Broadband in the UK has been around for over ten years now, and there are a plethora of providers to choose from. It can now be received via ADSL, cable wiring, satellite, or even a mobile network, all with differing packages and costs. What many people do not realise is that the advertised speed of each service is not necessarily the speed you actually receive. Surveys have found that most customers paying for an “up to” 8Mb service were actually only receiving speeds of around 2 to 3MB. For some, download speeds were only slightly quicker than dial-up. ADSL broadband (the most popular form, using an upgraded telephone line) is primarily affected by your distance from the local network exchange. If you live far away from an exchange, it won`t be possible to deliver the highest speeds, even if you pay for the most expensive service.
It is therefore important to check the speed of your current connection. This can be done online via a variety of different websites, although beware any that require a download as they can include spyware or viruses. Some simply give an instantaneous speed, while others can show your actual speed over a period, which can be more accurate as a range of factors can affect speed at any point (e.g. amount of users on the network). If you find you are receiving a lower speed than expected, it might not necessarily be a bad thing. For example, if you`re paying for an 8MB service and the speed test shows the actual connection is more like 1MB, but you`ve actually found the speed to be adequate, it may mean you can save money by switching to a 1MB package and pay correspondingly less. Obviously, if you`ve found the service sluggish, it can be a good reason to find another provider with better coverage.
24MB home speeds for broadband are now possible; although it is likely you will need far less than this unless you have specific requirements. “Be” currently offer this higher speed, but its best to check with them that this speed will be available in your area before signing up, they also have lower packages to suit if you need something smaller. Although they offer smaller advertised rates, O2 have been shown to be one of the leaders in the actual speed getting close, showing average speeds of over 5MB on 8MB advertised services and 9MB on its 20MB advertised service. Conversely, Sky offers lower top advertised speeds still, but its lower package (2MB) has shown recorded speeds actually slightly over this. The most important thing to remember when comparing broadband providers is that you are unlikely to get the maximum advertised speed with any provider. However, you can use the broadband speed test to see if your service is significantly behind what you expected. If it is, its a good idea to have a look around at other services on offer.