Understanding Your Internet Use

When it comes to broadband, it’s really important that you get the right data allowance for your personal needs - and those of your household.  If you fail to do this, you could end up with a service that is continually down or with extra data costs, and even run the risk of your contract being cancelled and you having to start up afresh - and perhaps even having to pay for a telephone line reactivation cost.

This article will go through how to go about assessing your broadband requirement so that you can make the right decision when it comes to choosing a package.

Logical Approach

If you’re looking for the cheapest broadband for your situation, it’s important to take a logical approach to the process.  By actually analysing your consumption and understanding what activities are going to take the most data, you’ll be able to have a better picture of what you need.  There’s no point getting too much data if you are a low consuming household, as you’ll be wasting money.

Equally, if you get too little data, you’ll end up with many frustrations.  You’re probably best off getting a slightly higher package than you require so that you can have a little buffer for when you have guests who consume data, or if you have a high-consumption period yourself.

Assessing your Broadband Profile

Most broadband providers will split their consumers into different categories based on their usage consumption.  These categories tend to be: light consumers, medium consumers and heavy consumers.

Essentially, these classifications are used to map on to specific packages that will meet the needs of the user.  There are certain questions you can ask yourself to find out which type of consumer you are:

Question No. 1 - Do I do Video Streaming?

Video streaming involves the watching of video content in the form of TV, movies, sports, videos, YouTube and anything else that present you the rich media of moving pictures.  These activities can consume a lot of data and, therefore, you need to understand whether it is a main activity that you do.  If it is, you’re likely to be a heavy consumer.  If you never do it, then you’re quite likely to be a light consumer.  If you do it occasionally, then you’ll probably be in the medium range.

Do I do Other High-intensity Activities?

The cheapest broadband will not allow you to do many of the highest intensity activities.  Some of these include:

  • Video chat for long periods over the internet
  • Multiplayer gaming
  • Downloading large software packages and large files
  • Uploading websites and images to the web
  • Peer-to-peer file sharing

If you do some of these activities, then you’ll probably need pretty good speeds on your broadband, which may not be available in the cheapest broadband packages and you will also need good data allowances.

The Cheapest Broadband Packages

There are some very good cheap broadband packages out there.  For example, if you are an extremely light consumer, you may get away with a package from Sky if you have digital TV - that comes for free.  The Sky light package offers 2GB of data and won’t cost you a penny.  At the low end of the market, there are also companies such as Tesco Broadband that offer very good, cheap broadband.  Do bear in mind, though, that Tesco has a reputation at the moment for offering very poor costumer support for their services provided by cable on wireless - and there are problems with escalation procedure to BT Openreach. 

All of the providers on ADSL will be based on the BT infrastructure, and this infrastructure is managed by BT.  If you have problems, then they’ll have to be passed on to BT to be solved, in most cases.

Plusnet Broadband are perhaps the best of the cheap providers offering excellent value for money and very fair policies.  It’s well worth taking a look at Plusnet if you are looking for a good, affordable light-user package.

The Best Heavy User Packages

When you’re looking at heavy user packages, you have to consider the fair usage policies and traffic management of the providers.  Fair usage policies state the exact terms of your broadband, and many unlimited packages actually have usage caps of 40GB or 100GB per month.  This can mean that your activities are heavily restricted, particularly towards the end of the month as you approach your data cap.

It’s important that you understand this before you jump into any package.  Indeed, most of the providers do have some sort of limit on the way that you can interact with your broadband.  Some use traffic management policies that slow your activities during certain periods in order to ensure that you do not affect the rest of the network.  If you do consume a lot of data in your household, then this can restrict the things that you can do, especially if there are several people streaming or doing high-intensity activities.

Traffic management is important to many of the networks, and that will always be there; however, some broadband plans are truly unlimited, and this is what you should be looking for if you are a very heavy consumer.  Companies such as Sky, BE Broadband and BT are now offering totally unlimited broadband contract, where you can do just about anything you want to do, when you want to do it.

Assessing Broadband in Your Area

It’s important that you assess the broadband available in your area before you jump in with a certain provider.  One of the best tools to do this is built off the back of people sharing the results of their speed tests that they do online.  Tens of thousands of people test their internet speed in order to find out if they have problems, or just out of curiosity.  When they share their results, these are passed into a database, and that database can be searched by putting in your post code, and you can be presented with the different internet service providers offering decent connections in your area - and you can look at specific download, upload and ping speeds in your vicinity.

This can be the most accurate way to find out what connections are actually attainable, rather than basing it on a somewhat misleading ‘up to’ speed advertised by many providers.  It’s also a good way to find out which companies are offering fibre optic broadband in your area.

Fibre Optic Broadband

Fibre optic broadband is not the cheapest broadband on the market, but it certainly is the best.  With speeds of up to 100Mbps through fibre optic broadband on Virgin, and 80Mbps on BT, you really do have super-fast broadband.  BT is looking to bringing out an offering where they can provide 330Mpbs via fibre to the home connections.

Fibre optic cables are perfectly designed for the transfer of internet data and, therefore, you will not lose speed over distance - and even rural communities that can get fibre optic broadband will get super-fast connections. Fibre optic broadband is the future, and cables are being laid all over the country at the moment.  Currently, it’s a postal code lottery whether you can get it or not; although, you’re more likely to get connections in cities than in rural areas.

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