeks’ notice to install or change a connection, but we would recommend six, just to be on the safe side. Some providers let you arrange a move up to 90 days in advance, so if you’re feeling productive, sort it early and you should be online from the day you move in