TV and broadband guides
Don’t know where to start to find the best TV and broadband deals? Need to think about broadband for your business? Navigating your way through the jungle of jargon can be tough - download speeds, data limits, fibre optic - not to mention all the different kinds of TV bundles on offer. Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered. Our expert advice guides you step-by-step all the way from choosing the best deals to troubleshooting your connection problems.
What is broadband?
In a nutshell, broadband is any high-speed internet access that is always active. It is faster than traditional dial-up internet, which works similar to making a phone call. The most typical kind of broadband is where you have a router in your home, plugged into the phone socket.
With a few notable exceptions, broadband is delivered through telephone lines. Openreach, a division of BT, owns and maintains the network of phone lines. Any company providing an internet service via the telephone network has to pay Openreach for access to the phone lines. Naturally, that cost is passed on to customers. That’s why you will see line rental included as part of the cost of your internet service.
What is fibre broadband?
Standard broadband means your internet service is delivered through the ordinary telephone wires. Fibre broadband is delivered via fibre cables, but usually these cables only go as far as the telephone cabinet in the street, not all the way to your home. After that, broadband arrives at your home through the normal phone lines.
Jargon-busterWhat is FTTP? Fibre to the Premises: superfast fibre cables that reach your building, not just to the telephone cabinet in the street. What is LLU? Local Loop Unbundling: making the telephone network available for other companies to provide services through the same connections. What is VoIP? Voice over Internet Protocol: using a broadband connection to make voice calls instead of using a telephone.
Broadband in my area
The UK Government’s postcode checker tells you whether or not you can receive fibre broadband in your area. You can also find out typical download and upload speeds for your postcode, as well as whether or not FTTP or LLU would be available to you.
Internet service providers usually offer both fibre broadband and standard (ADSL) broadband options. The fibre deals are invariably priced higher because the connection speed is faster.
Broadband speed explained
There’s a good chance that megabits per second (Mbps or Mbit/s) means absolutely nothing to you. Essentially, this is how internet connection speeds are measured - the higher the number, the better. This goes for both download speed and upload speed. Read more about how to understand broadband speed metrics in our guide to download speed, upload speed and ping.
Don’t assume that you have to fork out for a more expensive package with faster connection speeds - it all depends on your habits. To help you figure out the minimum speed you require read our guide to broadband speed.
Thanks to the efforts of the telecommunications regulator Ofcom, broadband providers are now obliged to deliver a minimum guaranteed internet speed, and they should tell you exactly what that speed is before you sign up to the contract. If your internet connection falls below that level you have the right to get the problem fixed. If the speed does not improve within a reasonable time you can get out of your contract, penalty-free. Click below to check your internet speed with our handy broadband speed test.
Save money on your broadband
Whether it’s your first time getting your own internet service or if you’re already used to organising broadband for your home, choosing the right broadband package can make a big difference to your bank balance. You'll be happy with the cheapest broadband if you only want to browse the web, send emails and use social media. Perhaps more top-of-the-market internet solutions with the most advanced technology would suit you better. Either way, we can help you get the best deals.
Almost all broadband providers increase your monthly payment automatically after the end of your contract. When that happens it’s time to switch your internet. Whether your contract is for 12, 18 or 24 months, put the end date in your diary to remind yourself to look for another deal. Your current provider is unlikely to tell you that your contract is ending so it’s up to you to take the initiative and avoid any nasty surprises on your bank statement. Read our How to switch broadband guide to take you through the switching process step-by-step
Can I switch internet providers before the end of my contract?
Technically, yes, you can but there is usually an early exit fee. In certain circumstances, you can end your internet contract early without paying a cancellation fee. For example, if you have been able to convince your ISP that your connection speed is consistently slower than the guaranteed minimum speed in your broadband agreement you can terminate the contract without paying an exit fee. This can be hard to prove, though, so you might have a fight on your hands. For more information about see our guide to broadband exit fees.
Types of broadband service
Broadband most often comes along with a home phone service in the same package, with a contract lasting at least one year. TV services and mobile phone tariffs can also be added to the same deal so you get one big bundle. Bundling can often make things cheaper. However, some people are happy to keep things simple. Broadband on its own, without any TV add-ons or even without a phone service, is certainly an option to consider.
With fewer people than ever using their home phone service, we hear folks asking ‘can I get cheap broadband without a phone line?’ The answer is yes, you can! Paying that line rental charge could be a thing of the past if you take up one of the alternative options. See our guide more information about deals without a landline.
There are even a few options on the market for broadband without a contract. Several providers offer pay-as-you-go wifi dongles or commitment-free 30-day rolling contracts which are easy to cancel. So many choices on the market can be bewildering but don’t worry - Selectra’s guides help you compare broadband deals so you can save money and get the right service for your household.
