Broadband.co.uk Blog: Sky

Regular Broadband-related news and comment from the Broadband.co.uk team.

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Updates related to the home broadband provider Sky.

Sky Q Hub

Why getting a new router can speed up your broadband

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsFeaturesVirgin MediaOriginTalkTalkZenEEVodafonePlusnetSkyBT

If you find broadband speeds confusing, you're not alone. What speed broadband providers advertise and what you actually get are rarely the same thing. The ASA has recently announced that it will be taking steps next year to bring clarity to the entire issue.

But that's a way off. In the meantime there are steps you can take to ensure you achieve speeds closer to what you were expecting.

You may not know that your Wi-Fi router can have a massive impact on the internet speeds you get throughout your home. Since the provider supplies the router we tend to assume that they're automatically good enough. But that isn't always true - sometimes they're old or slow, and not capable of handling a superfast broadband connection.

In these cases, upgrading to a more powerful router can help speed up your broadband dramatically.

How a new Wi-Fi router can help

Let's start with the technical bit.

The performance of a router is determined by the wireless standard that it uses. The best modern routers use the latest standard, called 802.11ac. It's the fastest available, and it runs on the 5GHz band which is clean and interference free.

802.11ac superceded the 802.11n standard. This is much slower - perhaps half or even a third of the speed - and it commonly runs on the 2.4GHz band which is much more prone to interference from other electrical devices in your home. As a result, the signal is not just slower but it gets much weaker the further it travels.

The router as a bottleneck

Many broadband providers supply an N-rated router with their packages, and it may not be up to the job. Tests show that 802.11n routers have a real world top speed of 50-100Mb, at close range. At a distance of 20 metres, and with a few obstacles like walls and floors in the way, that speed can be slashed in half - or worse.

So, if you've got a high-end fibre package and are getting speeds of 50Mb or more, then an N-rated router simply won't cut it. Your broadband is faster than your router, and the router becomes a bottleneck. Even on an entry-level fibre deal, with speeds of 25Mb, you'll be pushing it. You might find you get good speeds downstairs, but that they fall off sharply in the bedrooms.

In both cases, upgrading to an AC-rated router is likely to give you a major speed boost. The exception is standard broadband. Here, the speeds top out at 16Mb, and in practice are usually somewhat slower. An N-rated router should be able to handle this.

An easy way to check if you're affected is to use our free Speed Test tool. Stand next to your router and run the test on your laptop. Then head to the furthest corner of your house and run it again. If there's a major discrepancy in your results then it could be a sign that you need to upgrade your router. (Or it could mean you need to find a better position for your router.)

Do you need a new router?

You can see why a slow router can mean you don't get the broadband speeds you were expecting. So do you need to upgrade?

When you're shopping for broadband deals, all our comparison tables have icons to show what kind of router you're getting. Click the More Info button to see whether there's an option to upgrade to a better router when you sign up.

What router do you get?

  • Many of the major providers now supply AC-rated routers with all their packages. This includes TalkTalk, Vodafone and Virgin, while Sky also provides the new Sky Q Hub if you are a TV customer.
  • BT, Plusnet and EE supply 802.11ac routers with their fibre packages, and N-rated routers with standard broadband. BT offers a paid upgrade for standard broadband customers, but the other two don't.
  • Origin customers get an N-rated router, and need to pay at checkout to upgrade to a faster AC-rated unit.

If you've been with a provider for some time it's possible you're still using an older N-rated router and aren't getting the fastest possible speeds from your broadband. In this case it's worth checking with the provider to see if they'll swap your router for a newer model for free. Some may give you one in exchange for you signing a new contract. Just make sure you know exactly what you're getting, and that you aren't charged or placed on a new contract without knowing.

Lastly, a handful of providers, including Plusnet, Zen and Origin, allow you to use own router, so you can shop around and check independent reviews to get the best model for your needs.

The router is a frequently overlooked part of the broadband service. It's natural to assume that broadband problems are the fault of the provider, but the reality is that if your router is too slow you can easily be cutting your internet speed in half without even realising.

Give your router a quick check now to see if you would benefit from an upgrade.

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Logging into Facebook on a MacBook

Data limits: Are they right for you?

