The coronavirus outbreak has caused serious disruption to all aspects of our lives, and we’re getting lots of questions about how to deal with broadband and phone lines during this time.
So, to answer common queries and get you pointed in the right direction we’ve put together some info covering topics like broadband installation, working from home, and broadband for the elderly and vulnerable.
Can I still switch broadband, and how long will it take?
Openreach has announced that it is no longer allowing engineers to enter homes for installations, except in the case of elderly or vulnerable people.
However, if you have an active phone line but do not yet have broadband, or you already have home broadband (with any provider except Virgin Media) and want to switch, you can continue to buy and switch broadband as normal.
The vast majority of customers will not need an engineer and can get broadband without anyone entering their home. If you are looking to switch, you can start by using the postcode checker below to see what's available in your area:
Broadband Genie postcode checkerWhy do we need your postcode?
Why do we need your postcode?
If you do need an engineer your installation may be delayed until the crisis is over. At present, Openreach is estimating it will be able to resume normal operations in June.
You may not be able to get broadband during this time under the following circumstances:
- Switching to an Openreach provider from Virgin Media.
- If you have an active phone line, but broadband has never been installed on the premises.
- If the line inside your home, or the phone socket, is damaged.
Ofcom also says that those who currently lack either broadband or phone access “may” still be served - we have asked for more information and will update this page when we find out exactly what this means.
This will impact all fixed-line broadband providers listed on Broadband Genie except for Virgin Media, which has said it will continue to perform installations. However, you must tell Virgin if you or anyone in your household has COVID-19 symptoms.
In general, the majority of people will not be impacted by the changes above (providers are telling us they estimate around 15-25% of new customers will require an engineer). The provider will contact you if there is a problem, and you always have 14 days from signing up to cancel without charge.
Broadband commitments during coronavirus
As of the 30th March, most major broadband providers have agreed to the following commitments to help support customers:
The above has been agreed by: BT, EE, Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, and KCOM
How to get a contact-free broadband installation
In many cases, an engineer doesn't need to visit as the only work required takes place outside your home.
If you are moving between Openreach providers (for example, from BT to Sky, Plusnet to TalkTalk, and so on) or you already have a phone line, then you should not need an engineer. The provider will send your router and other equipment through the post, and you’ll just need to plug it in the day the broadband is activated.
You may also not need an engineer to enter your premises if you’re getting Virgin Media. If your home already has a Virgin Media socket, you can choose a self-install option.
An engineer is also not required if you get a mobile broadband service (see below for some unlimited mobile broadband deals).
Broadband installation times
Installing a new broadband service or switching providers usually takes around 14 working days. Virgin Media can provide broadband within seven working days if you already have a Virgin socket in your home.
However, delays are possible if the providers experience a surge in demand or there is a staff shortage.
If you need broadband very quickly then a mobile broadband service is the fastest way to get internet access.
Broadband and working from home
A considerable number of us have been forced to work from home due to the coronavirus, many for the first time. You might find that your broadband is not fast enough or that you need to get some extra equipment.
However, the good news is that many people will find their existing broadband service is suitable.
What broadband speed do you need to work from home?
Your broadband service may be more than fast enough already, but it entirely depends on what you’re doing with the connection.
Web browsing, email, social media, and text-based communications do not generally require very high speeds.
However, if you are regularly using it for more demanding tasks - such as transferring a large amount of data, video conferencing, or streaming video - then it may struggle.
It also depends on how many people are sharing the connection. If several of you are working from home, then you may experience connectivity problems.
A fast fibre optic broadband service is highly recommended for shared homes. But we recommend at least entry-level fibre broadband (average speed of around 35Mb) for everyone, regardless of whether it is shared.
Cheap ADSL broadband connection may be suitable for a single person. It is capable of handling video conferencing, though big downloads and uploads can take a while.
How to get a second broadband connection
If necessary, you can get a second broadband connection just for work.
However, with Openreach preventing engineers from entering homes, your options are more limited than usual.
If you already have an active second phone line, then you can probably get a new broadband deal installed (see the information on broadband installation above).
If you do not have a second line, you probably cannot get one installed by Openreach at this time. In that case, you’ll need to sign-up for Virgin Media, or use mobile broadband (see below).
Can you use mobile broadband to work from home?
Provided you have a strong signal in your home, 4G and 5G mobile broadband can be fast enough for work. It also the advantages of being portable, not requiring an engineer, and being very quick to set up.
But most mobile broadband packages have data usage caps, so it could quickly become expensive if you have to frequently top-up or increase the limit.
