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 bigger 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. You should access to a wide variety of money saving options, whether these be vouchers, free gifts or free setup.
Standard ADSL should be available anywhere in the London area. ADSL2+ is now widespread and provides average speeds around 10Mb. This is perfectly adequate for almost anything you might care to do online, including streaming video or music, web browsing, email and online gaming.
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. However, most ADSL deals are still unlimited, so you won't have to worry about your usage being capped at least!
BT network fibre
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 average speeds of up to 63-68Mb down and around 20Mb up - a huge improvement in comparison to ADSL.
Fibre broadband’s reach is now much improved so many areas should have access to fibre of with an average around 35Mb, 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 broadband 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 fibre
Virgin Media broadband offers what is currently the fastest mass-market broadband in the country. Their top service rockets along at an average 362Mb.
Virgin users also benefit from a wide variety of ‘triple play’ offers with phone and TV to go alongside the broadband, including the excellent TiVo box which remains a Virgin exclusive in this country. Virgin does also offer broadband only deals, although bundles often work out best value overall.
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 fibre 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 fibre is only available in the areas where Virgin has installed lines. This may not be 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.