There's nothing more irritating than sitting down to watch your favourite television show online, only to see the buffer symbol appear and the screen freeze you out – this is where the importance of broadband speed comes into play.
Depending on what you use your connection for, your requirements for speed will vary, and obviously the costs will also fluctuate accordingly.
When it comes to broadband speeds, people are usually talking about two sorts – download and upload.
Download speed is the time it takes for information to be transferred from the internet to your computer. This is important for downloading music and video as well as streaming films and TV without interruptions.
Upload speed is the exact opposite - the time it takes to transfer the information from your computer to the internet. This will affect things like how quickly you can send emails and upload files to social networking sites.
Advertisements from providers may read "up to 17mb" (even 38 or 50mb if you're in seeking a fibre connection), but realistically you can expect much slower speeds – usually only about 10% of a provider's customers can actually get the top speed claimed, all depending on where they live. Carry out an online speed check for your area to get a realistic idea of what you can receive for your home.
A lot of broadband still goes through the old ASDL phone cables, designed for voice transportation rather than data, and these can still be slow and often deliver nowhere near the speeds advertised. Bear in mind though, that for some users this may be plenty and will obviously be the cheaper option.
Cable networks will be faster than ASDL, and some providers are offering fibre connections. Virgin's fibre network is the fastest option overall, but it isn't available everywhere and it also has some heavier price tags attached to some of its packages, so you'll need to pay for the speed.
Advertised speeds in this instance can range from up to 30mb to up to 100mb, and these claims are usually more reliable. Speeds can still vary though, as copper wires are still used to connect from the green box at the end of your street to your house, so you may find variations in your speed compared to your neighbour's depending on who lives closer to the box.
Overall, the most important thing is to work out what speeds you actually need. If you are a light user, chances are a standard package will suit you fine and it will cost you a lot less. However, if you have a large family who are all online at the same time, you regularly stream films and TV, use a lot of on-demand services, download a lot of data and play video games online, you will probably benefit greatly from looking into fibre optic packages.
Do some research and look into all your options before you make a decision, and hopefully you will create the best online experience for your needs.
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Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.
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