Best broadband for heavy users

ByDuncan Heaney
Kid downloading on computer

What do you need from your broadband if you’re a big downloader? broadbandchoices.co.uk looks at some of the packages available, and explains why it’s important to pick one that supports your usage.

Some people use more data than others. Those of us who regularly download large volumes of data need to make sure they choose a package that supports their habits. For example, a 25GB monthly usage limit is unlikely to be enough for a family that watches a lot of online video and catch-up TV, or someone who regularly downloads massive files.

In this guide, we'll look at what broadband providers can offer heavy users, and the packages that likely suit their needs.

What is the best broadband package for heavy users?

If you're regularly downloading large amounts of data, you need a fast connection - otherwise you're going to spend a lot of your time waiting around staring at progress bars or buffering.

Fibre optic broadband is the fastest type of connection you can get, with speeds typically ranging between 38MB and 200Mb depending on the package and provider. It's a more reliable system than traditional broadband through the phone line, and offers speeds much closer to what the providers advertise than you'd see with older copper wire connections.

Fibre was once quite expensive, but fierce competition in the market has driven down prices considerably in recent years. Most major providers, including BT, Plusnet, TalkTalk, Sky and Virgin Media all offer fibre optic broadband packages - with Virgin Media typically being fastest.

That's the good news - the bad news is that it's still not available in all areas. You can use our postcode checker to see if it's available in yours.

Fibre optic broadband deals

Sky
TalkTalk
BT
Virgin Media
Fibre Unlimited Fibre Medium with SimplyBroadband Unlimited Infinity 1 + Weekend Calls Super 50 Fibre Broadband + Talk Weekends
Monthly cost £10.00 (for 12 months, then £20.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £168.95 Monthly cost £8.75 (for 18 months, then £17.50 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £111.75 Monthly cost £10.00 (for 12 months, then £26.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £176.95 Monthly cost £9.00 (for 12 months, then £21.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £122.99
Up To 38 Mb Up To 38 Mb Up To 52 Mb Up To 50 Mb
Pay as you go Pay as you go Weekend calls inc. Weekend calls inc.
Go
Call Sky on 0800 151 2878
Mon to Sun 8am-10pm
Go
Call TalkTalk on 0800 049 7843
Mon to Thurs 8am-10pmFri to Sun 8am-9pm
Go
Call BT on 0800 783 5390
Mon to Sun 8am-6.30pm
Go
Call Virgin Media on 0808 168 6088
Open 24/7

If you can't get fibre, that doesn't mean you can't be a heavy user - it'll just take longer to get things done. The most important thing is to ensure you have an unlimited package without monthly download limits.

Unlimited broadband packages

All the major providers offer unlimited broadband. Some providers, like Sky, BT, or TalkTalk, let you download and upload as much as you like without limit - there are no fair usage policies, and traffic management.

Others like Plusnet and Virgin Media do manage traffic at peak times to ensure everyone gets a consistent connection. For example, Plusnet prioritises real-time services like streaming video services, but slows down peer-to-peer file transfers.

You can find out more about traffic management and fair usage in our guides. Here are some good unlimited deals currently available:

Unlimited broadband deals

Plusnet
TalkTalk
Sky
Post Office
Unlimited Broadband SimplyBroadband Broadband Unlimited Broadband Premium + Weekend Calls
Monthly cost Free (for 18 months, then £9.99 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £6.99 Monthly cost £3.75 (for 18 months, then £7.50 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £51.75 Monthly cost Free (for 12 months, then £10.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £9.95 Monthly cost £3.00 (for 18 months, then £10.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £42.95
Up To 17 Mb Up To 17 Mb Up To 17 Mb Up To 17 Mb
Pay as you go Pay as you go Pay as you go Weekend calls inc.
Go
Call Plusnet on 0808 178 5954
Mon to Fri 8am-8pmSat 9am-7pmSun 9am-6pm
Go
Call TalkTalk on 0800 049 7843
Mon to Thurs 8am-10pmFri to Sun 8am-9pm
Go
Call Sky on 0800 151 2878
Mon to Sun 8am-10pm
Go

 

Compare more unlimited broadband

How do I know if I'm a heavy user?

Everything you do online - from checking email, to watching YouTube - requires you to download data, but some activities are more data intensive than others.

Everybody's usage will be different, but as a general guide, here are some activities that are likely to require you to download a significant amount:

  • Streaming TV and movies - streaming video uses less data than downloading, but still uses a lot. An hour of streamed standard video might use 250MB and HD 2GB. That's approximate - the actual data used will vary from service to service, but if you watch a lot of catch-up TV or rent a lot of movies, you'll use a significant amount of data.
  • File-sharing - Many people use file sharing services to download files from the internet. The size of a shared file can vary greatly - it could be 3MB or it could be 3GB - but if you regularly use these services to download large amounts, you're likely to be a heavy user.
  • Downloading TV and movies - if you buy or rent movies online, you may be given the option to download them. This requires you to download a fair amount - around 700MB for a standard definition film, and 4GB for a high-definition flick.
  • Gaming - playing games online doesn't actually use all that much data, but with today's consoles that's only half the story. Many people now buy games and additional content online, which typically requires a lot of data - in other words, if you want to get the most out of your console or PC expect to do a lot of downloading. 
Heavy user

Those are just some of the types of activities that use a lot of data. Doing one of them doesn't necessarily make you a heavy user, but regularly doing two or three means you are likely to be.

You'll probably already know if you're a heavy user, but if you're not sure, take a look at our guide to data usage, and work out how much you typically download. For a more precise reading, you can use a download monitor to see exactly the number of gigabytes being guzzled.

If you are a heavy downloader, then there are two things you need from your broadband package - fast speeds, and generous - preferably unlimited - download limits.

Choose the right package

Ultimately, everyone's different and their download needs will be different. Perhaps a generous data limit is sufficient, or perhaps you would benefit from the peace of mind of a truly unlimited package. Whatever you decide, make sure you compare broadband so you can see all your options, and get the best possible price.

Compare broadband packages

 

 

Compare broadband in your area

We don't share your postcode. More Info
Why do we need your postcode?

Enter your postcode to find the best broadband deals in your area. We value your privacy, please see our privacy policy

Broadbandchoices is accredited by industry watchdog Ofcom