UK broadband guide

The ultimate broadband guide

In this guide, we have included some of the most common questions on broadband, the UK’s major suppliers, the UK’s broadband infrastructure and a glossary of common key terms you’ll need to know – whether you’re new to the UK or you’re curious about the connection you’ve been using. 

Tutorial illustration of how to check your internet router placement

Getting internet in the UK

In the UK, home internet access is usually supplied through a private contract with an internet provider. Each provider operates on a particular, physical network, whether it’s their own private installation or a network of shared infrastructure like the Openreach network.

If their network is available at your address then you can place an order with a supplier and have them activate the connection at your address, or install a new access point. You can then connect a router to that access point to create a Wi-Fi network in your home, or use an Ethernet cable for a stable wired connection.

Broadband networks & speeds

‘Broadband’ is a shorthand term for internet access delivered across a ‘broad band’ of frequencies.

Almost everyone in the UK has some form of broadband internet available in their home, but the speed of their connection can range from excruciatingly slow to lightning fast.

The speeds you’re able to reach on your home internet connection depend on a few factors, but the most important by far is the infrastructure available at your home.

About Broadband infrastructures

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Tutorial illustration of how to check your internet router placement

What suppliers are there in the UK?

The most popular network in the UK is the Openreach network. This is used by BT, Sky, EE, Plusnet, Talk Talk, Now TV, Vodafone, Zen broadband and more.

The largest independent network in the UK is Virgin Media. Virgin use their own infrastructure exclusively, and are available in about 60% of the UK.

A second shared infrastructure network in the UK is the OFNL. Providers on the OFNL include See The Light broadband and Direct Save telecom. OFNL’s coverage is much smaller than either Openreach or Virgin Media.

Other suppliers operate their own, smaller, independent networks. These include Hyperoptic, Community Fibre, KCOM, G.Network and Gigaclear. Many of these smaller networks will focus on one area or type of building for their installations.

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Which broadband provider is the best?

It’s hard to say which broadband supplier is best overall – it really comes down to your needs and preferences. However, our Connections Experts have selected some best-in-category options below to help you make the right choice.

Best if you can get them

As a smaller independent broadband provider, Hyperoptic has limited availability across the UK, but if Hyperoptic is available in your building, they’re your best option for a fast, easy to set up and affordable internet connection.

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Best for Ultrafast

Virgin Media offers ultrafast speeds across their entire network, which means all of their customers can access affordable packages at > 500 mbps. Plus, if Virgin Media has ever been used at the address before, there’s no extra installation needed for an ultrafast connection.

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Best for TV & Broadband

Sky is the best provider when it comes to range of TV channels and exclusives. They also save the best deals for bundle packages with broadband, TV and mobile, so they’re the perfect supplier if you want a one stop shop for your telecoms.

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Which supplier has the fastest internet?

This is one of the most common questions we see from people searching for a new broadband package, and the frustrating answer is that it depends on the location and connections at your property.

Generally speaking, the fastest broadband in the UK is supplied by Ultrafast FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) networks.

UK broadband Ultrafast FTTP broadband suppliers
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Choosing your broadband

 How to pick the best for your home


How should I choose my broadband supplier/ package?

Like with any purchase, everyone has different priorities when it comes to broadband. The first step in the process should be to decide what the minimum broadband speed you need for daily use, as well as what your preferred speed would be and any extra features you would want your package to have. This could be anything from a long contract length to keep your monthly price fixed for as long as possible to a guarantee of internet in every room or an inclusive TV package.

Once you know what your package needs to include, you can start researching which suppliers are available at your address.

Compare their packages at the speeds you’re looking for and decide if you want to opt for the cheapest supplier available, a package with additional features, the supplier with the best reviews or some combination of the above.

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What do I need to sign up to broadband? 

To place an order for a new broadband contract, there are some details you will always need.

These include:

  • The address you’d like the service installed in

  • An email address

  • A UK phone number

  • Payment method

Depending on the provider this could be a credit or debit card, or they may require the sort code and account number of a UK bank account to set up direct debit payment.  

