Latest Show

Latest Show Details

Play Latest Show button Download show now button Subscribe to FrequencyCast in iTunes button Podcast RSS Feed button
Show News!

We don't send spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

FrequencyCast RSS Feed FrequencyCast on Twitter FrequencyCast on Facebook


BT Broadband Offer

Cheap Broadband from Plusnet

Baffled By Broadband? Internet Explored

On this page, we look at the basics of Broadband, and what consumers in the UK need to know...

Listen to Show 58, our show covering how to choose a broadband provider:

Play Show button Download show now button


What is Broadband?

Broadband offers a fast connection to the Internet. Speeds of up to 20Meg are common with most providers, but this is subject to your distance from your phone exchange, and other users in your area, so is variable. 20 Meg (Megabits per second) works out to around 160 times faster than good old dialup.

As every technology has to have an acronym, you should note that broadband's is ADSL - 'Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line'.

Here are a few things you need to know:

  • You need a special modem, called an ADSL modem. Many UK providers bundle one in for free. Depending on what you're given, the modem connects to your PC either via a USB cable, an ethernet network cable, or via wi-fi - Double-check that the modem you're ordering can be connected to your PC
  • When you're connected to Broadband, you can still use your home phone
  • You can stay connected at no extra cost - no need to log on and off
  • You pay a fixed monthly fee for access. Most providers 'cap' your account (e.g. a monthly download limit of 10Gig). This is to stop people causing congestion by being on 24/7 downloading music and movies.
  • You need to connect little boxes to your existing phone sockets. Called Microfilters, these allow standard phones to be used on a phone line that's been broadband-enabled. These are pretty cheap, and you normally get a couple free from your Internet provider.
  • No engineer needs to call. The modem is posted out to you, with instructions and software, and you're given a 'migration date', at which time the line is switched over at your phone exchange.


How to get Broadband

You have to make your choice on which Internet provider to go with - but you also have to check that your within range of the telephone exchange.

Check your likely download speed:

To get a feel, try a check with BT first... enter your phone number and postcode at the speedchecker: - then, check some of the other providers to find the best deal.

Who do I go with?

As we've outlined in recent podcasts, there's a real battle hotting up for our broadband business - and the push is to offer consumers a package (often referred to as quad-play... Internet, TV, home phone, mobile phone) that's attractive and retains customers.

Here are the things to check for before signing:

  • Speed - Commonly, speeds of up to 16 Meg are available, but your distance from your local telephone exchange may make a big difference... "up to 16 Meg" doesn't mean you'll actually get 20 Meg.
  • Monthly download limit - How much you're allowed to download each month

Here's a quick summary of the current broadband offerings, and our take on them:

BT Broadband

BT Total Broadband The heavyweights in the UK... BT Total Broadband - Prices start from £9 for the first three months (then £14 a month) for speeds of up to 16 Meg.

BT tend to throw in free connection and hardware, including their BT Home Hub wireless router (faster than many), and a BT Vision digital TV set-top box.

BT Vision set-top box

They're also strong on extras, such as virus checking, wi-fi hotspot minutes and free calls over the Internet.

  • Our take: Unless you're with Sky or Virgin, BT's broadband offering could well be for you - their BT Vision TV service is a great freebie, and with most packages, you get a BT Home Hub wi-fi router. UK broadband coverage is good, and there are no hidden surprises, no nasty expensive support calls either.

  • Details:
Sky Broadband Sky Logo

Satellite TV firm Sky Digital entered the broadband marketplace in July 2006, offering free broadband to subscribers of its satellite TV service. The free package is available if you take out the Sky Talk phone service.

Sky's top package costs from £10 a month, and Sky's now done away with their Fair Usage package on the Broadband Unlimited, it's a truly unlimited download service.

  • Our take: If you're with Sky for TV (or considering it), free broadband from them makes a lot of sense. Well worth checking out. Power users will like their Unlimited option.

  • Details:
Virgin Media

Virgin Media Virgin Media - Formed from and the two cable firms NTL and Telewest in February 2007, Virgin Media offers some good packages for those in a cable area looking to tie calls, TV and Internet together. Even if you're not in a cable area,you can still get Broadband and phone service from Virgin.

They offer three broadband options with speeds up to an impressive 100 Meg, with no download restrictions. See if you're covered by Virgin's network at

  • Our take: We like their 'unlimited downloads', no 'long-term contract' option, although they're in the same price bracket as BT but without the freebies. Their TV, phone and broadband combined packages are generally good value for money though.

  • More details:

Plusnet offers great value broadband, has a good reputation for customer service, and has a call centre in Yorkshire. It offers a basic package for just £6.49 a month - Speeds of up to 16 Mbps, with a 10 Gig monthly download cap.

Available to 80% of the UK, they've got ten years experience in the business and their offering is worth a look.

  • Our take: No-frills service, top for those looking to save on their monthly bills. Well worth a look. Their unlimited overnight downloads are a nice touch.