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesBTPlusnetSky

We're all keen to shave a few pounds off our monthly bills, so when we're shopping for broadband and find an entry level package that looks the same as the more expensive alternatives, it can prove pretty tempting. Many broadband providers - from the industry's biggest and smallest names alike - offer these. They can be extremely cheap, but they come with pretty hefty restrictions.

Sky make a compelling offer with their cheapest fibre deal. It gives you the opportunity to upgrade to the benefits of fibre broadband and get it completely free for the length of the contract, while paying only line rental. Except there's a catch - you're limited to 25GB of data each month.

BT's lowest priced fibre deal also comes with a 25GB limit, and their cheapest standard broadband just 12GB. Many other providers also impose limits on their most affordable packages, ranging from 100GB down to a paltry 5GB.

Not only do these limits restrict how you can use the internet, they can also prove more expensive in the long run. Exceed your limit on BT, for example, and you'll pay £1.80 for every additional gigabyte you use. The price can rack up quite quickly.

Now, this doesn't mean you should avoid data limited packages outright. For lighter users in smaller households they might be ideal. Just make sure you know how much data you will be using before you sign up.

How much data do you need?

The amount of data you use depends what you do online. Casual browsing, shopping and banking, email and Facebook are not especially data intensive. If that's the extent of your web use, and there's only a couple of people in your household, then you might be okay with a data limit.

Anything media-related, on the other hand, eats through data rapidly. Here's a rough guide to how much data common apps use:

  • Netflix - the TV streaming service Netflix uses around 1GB of data per hour for standard definition, and 3GB per hour for HD. For BBC iPlayer, you can expect to use 2GB per hour of HD viewing.
  • Sky TV on demand - On-demand downloads through your Sky box will also count towards your data allowance - even if you use Sky broadband. A typical movie will use 1.5GB of data for SD and 4GB for HD.
  • Music streaming - The Spotify music streaming service uses around 115MB per hour at the highest quality setting.
  • Gaming - Tests have shown that online video gaming can use anywhere between 20MB and 200MB, depending on the title. Stream your gameplay over the Twitch service and you'll use up to 1.6GB per hour.
  • Video calls - Skype can use between around 200-600MB per hour for video calls, although it can be lower depending on the quality of the connection.

And then there are the numerous other things that will burn through a data allowance. Regular updates for your laptop, phone and games console, for example, stretch to several hundred megabytes or more. They may be mandatory, and they may even happen in the background without you realising.

Uploads count, too. use iCloud or OneDrive for your files, back up your important files to DropBox or Google Drive, share your holiday snaps on Facebook or Google Photos, or upload funny videos to YouTube or Snapchat, and that's another chunk of your data gone.

A false economy?

A cheap broadband deal with a monthly data allowance can be tempting - why pay any more than you need to, right? But it can prove to be a false economy, and you certainly shouldn't choose one in the hope that you'll be able to ration your usage.

Some providers, like BT, will start charging the moment you exceed your limit. Others, like Sky, will allow you to go over once every six months, before automatically upgrading your broadband to their more expensive Unlimited package. And in some cases, the difference between limited and unlimited isn't even all that great. At the time of writing you can get an unlimited fibre deal from Plusnet for just £25 more per year than Sky Fibre.

If you're only a light internet user, going online to pay bills and the like, then the cheapest, limited deal may suffice. For everyone else, you'd be better off steering clear and picking the best unlimited deal that suits your needs.

Use our postcode checker to find your best broadband deal today.

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Student Broadband Guide

EXPIRED: Find the best student broadband deals for 2016

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesOffersExpiredOriginNOW BroadbandVirgin MediaSkyBT

Good broadband is one of the essentials of student life. You need it for coursework and research; you need it for Game of Thrones and pulling an all-nighter on Call of Duty. But with so many broadband packages to choose from, how do you decide which to go with? What factors do you need to be aware of, and where can you find the best student broadband deals? Let's take a look.

When searching for broadband for your student accommodation you don't just need the best deal, you need the right deal. It's important to get the right length of contract - if you finish uni next June you don't want to still be paying for your broadband in August - and you also need to think about what speeds you need. A student house with two people will have vastly different internet requirements to a house with eight people.

