Whether you're new to broadband or thinking of ditching your landline in favour of a mobile connection, our guide will help you decide what’s best for you...
There are two main types of broadband connection, a fixed line or its mobile alternative. Both have their strengths and potential weaknesses so you need to consider what suits your needs before you sign up on a lengthy contract.
Fixed line broadband is what most people have at home. It's a fast internet connection delivered by telephone wire (ADSL) or fibre optic cable. As the latter is now capable of speeds in excess of 100Mb, an increasing number of British homes have "superfast" fibre optic connections.
Mobile broadband uses the same technology as mobile phones to give you internet access wherever you go with your laptop, netbook, tablet or iPad. It's slower and usually comes with a relatively low download limit, but allows you greater flexibility away from home.
In this guide, we'll look at the pros and cons of having each type of broadband.
Mobile broadband pros and cons
- Take your broadband wherever you go - A mobile broadband connection is exactly that, which means that you can access your emails, check the sports results or watch YouTube videos no matter where you are, provided you have 3G reception.
- Stop paying for line rental - Millions of people continue to pay for line rental on a home phone landline that they rarely use, just so that they can get broadband at home. With mobile broadband, there's no need to pay line rental - potentially saving you over £100 a year.
- Plug and play technology - All the software you need to connect to the internet is automatically installed when you first plug your USB modem into your laptop - no need to set it up or call a technical support helpline.
- Flexible options available - Mobile broadband customers can take advantage of some really great pay-as-you-go tariffs from as little as £2 a day, or rolling one-month packages, meaning they only ever pay for what they actually need.
- Low download limits - Even the most generous of mobile broadband tariffs only offer a download allowance of 15GB per month, and that could set you back £25 a month on a two-year contract, while typical value packages offer less than 5GB a month.
- High costs for exceeding your limit - Most mobile broadband providers charge a fee when you exceed your download limit. This is normally several pence per MB and costs can very quickly add up if you're not careful. Always keep an eye on your usage.
- Slower connections - Although suppliers might advertise speeds of up to 10 or 12Mb, mobile broadband speeds rarely exceed the average of around 1Mb. This, combined with the tight usage limits, makes mobile broadband unsuitable for large downloads.
- Coverage - Most of the UK is covered by the 3G mobile network, but coverage can be patchy in some rural areas, with speeds significantly slower in some parts of the country, so you should always check coverage in your area before signing up.
Fixed line broadband pros and cons
- Super cheap - The spread of local loop unbundling (LLU) has lead to ridiculously cheap broadband from some providers, and some even offer "free broadband" when you're paying for other services.
- High download allowances - Generous fair usage policies and download allowances in the region of 40GB or even 80GB a month mean you can use the internet to its full potential - downloading and streaming your favourite movies and programmes and sharing high-quality photos with friends and family.
- Faster speeds - The majority of broadband providers are now offering speeds of around 20Mb and upward, with actual speeds averaging around 8Mb and improving all the time.
- Consistent connection - Because your home broadband is connected to a fixed line, it will be more reliable than a mobile broadband connection that is being moved from one place to the next, and which might sometimes lose its connection to the 3G network.
- Fixed to one place - Standard home broadband packages use a fixed line and so you can only connect to the internet in your home, or maybe in the garden or shed if you have a decent wireless router!
- Line rental costs - Most home broadband users have to pay around £12 or £13 for their line rental, even if they only use it for their internet connection.
- Switching problems - Because of the various technologies now used to supply fixed line broadband - ADSL, partial and full LLU, cable - switching between one provider and another is no longer always as simple as getting a MAC code, and customers occasionally end up with "tags on their line" or having to pay "cease and re-provide" costs.
- Technical difficulties - Although setting up your home broadband connection is very simple, some people - especially those not comfortable with computers - might struggle to set up a wireless router or internet security.
What's the right choice for me?
The type of broadband connection you should choose depends entirely on the way that you'll use it. Think about your needs in terms of download allowances and connection speed as well as whether you need a portable connection when choosing a package.
Use our free and impartial price calculator to compare broadband packages and find the provider that's right for you.
Fixed broadband deals
Monthly cost: £3.25
(for 12 months)1st year cost: £39.00
Monthly cost: £14.50
(free for 6 months)1st year cost: £87.00
Monthly cost: £7.50 1st year cost: £92.18
Monthly cost: £16.00
(free for 6 months)1st year cost: £102.95
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