How do I choose the right broadband for me?


By now you will have got the idea that there are a fair few broadband options available and maybe you are not sure what to choose for your given situation.  One important question to consider; my broadband connection is important to me or it is not important to me.  I say this because if you access the internet occasionally at home and look at your emails a couple of times a week then some issues now and then with your broadband are not going to cause you too much distress but if you are running a business where your broadband is critical to it, it’s worth making sure you have good supplies and suppliers, and that you do your best to ensure continuity.

Before I get on with the “what’s right for me” bit I think it’s worth considering a few things.

BT, TalkTalk (who own Tiscali), Sky and a few others are the underlying suppliers of broadband and what I mean by that is if you change your supplier you might very well end up with the same broadband that you had before.  For example, if you have your broadband with TalkTalk and change to “Really Nice People Telecom limited” they might still supply you with TalkTalk broadband even if it’s branded with their name.

Another thing to consider is that behind the scenes telecoms is complicated, layered, fragmented and often process driven.  From my past experience working in telecoms and putting my finger in the air (so don’t quote me) around a third of all installations or changes go wrong in some way, from a minor delay to a full blown nightmare of a saga.  It doesn’t matter which supplier you use this can still happen, the big difference is how an issue is handled.  The vast majority of phone and broadband lines are installed by either BT or Virgin whoever you go through and this bit is not always easy to control.  A good and reputable telecoms supplier will take a lot of the burden away from you and deal with an issue as quickly as they can.  This means the difficulties of resolving an issue falls to them and even though they have special links into BT it can still be difficult for them.  A supplier with poor customer service like the ones supplying dead cheap broadband will sometimes have you pulling your hair out and other times will resolve an issue easily but you will have to drive things more either way.

In business a poor telecoms/broadband supplier can sometimes cost you much more than you save on a cheap service so pick your supplier with some care.

Let’s look at some scenarios:

In most cases here you might as well get the fastest ADSL available, it doesn’t usually cost any more.  Virgin may be different and charge a bit more for their faster broadband.  BT or LLU services (Local Loop Unbundled, where an ISP has their equipment installed in a BT exchange) are both fine.

The prices below are indicative and you may pay more or less.

All the DSL speeds below are “upto” speeds.  You are unlikely to get the maximum speeds when these services are actually installed.

I am a light domestic user who doesn’t use my broadband very often and if it didn’t work for a week then although it would be a bit frustrating I could live with it ok.

If this is all that you need then why not go cheap and just get the best deal from Sky, BT, Virgin, TalTalk, O2, Plusnet or another cheap supplier.  If something does go wrong the customer service might not be up to much, it’s pot luck, this is the downside of “cheap” but it probably doesn’t matter too much at this level.  To a point you get what you pay for.

Expect to pay in the region of £5 a month for the broadband, possibly as part of a line, broadband and calls package.

Example: 24mbs download, 1mbs upload, 3gb cap, 50:1 contention if relevant

A router will probably be supplied to you along with the broadband and should fine.

I am a relatively light domestic user who does use my broadband often AND if it didn’t work for a week then I would be really put out.

You don’t have to be a business user to buy business broadband so I would suggest a low end business broadband from a customer focussed supplier.

Expect to pay in the region of £15 a month upwards.

Example: 24mbs download, 1mbs upload, 3gb cap, 20:1 contention if relevant

I recommend a Draytek Vigor 2710 series router or a Vigor 2110 / 2130 if you want cable.

I am a heavy domestic user who does use my broadband often and if it didn’t work for a week then I would be really put out.  I download films, music etc.  I don’t want any limits on how much I download.

Buy an uncapped business broadband as fast as you can get for your location and with a low contention rate, no more than 20:1 (that is you share the service to the exchange with up to 19 other people).  10:1 is better.

Expect to pay in the region of £20 a month upwards.

Example: 24mbs download, 2.5mbs upload, uncapped, 20:1 / 10:1 contention if relevant

I recommend a Draytek Vigor 2710 series router or a Vigor 2110 / 2130 if you want cable.

I am a business user and although broadband is not critical to my business I want good customer service from my ISP, I want quick resolutions to issues where possible and a reliable service.  I access my business computers from home.  There are only a few staff.

