Hopefully, holidays are back on the agenda this summer. And do we need them. But whether you're planning a staycation, or have decided to venture abroad, you'll also need Wi-Fi, so you can get local information, stay in touch with the rest of the world, and keep yourself entertained as you travel.
Fortunately, you've got a number of options, and they won't cost you a fortune to use them. Let's take a look at the cheapest ways to get Wi-Fi when you're holiday at home or abroad.
The best way to get Wi-Fi when you're abroad is likely to be through your hotel. Most have it these days, and many hotels and hotel chains offer it for free, sometimes with the option to upgrade to a faster service.
But you may need to take a precaution.
The rule when it comes to any public Wi-Fi service is that a password protected connection is better than something that's fully open, but that's still no guarantee that it's completely secure. This applies equally to your Airbnb rental or airport Wi-Fi as it does to hotels.
You don't need to worry about this if you're only doing some casual browsing. But if you're planning to log in to sensitive sites like your bank account, then you should set up and install a VPN first. This ensures your connection and data are fully encrypted. Alternatively, you could just use your phone and its data connection for these tasks, so that you bypass the Wi-Fi altogether.
Hotel Wi-Fi can vary quite a lot in terms of performance. Some may or may not be very good, and you might find that some bandwidth-heavy services like Netflix are blocked. If you have the chance to upgrade to a faster service then that would be the best way to use these types of sites, but keep in mind that you'll likely be paying for 24 hours of access, so the fees could rack up over the course of your stay.
Another good option for getting Wi-Fi at home or abroad is through a mobile broadband service from providers like Virgin Mobile, EE, O2, Vodafone and Three.
These use the 4G or 5G phone network to give you internet access through a personal mobile router to which you can connect all your devices. You can also use it with a dongle connected to your laptop, or on a SIM-enabled iPad, although both of these options make it a little harder to share your connection with your other gadgets.
Mobile providers haven't reintroduced roaming charges post-Brexit, so you can use your mobile broadband allowance in many other countries. You should check where before your sign up - coverage is mostly for EU countries, so if you're heading further afield the price may be prohibitively expensive.
Even within the EU you might have fair usage limitations placed on some packages. And, of course, you'll be reliant on mobile coverage wherever you are. Head off for a city break and you'll be fine; go camping in the countryside and you might want to check the coverage maps for the area first.
Staying in the UK? You can use our Signalchecker service to check mobile phone coverage throughout the country.
Your phone's plan
Don't forget also that iPhones and Android phones can be set up as wireless hotspots, enabling you to get your laptop or tablet online wherever you are.
You'll find the option in Settings > Personal Hotspot on most iPhones, and on most Android phones you'll find it by swiping down twice from the top of the screen to open the Quick Settings panel, then tapping the Hotspot or Mobile Hotspot option.
Using your phone as a hotspot works in the same way as a separate mobile broadband plan, and can be a good option if you've got a decent data allowance. You'll get the same coverage without roaming charges across the EU, but will have to pay a lot more elsewhere. In either case, keep an eye on your data use. You'll have to buy top-ups in advance if you overshoot what your plan allows.
There may be other restrictions, too. If you've got an unlimited plan, check that it allows for tethering (connecting devices via the hotspot feature), and note that there may be a fair use policy in place.
Any one of these methods, or a combination, could be right for you. If you decide that you want the security and flexibility of a personal Wi-Fi system, check out the best mobile broadband deals available right now.
Were you planning to upgrade your broadband or TV in time for the holidays? It's now the middle of December, so it's probably too late, right? Oh no it isn't!
We can still save your Christmas with faster broadband and more TV than you could ever possibly watch. Here's what you can do.
If you aren't sure your current broadband will hold up under the strain of endless Zoom chats, Netflix bingeing and PS5 gaming, you still have options.
Although it is too late to get a new fibre deal connected in time for Christmas, mobile broadband can still give a decent internet boost.
There are 4G home broadband plans that offer you unlimited data at speeds on a par with a basic fibre deal. And if you're lucky enough to live in a 5G area, you can switch to something that is potentially a whole lot faster than the broadband you've currently got.
