The average Brit is now spending over four hours a day online, according to a new Ofcom study.
The industry watchdog's latest Online Nation report shows that a combination of factors have caused internet use to surge to record levels, up by almost an hour a day in less than two years.
Inevitably, the coronavirus lockdown was part of the cause - the Zoom video conferencing app, for instance, has grown by nearly 2000%, from 659 thousand UK users to over 13 million in just four months. But it's not just that. The popularity of streaming services continues to grow, plus there's the emergence of video sharing sites like Twitch and TikTok. The latter has moved well beyond its initial teen user base, with 12.9 million UK adults now joining in.
Even as the lockdown begins to ease, it's unlikely that our online activity is going to decline. So the question is, is your broadband connection up to the demands of this "new normal"?
Signs that your service might be struggling include:
- Downtime - we know that the internet infrastructure held up remarkably well during the lockdown, but if your connection keeps dropping, or you're being left without service for hours at a time, it's often a sign that it might be time to look elsewhere.
- Slow downloads or uploads - your download and upload speeds will slow down when you've got more people sharing your connection at the same time. Speed problems can be especially noticeable when your usage patterns change - like when you're working from home and sharing large files or connecting to your office server.
- Poor video performance - nothing ruins a boxset binge more than buffering, or even just seeing the picture quality plummet. Both are signs that your broadband can't keep up with the demands of your chosen streaming TV service.
- Laggy gaming or video calls - speed problems can also ruin the picture or sound quality in your video calls, and render online games unplayable. Occasional lag is to be expected, but if you keep seeing it it might be time for an upgrade.
The best broadband upgrades
So what should you look for in an upgrade? Try and prioritise what you need. That could be a faster service generally, or more specifically faster uploads. Or perhaps a more reliable service, or better customer support.
The obvious upgrade, if you haven't already made it, is to go from standard broadband to fibre. An entry level fibre deal will triple your download speed and should only cost a few pounds extra each month. If you're upgrading to a new deal with your existing provider you might even be able to negotiate a better offer. Plusnet and SSE currently offer the cheapest fibre broadband deals.
If even that isn't enough, you can get over 100Mb speeds from a number of ISPs. The most widely available are from Virgin Media, who offer speeds up to 516Mb on average. Other big name providers like Vodafone and BT also offer ultrafast packages, but only in certain areas. These faster speeds will give you much better upload speeds as well as downloads.
If reliability and customer service are a bigger priority, the best way to check what you can expect from each provider is to read their customer reviews. Dig into our thousands of reviews for help on deciding your next move.
Ready to start shopping for a new internet deal? Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband offers where you live.