But that's a way off. In the meantime there are steps you can take to ensure you achieve speeds closer to what you were expecting.
You may not know that your Wi-Fi router can have a massive impact on the internet speeds you get throughout your home. Since the provider supplies the router we tend to assume that they're automatically good enough. But that isn't always true - sometimes they're old or slow, and not capable of handling a superfast broadband connection.
In these cases, upgrading to a more powerful router can help speed up your broadband dramatically.
How a new Wi-Fi router can help
Let's start with the technical bit.
The performance of a router is determined by the wireless standard that it uses. The best modern routers use the latest standard, called 802.11ac. It's the fastest available, and it runs on the 5GHz band which is clean and interference free.
802.11ac superceded the 802.11n standard. This is much slower - perhaps half or even a third of the speed - and it commonly runs on the 2.4GHz band which is much more prone to interference from other electrical devices in your home. As a result, the signal is not just slower but it gets much weaker the further it travels.
The router as a bottleneck
Many broadband providers supply an N-rated router with their packages, and it may not be up to the job. Tests show that 802.11n routers have a real world top speed of 50-100Mb, at close range. At a distance of 20 metres, and with a few obstacles like walls and floors in the way, that speed can be slashed in half - or worse.
So, if you've got a high-end fibre package and are getting speeds of 50Mb or more, then an N-rated router simply won't cut it. Your broadband is faster than your router, and the router becomes a bottleneck. Even on an entry-level fibre deal, with speeds of 25Mb, you'll be pushing it. You might find you get good speeds downstairs, but that they fall off sharply in the bedrooms.
In both cases, upgrading to an AC-rated router is likely to give you a major speed boost. The exception is standard broadband. Here, the speeds top out at 16Mb, and in practice are usually somewhat slower. An N-rated router should be able to handle this.
An easy way to check if you're affected is to use our free Speed Test tool. Stand next to your router and run the test on your laptop. Then head to the furthest corner of your house and run it again. If there's a major discrepancy in your results then it could be a sign that you need to upgrade your router. (Or it could mean you need to find a better position for your router.)
Do you need a new router?
You can see why a slow router can mean you don't get the broadband speeds you were expecting. So do you need to upgrade?
When you're shopping for broadband deals, all our comparison tables have icons to show what kind of router you're getting. Click the More Info button to see whether there's an option to upgrade to a better router when you sign up.
What router do you get?
Many of the major providers now supply AC-rated routers with all their packages. This includes TalkTalk, Vodafone and Virgin, while Sky also provides the new Sky Q Hub if you are a TV customer.
BT, Plusnet and EE supply 802.11ac routers with their fibre packages, and N-rated routers with standard broadband. BT offers a paid upgrade for standard broadband customers, but the other two don't.
Origin customers get an N-rated router, and need to pay at checkout to upgrade to a faster AC-rated unit.
If you've been with a provider for some time it's possible you're still using an older N-rated router and aren't getting the fastest possible speeds from your broadband. In this case it's worth checking with the provider to see if they'll swap your router for a newer model for free. Some may give you one in exchange for you signing a new contract. Just make sure you know exactly what you're getting, and that you aren't charged or placed on a new contract without knowing.
Lastly, a handful of providers, including Plusnet, Zen and Origin, allow you to use own router, so you can shop around and check independent reviews to get the best model for your needs.
The router is a frequently overlooked part of the broadband service. It's natural to assume that broadband problems are the fault of the provider, but the reality is that if your router is too slow you can easily be cutting your internet speed in half without even realising.
Give your router a quick check now to see if you would benefit from an upgrade.
We're all keen to shave a few pounds off our monthly bills, so when we're shopping for broadband and find an entry level package that looks the same as the more expensive alternatives, it can prove pretty tempting. Many broadband providers - from the industry's biggest and smallest names alike - offer these. They can be extremely cheap, but they come with pretty hefty restrictions.
Sky make a compelling offer with their cheapest fibre deal. It gives you the opportunity to upgrade to the benefits of fibre broadband and get it completely free for the length of the contract, while paying only line rental. Except there's a catch - you're limited to 25GB of data each month.
