Home broadband is more important than it has ever been. Recent articles on rightmove.co.uk, the notable property website, state that house values can be increased by as much as 5% if they have access to high speed internet. The reality is that the super fast broadband that’s available to some of us has not rolled out to all of us yet.
This article will look at the different types of broadband and help you understand some of the best deals if you are looking for unlimited broadband.
Fibre optic broadband
Fibre optic broadband is superfast. It offers speeds to consumers of up to 120MB per second and we will soon see speeds up to 500MB per second on fibre to the home. Businesses are already receiving signals of 1GB per second which is super, superfast. The reality is though that the fibre optic cables that carry the broadband signal have only been laid to only 50 or 60% of the country. BT is rolling out cables and expects to hit 65% or 66% of the population by the end of 2013. Virgin currently has their services to around 50% of the country and is working hard to compete with BT on the rollout. Time will tell whether BT or Sky win the battle; certainly, Sky has had the fastest speeds for many years but BT is looking to readdress this fact.
There are two main types of fibre optic broadband:
- fibre to the home
- fibre to the cabinet
Fibre to the home
With fibre to the home, the fibre optic cables of your broadband provider go all the way into your living room. It’s only really Virgin broadband that do this at the moment.
Fibre to the cabinet
Most other broadband is fibre to the cabinet where the fibre cables go all the way into the street level cabinet, normally only a few hundred metres or less from your home. The final passage of the journey is through the copper cables of the BT telephone network. Therefore, there is a leg of the journey where there is less than perfect internet data transfer.
The easiest way to see why there is loss of data over these copper cables is to look at ADSL broadband. ADSL goes over the copper cables that make up the infrastructure of our telephone landline network. From the telephone exchange to the home, the full distance is covered over copper cables and the speed can degrade over that distance. The further you live from the telephone exchange, the poorer the likely internet connectivity you’ll get in your home is. Over distance, copper cables are unable to maintain the integrity of the speed and data and therefore, there is a gradual slowing in the process. The fact is that some 170,000 homes in the UK can’t get any sort of level of ADSL broadband because they are too far from their telephone exchange.
New ADSL technologies
There are new ADSL technologies that are improving the situation for many. The speeds of standard ADSL used to be up to 8MB per second but there are now very few providers that offer such low speeds. BT and Sky tend to offer up to 14 or 16MB per second and some providers will offer up to 24MB per second. The equipment that is installed in the telephone exchange by the internet service provider will play a key role in the speed that you can get in your home. If they have updated the telephone exchange with their own apparatus, then there will be increased bandwidth and increased speed in your home.
Many of us have heard about 4G connectivity; if you haven’t, here is a quick look at what it is.
What is 4G?
4G connectivity is the 4th generation of mobile broadband and has theoretical top speeds above 100MB per second on download and 40 – 50MB per second on upload. It is an amazing new technology that will dramatically improve what we can do on mobile broadband devices.
To cater for a new market, broadband providers have brought out MiFi devices in order to enable multiple wireless connections on the same broadband line. With speeds averaging 8 – 12MB per second on Orange broadband over mobile networks, we’re seeing mobile broadband that can compete with home ADSL broadband.
Indeed, the top speeds could well compete with fibre optic broadband in the future. So far, only Everything Everywhere has released their service. O2, Vodafone and 3 Mobile are working on their networks to get theirs released somewhere between the summer of 2013 and Christmas. Time will tell whether they can achieve better speeds than Orange broadband has through Everything Everywhere.
Mobile broadband: a decent solution for home broadband?
Most people have a fixed line broadband provider for their homes. We go for Sky Deals to go with our satellite TV or we go for a standalone provider such as PlusNet broadband. Whichever we go, whether it be a Sky bundle or a broadband package from a specialist provider, we must ensure that we get value for money.
Mobile broadband offers the opportunity to have the same connection in our home as we take outside with us. No more need for a backup mobile broadband dongle as the one device can do both functions. The mobile broadband spectrum of 4G has also improved indoor connectivity and so yes, mobile broadband could be a solution.
The limitations of mobile broadband
If you have a Sky deal, you’ll know that you can download as much as you want on their unlimited package. Sky offers broadband with no fair usage policy and no traffic management. You can literally do whatever you want. Many of the other home broadband providers do limit you in your activities.
Mobile broadband at the moment is expensive. If you want a 20GB limit on Everything Everywhere plus unlimited calls and texts on your mobile phone contract, you’ll be paying somewhere around £70 with a premium phone. Compare that to the same package but with 1GB of data and you’re paying around £41. For an extra 19GB of data, you’re paying somewhere around £30 per month.
20GB is a lot of data if you’re not streaming HD movies and you’re doing very intensive activities and if there’s only one of you on the connection. The reality is though if you are doing such high intensity activities, 20GB could be gone in 4 or 5 hours. It is therefore important to understand this limitation of mobile broadband. You’ll not be able to do everything you want to do if you are a heavy consumer or have a heavy consuming home.
Usage allowances and Sky Deals
This leads me into the most important thing when it comes to choosing broadband. You must understand your user profile. You have to consider how fast you want to do things and how much data you’re going to consume over a month. It’s a good idea to look back over previous times you’ve had broadband and think about the activities that you did do.
Bear in mind that more and more services are going online and that you can watch Sky TV and just about any other channel that you’d want to watch on the internet nowadays. This can mean that you dramatically increase your consumption of data. Only by understanding whether you are a light, medium or heavy consumer will you be able to get a good value package that matches your requirements. You don’t want to be spending too much but equally you don’t want to be spending too little and ending up overusing your data and getting hefty additional charges.