Living in a spectacular setting certainly has its upsides, but internet coverage can be a problem for many rural locations. One of the reasons for slower internet speeds in the countryside is the distance between the telephone cabinet and homes. To get around these issues you could consider you could consider one of the following options:
- Satellite broadband
- 4G mobile broadband
- Fixed wireless internet
If consistently slow broadband speed is a problem in your location, you could be eligible for help from March. The UK Better Broadband Voucher Scheme has now been terminated, but from the 20th of March Ofcom will launch the broadband universal service obligation (USO) - to find our more about the broadband USO, see Ofcom's website.
Student broadband deals
University life is stressful enough at the best of times and one thing you don’t want to waste your time worrying about is the cost of broadband. Some internet companies offer convenient nine-month contracts to fit in with the academic year.
Look out for special offers and discounts towards the end of summer, just before the university term starts. Sometimes you can bag a bargain. This was the case in September 2018 when Talktalk launched a £100 voucher offer for students signing up to their broadband service.
Broadband technical help
There’s no doubt that technology makes a huge difference to our everyday lives. We can work more efficiently, connect with colleagues, family and friends anywhere in the world. All this at the click of a button, while having instant, high-quality entertainment at our fingertips. But what happens when technology fails us? Selectra can help!
In some parts of your house the internet might be slower than in others or maybe the connection fails completely. What you need is a broadband extender. These nifty devices are placed between your wireless router and the place where the signal is poor. The extender picks up the original signal and then re-transmits it to the problem area.
When your internet suddenly stops working altogether, there are a few things you can try to troubleshoot the connection problem:
- Try different websites. At the risk of stating the obvious, it could be just the website that you want to look at that’s having problems so try a few to make sure the problem is at your end.
- Is the problem with one device or all devices? Try your computer, smartphone, tablet, smart TV, games console - whatever devices you have that connect to the internet. Test them all to check if the problem is definitely the internet connection.
- Check your router. Switch it off and back on again! Sometimes this clichéd piece of advice really does work. Switch it off, unplug and then wait for 30 seconds before reconnecting.
- Contact your service provider. There could be a general problem with their network.
How to find your landline number
Maybe you never use your landline and you’re one of the many people who don’t even know their own home phone number, but you need to know what it is just to get a quote for a broadband deal or broadband switch. Read our guide to how to find your landline number to avoid being stumped by the question ‘what’s my phone number?’
What is on demand TV?
On demand TV is definitely where it’s at these days. Put simply, it’s the TV shows and movies you want to watch, when you want to watch them. When your TV is connected to the internet you can choose from different apps and set-top boxes that give you access to films and TV series. On demand TV also means that you can catch up on your favourite shows from all the usual TV channels whenever it suits you.
Whether it’s box sets on Netflix, test cricket on Sky Sports or David Attenborough documentaries, we all want TV on demand, at our own convenience. Bundling your internet and television services together to get everything from the same provider for one fixed monthly price is often a great way to make savings.
Keep a couple of things in mind when comparing TV and broadband bundles. Internet providers give the impression you’re signing up to a great TV deal but often all you get is a fairly basic set-top box. You'll be able to pause and rewind live TV and watch catch-up TV from services such as BBC iPlayer. Plus you get access to TV apps - Netflix is one - but when we say ‘access’ we mean that to actually watch anything on Netflix, you have to pay!
Likewise, when you’re choosing a TV provider don’t be fooled by the number of channels you’re promised. In their channel count, internet service providers (ISPs) include all the usual free-to-air channels - BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and all the associated ‘+ 1’ channels. That’s why we advise that when you see a TV package with 67 channels, remember that not all of them are premium channels.
In other words, if you’re happy with the selection of TV channels you already receive without paying for a TV package or bundle as part of your internet service, then maybe you don’t need to add TV to your broadband contract. After all there are some excellent quality basic TV packages on the market. But if you want more than just your run-of-the-mill Freeview channels, we give you a snapshot of what’s available in a round-up of the best TV packages:
BT's phone, broadband and TV deals are some of the most comprehensive on the market. BT TV and broadband packages go all the way from about £33 over £100 per month. Surprisingly, BT Sport is not included in all BT TV packages, so if that’s what you’re really interested in then choose carefully!
With Virgin Media you get one of the fastest internet connection speeds in the UK as well as up to 260 television channels. Virgin Media also does well in the customer service stakes with consistently positive feedback from its customers. However, despite expanding the network all the time, at least 20% of UK households remain outside the Virgin cable network.
Sky TV packages start with one standard deal for about £22 per month (over 300 channels). There are options to add extras for sports, cinema or kids’ TV. For box set fans, you can sign up for the Ultimate On Demand pack, and if you're an existing customer there are plenty of upgrade offers plus access to Sky Q. You can also add Sky broadband for a low monthly fee. For some people, though, having a satellite dish on the outside of your house can be a major drawback.
Talktalk’s TV and broadband deals start from about £30 per month. You get over 80 channels and a box to record, pause and rewind live TV. With a wide range of 'Boosts' to choose from, TalkTalk customers can get access to sports, entertainment and documentary channels.
NOW TV boxes offer a wide range of channels without signing up to a contract. Fans of sports, movies and drama are all catered for by NOW TV packages, not to mention kids’ channels. You can also get Now TV with fibre internet.
