Broadband in the UK

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Vigor ADSL router


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What do we need to get access to the Internet nowadays? The hardest part is choosing an access provider (otherwise known as an ISP), but it certainly isn't hard to get cheap internet access any more. Once upon a time your may you may have found that that dial-up access (or access dial up) was sufficient, but those days are long gone: welcome to broadband internet!
The main way that we access the Internet nowadays is by piggy-backing off our phone line or by a dedicated cable service. There are other ways to get broadband internet in the home, however, and I have put together a summary of alternatives to landline broadband.

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Compare and win!

The best place to look for a comparative review of ADSL end-user internet access providers[1] in the UK is, as it seems to have a healthy supply of feedback from end-users and up-to-date package and price information. The comparison and search pages are pretty useful, but the site doesn't actually offer a list of providers in 'reliability' order or 'customer service' order. To make up for this, I've put together an ADSL League Table.

An important point is that more expensive suppliers aren't necessarily better. They may also offer a higher quality service at the expense of a cap on your monthly usage: this won't matter if you are an occasional or "light" consumer of Internet applications, but most households will be shocked at how much data allowance they might need each month.


This is the part that is most likely to put people off doing anything about broadband. If you don't have broadband at all, or if you have had the same broadband supplier for a while, you may not want to do anything because of the fear that new hardware will make things go wrong. Well, things can indeed go wrong, but it is overwhelmingly likely that you will have a pain-free experience.

In almost all cases your broadband provider will provide you with everything you need to get connected, and will in some circumstances arrange for an engineer to set things up for you. Even if you have to do it all yourself, though, don't panic! Just follow the instructions, be patient, and you should be up and running without a hitch.

In case you get stuck, I've put together a working guide to using ADSL to help you along.

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Into the future!

Right now there is patchy availability of broadband in the UK. The vast majority homes can get some level of broadband service (at least 2Mb/s), but most people should expect to get up to 8Mb/s. Speeds of up to 40Mb/s are becoming increasingly available, but far better is yet to come: BT (the main supplier of Internet infrastructure for the home) has announced that it has a vision of running hundreds of megabits per second by 2020, using existing telephone lines! Watch this space to see how trials work out later in the year.

Residential Internet speeds over the years

  •  2400
  •  14.4k
  •  56k
  •  512kb
  • 2Mb
  • 8Mb
  • 20Mb

The speed of internet access in the home has followed an exponential curve since it first became possible in the late 20th century. The early years were based on very slow and intermittent dial-up technology, and it took the appearance of cable and DSL (digital subscriber line) services for consumers to enjoy always-on connections at much higher speeds. And the speeds just keep getting higher!

[1] Internet Access Providers or IAPs are otherwise known as Internet Service Providers or ISPs. The two are technically different, as an access provider merely 'plugs you in' to the internet, whereas a service provider gives you lots of online services (such as email, webspace and the like). Almost every internet access package comes with such online services anyway.

Further Reading

UK Broadband news

Here is the latest news about broadband in the UK, courtesy of Google News:

Free tool to check your Wi-Fi performance

The UK's communications regulator Ofcom has released a free app to test the quality of your wireless network. It is possible for you to have ...

Diagnosing a slow Broadband connection

Sometimes you have a working broadband connection, but it doesn't seem to be very fast or responsive... what do you do? Well, the first thing ...

Alternatives to landline broadband

The vast majority of UK residents connect to the Internet using ADSL broadband, a reasonably robust technology that piggy-backs on the landline ...

How to Know if a Website is Safe to Buy From?

We found companies: There is one company match: Sorry! There are no results for . Believe it or not, all these years after ...

Dodgy connection? Don't just blame your ISP

ADSL is a proven, reliable technology, and on the whole it delivers a decent service for its users almost all of the time. When things go ...

Your wireless router may be vulnerable!

Does your wireless router have PIN technology? This is where you can connect your computer to the router by pressing a button on the router ...

The State of UK Broadband

As part of the Digital Economy Act 2010, Ofcom has a duty to report on the state of the UK's telecoms infrastructure every three years. Consequently ...

Most home wi-fi networks are insecure!

A survey has found that over half of all home wi-fi networks in the UK are insecure and can be hacked into in under 5 seconds. A lot don't even ...

Use For Broadband Speed

To see what broadband speed you're getting, go to and click "Begin Test" to check your connection's latency (network delay ...

PlusNet: from Yorkshire, yes; independent, no.

Internet access provider Plusnet advertises itself with the slogan "Good honest broadband from Yorkshire" and promotes itself with various people ...

Support the Campaign for Broadband Honesty

A Virgin Media campaign is gaining momentum: broadband providers need to be more honest about their service speed. "You should be getting what ...

First Click for Internet Advice

You might imagine that everyone is online nowadays, at some point in their waking day. Well, it just isn't true, and for those people without ...

Gadget Show Broadband Speed Test - Not Good Enough!

How ironic. As part of their 'Gadget Show Truth' campaign, the Gadget Show on Five ran a piece this evening (20:45, 12 November 2007) on how ...

What has your broadband experience been like?

Here are some people's experiences of their broadband provision. Some are quite vocal about how good or bad it is, and others are more candid ...

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