Choosing the right broadband provider and package doesn't have to be daunting. By considering the connections available in your area, your usage patterns and number of people in your household, the task becomes quite straightforward. Here are 4 steps to helping you choose the best package for your needs.
Given the wide range of broadband options on offer, trying to find a suitable and good value provider for you and your household might seem like a daunting task. But by considering just four key factors, choosing the right provider can actually be pretty easy.
These factors are:
- Local availability and connection type
- Your typical usage patterns
- Usage limits
- Number of household users
1. Local Availability and Connection Type
For many of us, availability can have the single biggest influence on our choice of home broadband provider.
If you live in one of Ireland’s larger cities – including Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford – your choice of provider is generally much greater than if you live outside of larger urban areas. These areas also tend to have greater access to the newer ‘superfast’ connections delivered via fibre optic cable.
Statistically, Irish households are most likely to have access to ADSL broadband (which is carried on the traditional telephone network), followed by cable connections provided by companies that also offer piped TV.
If you live in a rural area, your choice of broadband providers may be restricted, particularly if ADSL services are limited. This is often due to a lack of infrastructure or a long distance from the local exchange. In that case, fixed wireless or satellite broadband may be your only connection options available.
If you move around a lot and access the internet mostly from your laptop or mobile device, a mobile broadband package is definitely worth considering, especially if your demands are relatively light. Fast 4G mobile broadband networks are currently being rolled out by mobile operators, promising speeds comparable with some of the better fixed line connections.
Like home broadband, availability can be a little patchy in some parts of the country, particularly in the west, but nearly everyone in the country should be able to access 3G speeds at the least.
Another factor to consider is whether you want or need a landline phone service. Even if you don’t use a landline that much, some broadband packages bundled with a telephone service can actually save you money and time.
2. Typical Usage Patterns
Once you’ve established which providers offer broadband in your area, the next thing is to consider is the type of user you are.
If you are a light internet user and mainly use the web for things like opening emails and checking Facebook, a connection with a speed of below 10Mbps should suffice.
If your usage is slightly heavier, and you occasionally watch RTÉ Player and view videos on YouTube, a connection of between 10 and 25Mbps should do the trick.
If you’re a big gamer or someone who downloads a lot of content, you'll need a faster connection, such as a fibre broadband service capable of providing reliable connections with speeds from 50Mb/s right up to 360Mb/s. Assuming they are available in your area, be prepared to pay more for these services, of course.
On the other end of the scale, if you have a holiday home, a basic service offering up to 10Mb/s is probably all you’ll need just so you can keep up to date with email and do a spot of browsing.
3. Usage Limits
Although unlimited broadband packages are becoming more common as our need for data increases, many broadband packages still come with a usage limit or allowance, which indicates the maximum amount of data that you can download or upload over a month. Exceeding a usage allowance can incur extra charges.
Usage limits can range from 1GB to 500GB, with limits of 2GB and 30GB the most common on the market. Light users are unlikely to breach a basic 30GB limit in any one month, but heavier users, or those with multiple users in one household should consider unlimited broadband.
The good news is that there is a growing number of unlimited packages becoming available, particularly with the faster connections. Although called 'unlimited' these packages are usually guided by what are termed ‘fair usage policies'.
These policies, which are contained in the small print, are designed to ensure that unscrupulous users don’t abuse these limits in a way that ends up taking up too much bandwidth which could result in other users’ speeds slowing down.
4. Number of Household Users
An unlimited package with fast speeds may be advisable if you have a number of users in your household.
Most modern Irish homes have multiple devices that need an internet connection, such as TVs, gaming consoles, set-top boxes, and of course laptops, computers, tablets and mobile phones.
For this reason, a family (or a shared house) will often need an unlimited package, along with high speeds, particularly households with internet-loving teenagers and young adults.
This would enable them to fulfil all their gaming, video and music downloading plus heavy social media needs without slowing down your home's connection or exceeding usage limits and incurring costly penalties. Fibre optic packages are ideal for this. And if in doubt, go for unlimited data.