What kind of TV service is best for me?
When you’re choosing a TV provider, make sure you think about the pros and cons of all the different types of services, including satellite and cable. We're here to help you choose the right TV packs for sports lovers and film buffs. We will also bring you guides to decide between Sky Sports and BT Sport, and between NOW TV and Sky TV:
No two TV streaming services are the same - while some series and films are available through multiple platforms, each streaming service has some exclusive content. Some TV packages, such as Sky and BT, include on demand streaming in addition to live (‘normal’) TV but there are streaming services specifically for on demand films and TV series.
The three biggest players in the streaming world - Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Rakuten - have an impressive selection of films and TV shows. With the option to subscribe monthly rather than annually, signing up to one of these could get you a better deal than you would find with a provider like BT or TalkTalk TV.
Netflix’s original TV series, such as House of Cards, Narcos and The Crown, have achieved international success and made Netflix seem like a household essential for many people. However, Netflix does have its competitors. With Amazon Prime Video, not only do you get free delivery on purchases from Amazon.co.uk and free music streaming, you have access to exclusive Amazon films and TV shows, such as American Gods and The Grand Tour. Rakuten has a wide range of US TV series (e.g. Suits, Arrested Development, Glee) and the option to buy films to own from about £3.45.
Before you commit yourself to a TV streaming contract, try them out for free. Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Rakuten each offers a 30-day free trial so you can compare the content of each one.
How can I watch specific types of TV?
Sometimes you want to watch something specific but you don’t know which channel it’s on or which TV service you need to have to receive this channel. For instance, since TV deals between sports events and broadcasters seem to change all the time, it can be hard to keep up with things like who is showing the Ashes (clue: in 2019, it’s Sky Sports).
You might also be wondering:
How can I watch the Discovery Channel?
- With television packages from Sky TV, NOW TV, BT TV and Virgin Media.
How can I watch Sky Atlantic?
- Through NOW TV and all Sky TV packages.
How can I watch Game of Thrones?
- On Sky Atlantic (see above).
How can I watch HBO UK?
- Sky Atlantic is currently the only channel with permission to broadcast HBO programmes.
- Alternatively, pay to download content via iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten, Playstation video, TalkTalk TV store or Google Play Store.
TV practical help
Here we round up some practical tips and answer some frequently asked questions about TV services.
- Do I need a satellite dish for Sky TV?
- At the moment, yes you do need a satellite dish to receive Sky TV. In the near future, Sky is due to launch a dish-less service but until then a dish is essential for Sky subscriptions.
- If you only want to watch specific Sky TV programmes, you can do so via other providers. For instance, Sky Sports is included in some BT, Virgin and NOW TV packages, and you can get Sky Cinema through BT, Virgin and TalkTalk.
- Can I get Sky in a block of flats?
- Does your flat have a Sky point? If so, there will be a communal satellite dish that you can connect to.
- If your flat doesn’t have a Sky point and your block has four or fewer flats, then you should be able to get Sky.
- Blocks with more than four flats might need a communal system so check with your management company or speak directly to Sky to find out what your options are.
- How can I turn my TV into a smart TV?
- If your TV has an HDMI port and you have a USB cable you can use an Amazon Fire Stick, Chromecast or Apple TV to turn your TV into a smart TV
Small, medium and large businesses all need some kind of access to the internet as well as a top-notch website. Whether you’re a sole trader working from home, or the managing director of a large corporation, you need to know what types of business broadband are available and what you need for your company.
Small businesses clearly have different requirements from larger organisations so it’s important always to compare different business broadband options. Whatever size of business you have, setting up cloud electronic point of sale systems will really help keep your customers happy.
Taking some time to think about things like whether you need a static IP address, and what level of internet security is appropriate, will help you choose the best business broadband for you. If you're a small to medium-sized business, with fewer than 250 employees, did you know you can apply for a government gigabit broadband voucher for help towards the cost of installing full fibre broadband?
Your internet service provider should set up a service level agreement with you that clearly sets out what you can expect from them. That includes connection speed, fault resolution and provision of leased lines and static IP addresses. Your ISP can also advise you on a whole raft of other features such as mobile business broadband how to set up public wifi, and which cloud-based telephone solutions are best for you.
Businesses need to keep a constant eye on how their IT capacity affects productivity. Maybe you’ve heard that you should perform a data audit but don’t know what it means or how important it is. Basically, it’s a thorough examination of your company’s data (exactly what data you have, where it is, how it’s being used and so on). The results of a data audit can then help to inform important business decisions and therefore lead to an increase in profits.
Bandwidth and connection speed can also have a significant impact on your business activity. Maybe you need to think about upgrading from standard to fibre business broadband or perhaps looking to other services such as hybrid cloud storage would benefit your organisation. Other things that could be important for your company to consider are the impact of 5G on your business, latency, and priority network access, all of which have a considerable impact.
You might also be wondering how Brexit will affect your business. The truth is no-one really knows yet, but if your company has contacts in the EU it’s worth keeping in mind that your business mobile and calls plans could change.