Other than these essentials, you’ll usually need to provide some other personal details and set a security question. You should also have an idea of the broadband speed and package features you would like from the start as this will help you find the best deal.

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Broadband FAQs

Should I bundle my broadband?

Generally speaking, if you’re looking to sign up for a TV or mobile contract at the same time as your broadband then you’re best bet is to combine the packages. This will almost always save you money, and can unlock added benefits such as the fact that Sky’s TV box work with their router to create a stronger mesh Wi-Fi network.

The exception to the rule would be if the best supplier available to you for internet does not offer the extra services you’re looking for. In that case, it might be better to take out separate contracts in order to get the internet speeds you need.

What is unlimited broadband?

When broadband was first being rolled out in the UK, many suppliers limited the total amount of data you could download each month, much like current mobile phone internet plans.

As our internet use grew, more and more suppliers switched to unlimited usage across all of their home broadband packages.

Today, the vast majority of internet packages offer unlimited data usage meaning you can browse, stream and download as much as you like.

What is mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband works similarly to traditional broadband, with a router in your home generating a Wi-Fi network and receiving and broadcasting data. Rather than a cable in the ground however, these transmissions are sent wirelessly via satellite. The router accesses this network with a SIM card, just like your mobile phone does.

Using wireless transmissions mean these routers can be used anywhere with mobile signal, without the need to connect to physical network. This makes them portable and much more flexible than traditional broadband, but depending on the network available can limit their capacity.

Do I need to have a home phone with my broadband?

The short answer is no.

If you’re setting up a package today, most providers will have an option for broadband without a phone line. In some cases, however, broadband with a phone line is the cheaper option, in which case we’d recommend choosing the cheaper plan.

If you don’t want to have a home phone, you can leave the line unused and still save.

Do bigger households need faster broadband?

The estimated speeds shown in your broadband contract are not per device, instead, that’s the speed of the whole connection shared across all devices and users. One user with a laptop and a phone on a 60 Mbps connection will be able to receive up to 30 mb/s of data per device.

Five users with a phone and PC each on the same network will only be able to receive up to 5 Mbps per device if they’re all online at once.

What are the peak times for broadband use?

When a provider or a plan refers to ‘peak hours’ for broadband use, they mean the period from around 7 pm to about 9 pm. This is when most people access the internet, and the highest intensity activities like gaming and streaming video are typically done.

Your provider’s advertised speeds need to be available to at least 50% of users at peak times, but you may still experience a drop in speed during this period.

Why are some websites blocked by my internet provider?

Some internet providers have ‘internet safety’ or ‘parental’ controls on websites which you can deactivate through your online account.

If these are disabled and the website you are trying to access is still blocked then the site is likely blocked throughout the UK due to a High Court order or copyright claim. If that is the case you will not be able to access the site through a UK IP address.

What is an IP address?

IP address – short for Internet Protocol address – is an identifier for a device connected to a network. Like a physical address, your IP allows other users to find and share data with your device. Most internet providers assign you a ‘dynamic’ IP address. This means it can change, although it will usually stay the same for months at a time.

If you need a static IP address to connect to secure networks, you’ll need to choose a supplier that can offer them. Currently, Plusnet, Hyperoptic and Zen broadband are among the small group of suppliers who offer static or fixed IP addresses to domestic customers.

How do I check my broadband speed?

There are hundreds of free internet speed checkers online – we’d recommend Ookla’s To get the most accurate measurement, make sure only one device is connected to the network, and connect it directly to the router via Ethernet if possible.

Close any apps or programs other than your web browser, with one tab open to the speed test, and don’t touch the mouse or keyboard while the test is running. You’ll be given a download and upload speed in Mbps.

Unhappy with your broadband? 

Here are a few things you can do


Why is my internet slow, and what can I do?

If your internet feels slow – if video is buffering or lagging, or files are taking a long time to download – it’s likely that your network demand is greater than your network capacity. In simple terms, that means you’re trying to download more information each second than your connection and equipment can handle.

