Broadband Guide

It can be difficult to choose the right broadband package that is right for you, as there are many deals on offer. However, breaking the task down and looking at the key factors can make it a much more manageable task.

A lot of broadband providers (also known as Internet Service Providers, or ISPs) will offer some form of package deal. These can include such things as internet, phone and television plans.

The main deciding factor should be how much you are willing to pay, and to make sure you are not going to stretch yourself over budget. Most subscriptions come in the form of monthly payouts, so the amount you pay for these services can stack up over the years.

Before you can look at prices, however, you need to know what sort of data plan you are going to need.

What kind of internet package would you need?

Data caps

It’s important to be aware of how much internet data you use per month. This is because lower cost internet deals could have a capped download limit. This means you will only be able to use a certain amount of data before you are charged extra. (This kind of data cap is much more common on phone contracts, but still exists on some internet contracts.)

For example (at time of writing) one internet provider is offering unlimited data deals, some 40Gb capped deals, and 10Gb capped deals, each at a different price.

You need to take stock of your household and see how much is used. You can get programs which will, when installed, track the amount of data that a computer uses.

Be careful, however. Anything connected to your home’s WiFi will use up data when used. Computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets and game consoles, among other devices, can all use up data.

If you have a large family, or if a lot of people will be using the same router in the house, you may be best opting for a deal which provides unlimited data, to make sure there is no risk of over running it, as it can incur hefty charges.

Below is a list giving some indication of how much data different online activities can use.

Low data use: Checking emails, paying bills and checking the news.

Medium data use: Occasionally streaming movies, listening to music, and the above.

High data use: Playing games online, excessive social media, and the above.

Broadband speeds

The speed of your internet is very important. It dictates how quickly your internet connection can upload and download data.

The transfer of data is measured in bytes per second (b/s or bps). Usually, this is upped to kilobytes per second (Kb/s or Kbps), megabytes per second (Mb/s or Mbps) or Gigabytes per second (Gb/s or Gbps), as nowadays data extends into the thousands or millions of bytes.

When talking about internet speeds, the most common measurement is Mbps.

Internet packages are often advertised with speeds of (for example) “up to 10Mbps”.

In these cases, the number will be specific to the deal on offer, but the “up to” phrasing is something to be wary of.

Because an ISP cannot always guarantee top levels of signal and data speeds, they often say “up to” to excuse lower rates which may occur.

Unfortunately, this can have serious effects, especially in rural areas, where a person may be paying for “up to 10Mbps”, but in reality, only be receiving much lower speeds.

Broadband package extras

ISPs, in a lot of cases, will offer extra services on an internet deal, to bring all your bills together with one provider.

Commonly, an ISP will offer a landline phone service, giving so many minutes per month use on the phone.

Often, you can also get TV provision with your internet, offering an expansive number of channels, or extras such as on demand.

Shop around to see who can offer you what to get the most out of your bills.

What type of broadband connections are there?

The way that your computer or WiFi router connects to the ISP can affect what sort of service you may get.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL): A secure way of providing internet, a DSL works through existing copper telephone wires, and electronically transmits data to your computer. Depending on the distance between the router location and the telephone company, the speed of the internet may be slower.

However, the infrastructure (aka, the telephone lines) are all in place for the internet to be transmitted through, meaning that no construction work is required to make this available to the vast majority of properties.

Wireless: Wireless internet is available in some locations, most commonly in a home transmitted from a router. A router is connected to the ISP by one of the other broadband connections (often DSL or Fibre Optic), and has a relatively small wireless radius.

This lets devices in range connect to the internet, anything from a laptop to a computer, to a mobile or to a tablet.

Some wireless connections can have a much larger field, supplying internet to a much bigger range of devices further from the source.

Cable: Internet providers can use the cable which brings picture and sound to your television.

Mobile Broadband: Mobile broadband is based on convenience. After buying into a deal, you will likely be issued with a device called a dongle, which gets plugged into your laptop. (A dongle will work with a desktop computer, but the mobility it offers is definitely targeted towards laptop use.)

The dongle creates a radio link between the laptop and the ISP, letting you use the internet on the move.

However, sometimes the signal between the dongle and the ISP can be weak, and internet speeds may slow down or even cut out. This is usually due to distance from a radio mast, or if the signal is being blocked (such as by a hill, too many buildings, or by being underground).

Satellite: Satellite connections are normally used to provide internet to remote places, for example in the outback of Australia, or on islands in the middle of the sea.

The infrastructure in these places is not in place to provide internet. In these cases, internet providers can beam the data from a satellite directly to the customer.

Fibre Optic: Fibre optic is one of the newest and quickest form of internet connection. Unfortunately, new infrastructure has to be laid in order to be used.

Fibre optic uses a different type of wiring than DSL. Fibre optic wires can transmit light along them. By converting electrical information into light, beaming it down fibre optic wires, and converting it back again, means that much greater internet speeds can be acquired.

Speeds of tens or hundreds of Mbps can be transmitted via fibre optics, but the fact the wires have to be laid is stopping it from being available in more rural areas.

Which connection type

Take into account the place that you live when choosing an internet connection. If you live on a tiny tropical island in the middle of the pacific, it is unlikely you will be able to get fibre optic, and instead will have to look into satellite connections.

Final tips:

When looking for an internet provider, it is advisable to shop around and make sure that you get the best deal on offer.