BT's lowest priced fibre deal also comes with a 25GB limit, and their cheapest standard broadband just 12GB. Many other providers also impose limits on their most affordable packages, ranging from 100GB down to a paltry 5GB.
Not only do these limits restrict how you can use the internet, they can also prove more expensive in the long run. Exceed your limit on BT, for example, and you'll pay £1.80 for every additional gigabyte you use. The price can rack up quite quickly.
Now, this doesn't mean you should avoid data limited packages outright. For lighter users in smaller households they might be ideal. Just make sure you know how much data you will be using before you sign up.
How much data do you need?
The amount of data you use depends what you do online. Casual browsing, shopping and banking, email and Facebook are not especially data intensive. If that's the extent of your web use, and there's only a couple of people in your household, then you might be okay with a data limit.
Anything media-related, on the other hand, eats through data rapidly. Here's a rough guide to how much data common apps use:
Netflix - the TV streaming service Netflix uses around 1GB of data per hour for standard definition, and 3GB per hour for HD. For BBC iPlayer, you can expect to use 2GB per hour of HD viewing.
Sky TV on demand - On-demand downloads through your Sky box will also count towards your data allowance - even if you use Sky broadband. A typical movie will use 1.5GB of data for SD and 4GB for HD.
Music streaming - The Spotify music streaming service uses around 115MB per hour at the highest quality setting.
Gaming - Tests have shown that online video gaming can use anywhere between 20MB and 200MB, depending on the title. Stream your gameplay over the Twitch service and you'll use up to 1.6GB per hour.
Video calls - Skype can use between around 200-600MB per hour for video calls, although it can be lower depending on the quality of the connection.
And then there are the numerous other things that will burn through a data allowance. Regular updates for your laptop, phone and games console, for example, stretch to several hundred megabytes or more. They may be mandatory, and they may even happen in the background without you realising.
Uploads count, too. use iCloud or OneDrive for your files, back up your important files to DropBox or Google Drive, share your holiday snaps on Facebook or Google Photos, or upload funny videos to YouTube or Snapchat, and that's another chunk of your data gone.
A false economy?
A cheap broadband deal with a monthly data allowance can be tempting - why pay any more than you need to, right? But it can prove to be a false economy, and you certainly shouldn't choose one in the hope that you'll be able to ration your usage.
Some providers, like BT, will start charging the moment you exceed your limit. Others, like Sky, will allow you to go over once every six months, before automatically upgrading your broadband to their more expensive Unlimited package. And in some cases, the difference between limited and unlimited isn't even all that great. At the time of writing you can get an unlimited fibre deal from Plusnet for just £25 more per year than Sky Fibre.
If you're only a light internet user, going online to pay bills and the like, then the cheapest, limited deal may suffice. For everyone else, you'd be better off steering clear and picking the best unlimited deal that suits your needs.
Good broadband is one of the essentials of student life. You need it for coursework and research; you need it for Game of Thrones and pulling an all-nighter on Call of Duty. But with so many broadband packages to choose from, how do you decide which to go with? What factors do you need to be aware of, and where can you find the best student broadband deals? Let's take a look.
When searching for broadband for your student accommodation you don't just need the best deal, you need the right deal. It's important to get the right length of contract - if you finish uni next June you don't want to still be paying for your broadband in August - and you also need to think about what speeds you need. A student house with two people will have vastly different internet requirements to a house with eight people.
Our newly updated Guide to Student Broadband can help you with this. It's got all the advice you need, and will also point you towards the best offers around.
Top student broadband offers 2016
Fortunately, many providers offer exclusive deals for students. They come with nine month contracts - to cover you during term time and no more - and include superfast fibre broadband options. Here's our pick of some of this year's best student offers.
Virgin Media VIVD 200 for Students: for the largest or most demanding households you can get up to 200Mb fibre broadband (so long as you're in a coverage area). Cheaper 50 and 100Mb packages are also available.
Origin Broadband: Origin's basic broadband service isn't a student special, but it is one of the cheapest deals around. Get 12 months of internet access for free, paying only line rental.
