Do You Want the Cheapest Broadband Deal?

­You can pay anything from £10 -£50 a month for a home broadband deal. These deals usually include some phone calls and are the best way to get Internet access at home.

Things to Think About

  • What do you do online?

Browsing websites, using Facebook and writing the occasional email might be all that a parent would have time or inclination to do online, but if you have children it’s a different matter entirely.

Younger Internet users often want to watch YouTube videos and play interactive games online. Streaming video and TV are services that everyone will want once they are available. These services demand a fast Internet connection and one that is not data-limited in any way. If this is your situation then you need the fastest connection that you can find.

  • What phone calls do you want included?

Lower cost deals will have more limitations on the free phone calls that are included. If your family is at work and school all day then you need to decide whether 24 hour free calls are strictly necessary, though remember the school holidays when the phone will be in constant use.

The extra that you pay for free calls during the day is usually a small amount and is worth it just to avoid the monster bills that you might get otherwise.


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Your Internet Speed

ISPs, the different broadband providers have different ways of defining the speed of your connection. They have different contention ratios. The contention ratio is the number of people sharing the same resources; the higher it is the slower your Internet connection will be.

No ISP will tell you the contention ratio unless you ask, but this is one of the best ways of comparing the actual speed you will get from different broadband providers.

The advertised speed is the maximum potential speed you will get and bears little relation to the actual speed you will find in real life. Try your neighbours’ connections out to get a real feel for the speed you can get from different ISPs in your area.

Even on a low-cost package you can speed up your Internet connection by using a good network cable rather than a wireless one. The wireless hub is usually the choke-point in a domestic computer network.

The broadband speed you get on each computer or other device will depend on what other family members are doing. If someone is playing online games in the bedroom then you will not be able to watch the BBC iPlayer in the living room. This kind of limitation is another reason why a low-cost package does not usually work for families.

In Summary

A low-cost broadband deal will not work for anyone who wants what the TV ads promise. What you get will be a slow connection that effectively makes video and music sites unusable. The cheapest deals are only for non-gaming, non- TV streaming adults who only need basic Internet browsing and email.

Nicola Johnson, ever the optimist, tried out the cheapest broadband available in Portsmouth and had to upgrade to a  higher-priced package to keep the family happy.

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