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UK Broadband - Your Questions Answered

Answers to common UK Broadband questions received by the team at FileSaveAs, plus some useful help and advice.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (Broadband FAQ)

Looking for general info on Broadband, or for our review of the current UK deals? See our main UK Broadband page

 

Can I get broadband?

If you're looking to get broadband, you first need to select a preferred supplier (see the information above), and then need to check if that provider can offer you broadband in your area. Each supplier should have an online checker that allows you to enter a postcode and phone number to see if ADSL broadband is available.

If in doubt, BT's site is a good one to check first. Go to www.bt.com/btbroadband - pick one of the packages, and select "Order now". You don't actually have to order at this stage - You'll be prompted to enter your phone number and postcode, and a check will be done on your service. This will identify if you already have broadband. If not, you'll get an estimate of your top speed.

Download speeds

If you're looking to work out how long it takes to transfer a file over Broadband, here's a rough guide of how long it takes to transfer 1 Meg over various connection speeds:

  • Dialup (56kps): 2½ minutes
  • 512kpbs: 16.5 seconds
  • 2 Meg Broadband: 4 seconds
  • 8 Meg Broadband: 1 second

Check out the Download Calculator to check transfer speeds

Broadband Not Working?

Having problems with your Broadband connection? See our Broadband Problems section for advice.

Improving your speed

The key factor in how fast your home broadband connection is, is the distance between your Internet router at home, and the local telephone exchange.

If you're looking for advice on ways to speed up your home broadband connection, we'd recommend that you check out our updated Improving Your Broadband Speed section for advice and suggestions.

Broadband vs Dialup?

Most of the marketing for broadband sells the fact that broadband is a fast, always-on service. If you're considering broadband for home, here's a summary of the key differences between broadband and dialup:

  • Cost - There are no call charges so you don't have to worry about hanging up when you're finished. On the downside, you have to pay a monthly subscription fee to use broadband, and you have to buy a special broadband modem (although see the offers below!).
  • Connection time - This is where the 'always-on' bit has benefits - you establish a connection, and hang on to it. You don't have to worry about logging off to save money. This saves all the hanging about waiting for your modem to dial in, connect, establish a connection and authenticate with your password
  • Speed - Standard dialup modems have a maximum speed of 56k, and broadband typically offers between 1meg and 8meg connections - up to 160 times faster than dialup. Note that you're sharing your bandwidth with other users in your area, so data transfer speeds vary, and you're unlikely to achieve the maximum throughput (this is known as 'contention', and eases bottlenecks at phone exchanges and ISPs).
  • Phone line - When you're online with broadband, your home phone line isn't tied up.
  • Extras - With Broadband, there's the option to watch TV over the Internet, make voice calls over the 'net, and even take control of your home PC from work
Self-installation?

When Broadband first was launched, it was a case of having an engineer call out and connect you up. Now, broadband providers supply self-install kits. When ordering broadband, check what your chosen provider will be sending you. Here's what you need to do:

  • Plug a Broadband modem or router into your PC (normally via a USB socket or an ethernet network cable)
  • Plug a filter into your standard BT phone socket
  • Plug the Broadband modem or router into the ADSL socket of the filter
Sharing Broadband?

If you're looking to share Broadband between multiple users and PCs, the key question here is do you all want to be able to be online at the same time? Assuming you do, the common way of handling this is to get a broadband router and a single broadband account - you then connect either via network cable or wirelessly using Wi-fi from your PCs to the router.

If you're looking to share Broadband to different users, perhaps running a laptop elsewhere in the house, the best option may well be for you to get a broadband wireless router, that can be connected to your phone line, then to PCs either via an Ethernet network cable, or wirelessly, using wi-fi. For information on connecting and sharing wirelessly, see our wi-fi page , especially our Case Study

What software do I need?

Broadband suppliers will normally provide you with all you need to get connected. If they're providing a modem, then you'll be provided with a driver disk. You'll also get a broadband CD that contains a web browser and a setup walkthrough. You're normally also provided with a username and password, in case you'd rather set up the connection yourself, have a non-standard computer (Windows and Mac software is normally supplied), or are using a wireless router.