NOW TV Fab Fibre with TV pass and Calls: NOW TV offers up to 38Mb fibre broadband with no contract - you can cancel at any time. You get a TV pass, too, with your choices being Entertainment, Sky Cinema or Sky Sports.
Check out our Guide to Student Broadband for the lowdown on all these deals and many more, plus answers to any other questions you might have. Keen video gamer? Want to watch Premier League football? Need mobile broadband on your laptop? That's all covered, too!
What comes to mind when you think of the British countryside? The rolling hills? The quaint tea rooms? Cricket on the village green? How about terrible broadband?
Back in March Ofcom released the results of its latest broadband performance survey, and it was gloomy reading for rural households.
Ofcom's data showed that internet speeds in rural areas are less than a third of those in urban areas. It showed that speeds for country dwellers have barely budged in the last three years, and that 75% of households are stuck on internet connections of 10Mb or slower.
It's even worse in the most remote areas. Another survey from the NFU suggested that more than half of its members were getting by on speeds of less than 2Mb.
Meanwhile, Europe's Digital Progress Report, from the European Commission, highlights just how far the UK's rural broadband infrastructure lags behind the rest of the continent. Just 45.9% of British rural homes have access to superfast broadband, compared to 97% in The Netherlands, 89% in Switzerland, and approaching two-thirds in rural parts of former Eastern bloc states like Slovenia and Lithuania.
The cause of slow rural broadband
The causes of slow internet speeds mostly relate to location and infrastructure.
Most people in the UK get at least part of their broadband connection delivered over the copper telephone network. Even most fibre broadband services are actually only part fibre. The further your connection has to travel over copper lines, the slower it gets, so the distance you live from your nearest telephone exchange (for standard broadband) or street cabinet (for fibre), the slower your service will be.
In towns and cities these distances tend to be shorter, so the speeds are faster. In rural areas, the opposite is true.
To make matters worse, upgrades to the infrastructure often only occur where it is economically viable. This inevitably results in areas of low population density being excluded. Many rural exchanges and cabinets have not been upgraded to be able to provide faster broadband speeds.
A faster future?
There are plans in place to improve broadband speeds across the UK, especially in hard to reach areas.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is a Government-funded body tasked with this, with the aim of extending superfast coverage to 95% of UK households and ensuring a modest 2Mb service is available to everyone.
The Better Broadband subsidy scheme has been set up for the latter. It targets around 300,000 of the most remote properties, and subsidises the installation of a wireless or satellite broadband service to the tune of around £350. You may be eligible if you're unable to get a 2Mb service currently, so long as there are no plans to install fibre in your area in the next 12 months.
However, as our guide to rural broadband explains, these alternative services do not come without a few caveats to be aware of.
So, what are your options?
While there's no magic solution, you do have plenty of options if you want a service that offers more than the bare minimum performance.
Our rural broadband guide gives you everything you need to know about getting the fastest internet access in the countryside. It explains all the factors that can hit fibre and standard broadband speeds — you can use our coverage checker to find out whether you are likely to be affected.
And if broadband from the main providers isn’t going to work out for you, we’ve got a full lowdown of the other services you can choose. These range from smaller, local providers bringing ultrafast fibre broadband to select regions using their own infrastructure, to mobile broadband, to niche services like satellite and fixed wireless broadband.
You don’t have to settle for sub-standard internet performance. Check out our rural broadband guide today to help get your service up to speed.
Game of Thrones Season 6 is well under way, and it's still the hottest show on TV. But what's the best way to keep up with the action in Westeros? Read on to find out how you can watch Game of Thrones legally in the UK. And we'll keep the post spoiler-free, because if you want to binge on the boxsets right from the start there are ways to do that, too.
Sky Atlantic and Sky Go
The only way to watch Game of Thrones on broadcast TV in the UK is through Sky Atlantic. For the keenest fans the show goes out at 2am on Mondays, simulcast with HBO in the States. This is followed by a more reasonable 9pm repeat.
If you're a Sky+ customer with Sky Atlantic, you also get access to Sky Go through a web browser or mobile app. This enables you to watch the show live as it's broadcast, or on catch-up afterwards. The cheapest Sky+ deal with Sky Atlantic is priced at £20 per month. There are also lots of great value Sky broadband and TV bundles available. If you're a Sky Q customer you can of course watch your Sky TV shows anywhere.