There are now some unlimited mobile broadband deals, though to get the lowest monthly price you’ll need to commit to a 12 or 24-month contract. Monthly deals are available but are a little more expensive.
Here are some of the best mobile unlimited mobile broadband deals currently available:
|Network||Monthly £||Setup £||Data limit||Contract||Device|
|Three||£22||£0||UNLIMITED||24-mo||HomeFi Plus router||Buy now|
|Three||£25||£0||UNLIMITED||24-mo||AI Cube Wi-Fi hotspot||Buy now|
|Vodafone||£22||£0||UNLIMITED||12-mo||R218 Wi-Fi hotspot||Buy now|
|Vodafone||£37||£35||UNLIMITED||1-mo||R218 Wi-Fi hotspot||Buy now|
Some of the above packages are 4G and 5G home services, which include a router or Wi-Fi hotspot which is not intended to be portable. Others use a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot or USB dongle.
If you think you might use it outside the home, get a Wi-Fi hotspot. A USB dongle is only suitable for installation on a single computer at a time, and it will not support other Wi-Fi devices like tablets.
How can I get a static IP address? Do I need one?
A static IP address may be required for specific purposes (such as securely accessing a remote system, or running a server) but otherwise, you should not need it to work from home.
If your work requires a static IP address, then you can ask your ISP to set this up, though not every provider offers this feature. Dynamic DNS or VPN with static IP can be used instead.
Do I need a VPN?
Your employer may require you to use a VPN to access a remote system; they should have provided all the information and tools to do this.
Otherwise, you should not need a VPN to work from home unless you have to bypass a web site block or geographical restriction.
VPNs are also used to increase security by encrypting all internet traffic when connected to insecure networks, such as a public Wi-Fi hotspot, but when working from a home connection that should not be necessary.
Do I need business broadband?
Business broadband deals often use the same infrastructure as consumer broadband and provide similar speeds, but offer dedicated support teams, lower contention ratios, service level agreements, and static IP addresses.
If you would find these features useful and are working from home in the long term (and not just for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak), then it may be beneficial to have business broadband. Otherwise, you probably don’t need it.
How to improve home Wi-Fi signal strength
Weak Wi-Fi signal can seriously affect your broadband speed, but there are some easy fixes.
Get closer to the router
If at all possible, move closer to the Wi-Fi router. Ideally, you’ll be close enough to use a wired network connection which will be faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi.
Move the router
Alternatively, adjust the position of the router. It should be placed in a central location in your home, away from walls and appliances (particularly fridges, microwaves, and cordless phones) which can interfere with the signal.
Get a Wi-Fi booster
Another solution is to use a Wi-Fi signal extender. These sit between you and the router and boost the range. They can be cheap (under £30) and are generally easy to set up. Although you can save some money by using an old Wi-Fi router as an extender.
Use powerline networking
Powerline network adapters can easily extend your home network by transmitting data over electrical circuits. Fit one adapter next to the router, and you can bring a wired or wireless connection to any other power socket on the same circuit.
Problems paying the broadband bill?
If you run into financial difficulties and have trouble paying your broadband bill, contact your provider immediately. Ofcom has said that it expects providers to keep customers connected during the crisis, and as mentioned above most major providers have committed to work with those who have financial issues.
Claiming broadband reward vouchers and free gifts
Due to COVID-19 we are experiencing minor delays in the distribution of vouchers. We really appreciate your patience at this time and if you have any questions please contact [email protected].
Broadband for the elderly and vulnerable
With the elderly and other vulnerable people confined to their homes, broadband is an ideal way for them to keep in touch with friends, family, and support services, while also providing valuable information and entertainment.
If they do not already have broadband or a phone line they can probably still get it installed. As mentioned above, premises with an active phone line may not require an engineer visit, but Openreach is still installing in homes for the elderly or vulnerable. You can also get a new installation from Virgin Media.
However, it will take around two weeks to get fixed-line home broadband installed. If you need something sooner than that, use mobile broadband or a smartphone. It will be ready to go as soon as the equipment is received and does not require an engineer.
If they already own a computer or tablet with Wi-Fi, get a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot or 4G/5G home broadband service with a Wi-Fi router.
If they have a computer, but it does not support Wi-Fi, you can use a USB dongle, or a 4G/5G home broadband deal with a Wi-Fi router that supports wired network connections (check the specs, or ask the network to confirm).
If they do not currently own any devices, and don’t want to buy a computer, then a tablet or smartphone is the cheapest and most straightforward solution. If you opt for a tablet, you’ll either need to get a tablet with a SIM card or purchase a mobile broadband Wi-Fi hotspot to go with it.