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Guide to home broadband

As most PC Advisor readers will know, home broadband, or fixed-line internet, has now almost completely taken over from the older, slower 'dial up' connection which introduced many of us to the joys of the web. But with technology moving on at an alarming rate, what are your options if you are looking to upgrade your home broadband?

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The cable option

Currently, if you're looking for the top-end advertised speeds for UK broadband, Virgin Media's cable option rules the roost. Cable broadband uses bandwidth from the same cables that provide cable television; the network previously governed under the name NTL:Telewest.

Virgin Media currently claims to be able to provide broadband speeds of up to 50Mb in some areas, as well as cheaper deals for slower speeds. It is now selling its cheapest packages with a minimum speed of 10Mb, which should be enough to view streaming television (such as the BBC iPlayer) without a hitch.

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The ADSL option

The British telephone behemoth that is BT is your other option for broadband, with a huge array of internet service providers piggybacking on its ADSL network to bring you their own unique products. They differentiate themselves by installing their own equipment in BT's telephone exchanges, which are dotted across the UK, so be sure to use a speed test and postcode checker before you decide on a provider.

The main advantage with using a BT line is choice; no matter what you're looking for in a connection, there will be an option for you. While with cable you can choose Virgin or, well, Virgin, the likes of The Carphone Warehouse (via its Talk Talk and AOL products), Sky, Tiscali, Orange and O2 (including Be) use BT's network. This means whether you're looking for budget deals or targeted packages (for businesses, for example, or gamers) you will find the deal for you.

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What to look for

So which broadband package should you choose? If you look at the table above, you'll see the PC Advisor home broadband comparison table differentiates the various deals in a number of key categories:

Here you see not only the name of the deal and provider, but also any special extras that may be on offer, such as whether a telephone line or television services are included.

Relatively straightforward, as the price in the red ticket will be what you can expect to pay per month for your deal. However, keep an eye out for special discounts that will be listed underneath the ticket, along with expiry dates for shot-term offers.


This is the cost of the initial set-up of the service. This can vary from free to anything up to £100, so is worth keeping a close eye on if you are looking for a budget package.


In such a fast-paced industry, it can prove wise to go for a short contract, giving you the option to move on when the next big thing lands on the market. But then again, the longer the contract, the less you'll have to pay per month. Have a good think about which is the right option for you.


As we mentioned earlier, cable currently beats ADSL on straight speed; however, speed isn't everything. If you're just looking at websites, using social networking applications and checking your mail, do you really need a 50Mb line?


In a similar way to 'speed', downloads will be important for some, and less so for others. This column indicates how much data you can download from the internet per month before possibly being penalised by your provider. If you're looking to play a lot of online games, or download a lot of television or film content, an 'unlimited' deal is advisable.


Much like the 'Package' column, check here for any little bonuses a deal may offer, such as free calls, a free wireless router or WiFi minutes.


The popularity column gives you an idea of how many other PC Advisor customers have gone on to buy this product after weighing up their options.

Once you've decided on the right home broadband deal for you, simply click on the 'More' button to be taken to the provider of your choice's page that links directly to the deal you're after, and away you go.

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