Our newly updated Guide to Student Broadband can help you with this. It's got all the advice you need, and will also point you towards the best offers around.

Top student broadband offers 2016

Fortunately, many providers offer exclusive deals for students. They come with nine month contracts - to cover you during term time and no more - and include superfast fibre broadband options. Here's our pick of some of this year's best student offers.

  • Sky Broadband Unlimited for Students: a nine month contract with completely free standard broadband with free connection - you only pay line rental!
  • BT Unlimited Infinity for Students: nine month contracts on up to 52Mb and up to 76Mb fibre broadband, with free access to BT Sport and a £25 Costa gift card.
  • Virgin Media VIVD 200 for Students: for the largest or most demanding households you can get up to 200Mb fibre broadband (so long as you're in a coverage area). Cheaper 50 and 100Mb packages are also available.
  • Origin Broadband: Origin's basic broadband service isn't a student special, but it is one of the cheapest deals around. Get 12 months of internet access for free, paying only line rental.
  • NOW TV Fab Fibre with TV pass and Calls: NOW TV offers up to 38Mb fibre broadband with no contract - you can cancel at any time. You get a TV pass, too, with your choices being Entertainment, Sky Cinema or Sky Sports.

Check out our Guide to Student Broadband for the lowdown on all these deals and many more, plus answers to any other questions you might have. Keen video gamer? Want to watch Premier League football? Need mobile broadband on your laptop? That's all covered, too!

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National Average Speeds March 2016

Average mobile broadband speeds rising in 2016 while fixed line home broadband speeds coast at late 2015 levels

Posted by Edd Dawson on in AnnouncementsNews4GEEEEHyperopticVodafoneThreeSkyVirgin MediaBTPost Office

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 BT by 1.07Mb. 4GEE and Vodafone mobile 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.

Read more Broadband Speed Test Results for March 2016

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Sky: Choose a £100 reward or an LG 32" TV

Expired: Record Breaking Black Friday / Cyber Monday Deals

Posted by Fiona Conner on in NewsOffersExpired4GEEHyperopticTalkTalkSkyBTPlusnet

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.

Sky TV have a rewards blowout with a choice of high value rewards including a free 32" LG TV or a LG Soundbar on Broadband and TV bundles and the option of a Galaxy Tab 4 tablet computer with standalone broadband for new customers!

Plusnet have brought back one of their best ever offers, adding an additional £75 cashback on their 12 months free broadband on a 12 month contract offer, meaning that you actually earn back £68 over the first year! You do need to pay Plusnet for a phone line, but this is as cheap as £15.49 monthly equivalent when paid upfront.

TalkTalk have slashed the all in monthly cost of their broadband for the first year with 12 months half price line rental on top of 18 months free broadband on an 18 month contract! So that's just £8.85 all in monthly cost for a year. What's more the line rental discount applies to TalkTalk Fibre and TalkTalk Plus TV too which are both half price for a year!

If you're looking for mobile broadband offers, 4GEE's Black Friday weekend offer sees both their popular portable WiFi devices FREE and a monthly contract with 50GB of data only £25 per month!

And if you're lucky enough to live in one of Hyperoptic's connected buildings, you can get their ultrafast and hyperfast broadband free for the first 3 months with a £100 Amazon voucher reward!

Check out which offers are available where you live or call 0800 093 0405 to speak to one of our advisers. Hurry, all offers end soon!

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.

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National Average Speeds October 2015

Average download speeds increase over October 2015, Virgin Media see gains with 200Mb rollout

Posted on in AnnouncementsNews4GEEVodafoneTalkTalkThreeO2SkyVirgin MediaBTPlusnet

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.

Read more Broadband Speed Test Results for October 2015

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National Average Speeds March 2015

Minor drops in download speeds for majority of ISPs during March 2015

Posted on in AnnouncementsNewsTalkTalkSkyVirgin MediaBTPlusnet

March 2015 saw average download speeds recorded by users of our Broadband Speed Test drop slightly by 0.32Mb in comparison to the results from February, coming in at 21.11Mb. Average upload speeds remained stable at 4.22Mb.

