With broadband, finding out what you can get by checking your postcode is vital. The packages available can vary wildly depending on where you live. Here’s everything you need to know about finding out what broadband you can get in your area…
Broadband availability explained
Wouldn’t it be lovely if the same broadband packages were available to everyone?
Alas, things aren’t quite so simple. The UK’s broadband infrastructure is such that what’s available differs greatly depending on where in the country you live. So, it’s important to find out what packages you can get in your area when switching broadband, which is why we have a postcode checker - simply put your postcode in the box above (don’t worry, it’s for checking only - we won’t share it with anyone else) and you can see which broadband and TV packages you can get.
Generally, if you live in the countryside or somewhere remote, you won’t get as much choice and you won’t be able to get the broadband speeds you can in towns and cities. This is because it’s less profitable for providers to offer packages in places where there are fewer people, and because the distance to your local telephone exchange is likely to be greater - data loses speed the further it has to travel, which means slower - in some cases geriatric tortoise-like - broadband.
The latter, at least, is changing though, as fibre optic broadband, which can carry more data and loses less speed over distance, is now available to around two-thirds of homes and businesses in the UK, and will be available to 95% by 2017, which means you’ll be able to get the likes of BT Infinity in most places within the next three years.
Broadband providers’ coverage
The provider with the biggest coverage range is - drum roll please - BT. Not really a shocker considering it used to be the state telecoms company and owns the national phone network.
BT broadband is available to 99% of the UK. Most providers also use the national telephone network to offer broadband. So, if you can get BT broadband where you live, there’s also a good chance you can get broadband from the likes of…
...and many more.
The biggest exception to the rule is Virgin Media , which uses its own cable network to provide broadband and TV. However, its network isn’t as big as the national network - it covers around 50% of homes. You’re more likely to be able to get Virgin Media broadband and TV if you live in a town or city, as the network covers most heavily-populated areas.
TV availability explained
Bundling broadband and TV together is a great way to save money if you want both.
The availability of TV packages typically matches that of broadband. BT and TalkTalk TV are both based on YouView. While this uses your TV aerial for Freeview, extra channels, catch-up, on-demand and more use your internet connection, so you can only get BT TV with BT broadband and TalkTalk TV with TalkTalk broadband.
Sky TV is different because its satellite TV, so you can get it just about anywhere in the country and you don’t need to have Sky broadband – or broadband at all - to get it. However, if you want to be use the likes of Catch Up TV, On Demand and Sky Store, you’ll need broadband.
You can get Virgin Media TV without Virgin Media broadband, but it’s only available areas covered by Virgin Media’s cable network, the same as Virgin Media broadband. Use our postcode checker to see if you can get it.
Do broadband speeds differ between areas?
The speeds broadband packages offer differ greatly between different postcodes, and even different homes on the same street.
The download speeds providers list represents what at least 10% of the people with that package get. So, up to 90% might not get those speeds. See, broadband speed is influenced by so many things - the distance between your home and your street cabinet, the distance between that and your local telephone exchange, the number of people sharing the connection in your area, and even the quality of the wires in your home can have a big impact. As a result, speeds vary from place to place.
If you want broadband that guarantees fast speeds, fibre optic broadband is the way to go, which is considerably more reliable standard broadband and will give you speeds much closer to those advertised.
Fortunately, you don’t have to buy broadband completely blind. When you’re signing up with a new provider, it should tell you what sort of download and upload speeds you can realistically expect to get from your package. If it doesn't, ask.
Where do we get our availability data?
We get availability information about standard broadband and fibre optic broadband direct from providers. That data is checked and updated regularly to make sure it’s accurate. How much packages cost can vary between areas too, so we also track prices.
When you enter your postcode we compare it against all data to find deals that are available in your area in about as much time as it takes to blink. We don’t hang about.