  • Details: See our Plusnet feature for more info


TalkTalk TalkTalk offers broadband and home phone service. They also offer a digital TV service TalkTalk TV (previously Tiscali TV)

TalkTalk offers up to 14Mbps access from £6.50 a month, plus line rental.

  • Our take: The Broadband offering is nothing special, but the home phone service is generally a good deal, and the TalkTalk TV-over-broadband is worth a look.

  • Details:

Be Broadband

Be Broadband Not the most well known name, but they have a great selling point - Speeds of up to 19 Meg. The number of exchanges supporting Be Broadband is growing, and you can be part of the Broadband revolution. Prices start at £14 a month for lightening fast Broadband. Check if Be is available in your area at

  • Our take: Hard to beat this fast Broadband service. The 'lite' package download limit is a small 4gig though.

  • Details:
  • Our take: No. Walk away now. Back away slowly.


If you're with Orange for your mobile phone service and are on a £30 a month tariff, there's free broadband for you.

  • Our take: If you're already with Orange on the appropriate pricey and long-term contract, go for it - it's free.

  • More details:

How to switch your Broadband

In August 2006, we decided to switch our FrequencyCast broadband from Zen Internet, over to BT. This was to prepare us for the upcoming BT Vision television service. Here's what we did:

  1. Contacted Zen Internet Customer Services (by email) to request a MAC code. This reference number is needed by the new provider, to confirm that the old provider is OK to release the account. We got this within a couple of hours.
  2. Ordered BT Total Broadband Option 3 online at ( This took about 5 minutes. We're told we can expect speeds of 6Megs on our line. Date for migration has been set (about two weeks time). BT Total Broadband Option 3 comes with a voice-over-IP phone to work with the supplied Home Hub, but as there are problems with the supply of this phone, BT are sending a freebie phone. Nice.
  3. On the day of migration, a courier turned up with our kit - a BT Home Hub, a BT Total Broadband software CD, and a phone. We were meant to get a voice-over-IP phone, the BT Hub Phone - but when we ordered, we were told that the phone was not available, and would be shipped in 6-8 weeks. As compensation, the phone we got (which we can keep), is a perfectly acceptable BT Freestyle 3500 cordless answerphone
  4. As for the switch itself - this went very smoothly. We got an email from BT at 7:47 confirming that the migration had been completed - We waited for our connection to drop, but saw no loss at all - on checking, we were still with Zen - when we plugged in the Home Hub, we were with BT, and all was well. Surprisingly smooth, and hassle-free.

If you're looking for information on how to connect, set up and configure the Home Hub for broadband and wi-fi, see the Home Hub FAQ Configuration section.


Broadband questions

Speed issues

The speed of your download connection depend on a number of factors - distance from the telephone exchange, heavy load by other users, or noise on your line.

We discussed how to get a faster Broadband connection in Show 41

To test your speed, run the BT Speed Tester.

Many users have reported that they're able to get a speed increase by removing the bell wire from the main phone socket.

BT i-Plate ADSL socketYou can also consider replacing your main socket with a BT iPlate - this may help to boost your speed as it helps to screen out interference. These are available cheaply from

Can't get broadband

If you're not able to get Broadband where you are and still want to get the speed benefits of a Broadband connection, you might want to take a look at the service from OnSpeed. If you are running on a dial-up connection, the speed difference with this service can be dramatic. To use it, you'll need to download the special software from the OnSpeed website. Once installed, you won't even notice it's there, it runs in the background speeding up your Internet connection automatically.

If you're after a more solid option, then look at Satellite Broadband. Tariam Satellite Broadband offer a "Broadband Anywhere" option, ideal for those not able to get Broadband via a landline.

T-Mobile USB ModemMobile Internet. One other option is to get a high-speed wireless connection using the mobile phone network. With a suitable modem, you can connect your PC or laptop to the mobile phone network. We recommend you take a look at T-Mobile Mobile Broadband - Their 3G network covers a reasonable amount of the UK. At the time of writing, their Mobile Broadband tariffs come with a free USB data modem offering wireless data speeds of up to 1.8Meg.

More on our Mobile Broadband page.

Wireless Broadband

Assuming you have Broadband in your house, what happens if you want to connect wirelessly. so you can surf from your laptop?

BT's Home HubThe thing you need is a Wireless Broadband Router - you may have one of these already, or you may have a standard USB modem. New customers of BT Total Broadband may get one of these free - it's called the BT Home Hub. This connects to the phone line, and provides for a wired or wireless connection to computers.

If you don't have a wireless ADSL router, and you only have a USB modem, you can buy a wireless router online from , PC World or Amazon. These connect to your phone line, and allow you to connect wirelessly using wi-fi, or by a wire (Ethernet cable) from a PC that has an Ethernet socket.

On our wi-fi page, we have an example of a typical wi-fi setup.

More on your Broadband line

Some useful links:

More info:


Listen to Show 58, our show covering how to choose a broadband provider:

Play Show button Download show now button

Got a question on Broadband that we can answer in our next podcast?
Call 020 8133 4567 or send us a message


Share This Page:

facebook twitter digg stumble technorati