The kicker is that Sky Atlantic is only available if you have got a Sky satellite dish. If you're a Virgin, BT or TalkTalk customer, you'll need to look to other online services to get your GoT fix.
Game of Thrones on NOW TV
The easiest way to watch Game of Thrones online without being a Sky TV customer is with a NOW TV subscription. This Sky-owned streaming service has packages starting at just £6.99 per month for the NOW TV Entertainment pass, which includes Sky Atlantic. Among the 11 other channels in the package is FOX, which means you'll be able to watch the next season of The Walking Dead online, too.
With NOW TV you can watch live or on catch-up, where shows are available for 30 days. It comes with a two week free trial and there's no contract so you can cancel at any time.
You can watch NOW TV on pretty much any entertainment device you can think of. Your options include a dedicated NOW TV box (priced from £14.99), a Chromecast, the PS3 and PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, some LG smart TVs, YouView boxes, Android and iOS phones and tablets, or just a regular web browser. A broadband speed of at least 2.5Mb connection is recommended. For mobile viewing you need at least 450Kb - make sure you have a large enough data allowance to avoid any excess charges.
Watch Game of Thrones boxsets online
If you've fallen behind with the show - or have never seen it - you can watch Game of Thrones boxsets online to get up to speed with the action.
Sky customers can catch up through a Sky+ or Sky Q box, or the Sky Go app. However, shows are only licensed for a set period of time, so may not always be available. Even if you download the episodes they will disappear from your Planner when they expire. It's the same situation on NOW TV, with shows appearing and disappearing on a regular basis.
You can buy seasons 1-5 to download and watch. Season 6 won't be available until after the it has finished broadcasting on Sky. On iTunes the prices range from £12.99 for Season One to £23.99 for Season Five, or £2.49 for single episodes. On Google Play all seasons are £17.49, and single episodes £1.89. On Amazon Instant Video (not including Prime Instant Video) prices go from £9.99 for Season One to £17.99 for Season Five, with episodes between £2.49 and £2.99 each.
Broadband pricing is set to become a whole lot more straightforward later this year, thanks to a new ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority.
From 31 October, broadband ads will be required to clearly show the total monthly cost for the service, as well as give greater prominence to up-front costs, post-discount pricing, and contract length. The move should bring increased transparency to broadband prices, and make it easier for users to compare services from different providers.
Until now, broadband suppliers have been able to entice new customers with very low and attractive introductory rates, hiding in the small print the line rental fees that typically add an extra £15 or more to the tariff. Additional costs, including price increases after an introductory offer ends, and one-off charges for things like installation and hardware, are also frequently de-emphasised or even hidden in ads. Under the new guidelines, all of these will need to be made clear.
ASA guidelines for price claims in broadband ads:
Show all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs; no more separating out line rental
Give greater prominence for the contract length and any post-discount pricing
Give greater prominence for up-front costs
TalkTalk is the first major broadband provider to announce it will be adopting the changes. The company has said it will scrap separate line rental fees in favour of a new all-in pricing model.
“As long as line rental and broadband are priced separately, the temptation to advertise deals in this way will always be there," said Tristia Harrison, TalkTalk’s Consumer Managing Director. "But it’s time for providers be honest about this - it’s a bad habit we have all been guilty of, it doesn’t serve customers well and it’s time it stopped."
The action comes after a survey by the ASA and Ofcom found that less than a quarter of people could identify the monthly cost of a broadband package after a single viewing of an ad. A further 81% of those questioned were not able to calculate the total cost of a broadband contact.
However, a few concerns have been raised within the industry. Chiefly, these revolve around the requirement to combine broadband and line rental pricing, and how it will affect smaller providers that do not offer line rental, or those that allow customers to take line rental from a different provider. Virgin Media has also complained that the ASA's review of broadband advertising has not addressed claims on broadband speeds, when the quoted speeds are often only attained by 10% of users.
