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Broadband Genie provides a place where consumers can learn about home broadband, mobile broadband and tablet PCs. But more importantly you can also compare broadband providers in an unbiased, independent, plain-English environment.
We maintain reviews and price comparison data for all the leading UK broadband providers and mobile broadband networks, and many of the smaller ones too.
The broadband comparison guides on this page and throughout the site provide introductory help which is well worth a read if you're just starting to compare broadband prices or tablet PC deals. When you feel like you've got it sussed, dive into our comparison tables to find the best broadband provider or mobile broadband deals for you.
We set up Broadband Genie back in 2004 to allow people to compare broadband ISPs quickly and easily. Now more than 275,000 people a month use Broadband Genie to save money, check the performance of their current broadband internet or mobile broadband provider, or to read our plain-English guides. The benefits of using Broadband Genie remain the same:
For our part, we promise above all else to be on your side. That means that we're impartial, independent, and consumer-focused, and we'll try our level best to avoid (or explain) jargon and make sure all of our data is bang up to date. Our aim is pretty simple: to help you find the best broadband package for you. And we won't even charge you - Broadband Genie is completely free of charge.
If you find Broadband Genie useful and want to help us, please make sure you use the links and phone numbers displayed on Broadband Genie to place your order with the UK broadband or mobile broadband supplier of choice. That way, we get a commission from the provider (some of the time, anyway) which allows us to operate as a profitable business and keep the service free of charge to everybody. Please support us!
You can read more about Broadband Genie here.
Broadband is a technology that allows you to access the internet (email, the web, downloads, remote access to office PC, and so on) at high speeds. Broadband internet is fast (and getting faster), continuous (doesn't need to be turned on and off) and independent of your phone calls (so you can use phone and broadband at the same time).
As well as getting online via a PC or Mac, many televisions and games systems can get you online too. Plus very often now broadband is also wireless, which means you can wander round your house with your laptop and access your broadband connection anywhere.
Also, mobile broadband (via the mobile networks) means you can get online on the move, either via a device such as a laptop or tablet PC.
The largest, most popular companies that offer home broadband deals include:
However, you shouldn't rule out smaller companies such as BE, Plusnet, Eclipse and Tesco Broadband, as they all have something different to offer - from cheap broadband offers to specialised gaming or the best business broadband deals.
Broadband is a general term used to describe several types of services that are delivered in different ways. Before you decide what broadband tariff is right for you, make sure you're familiar with the following terms:
To put it simply, home broadband and mobile broadband do what they say on the tin: home broadband is limited to your home or office, while mobile broadband can be used on the go.
Home broadband has some distinct advantages over its more mobile cousin. For now, if you want reliable and fast broadband, it's the best option. In addition to speed and reliability you tend to get more generous download limits, while in terms of broadband and TV packages it's the only way to go. Just remember you can't get home broadband without phone line charges, as you need a landline to get fixed-line internet.
Mobile broadband also has both strengths and weaknesses. The big mobile internet plus is that it allows you to connect to the web wherever you are - as long as you have mobile broadband coverage. You can access it via a smartphone, Mobile WiFi (or MiFi - a portable wireless mobile device) or "dongle" (or stick/modem, that plugs into your laptop or PC). A MiFi or internet dongle gives you a lot of flexibility, as they can be used with different devices, while being able to access the internet on your phone can be a real god send. Another plus for many are pay as you go dongle deals, which let you spend on downloads only when you need them.
On the downside, as mentioned above, speed, coverage and reliability can all be problems with mobile broadband. You may get good coverage locally, but when you're elsewhere it might be found wanting just when you need it most. And while it's possible to find unlimited mobile broadband tariffs they're often not as fantastic as they might sound - be sure to read the small print.
In theory yes, but probably not for the majority of people. Some analysts predict 4G mobile broadband will eventually outperform home, fixed-line broadband. But currently, mobile internet speeds (despite the advertising) very rarely match up to home broadband.
The same goes for the reliability of signal. And, with the best broadband providers now pushing fibre to speed faster than 100Mb the gap has widened, not shrunk. However, mobile broadband is great in certain situations and for certain types of users: it's obviously great on the move, and also as a backup to your home or business broadband connection, while students flitting between halls of residence, the family home and the library often find it ideal. Then, if you're only using broadband to check the net, use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, or for a bit of sat nav, you may be fine with just access via your phone.
