Are you looking to compare wireless broadband deals but not sure where to start? It can feel confusing, but read on and we’ll help you cut through the jargon and find the best Wi-Fi deal for your household.
Yes, Wi-Fi, or wireless broadband, simply means a broadband connection to the internet that you access without any wires or cables. To get Wi-Fi at home, you’ll need a broadband service.
Broadband runs through outdoor cables and the broadband provider you choose will connect your home to these cables to give you access to the internet. The router you get with your home broadband creates a Wi-Fi, or wireless, network. You can then connect your computer, phone, laptop and other devices to this Wi-Fi network.
When you sign up for a Wi-Fi broadband deal, you’ll usually get a free Wi-Fi router included. This is a small box that you plug in to get your broadband connection which then provides the Wi-Fi signal that you’ll connect your devices to.
The router will either be delivered to you by mail or brought to you by the engineer who comes to install your broadband, depending on which Wi-Fi provider you choose. It then simply plugs into your broadband or landline socket and is usually really easy to set up. Your router will have a password which you’ll need to put into your devices when using your Wi-Fi, to help protect your data when you’re online.
Our guide to wireless routers will help you understand more about these important bits of kit.
Wireless broadband deals are suitable for anyone who uses the internet at home. When you sign up to a broadband deal, you’ll be able to use Wi-Fi while you’re at home. The beauty of Wi-Fi is that you can connect almost any device to it that you use to connect to the internet. For example for families, it’s a really useful way to let everyone connect their various devices to the internet, wherever they are in the house.
If you’re a serious online gamer, you’ll appreciate being able to connect your handsets and headphones without the bother of wires trailing around. Even if there are just one or two of you in your household, it’s great to be able to connect your mobile phone or tablet to the Wi-Fi so you can move them around the house easily.
Here are some of the benefits of Wi-Fi:
When you use your mobile phone on your home Wi-Fi, you’ll be using the data that comes with your broadband service, rather than the 3G or 4G data that you pay for on your mobile phone. Most broadband deals come with unlimited data, whereas many mobile phone deals have limited data. Using your mobile on your home Wi-Fi can help you stay within your mobile data limits as well as often providing a faster connection to the internet.
You can connect your mobile phone, laptop, tablet, computer, TV and other devices such as Alexa and other smart speakers to your home Wi-Fi. After you’ve done this once, your device will remember your Wi-Fi password and connect to it automatically whenever it’s within range.
You can turn it off if you don’t like this, but most people find it really useful. For example, your mobile phone will connect to your Wi-Fi as soon as you get home, so you won’t be using your mobile data. Wi-Fi also means you don’t have to keep plugging in and unplugging your devices to your broadband connection when you want to move them around your home – especially useful for mobile phones, laptops and tablets.
Your home broadband connection will let you connect your devices to the internet via a wire known as an ethernet cable, as well as using Wi-Fi. The ethernet cable plugs directly into your broadband router and can give you a faster, more reliable connection than you’ll get with Wi-Fi.
This will be more noticeable for data-hungry devices like your TV or a computer that’s being used to download large files or stream HD movies. Lots of people use an ethernet, or wired, broadband connection for things like their TV and use Wi-Fi, or wireless, broadband for their mobile phones and other more portable devices. Most home broadband routers will have a small number of ethernet ports, whereas you can connect lots of different devices via Wi-Fi.
You can find some great Wi-Fi deals from every major broadband provider. Knowing about the different types of wireless broadband connection available will help you decide what would be best for you and your household. Broadband speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and the higher the speed, the faster your internet connection will be.
These are the different types of broadband connection to look out for – all of them can be used as Wi-Fi broadband or with your devices connected via an ethernet cable:
ADSL or standard broadband is the most widely available type of broadband in the UK. It comes through the copper wires of your existing landline and also has the slowest speeds, averaging around 11Mbps.
Our ADSL guide will tell you more.