For most customers, the changes should be a welcome step towards bringing clarity to internet pricing. It remains to be seen what new promotions providers will offer to differentiate their products.
In these cash conscious times we're all looking for ways to save a little on our bills each month. But how often do you check whether you're still getting a good deal on your broadband? Chances are, not often enough. A recent survey by NatWest shows that only 55% of us regularly compare broadband deals, while nearly a third never do it. Meanwhile, a massive 39% reckon they aren't getting good value for money.
These stats are not unrelated. Without taking the time to shop around, you'll be left paying over the odds for something that doesn't do the job. It need not be the case; cutting your broadband bill is easy if you know where to start.
1. Compare prices
Finding the best deals available to you is as easy as typing your postcode into our price comparison tool. We'll show you every package you can get, including standard and fibre broadband deals as well as phone and TV bundles. There'll almost certainly be something cheaper than you've already got — just decide how much you want to pay.
2. Pay for what you need
If you're not sure what speed broadband you need, it can be tempting to plump for the most high-end service just to be on the safe side. This isn't a great plan, as your perfect package can vary wildly depending on how many people there are in your household, how many internet-connected devices they've got, and what they'll be using them for. You can easily end up paying a lot more than you really need to (or, just as bad, taking a cheaper service that doesn't do what you need it to).
3. Buy bundles
Buying broadband, phone and TV services together in a single package will often work out a lot cheaper than buying them separately. It's easier to manage, too, since it'll all be included in the same bill. According to the NatWest survey, more than a third of us are already taking advantage of this.
Naturally, choosing a TV bundle will restrict you to only the largest broadband providers. And our point about only paying for what you need becomes really important here: don't subscribe to a bunch of TV channels you aren't going to watch. If you only want the movie channels, for example, you might still be better off with a smaller broadband provider and a Now TV subscription.
All broadband providers offer an array of attractive deals to entice new customers. Loyal, longstanding customers, meanwhile, get short shrift. However, if you're nearing the end of your contract — or it is already up — you can often negotiate a sizeable price cut. You may need to sign a new contract, but the savings should be worth it.
Haggling isn't as scary as it sounds. Every provider has a 'retentions' team whose purpose is to prevent customers from leaving. Tell them you can get a better price from another provider and there's a good chance they'll beat it. Alternatively, they might offer add-ons or upgrades for no extra cost. It's worth trying even if you're happy with your supplier, but if you're actually willing to go through with a switch you'll be in an even stronger position to get a better deal.
5. Understand what you're paying
Those introductory offers are very appealing. Words like FREE jump off the page, and can be hard to resist. But remember that virtually all broadband deals include line rental, and there can be as much as £4 difference from one provider to another. New rules from May 2016 should bring clarity to broadband pricing. Until then, when you're comparing prices make sure you compare the total you will be paying — internet and line rental — both during the introductory period and once it has ended. Offers that appear cheaper at first might not always turn out to be so.
The upshot is this: you can slash your broadband costs if you're willing to shop around. It's easier than ever to switch broadband suppliers, and even if you're happy with your current provider simply approaching them for a better deal can knock pounds off your monthly bill. What are you waiting for?
When it comes to broadband, faster is always better, right? Actually, no. Not everyone needs the fastest speeds, or the latest technology. And while those people don't want to get sucked in to paying for a service they don't use, others really would benefit from an upgrade to something a bit quicker.
But with so many broadband deals to choose from, how do you work out which is right for you?
What speeds are available?
Most of the major broadband providers in the UK offer broadband at three speeds. Standard broadband is available in speeds up to 17Mb, and fibre broadband has two options, up to 38Mb and up to 76Mb. Virgin, along with a few specialist fibre broadband providers, have different speed tiers, the fastest currently being up to 1Gb from Hyperoptic.
Note the use of the words "up to" in all these cases. Quoted speeds represent an absolute maximum, and in reality you'll likely get somewhat less. There are numerous factors that affect the broadband speeds you can get. For standard and superfast broadband the distance you live from your nearest telephone exchange or cabinet is crucial, and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. Faster services over 80Mb are more likely to be affected by the hardware you’re using, and whether your devices support the latest home networking technology.
What speed do you need?