Each broadband provider tends to have a slightly different setup process - some use a connectivity application tied to the modem, and some will customise the web browser to integrate broadband.

Remote control your PC

Once you have Broadband at home, you may be interested to know that you can access your home PC by remote control - great for accessing your files and emails from work, a hotel, a cybercafe or even from a Windows Mobile PDA.

Access Your PC from Anywhere Find out what the remote service offered by GoToMyPC. can do for you. More on our dedicated GoToMyPC page.

TV over broadband

Known as IPTV, we're about to see a large increase in the number of companies offering TV programmes over Broadband. Services will allow you to download TV shows that you've missed, get movies on demand, and do a whole range of clever stuff, either to your PC, or to your TV via a set-top box. Services include BT Vision (free to BT Total Broadband customers, using a BT Home Hub), TalkTalk TV and Virgin Media (in cable areas).

For more, see Radio and Telly's Internet TV section.

Download limit

When you're looking to sign up to broadband, you may see mention of monthly download limits or a monthly cap. If you're not sure what this is all about, read on.

Some broadband customers make an awful lot of use of their broadband connection, downloading movies, file sharing and streaming audio/video. Heavy users can cause congestion and slow down access for other broadband users on the same phone exchange and ISP. For this reason, many broadband providers "cap" usage, to make sure that the heavy users don't degrade the service for others. Persistent offenders are likely to be moved onto a more expensive tariff, or have their account "throttled" to a slower speed.

Some providers don't 'cap' accounts, but most of the mainstream suppliers cap anywhere from 2Gig to 30Gig. The download allowance includes the download of all content (email, files, images, audio, video) made over the Internet within a month.

Online gaming?

X-box from CurrysAnother of the great benefits of a high-speed Internet connection, is that of online gaming. The first true online gaming platform, Microsoft's Xbox revolutionised online gaming.

The original Xbox was supplied with a built-in Ethernet 10/100 communications port - all you do is plug the RJ45 ethernet lead into your broadband point, insert the game disc, and follow the on-screen instructions... you'll then be able to connect with other gamers. With Broadband, you can get your console online and get playing.

Can't get Broadband?

If you're not able to get Broadband where you are and still want to get the speed benefits of a Broadband connection, there are a few other options open to you:

Option 1: Tariam Satellite Broadband - No ADSL availability? Check out Tariam's satellite broadband offering - ideal for those not close to a phone line or phone exchange

T-Mobile USB ModemOption 2: Mobile Internet. Get high-speed Internet access to your PC. If you want to connect your laptop or PC to the Internet while away from home or the office, take a look at T-Mobile Mobile Broadband offering - Their 3G network covers a reasonable amount of the UK. At the time of writing, their Mobile Broadband tariffs come with a free USB data modem offering wireless data speeds of up to 1.8Meg/sec. More on our Mobile Internet section

Home security

MyHome247 SystemTake a look at MyHome247. For under £100, you can get a myhome247 Wireless Starter Kit in your home - This includes a door entry sensor and a camera - get notifications when someone enters your home and log in from a PC or mobile phone to keep an eye on your home.

More information at myhome247.co.uk, or see our review on the FrequencyCast site

Broadband around your home

If you want to get Internet around your home, Wi-fi is probably the answer. Get yourself a wireless broadband router / modem, then equipment such as a laptop, mobile phone or games console can connect to the Internet at high speeds with minimal hassle. Need help with wi-fi? Try our Wi-fi page.

If wi-fi isn't the answer for you, but you need a way of sending data around your house without wires - try a HomePlug. These use your home's mains wiring to send and receive data. Get a pack of two, and use them for Ethernet wiring. More on our HomePlug page.

I have ISDN

Before you can be converted to Broadband, you will need an engineer to visit to remove your ISDN box, and convert you back to a standard BT socket. Check your provider for prices.

Listen to the FrequencyCast UK online radio show
FrequencyCast Podcast IconPODCAST FEATURE: We looked closely at Broadband problems in Show 41 of our online tech radio show.
Listen to the show online, or download it to your MP3 player.

Listen to Show 41 | What is FrequencyCast? | Add us to iTunes

 

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