Fibre broadband is also pretty widely available – roughly 96% of homes in the UK can now get a fibre connection. With fibre, at least part of the service is delivered through fibre-optic cable – the more fibre-optic there is, the higher the speed of the service.
The most common type of fibre broadband is known as fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) as the fibre connection comes to a cabinet in your street and is then connected into your home via your landline. Average speeds for fibre broadband range between 36Mbps and 67Mbps, depending on the package you go for and what’s available in your area.
You can read more in our guide to fibre broadband.
Cable broadband comes via its own cable network rather than your landline. This means it can reach much higher speeds, averaging 600Mbps for the fastest package from Virgin Media. However, it’s not as widely available as ADSL and fibre – Virgin is the only cable provider in the UK and its service reaches around 60% of households.
For more information, check our guide to cable broadband.
With full fibre broadband, also known as ‘fibre-to-the-premises’ (FTTP) or ‘fibre-to-the-home’ (FTTH), the fibre cabling connection comes right into your home. It can deliver lightning-fast speeds of up to 1Gbps (1,000Mbps), but it's the least-widely available service. Around 12% of homes can get full fibre broadband at the moment, but the service is expanding quite rapidly.
Many Wi-Fi providers will let you bundle in other services with your Wi-Fi deal, such as your landline phone calls, TV and even mobile phone. It’s worth checking these out as they could save you money.
Wi-Fi only or broadband-only deals usually include telephone line rental, although you don’t have to plug in or use a phone handset if you don’t want to – for example if you have all the call minutes you need on your mobile phone.
Virgin Media is the only widely available Wi-Fi provider that will sell you a true broadband-only deal, as its service doesn’t come through your landline, so you don’t need to have a landline connection as part of your package.
Broadband deals with some Wi-Fi providers include some phone calls, for example at evenings or weekends, while some just offer pay-as-you-go with their basic broadband package. Most will offer you a broadband and phone deal that includes extra calls for an additional charge, for example anytime or international calls.
Several of the major broadband providers also offer broadband and TV deals, letting you bundle in all your small-screen entertainment channels along with your broadband. You can often stream their services to more than one device in your home, too, so that different members of your household could watch TV and others stream different channels to their tablets or laptops via your Wi-Fi connection.
You can get competitively priced mobile phone contracts bundled into your Wi-Fi broadband package with several providers.
Now you know a bit more about what’s out there in the world of wireless broadband and Wi-Fi deals, it’s time to think about what features you’d be looking for to make up the perfect package for you.
Consider whether you’re looking for broadband-only or whether you’d like to bundle in landline phone calls, TV channels and maybe even your mobile phone, if you’re out of your existing contract or coming close to the end of it.
The next important decision to make is about what speed you need in your household. This will be dictated to a certain extent by your budget and what’s available in your area, but it’s worth understanding a little about broadband speeds so you can make an informed decision about what would work best for you.
Broadband speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The higher the Mbps number, the faster your broadband service will be. You’ll generally pay more for higher speeds, but if you have the budget and you’re a household that relies on the internet for lots of activities, it’s worth laying out a bit more money.
A lower-speed internet connection averaging 10 or 11Mbps will suit you fine if you’re a small household, mainly using your internet for things like browsing the web, sending and receiving emails and checking social media on one or two devices. If yours is a larger household with multiple devices to connect to your Wi-Fi broadband or wired connection, such as TVs, mobile phones, laptops and tablets, you’ll need a higher-speed connection, ideally averaging at least 30Mbps.
Hopefully you now understand a lot more about Wi-Fi broadband and what it might mean in your household. That means you’re ready to make a Wi-Fi comparison and find out the best UK Wi-Fi deals that are around at the moment.
It’s really easy to check out what’s available in your area – simply go to our broadband providers page where you’ll be able to put in your postcode. You can then compare the different providers’ deals that come up – cheap Wi-Fi deals and those that may be a bit more expensive but could give you more of what you want. If you’d like to know what other people think of each provider, you can have a look at our broadband provider reviews.