What makes it better is that you don't even need to make the switch permanent, since providers like Three and Vodafone let you sign up on 30-day plans. So if you just want to add a bit more bandwidth alongside your existing service for a few weeks, or are visiting family and need to take a decent internet connection with you, then this could work a treat.
Among the best deals available:
Three have unlimited 4G on deals up to two years long. You can get a 30-day plan for £30, plus £49 for a wireless hub (which you'll be able to continue using in future, too). They also do 5G in select areas, with unlimited data and speeds up to an impressive 200Mb. Prices start at £29 a month.
Vodafone have a range of mobile broadband plans, including some with the very highly rated GigaCube wireless router, for both 4G and 5G. You can pick up both on 30-day deals with unlimited 5G data, or up to 300GB on 4G.
EE and O2 also offer mobile broadband, albeit with lower usage allowances or on longer deals. And don't forget that your phone also offers a tethering feature, where you can make it function as a wireless router. Just be careful that you've got a big enough data allowance, as you can burn through it pretty quickly and don't want to be hit with any excess charges.
Parties might be off the agenda this Christmas, so we'll all be relying on boxsets, movies and Premier League football to keep ourselves entertained.
You can access Sky TV without a dish, installation or commitment through NOW TV. This streaming service lets you choose which bundle of channels you want through a range of TV Passes. Among the best offers are:
Entertainment Pass with NOW TV Boost gives you all the Sky entertainment channels including Sky One and Sky Atlantic, while the Boost add-on lets you watch in full HD on up to three TVs at the same time.
Cinema Pass with NOW TV Boost gives you over a thousand movies to watch on demand. You can also get Entertainment and Cinema in a single bundle.
Sky Sports Day Pass with Mobile Month Pass lets you watch Sky Sports for 24 hours for a one-off fee of £9.98. It's ideal if you want to enjoy specific football matches.
Sky Sports Month Pass with Boost gives you the full Sky Sports experience for a full month.
Kids Pass is the perfect way to keep the kids quiet, with ad-free shows. This no longer includes the Disney channels, though, which have switched over to Disney+.
All the monthly deals auto-renew, so make sure you cancel if you only want them for a month. You can cancel early so that you don't forget, and you'll still be able to watch until your month ends.
Better yet, the Entertainment and Cinema Passes come with a seven day free trial. If you haven't signed up before (or if you've got a different email address and payment card you can use), and you're feeling particularly sneaky, you can time your signup so that you get your free week over Christmas - and then cancel before you pay anything.
In fact, you can get a few nice Christmas treats by making good use of free trials on a few other streaming services. Amazon Prime offers 30 days, and Apple TV and BritBox both give you a free week.
Sadly, Netflix and Disney+ no longer do free trials. But you can spend around £15 in total for a month of the two, more than enough time to binge through the latest series' of The Crown and The Mandalorian while troughing the last of the Quality Street.
And if you're ready to upgrade your broadband in 2021, use our postcode checker to find the best Christmas and New Year broadband deals in your area today.
Fast, reliable broadband is a must-have for any student house. And given that it can take a couple of weeks to set up, it's one of the first things you'll want to get sorted when you move in for the new term.
If you haven't signed up for your own broadband package before, we'll tackle some of the questions you might have here.
It's all pretty straightforward, but as a student you won't have quite as many options as everyone else. Contract length is absolutely vital - you don't want to be saddled with a long term deal that you have to keep paying for during the summer holidays or beyond.
And with all the corona-driven uncertainty this year, flexibility is more important than ever. Let's take a look at some of the things you need to know.
What speed do you need?
Your usage is probably going to be pretty high, so the fibre deals in the 60-67Mb average speed range should be your starting point.
You might get away with one of the slower fibre packages if there's only two people in your house, but in most cases the extra speed will be worth more than the fiver or so difference in price.
Faster is always better, of course, and you might be lucky enough to be living in an area where you can get speeds over 100Mb - and sometimes quite a lot more. These might come from the normal fibre providers like BT or Sky, from Virgin Media, or in 5G areas through the likes of EE and Three. Just make sure you keep an eye on the contract length and any setup fees for these faster deals.