Buy a low end business broadband.  Make sure you get a static IP, most ISP’s supply one for free and charge if

you need more.  This is a fixed internet protocol address assigned to you.  Look at it a bit like living in a house and having a permanent address as opposed to living in a caravan where your address changes (if you don’t have a static IP you getwhatever IP address your ISP gives you each time you connect to their service).  An example of a static IP address is “92.27.115.68”.

Expect to pay in the region of £15 a month upwards.

Example: 24mbs download, 1mbs upload, 5gb cap, 20:1 contention if relevant

I recommend a Draytek Vigor 2830 series router.

I am a business user, broadband is critical to my business and I want good customer service from my ISP, I want quick resolutions where possible and a reliable service.  If my broadband went down my business would suffer and lose money.  I am not a heavy user, it is mostly internet browsing and emails I need.

I would recommend buying a dual WAN capable router such as the Draytek Vigor 2830 with a Draytek Vigor 120 to put on the end of the second broadband connection.  You can then get 2 x low end business broadbands’ from 2 different ISP’s so if one ISP has problems the other will still work. 

You can additionally plug a mobile broadband modem into the Draytek Vigor 2830 if the mobile broadband signal is good enough where you are.  This means if your lines are cut by a digger working in the street for example the mobile broadband will still give you a service even if it’s a bit slow.

Expect to pay in the region of £15 a month upwards for each broadband and maybe £15 a month for the mobile broadband so perhaps £45 a month (excluding the cost of the lines).   Compare this to the cost of not having internet access at your business for a couple of days. Don’t forget the static IP’s.

Example: 24mbs download, 2.5mbs upload, 40gb cap, 20:1 contention if relevant

I recommend a Draytek Vigor 2830 series router.

Another advantage is that the Draytek Vigor 2830 will balance the 2 x broadband supplies for you so that you will get faster broadband.  Should one of them fail it will continue using the good supply, should both fail it will then use the mobile broadband whilst you get your line based broadband fixed.

I am a business user, broadband is critical to my business and I want good customer service from my ISP, I want quick resolutions where possible and a reliable service.  If my broadband went down my business would suffer and lose money.  We are heavy users, there are quite a few staff and we download some big files.

I would recommend buying a dual WAN capable router such as the Draytek Vigor 2830 with a Draytek Vigor 120 to put on the end of the second broadband connection.  You can then get 2 x high end business broadbands’ from 2 different ISP’s so if one ISP has problems the other will still work.

You can additionally plug a mobile broadband modem into the Draytek Vigor 2830 if the mobile broadband signal is good enough where you are.  This means if your lines are cut by a digger working in the street for example the mobile broadband will still give you a service even if it’s a bit slow.

Expect to pay in the region of £25 a month upwards for each broadband and maybe £20 a month for the mobile broadband so perhaps £70 a month (excluding the cost of the lines).   Compare this to the cost of not having internet access at your business for a couple of days. Don’t forget the static IP’s.

Example: 24mbs download, 2.5mbs upload, uncapped, 10:1 contention if relevant

I recommend a Draytek Vigor 2830 series router.

Another advantage is that the Draytek Vigor 2830 will balance the 2 x broadband supplies for you so that you will get faster broadband.  Should one of them fail it will continue using the good supply, should both fail it will next use the mobile broadband.

I am a business user, broadband is critical to my business and I want good customer service from my ISP, I want quick resolutions where possible and a reliable service.  If my broadband went down my business would suffer and lose money.  We are heavy users, we have a lot of staff and we download some big files.

Now things move up a stage.  You could use four ADSL supplies with a Draytek Vigor 3200 or 3300 Quad WAN router which could give you something equivalent up to 96mbs download and up to 10mbs upload (you probably won’t actually get those speeds but it should still be pretty good) with the resilience of four supplies from upto four ISP’s.  The 3200 has a socket for mobile broadband as well.

Example: 24mbs download, 2.5mbs upload, uncapped, 10:1 contention if relevant

I recommend a Draytek Vigor 3200 or 3300 series router.

If FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet, see previous blog) is available to you then a Draytek Vigor 2850 (the 2850Vn is available now, 2850n should follow in December) dual WAN router could give something equivalent up to 80mbs download and up to 20mbs upload (you probably won’t actually get those speeds but it should still be pretty good) with the resilience of two supplies from two ISP’s.  The 2850 has a socket for mobile broadband as well.

Example: 40mbs download, 10mbs upload, uncapped with possible guaranteed throughput after survey.

I recommend a Draytek Vigor 2850 series router.

Another possibility is EFM (Ethernet First Mile) which is several broadband supplies combined into one as described in my previous blog.  Better SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) and guarantees may come with this.

Example: Up to 20mbs download, upto 10mbs upload, uncapped with possible guaranteed throughput after a site survey.

I recommend a Draytek Vigor 2930 series router.

You may also at this stage want to consider a leased line backed up by a high end ADSL which could give you between 10mbs and 100mbs both up and down guaranteed with a high end SLA.  I am not going to go into too much detail except to say that these lines cost from around £500 a month.  The higher end ADSL type broadband such as FTTC may give nearly as good a service as a 10mb leased line so I would probably start to look at leased lines if I needed 20mbs both ways or more.

With all of options in this section you are probably best consulting an IT professional in house or contracted to decide the best option.  If you are an IT professional reading this then you probably know a lot or all of this already.

I may be able to help you or it may be best to get an IT/network audit performed to help you decide.  I will make some recommendations for a situation if I can.

I recommend a Draytek Advanced Networking product or Switch.

VoIP

I think a special note for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocal), that is running your phones over broadband, is needed here.

Unless you are making just one or 2 calls at the same time it is better to keep the broadband used for VoIP separate to the broadband used for data.  In fact it’s better to keep it separate full stop really, it avoids conflicts.

For this you want a consistent broadband service.  SDSL can be good for this and can support up to 20 high quality calls at the same time or 40 low quality calls. Typically at upto 2mbs both ways with a low contention ration and QOS (Quality Of Service) added to it.

Some business ADSL services have QOS (Quality Of Service) attached to them that makes sure calls get a higher priority and some avoid using the internet as much as possible by routing your calls straight through to where they need to go.  The lower a contention rate broadband has the more consistent it should be.

Leased lines are fabulous for VoIP especially the latest ones where you can reserve a portion of the “pipe” for calls only.

How long does it take and what do I need to do?

So now you have chosen what you need and want to know what will happen after you order it!

When a BT engineer comes to install a line or fix a fault they will usually specify a morning or afternoon slot, that is 8am to 1pm or 1pm to 5pm.  You can get your supplier to pass on instructions to them such as a phone number to call before they visit you but there is no guarantee that an engineer will see or follow those instructions.  If BT cannot get access to do their work and they have to go away they may charge you for it so someone needs to be there even if they have to wait around for several hours.  There is no 100% guarantee that BT will turn up when they say they will but they do more often than not.  They base their appointment attendance on average times so a few too many long jobs will make them late or come the next day, you should be informed if this is the case at some point.

If you are having a new line put in for broadband it takes between 10 and 20 working days before the broadband starts working.  Depending on the type of broadband it may take 10 days to settle down to an optimal speed.

Putting broadband on an existing line or changing broadband supplier will take up to 10 working days and it is unlikely that a BT engineer will need to visit.

Allow at least 10 working days for FTTC installations.

EFM installation times are probably subject to survey but are normally around 26 working days.

Leased lines usually take up to 3 months, they are subject to survey and there are several stages to an install.

What do you think so far, are these blogs useful, are they easy to understand?  Please comment or I won’t know and won’t be able to improve them if that’s what they need!

Well, I think that’s enough for now!  Next time, “How can I get more from what I already have?” and perhaps something lighter and more amusing.  To be continued …

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4 Comments on “How do I choose the right broadband for me?”

  1. weathervane says:

    Hello! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having problems finding one? Thanks a lot!

    • iwantrouters says:

      Hi,

      Is there a “captcha” with my blog, if there is I didn’t know it and must have switched it on somewhere or got it by default. Anyway I had a look and found “http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/simple-captcha/” and if you Google “captcha wordpress” quite a few come up.

      I hope that helps and thanks for sharing.

  2. weathervane says:

    Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!


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