Is AOL Broadband Suitable For You?

Many years ago I had an AOL broadband account.  I had a few problems with customer service and the reliability of the connection, but overall it was reasonable.  The overwhelming memory however was the complexities in getting connected and staying connected.  In 2011, AOL re-launched their broadband connections.  They’ve made them easier to understand.  They’ve made the packages a little bit sleeker and they do offer better value than they used to.

This article will look at how they stack up against the market place with their revamped, rebranded, and rejuvenated offerings.

AOL Broadband Speed

AOL is a long way from being the fastest broadband provider in the market.  In fact they’re one of the few internet service providers who still advertise speeds up to 8Mbps.  Most companies nowadays advertise up to 16Mbps as their slowest connections. 

The connections that are fastest on AOL broadband are the up to 24 Mbps connections and these are solely available to customers that take line rental with their AOL package.  The speed data from Ofcom is inconclusive, but average speed on 8Mbps connections are around 3 to 4MB and on 24Mbps connections customers tend to receive connections speeds of around 7 to 10Mbps.  This squarely places AOL as a middle of the market provider of ADSL.

Broadband Usage Limits 

AOL recently took the step of changing from a 10GB cap per month to offering unlimited data on most of their packages.  They have a fair usage policy and they do have traffic management but they seem reasonable and fair in the way they operate these.

If you’re looking for a truly unlimited package, you’re better off going with Sky or BT as AOL do manage traffic that’s not considered critical at busy times of the day.  Customers that fall outside of the main area network of AOL will also receive slower connections and traffic management from 3PM rather than from 6PM.

Loop Loop UnBundled AOL Broadband Offering

AOL do offer LLU broadband.  Essentially they have put their own equipment into certain BT exchanges and can offer faster broadband speed at a lower price point.  The fact that they’ve only installed in certain regions means that you have a divided network of AOL broadband where some consumers can get decent quality at reasonable prices and others much less so.  Indeed, those outside of the AOL network will pay an extra £5 per month for the same or worse service. 

The Ownership of AOL

TalkTalk have taken over AOL and so this is definitely worth mentioning.  TalkTalk trades now as AOL broadband.  Although the AOL network is separate, and operated separately from TalkTalk, they offer different services, although they have the same parent company organisation.

The Pricing of AOL Broadband

AOL is certainly a middle of the road provider in terms of speed and data.  And they’re also middle of the market when it comes to pricing.  They don’t charge set-up fees, which is good, and also don’t charge for the wireless router. 

The deals offered through AOL are interesting. With one of their deals they offer the first month completely free for broadband and calls, including the line rental, and then two months of discounted pricing.

It’s very difficult to reflect these prices in an average cost for the year, but whenever you are looking at price make sure that you compare like for like and look for the cost of the contract over a set period rather than just the initial monthly cost.

User Ratings

It’s well worth noting that the reputation of AOL has been poor in the industry.  Just as I had problems, many others had too.

AOL has got a massive name that’s well known in the industry but they have damaged their brand by offering midmarket and poorer quality broadband in the past.  They’re now seemingly looking to move up into a higher end of the market offering with their unlimited broadband instead of the 10GB usage packages.


AOL is a bit of a strange provider in that they are offering mid prices on mid products and don’t really seem to have a niche that they’re hitting.

They’re not in the top ten cheapest, nor in the top ten best.  They have got some good distinguishing features though and their deals are now no nonsense with line rental that’s cheaper than BT.

It’s good to see unlimited broadband from AOL but it’s unlikely that they will capture the market in any sort of way with this offering.  Hopefully, the customer service is better than when I used to use them some years back.

Top Tip

When buying broadband ensure that you don’t just buy off the headline advertised speeds and details. You must delve into the small print too. The up to speeds are attainable by only10% of users on the advertised connection. The monthly data allowances often have limits even when the package says unlimited. There is often a traffic management policy that can restrict your internet activities when you want to use your broadband the most. Understand the ins and outs before you commit to a package that doesn't deliver what you really need.

Watch out for deals too. Sometimes the advertised discounts on line rental are only available if you pay for a full year up front. The “x months” free deals are also tempting but you have to understand the reversion price after the initial period. You must understand the annual cost and not get caught up in the promotions.

Lastly, you should buy based on your priorities. Don’t just consider the download speed. You may need to get a truly unlimited data allowance. You may need to be very rigid in your choice because of budget. You may want to consider upload speed in order to get your emails to send faster, and get your photos up to Facebook much quicker.