Even so, you might be surprised to learn that slower speeds are still capable of handling most common internet tasks. The base requirements for many popular services are relatively modest.
Web, email, Facebook: for what we might class as light use, with general browsing and using social apps, any broadband speed will suffice
TV on demand: downloads using Sky On Demand require a minimum 2Mb broadband speed. BBC iPlayer recommends a minimum of 2.8Mb for HD viewing, or 1.5Mb for standard definition quality. Streaming over Netflix requires 3Mb for SD quality and 5MB for HD. All are possible on a standard broadband package
Ultra HD TV streaming: the exception is with Ultra HD — or 4K — streaming on Netflix. This requires superfast fibre broadband with a speed of at least 25Mb
Streaming music: music streaming services don't need fast speeds to function properly. The recommendation for Spotify is 512Kb; for a lossless service you'll want something closer to 2Mb
Gaming: speed is less important than other factors such as latency for gaming, and the requirements are quite low. For Xbox Live you need 3Mb speeds, well within the reach of most standard broadband users
Video chat: to make video calls with Skype you need 1.5Mb broadband speed for HD, or as low as 0.5Mb for what is classed as "high quality"
Downloading: it goes without saying that files will download faster on faster networks. It's possible to get a rough idea of how fast they will be: divide your internet speed (in megabits per second) by eight, to convert it into megabytes (MB) per second. You can then see how long it will take to download a file. (For example, 24Mb broadband downloads at 4MB per second, so a 1GB file will download in around four and a half minutes.) If you regularly download large files, or are a heavy user of cloud services, you will benefit from faster broadband
On the whole, fast speeds aren't all that important when it comes to just getting these services to work. Where it does become an issue is when you have several people in your household each trying to do one of these things at the same time.
If one person is watching music videos on YouTube while another is downloading a video game on a PS4, your Netflix stream may have drop down to a lower resolution, and may even start buffering. Unless your connection is fast enough to handle them all together.
When trying to decide what speed broadband you need, it's really important to weigh up the needs of your entire household together. If you're a "light use" household then you should be safe in making a decision on price alone; if you're a heavy use family you'll want to compare fibre broadband deals in your area to find the one that will give you the best online experience.
With the Summer holidays coming to an end, it's time for new and returning students to head off to university. A decent broadband connection is vital for student accommodation these days, as so many aspects of university life rely on it. But many students only need to stay connected during the academic year and head back home for the summer months. This makes long contracts a waste of money as you either have to keep paying for the whole year, or incur fees for leaving your contract early. Luckily many unlimited broadband providers have 9 month offers designed just for student houseshares that also take into account your limited student budget.
BT Student Broadband: Sign up with your .ac.uk student email address to take advantage nine month contracts on both BT Infinity and standard copper broadband.
Sky Student Broadband: You don't need to be a Sky TV customer to take advantage of their student deal - just pay for line rental, and get truly unlimited up to 17Mb broadband free for the nine month contract.
TalkTalk Student Broadband: TalkTalk are offering their usually 18 month contract SimplyBroadband package on a 12 month contract with 12 months free, exclusively for students. Includes a £50 Love2Shop voucher*. Pay line rental a year up front to save even more.
Virgin Media Student Broadband: If you can get Virgin Media in your area, then you can benefit from their ultrafast speeds on a 9 month contract. Suitable for even the busiest student homes.
However, you don't necessarily need a student-specific package to cover your needs. Plenty of broadband providers offer short, monthly contracts that also fit the bill. We've put together a guide that gives you all the information you need to know about student broadband, with a list of all the deals that suit your requirements as a student.
With the new university year just around the corner, it's time for students - both new and returning - to start considering getting a broadband connection set up in their new accommodation. As so much of university life depends on the internet these days - from registering for courses, researching and submitting course work, to arranging social activities and unwinding at the weekends - you're going to be wanting decent and reliable access to the internet with a broadband package that takes into account budget, the need for a shorter-length contract, and what you as a student want out of your broadband experience.
Whether you're looking for broadband only, mobile broadband, a TV deal, or want a package ideal for gaming, our guide will help you decide what's best for you.