Virgin Media's average download speeds dropped by a further 1.29Mb to 39.69Mb, with upload speeds remaining stable at 5.34Mb. BT Broadband hold second place with average download and upload speeds remaining stable at 19.85Mb and 5.81Mb. Plusnet remain in third place, with download speeds taking a 1.15Mb hit down to 14.59Mb with a 0.29Mb increase to 5.08Mb for average upload speeds. TalkTalk stay in fourth place, with download speeds increasing by 0.78Mb to 14.26Mb and upload speeds holding stable at 1.76Mb. Finally, Sky are in fifth place with a 0.57Mb decrease to download speeds, putting them at 12.8Mb, with upload speeds falling slightly to 3.24Mb.

Read more Broadband Speed Test Results for March 2015

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National Average Speeds February 2015

Average download speeds see slight decrease over February 2015, with increase in speeds for Sky

Posted on in AnnouncementsNewsEETalkTalkSkyVirgin MediaBTPlusnet

February 2015 saw average download speeds recorded by users of our Broadband Speed Test drop by 0.48Mb in comparison to the results from January, coming in at 21.43Mb. Average upload speeds saw a 0.23Mb increase to 4.32Mb.

Virgin Media's average download speeds dropped again by 0.63Mb to 40.98Mb, with upload speeds remaining stable at 5.5Mb. BT Broadband remain second place with average download speeds dropping by 0.53Mb to 19.87Mb, though upload speeds increased by 0.29Mb to 5.97Mb. Plusnet hold third place, remaining stable at 15.74Mb for average download speeds with a 0.38Mb increase to 4.78Mb for average upload speeds. TalkTalk are also stable in fourth place, with download speeds at 13.22Mb and upload speeds at 1.75Mb. Finally, Sky are in fifth place with a strong 1.34Mb increase to download speeds, putting them at 13.37Mb, with upload speeds increased by 0.49Mb to 3.44Mb.

Read more Broadband Speed Test Results for February 2015

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National Average Speeds January 2015

Average download speeds remain stable over January 2015, with decrease in speeds for Virgin Media

Posted on in AnnouncementsNewsTalkTalkSkyVirgin MediaBTPlusnet

January 2015 saw average download speeds recorded by users of our Broadband Speed Test drop by 0.75Mb in comparison to the results from December, coming in at 21.91Mb. Average upload speeds remained stable at 4.09Mb.

Virgin Media's average download speeds have fallen by 1.95Mb over last month to 41.61Mb, with upload speeds remaining stable at 5.45Mb. BT Broadband hold second place with average download and upload speeds remaining stable at 20.35Mb and 5.68Mb respectively. Plusnet are in third place, remaining stable after the significant drop in speeds last month at 14.58Mb for average download speeds and 4.41Mb for average upload speeds. TalkTalk remain in fourth place, with speeds increasing by 0.64Mb to 13.22Mb and upload speeds remaining stable at 1.88Mb. Finally, Sky are in fifth place with 12.03Mb download speeds, comparable to their speeds from last month.

Read more Broadband Speed Test Results for January 2015

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National Average Speeds December 2014

Average download speeds see slight increase over December 2014, with major drop for Plusnet

Posted on in AnnouncementsNewsTalkTalkSkyVirgin MediaBTPlusnet

December 2014 saw average download speeds recorded by users of our Broadband Speed Test rise by 0.43Mb in comparison to the results from November, coming in at 22.65Mb. Average upload speeds remained stable at 4.01Mb.

Virgin Media's average download speeds have increased by 1.42Mb over last month to 43.56Mb, with upload speeds rising a little to 5.42Mb. BT Broadband remain in second place with average download speeds of 20.6Mb (increasing by 0.37Mb over last month) and upload speeds of 5.82Mb. Plusnet remain in third place, but with a significant 3.93Mb drop to 14.53Mb for average download speeds, and a 1.56Mb decrease to 4.04Mb for average upload speeds. TalkTalk move up to fourth place, with speeds increasing by 0.33Mb to 12.57Mb and upload speeds remaining stable at 1.71Mb. Sky drop down to fifth place with 12.15Mb download speeds, a small 0.36Mb decrease in speed since last month.

Read more Broadband Speed Test Results for December 2014

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