What length contract should you get?
Short contracts are key for student broadband, so don't even consider those that need an 18 or 24 month commitment.
12 months is the longest you should go for, but even then you'll end up with quite an overlap with the summer break where you're still paying for your internet while you're hitting the beaches in Spain. Don't rule these out entirely, though, as they might still work out cheaper than a shorter option.
BT offer a few nine month deals that align much better with your term time. Some broadband suppliers, including NOW Broadband and Virgin Media, also offer 30-day rolling contracts that you can cancel at any time. These are best for zero-commitment broadband, but they do often come with significant setup fees. Be sure to factor that in when you're comparing prices.
Do you need any extras?
If Netflix isn't enough and you want a bit of sports action or some more of the latest US shows, you can save some money by adding a pay TV plan to you broadband deal. You won't be able to do this through Sky, as they only offer TV on an 18 month contract, but you can get 30-day deals on NOW TV streaming with NOW Broadband.
For any overseas students in your house, consider adding a call plan with support for cheap international calls.
Who pays the bill?
Even though you'll be splitting the bill with all your housemates, one of you is going to have put their name on the contract. It will be their responsibility. This is one of the reasons why you don't want to sign up to anything longer than 12 months, tops. You don't want to be stuck paying your broadband bill long after your housemates have moved on.
It's a good idea to assign each one of your utilities to a different person in your household so you share the risk. To help manage bills you can also look into setting up a shared bank account across the household, or take a look at apps like Splitwise that make it easier to see who owes what.
Best broadband deals for students
So, what student broadband deal should you choose?
BT offer three plans specifically for students. They're nine month deals, with speeds ranging from 36Mb to 67Mb. You can add a Sports or Entertainment TV package, as well as call plans including cheap international calls to 236 countries.
For one month contracts, you've got two main choices:
NOW Broadband - speeds range from a sedate 11Mb (don't bother!) to a much more suitable 63Mb, with the option to add streaming TV plans as well. All of them come with a £65 upfront fee.
Virgin Media - speeds on the 30-day plans range from around 54Mb all the way up to over 500Mb. Many setup fees have been waived on the 1 month rolling contracts that are specifically for students, but bear in mind that installation takes longer if your house hasn't had Virgin before.
Your other options are for 12 month contracts. When you add in the setup fees and slightly higher prices for short deals, these year-long plans may still end up being competitive, even though you'll still be paying in July and August when you don't need it. Among your best options here are:
John Lewis Broadband - speeds go up to an average 66Mb, with no activation fee, and usually include an e-gift card as a bonus.
Plusnet - speeds up to 66Mb, with just a £10 activation fee. You also get the option to add BT Sport - with Premier League and Champions League football - after you've signed up.
And there's one last thing to consider - broadband over 4G or 5G. This won't be right for everyone: 4G speeds are better for one or two users rather than a large, heavy-use household, and though 5G is blazing fast it still has very patchy coverage. If you're in the right part of London, Three's 5G Home Unlimited plans look good, and include a 12 month option. Find more great mobile broadband deals here.
Ready to start shopping for student broadband? Use our postcode checker to compare the best broadband deals available in your area today.
It's the time of year where students around the country are heading to university, either to start their studies or return for a new academic year.
Whether you're heading to uni for the first time, returning to your student accommodation or about to start out in a new student house share, now's the time to look for a good student broadband offer to keep you online over the next 9 months.
Both of those option mean that you can avoid paying for broadband costs should you head home or go off on travels in the 3 months between academic years. But of course you don't need a special student exclusive offer to get short contract broadband from other suppliers, for example NOW Broadband, Plusnet and Hyperoptic also have competitive 1 month rolling contract offers that even undercut BT and Virgin's prices.
Superfast Fibre broadband may now available across 95% of the UK, but there are still a lot of people who can't get it. You might be one of the frustrated few stuck in a broadband not-spot, with Fibre not yet available in your area, or - more annoyingly - it is available, but you're just too far from the street cabinet to see the benefit and are stuck with sluggish speeds on standard broadband over copper phone lines.