Tutorial illustration of how to check your broadband internet speed

Run a speed test

If you’ve noticed problems, the first thing to do is run an internet speed test. This will show whether you’re getting the speeds you’re supposed to from your package.

If the speed you’re receiving is close to the estimated speeds quoted in your package, but the connection is still too slow for your needs, it’s time to upgrade your current package.

Tutorial illustration of plugging power cable into internet router

Check your router

If the speed recorded is lower than it should be, there could be a few things wrong. Check if you have set up your router correctly, with the correct cables connected.

Get as close to your router as possible, and if you can connect to it through an Ethernet cable. This will show if the problem is being caused by obstruction from walls and furniture.

Tutorial illustration of how to check your internet router placement

Check your devices

Remember – your internet speed is split between all of the devices using your connection, not a per-device allocation. If your connection is slow, check for any internet connected devices you may have left on like consoles, smart home devices or tablets.

Turning off any devices you aren’t using can help free up bandwidth for the task at hand.

Tutorial illustration of how to check your broadband internet speed

How can I get the best speed from my broadband package?

We’ve outlined above what you can do if you’re having serious problems with your connections, but there are ways to improve the speed of your internet day-to-day.

Have you tried Wi-Fi boosters?

Improve your router placement

Firstly, as mentioned above, try and set up your router with a clear line of sight to where you’d like to use it most often.

Even better is if you can run an Ethernet cable from your router to the device you are using.

Home Wi-Fi networks broadcast and receive transmissions as electrical signals through the air, so obstruction from walls, furniture and other electronics degrade the quality of the signal, slowing your connection. If a wired connection isn’t possible, place the router as high in the room as you can.

What are Wi-Fi boosters?

Limit the number of connected devices

Disconnecting devices you aren’t using will also speed up your connection as you’re no longer fighting for bandwidth with your console which has chosen the worst possible moment to auto-update.

While we’re discussing disconnecting, you can often improve your internet speeds by unplugging your router for five minutes and then powering it back on.

This will allow your router to clear its internal cache, and it should also automatically connect to the least busy Wi-Fi channel in the area, which may have changed since the router was last reset.

Check for firmware upgrades if possible

You’ll need to refer to the manual for how to do this as it varies across routers, but it will usually involve accessing the router settings through a connected device.

If your router is more than four years old, it’s likely to be out of date. Reach out to your internet provider to see if they’ll send you an upgrade for your current router.

If they won’t, you can purchase your own router and use the supplied device as a modem – but it might also be a sign to switch to a new package with a different provider to get the latest equipment and a better deal on your broadband.

What should I do if I have problems with my broadband?

e you have problems with your broadband connection, your first point of call should be resetting your router.

If that doesn’t resolve the issue, reach out to your broadband provider directly for support. Your supplier should take any complaints you have seriously, and work as quickly as possible to fix the problem. Some common issues reasons to raise a complaint include:

  • Overcharging
  • Slow speeds
  • Broadband Outages
  • Problems switching to a new address or supplier
  • Problems with equipment
  • Being billed after an account was closed

Once you reach out, your supplier has 8 weeks to respond. If they take longer than 8 weeks to respond, or if they inform you that they won’t be investigating the problem, you can escalate your complaint further.

If your provider can’t resolve your complaint, you can reach out to CISAS or the Communications Ombudsman depending on your supplier.  You can read the details of how to find which scheme your supplier has joined here. These independent schemes are approved by Ofcom to handle disputes between customers and their suppliers. Once you’ve contacted them with the details of your complaint they’ll escalate the issue with your supplier until you reach a mutually satisfactory solution.

My internet is slow, what can I do?
Where in the UK has the worst broadband?

How do I raise a broadband complaint?

Tutorial illustration of how to check your broadband internet speed

Is your broadband plan expiring?

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Should I renew my broadband package?

It is standard practice across broadband suppliers to increase the monthly price you pay for your broadband at the end of your initial contract period.

Most suppliers will let you renew your package, committing to a new 12, 18 or 24 month contract at a lower price than continuing on a monthly rolling basis.

