Can't get decent broadband? Some alternative options

If you're one of the 500,000 households which can't get broadband speeds of 10Mbps (downstream), then the more traditional options may not work for you until some new fibre is run down the road.

In the mean time, what do you do?

Here are some options for you to consider. Sometimes you may need to try and see which one works best for your location. Because these vary by distance from masts, obstructions, locasions or aerials, etc. we can't tell you how well each one would work, so they aren't generally on our broadband listings, but if you have no other options, these are your remaining options:

4G / 5G Broadband

The same technology that your mobile phone uses to connect to the Internet (3G, 4G or 5G) can deliver a broadband signal into your home, however if you're in a rural area, you may find that the mobile signal isn't that great as it stands.

The Home Broadband services sold by several of the mobile operators that provide a 4G router can if placed the right part of a home get a better 4G signal, so even if your mobile phone only gives a marginal signal it may be worth trying one of these services.

If the standard mobile broadband router with a SIM card isn't enough, you should consider a service which can install an external aerial which will give you a better signal than just using a mobile broadband router. This can be the difference netween 'no signal' and a decent broadband service.

  • National Broadband Ltd t/a 4G Internet
    Router for £99 (self-install) and service from £39.99/month (12 month contract)
    Offers various networks for best coverage for your area
    Professional installation £399
    The average download speed is 25Mbps
    14-day money back guarantee if you're not happy
    TrustPilot Reviews
  • EE also offers an external antenna option for its 4GEE Home Broadband service priced at £99

Satellite Internet

Satellite services generally work in most places as all they need is line of sight to a geo-stationary satellite above the earth's atmosphere, much like Sky TV. The down-side with satellite services (other than cost) is much higher latency - that means every bit of information has to travel from the datacentre, up to a satellite and back down to your home. This distance means it takes longer for you to receive the signal. Whilst this isn't akin to 'speed', it can make some applications (e.g. role play gaming) unusable as by the time you aim a pointer at something, it may already have moved.

Traditional satellite services rely on geo-stationary satellites but the 24,000 km orbit means that latency is around 800 milliseconds making online gaming impossible and other interactive services become difficult to use.

Two low earth orbit solutions are appearing, Starlink from SpaceX which is in beta mode as of March 2021 at £85/m with £400 for the hardware and OneWeb (pricing unknown). With orbits of around 250km these clusters of smaller satellites offer latency similar to 4G and better than ADSL2+ speeds and in the trials some see 100 Mbps - though once more people sign up the shared capacity may reduce the top speeds. 

Fixed Wireless

It's possible to use Wi-Fi over longer distances with directional antennas that avoid interference, or by using microwave links which require 'line-of-sight' between your property (or a high point on it) to another mast/building with a transmitter. We list fixed wireless providers who have information about their coverage on our broadband provider listings but there will be cases where you can get a provider to increase their footprint, especially if you get neighbours on board.

WiMAX is a popular standard for fixed wireless, but the launch of 5G means fixed wireless is moving towards adopting 5G as the main technology. 5G offers a wide range of frequencies and once launched in the 700 MHz band will be a real option in rural areas as you can be several miles from a mast and still see a reasonable 25 to 40 Mbps.

A final note

You should also consider the USO Broadband Service (USO means Universal Service Obligation) which may be helpful, which is likely to use 4G networks, but it may not be the fastest service you can get if you explore the options further.

The vast majority who apply via the USO will receive a 4G offer via BT using the EE network. Estimates from BT and Ofcom suggest some 40,000 out of around half a million properties will get offered a full fibre (FTTP) solution that falls within the £3,400 price cap (i.e. what BT will spend to connect you) and this leaves you just paying the standard BT FTTP product pricing. Unfortunately there will be a good number who cannot get 4G and the FTTP (which uses the FTTP on Demand mechanism) will be asked to make a contribution towards the install cost when the cost is above £3,400 cap, in some headline grabbing examples quotes of £100,000 have emerged.