The solution to your problem may be simpler than you think.
4G mobile technology started rolling out in 2012 and is now available over 80% of the UK, and now mobile providers such as EE and Three are offering a home broadband solution that uses the 4G mobile network to provide users with speeds that can be comparable with their up to 36Mbps Fibre counterparts. You don't necessarily even need to be in a 4G area to get it, either - you can get respectable speeds in many 3G areas as well, plus there's the option to boost the signal with an external antenna if you need it.
What's more, Three currently have an amazing offer on that's competitive with even the cheaper Fibre broadband deals. For just £22 a month on a 24 month contract you can get unlimited data!
If 4G home broadband is something that interests you, we've put together a handy guide to the service that addresses:
Each month hundreds of thousands of broadband customers test their speeds with our broadband speed test. Since the end of 2015 there's been little change in average speeds from home broadband with average download speeds for March 2016 coming in at 20.41Mb and average upload speeds at 3.73Mb.
However, our test also supports users testing on tablets and smartphones, meaning we can report on mobile broadband speeds from 4G and 3G networks. While home broadband has been stable, mobile broadband average download speed has risen by a full 2Mb since December and upload speed by 1.6Mb, the average mobile broadband speeds for March 2016 were 15.31Mb download and 3.71Mb upload.
When the big mobile broadband and home broadband providers' average speeds compete on the same table, it's only Virgin Media's DOCSIS 3 cable broadband that outperforms mobile broadband, clocking in 46.95Mb, with upload speeds at 5.9Mb.4GEE is ahead of BT Broadband with download speeds clocking in at 18.71Mb, faster than BTby 1.07Mb. 4GEE and Vodafonemobile broadband sit in overall 2nd and 4th places beating all home big broadband providers' averages bar Virgin Media, with Vodafone's 16.26Mb average mobile download speed only 1.38Mb behind BT.
Of the home broadband providers Post Office Broadband still has the UK's slowest broadband speed overall with only 4.38Mb average downloads and 1.67Mb average uploads, well below the average speeds expected for copper phoneline broadband. Three tested with the slowest mobile broadband at 12.09Mb downloads, but this still beat home broadband offerings from Sky and EE.
When the supplementary broadband providers table (see page 4 of the report) is included we can see that fibre to the building provider Hyperoptic tested as the fastest broadband overall with 91.7Mb average downloads and 77.3Mb uploads.
December 2015 saw average download speeds for fixed line providers recorded by users of our broadband speed test remain stable in comparison to the results from November, coming in at 20.56Mb. Average upload speeds saw a 0.15Mb drop to 3.68Mb.
Of the big 5 home broadband providers, Virgin Media remained in first place but their average download speeds appear to have levelled out since rolling out their 200Mb service, remaining stable at 46.57Mb, with upload speeds at 5.66Mb. BT Broadband retain second place with average download and upload speeds steady at 17.58Mb and 4.42Mb respectively. TalkTalk move up to third place, with download speeds stable at 12.8Mb and upload speeds dropping by 0.21Mb to 1.86Mb. Plusnet drop into fourth place, dropping by 0.59Mb to 12.6Mb for average download speeds with a 0.39Mb decrease to 2.85Mb for average upload speeds. Finally, Sky remain in fifth place with a 1.1Mb fall in download speeds to 10.92Mb, while their upload speeds decreased by 0.41Mb to 2.47Mb.
Results from users testing with mobile-enabled devices including phones and tablets suggests that mobile broadband speeds saw an overall rise since November. Taking mobile broadband separately from home broadband, EE Mobile retain first place, with download speeds increasing by 1.1Mb to 17.55Mb and upload speeds holding at 3.87Mb. Vodafone are in second place, seeing download speeds fall slightly by 0.19Mb to 13.76Mb and upload speeds steady at 2.82Mb. O2 are in third place with download speeds at 11.78Mb - a respectable 1.4Mb increase over last month - and upload speeds at 2.53Mb. Three are still in fourth place, with average download speeds of 9.84Mb and upload speeds of 2.56Mb.