For the best deal, however, we’d recommend switching suppliers every time your contract ends.

Most suppliers save their best deals for new customers, and shopping around can save you hundreds of pounds over the length of your contract.   

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How do I switch broadband suppliers?

Depending on your current supplier, switching providers may be as simple as placing an order for a new broadband contract. This is usually the case if your new supplier uses the same network as your previous supplier.

Otherwise, once you’ve chosen which new package you’d like to opt for, you’ll need to give notice to your current supplier. Most contracts require 30 days notice, and you may be asked to return your router or other equipment. Once you’ve cancelled, you can go ahead with placing a new order and choosing a convenient activation date – ideally on or close to the date your previous contract ends.

Be careful – if you haven’t reached the end of your minimum contract term you may be charged an exit penalty for cancelling your existing service.

How can I switch broadband providers for free?

How to cancel Virgin media services (without exit fees)

Broadband infrastructures in the UK

Here’s a breakdown of the most common internet infrastructures available in homes. Which networks are available in your area will determine not only what speeds you can get, but also which companies will be able to supply you.

Broadband Glossary


Broadband or broadband internet refers to a connection which transmits and receives signals over a wide range – or a broad band – or frequencies. This lets the signal carry more data more quickly, and provides a faster connection. Broadband is considered the industry standard for internet in the UK.


Wi-Fi is actually a brand name, but you commonly hear it used to refer a to a small, local wireless network, as this is what the technology is most commonly used for. Wi-Fi network usually means a network of wirelessly connected devices accessing the internet through one central hub, such as a router.

Network provider/ supplier

Your network or provider or supplier is the company you pay to access to the internet via their network. Your provider will control the speed at which you can access the internet, as well as providing you with equipment to set up your Wi-Fi network. They may directly own and manage the infrastructure you use to get online, or they may use a public network such as Openreach.


A router is a device that allows you to access your internet provider’s network, and most people use a router supplied by their providers. Routers convert the signals broadcast along your provider’s network and transmit them to your device, either wirelessly over Wi-Fi or through an Ethernet cable.

You can think of the router as the post office of your internet connection, collecting all your uploaded information to send out into the wider world, and then collecting, sorting and sending out all the incoming transitions. Hopefully, your router is much, much quicker though!


Fibre broadband is an internet connection which uses modern fibre optic cabling rather than the old-style copper cabling.

Read more about fibre broadband in the infrastructure section. 


Ofcom, or the Office for Communications, are the UK regulators for internet, TV, radio, phones and the postal service, among other services. They’re responsible for regulating internet providers to make sure they are treating customers fairly.

Download speed

The download speed of a package is usually what people are referring to when they talk about internet speed. Measured in Megabits per second (Mbps or Mb/s), this is the maximum amount of data you can receive on your connection each second.

In practical terms, this measures how quickly you can download files, which in turn affects everything from how long it will take you to download a crucial presentation to how smoothly you can stream 4K video. 

Upload speed

The upload speed of a connection is the amount of data you can upload or transmit each second. This will be most significant if you spend a lot of time video calling, sending files or gaming online as you’ll be transmitting most data.

Each package will have its own estimated upload speed, which will range from simultaneous (the same as your download speed) to around 10% of your estimated download speed.

Mbps or Mb/s

Standing for Megabits per second, this is the unit used to measure internet speed. Eight Megabits make one Megabyte, if a speed is ever being expressed in bytes the acronym Mbps or Mb/s should be used.

We’re here to help

We hope we’ve been able to answer all your questions about broadband in the UK! As you might have learned, finding the right supplier for you is a delicate balancing act.

You need to find the options available at your property, calculate the speed you need, and decide on any extras… it’s enough to give you a headache. Here at Please Connect Me, we think utilities should be simple. That’s why if you’re looking to set up a new broadband package, or renew and get a better deal, we’d recommend a call with one of our connections experts.

Our experts are a dedicated team standing by to find the best internet package for you at the best price, and take you through setting it up. Book a free call today, and let us make finding the perfect broadband package easy.

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