Who says I can have all the broadband I want because I live in London - BT OpenReach guarantees only 1Mbps to my address in Rotherhithe, and no-one else (Virgin, the 4G folks etc.) comes anywhere close...).
Broadband in London - what are your options?
There’s still a depressingly large number of places in the UK which remain poorly served by broadband providers. Rural areas in particular may not get anything better than 8Mb ADSL, some are still stuck on dial-up, and even some towns have a limited choice of connectivity.
But this doesn’t apply to London broadband! Being in the capital means you likely have access to many providers with various speeds and types of connection, allowing you to select the perfect broadband at the right price.
Standard ADSL should be available anywhere in the London area. ADSL2+ is now widespread and provides speeds of up to 16Mb. This is perfectly adequate for almost anything you might care to do online, including streaming video or music, web browsing, email and online gaming.
ADSL is also the cheapest service for broadband. You’ll find that by spending a little time comparing deals it is very easy to get internet for less than £10 per month, or even under £5.
The main area where ADSL’s slow speeds become an issue is for downloading and uploading large files. At best you’ll see a transfer rate of around 1MB per second when downloading (remember that megabits and megabytes are different), while uploading will not be faster than 125KB per second, and that’s only if you pay extra for a faster upstream speed.
ADSL is a good choice for light usage, or individuals who won’t be requiring a great deal of bandwidth, but as you start to do more online or share the connection with others in your household you may find it a little too restrictive.
The FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) broadband being installed throughout the UK by BT eliminates the old copper lines for all but the last run into your home, providing speeds at a maximum of 76Mb down and 20Mb up - a huge improvement in comparison to ADSL.
Fibre broadband’s reach is now much improved so many areas should have access to at least 38Mb fibre services, and with the increasing amount of competition in the market prices are actually falling close to ADSL. Fibre is now available from many of the major providers, including Plusnet, Sky and TalkTalk, as well as BT. It is a relatively inexpensive superfast option.
And of course those speeds are far better for big file downloads, high definition video streaming and lag-free online gaming. It’s particularly useful if you’re sharing the connection with multiple users and devices.
Virgin Media cable broadband offers what is currently the fastest mass-market broadband in the country. Their top service rockets along at 120Mb, and even the basic option starts at 30Mb.
Virgin users also benefit from a wide variety of ‘triple play’ offers with phone and cable TV to go alongside the broadband, including the excellent TiVo box which remains a Virgin exclusive in this country.
The top end packages aren’t cheap, but with the rapid connection speeds and enormous selection of TV channels you do get a lot for the money.
There is catch, though. Virgin Media installs and operates its own cable network and while they do cover around 60% of the population it is still not uncommon to find areas where there’s no availability. In many parts of London this should not be an issue, particularly in newer blocks of flats where cable is often installed during construction, however you may discover that it just is not fitted in your street even if you live right near a location served by Virgin.
The postcode lottery - how to find the best broadband in London
While the services we’ve listed above will typically be available in many parts of London, this does not mean you can definitely get them in your home.
In order to receive ADSL2+ or fibre optic broadband these services must be installed in your local exchange. In a busy urban area this is rarely an issue now, but if you happen to be on an exchange which has not been enabled yet you’ll find your choice is more limited.
Also remember that the speed of ADSL is greatly affected by the distance to your exchange - if you’re miles away you won’t hit the top speeds.
And as mentioned, Virgin Media cable is only available in the areas where Virgin has installed lines. Probably not an issue in many places across London, but there can still be ‘not-spots’ in between.
When you compare broadband in London be sure to use our postcode search feature. Simply tap in your postcode and our system will automatically filter out the options according to the availability at your exchange. You will still need to confirm availability and speed with the ISP before you buy, however using this search function should stop you wasting too much time looking at providers which aren’t available at your home.