When mobile broadband and home broadband average speeds compete on the same table, 4GEE is head-to-head with BT's second place with a difference of only 0.03Mb. 4GEE and Vodafone mobile broadband sit in overall 3rd and 4th places beating all home broadband providers' averages bar Virgin Media and BT. This suggests that 4G broadband may have higher uptake levels relative to 3G compared to uptake of the fastest possible fibre broadband products relative to cheaper options.
This month's supplementary broadband providers table (see page 4 of the report) found Post Office Broadband had the UK's slowest broadband speed overall with only 2.55Mb average downloads and only 0.33Mb average uploads. Hyperoptic was fastest overall with 102.1Mb average downloads and 92.13Mb uploads.
Despite not having celebrated a family holiday yesterday, Britain still gets to enjoy America's traditional equivalent to the January sales, Black Friday, with headline grabbing special offers available not just today, but all weekend and on Monday too.
This year several broadband suppliers have jumped onto the Black Friday bandwagon and are offering some record breaking special offers, some of the best we've ever seen.
Offers only apply to new customers of the relevant broadband provider who sign up online who do not need a new telephone line or number. Minimum contracts apply for all deals. Line rental required on all but Hyperoptic's deals. Setup costs and additional charges may apply. Offers may be restricted to particular coverage areas. Rewards must be claimed online after activation. One reward per household. Unless otherwise stated, offers are valid until the end of 2015-11-30. Offers may be withdrawn or amended at any time. Click through to the providers' websites for further details, terms and conditions and confirmation of eligibility.
October 2015 saw average download speeds for fixed line providers recorded by users of our broadband speed test rise by 2.76Mb in comparison to the results from September, coming in at 21.88Mb. Average upload speeds saw a 0.4Mb increase to 4.65Mb.
Virgin Media's average download speeds rose by 6.31Mb to 48.66Mb, with upload speeds also improving to 6.64Mb. Virgin have recently begun rolling out their 200Mb service for new and existing customers, which accounts for the significant increase in download speeds.
BT Broadband retain second place with average download speeds increasing by 1.32Mb to 18.84Mb, and upload speeds increasing by 0.45Mb to 5.59Mb. Plusnet hold third place, remaining stable at 15.09Mb for average download speeds with only a 0.33Mb decrease to 4.25Mb for average upload speeds. TalkTalk stay in fourth place, with download speeds at 12.89Mb and upload speeds at 2.32Mb. Finally, Sky are in fifth place with a 0.87Mb rise in download speeds, putting them at 12.76Mb, while their upload speeds increased by 0.38Mb to 3.64Mb.
With the recent improvements to our speed test, we're now able to record results from mobile users on their phones and tablets. EE Mobile are in first place, with download speeds averaging at 17.81Mb and upload speeds at 5.36Mb. Vodafone are in second place, with download speeds at 12.95Mb and upload speeds at 3.79Mb. O2 are in third place with download and upload speeds at 11.03Mb and 3.81Mb respectively. This leaves Three in fourth place, with average download speeds of 9.03Mb and upload speeds of 3.45Mb.
As a limited special offer EE are offering free 7-inch Android tablets with many of their superfast 4G mobile broadband deals. Just choose a data allowance of 5GB or more on a 24 month contract and, as well as either a USB dongle or mobile WiFi device, you'll receive the Alcatel One Touch 7 Android WiFi tablet at no extra cost!
Prices start from £21 a month and available usage allowances go up to 50GB per month. What's more, these deals all come with EE's new double speed 4G, the fastest mobile broadband available in the UK, with the most 4G-enabled cities!
All EE mobile broadband packages come with extra bonuses: you can enjoy inclusive WiFi at BT hotspots and London Underground coverage from Virgin Media, and free film downloads and 2 for 1 Wednesday cinema tickets with EE Film.
Superfast 4G speed depends on location and number of users. Data outside your monthly allowance can be purchased for £6 for 500MB or £15 for 2GB. Prices may increase during the life of your plan.