While mobile broadband is getting faster with 4G, it would be risky to rely on it for large downloads, television services or essential connections. And the reality is that 4G has very little coverage as yet - most places you'll have 3G internet coverage at best, even if you have a 4G device. If you can afford to, right now it's best to go with the best of both worlds.
If you're not very technical, you shouldn't worry - both home and mobile broadband are pretty easy to install and technical support is only a phone call away.
Home broadband tends to be first set up through a laptop or PC. You'll have a modem to connect to your telephone and an installation CD to run in your computer, both of which tend to be very straightforward. If you're getting cable installed, or receiving television services or a new phone line, even better - an engineer is likely to be sent over to fix everything up for you.
Due to its flexible nature, mobile broadband tends to be even simpler to install - if you need to install it at all. Dongles simply plug into your laptop or PC once you've activated the SIM, while a mobile WiFi device should simply be found in your list of WiFi signals once activated. Accessing the mobile internet from your phone is even simpler - it should just connect out of the box.
Of course, we're presuming a certain level of technical competence here. If you're unsure about anything, just contact your provider.
Here at Broadband Genie we've been road-testing mobile broadband since it arrived in 2007 and - with some exceptions - we've been pretty impressed. When we first plugged a dongle in, we spent the first 10 minutes marvelling at the fact we could access the internet from anywhere, just like that, but it didn't take us long to take it for granted and start moaning about the occasional drop in speed.
It's nice that when you're not in a 4G or 3G coverage area you can still access the internet via the 2G network (albeit at slower speeds), and the single best thing about mobile broadband is that you just plug a WiFi dongle in and you're away.
Let's face it; all technology can be temperamental at times. Just like with a mobile phone, you can sometimes experience difficulties with coverage, or 'time outs' when you're web browsing. The classic for us has been using mobile broadband on the train, where you whizz along for a bit on a speedy 3G connection, then go through a tunnel and lose coverage - back to square one.
Just like your home broadband, it pays to be dubious about the advertised speed the service providers claim: don't expect to get it constantly, if at all. Plenty of things affect the speed of your mobile broadband: overcrowding in an area, signal strength and electrical interference can all play a part. Just be sure to look at each mobile broadband provider's coverage checker before you commit. If you can get good coverage, even the cheapest mobile broadband deals are worth checking out.
And as always with broadband, if you're in a rural area your choices - and speeds - are likely to be more limited. The good news is that even at its slowest pace, you should be able to carry out everyday tasks, such as checking your email, without too much stress. Also, remember mobile broadband prices tend to structure around download limits so look on the bright side: the less you can download, the cheaper it's going to be!
You should be able to use your wireless dongle overseas, but be very aware of the costs. EU Law has forced prices down across most of Europe, but it can still be restrictively expensive - especially as many of us now get online as second nature.
There have been some real horror stories from customers returning home from holiday to find a bill on their doormat for thousands of pounds, all because they downloaded a TV show whilst in another country to watch on the beach.
If you regularly travel overseas it's worth looking for packages specifically aimed at travellers. These include monthly bundled overseas data allowances but can still be very expensive. Also, check out our extensive guide to using mobile broadband abroad.
While the big trend in mobile broadband used to be free laptop deals, much of the focus has now moved to tablet PCs such as the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, as well as budget models such as the Amazon Kindle Fire. Where it used to be netbooks, tablets are often now offered at reduced prices to sweeten mobile broadband deals.
While laptops tend to be mini computers, working in the same way as their larger counterparts, tablet PCs tend to be more like smartphones. The screen size tends to be seven to 10 inches (compared to an average of around 15-17 inches for a laptop, or three to five inches for a smartphone) and they're activated via touchscreen and use apps, in the same way as modern mobile phones.
Many people are finding that they can do everything they need with an iPad or other tablet, rather than paying extra for a high end laptop or netbook. If you don't need the large screen and fast processor, tablet PCs can be ideal sofa or travel companions, for example - smaller and lighter.
For example, you could look for an Apple iPad or iPad Mini contract and save hundreds of pounds compared to the outlay you'd be looking at for an iMac or other laptop. You can now get a pay as you go iPad SIM card as well; perfect for those who only occasionally need to get online on the move - the rest of the time you can simply connect via WiFi.
Just remember, even if a deal claims it offers a free tablet PC or free iPad it's not exactly going to be 'free'. Instead you'll pay less (or nothing) up front, but pay for the device over the length of your (often long) contract. This can still be a perfect deal though - think of it as a hire purchase arrangement, but with no interest.
The cost of home broadband varies greatly according to factors such as length of contract, download speed and download caps. Some may find they get better value from a UK broadband provider that bundles in a television or phone service, while others may head straight for the broadband only deals - it's horses for courses, but there are enough variations to keep everyone happy.
We would certainly advise carrying out some research and shopping around before signing up to a fixed-line broadband service - especially as you could be signed into the contract for anything up to two years. The best broadband provider for you may be that extra five minutes research away. Also, consider getting several services on one bill as this can be both cheaper and more convenient than having services from several companies. Good examples include Sky phone and broadband, or BT TV.
As a general rule, keep an eye out for special offers and introductory rates (highlighted on our site in red) - UK broadband is a very competitive yet saturated market, so broadband providers often launch short term deals to encouraging customers to switch with the promise of several months' reduced cost broadband. You might even find you get free broadband for a limited time, which can represent a significant saving - but remember the price will go up later and you'll still have to pay line rental!
Broadband Genie publishes and maintains a whole range of broadband comparison tables to help consumers find the right deal; everything from student broadband (special student rates and short-term contracts) to no contract broadband (pay on a month-to-month basis, when available).
You'll probably be able find a big list of ISPs and packages within your budget. But which has the best broadband deal for you? To get you started, think about these factors when you compare broadband prices:
It's also worth checking out Broadband Genie's annual home broadband survey to see who we crowned the best broadband provider for 2014.
There are five mobile broadband networks in the UK, operated by T-Mobile,Vodafone, Orange, O2 and Three Mobile. Other companies (called MVNOs) also sell mobile broadband products, such as Virgin Media, but they each piggyback on one of those five networks.
It's impossible to say off-hand which of the providers offers the best mobile broadband deals as there are several factors people need to consider. Here are some of the main criteria to bear in mind when doing a mobile broadband comparison:
Rather than clicking round all the providers' sites, Broadband Genie maintains an up-to-date, complete listing of mobile broadband offers and prices which you check free of charge. It's the best way to compare mobile broadband deals.
The main additional cost you may experience after you buy mobile broadband is 'overage' charges - penalty charges for exceeding your usage limit.
You need to be aware that, like home broadband, most mobile broadband contracts include a download cap. Unlike home broadband, though, the mobile providers enforce these limits strictly and there have been occasional high-profile horror stories where consumers have accidentally (but expensively) gone way over their usage limits.
T-Mobile offers a 'fair usage' policy rather than a strict download limit - this means you won't be charged if you go over your limit, but if you do so repeatedly T-Mobile will start to slow down your connection.
As long as you stick to your download limit you should be OK. If you go over your download cap, however, you may be charged for every megabyte of data you use - this can soon mount up into a hefty bill if you do this regularly and you should check your provider's rates.
Even if a deal looks like it may include more data than you need, offers of free hardware may make them look tempting. However, do you really need that new dongle or mobile Wi-Fi unit?
It's unwise to stay settled with a broadband or mobile broadband provider after your contract ends without at least exploring the possibility of switching. You could save yourself money changing your provider, or get yourself a faster service with a more generous download cap.
First of all you need to check the date your contract ends. If this has passed or is fast approaching, you can get in contact with your current broadband provider to obtain a MAC code. It's now much easier to get a MAC code - they are now obliged to pass it over to you swiftly under rules enforced by telecommunications watchdog Ofcom. You may find they try and convince you to stay by offering a better deal, but if you still want to switch that's your choice!
When you've found the provider and package you want to sign up to, you should provide them with your MAC code. Your new provider should keep you update with the switching progress and when you should expect to be able to carry out the installation for your new ISP service.
It's worth noting that switching from an ADSL provider (e.g. BT, TalkTalk) to cable provider Virgin Media, or vice versa, is simpler because you don't need a MAC code - you simply end the contract with one and start with the other. However, you may need to have new cables running into your property and this may incur both costs and time if an engineer needs to visit your home.
Switching mobile broadband provider is even simpler. If you're on a monthly contract then you'll need to cancel it (possibly incurring a penalty if it's before it's due to end), then simply sign up to your new provider of choice. The main deterrent to switching mobile broadband providers is often your hardware is locked to the old network, meaning you need a new dongle or mobile WiFi unit. However, it is sometimes possible to get your old hardware unlocked.