Alternatives to landline broadband – UPC, Magnet, satellite, wireless and mobile

In the beginning there was only Eircom. Then Eircom started ‘wholesaling’ space on its network to rivals who promptly undercut them in a bid to get custom.

The service is known as DSL. Vodafone (formerly BT's residential broadband, formerly Esat), Homevision, UTV, Perlico, Digiweb and Magnet among others offer services across the Eircom network.

If you opt for a landline delivery, check whether the service is what is known as ‘uncontested’ – ie will you be sharing the line with others or not.

Quite often the line will be shared with either 24 and 48 other users. But operators like Magnet who have installed their own equipment in Eircom exchanges guarantee uncontended (not shared with another customer) broadband.

But there are several alternatives to these too.

You can get broadband via satellite, mobile and special wireless networks which comes through transmitter networks set up originally by the likes of Irish Broadband.

Wi-Max is the high profile 4th generation internet service which took over Irish Broadband and is worth checking out if you’re in an urban area.

Magnet

Like Vodafone and others, Magnet offers broadband via the Eircom network, but it also offers two other services – both superior to most entry-level broadband products, hence the higher price.

  • The first is an uncongested landline service courtesy of its own equipment in 40 exchanges around the country. Normally there can by up to 48 users on the line at anyone time but Magnet’s equipment in the exchanges means no sharing and therefore a service that won’t drop in and out. The entry level for Magnet’s broadband is €49.99 but for just €7 extra you get a 24Mb uncontended, or uncongested service and an unlimited monthly downloads.
     
  • It is available to 650,000 homes in Ireland including all the big towns and cities.
     
  • Its other service uses high-speed fibre service with download speeds of 50 Mb. This compares to the top speed on the normal copper wire service used by anyone who uses the Eircom network is 24 Mb.
     
  • This service is limited however, available in 29 developments in county Dublin including Adamstown, Elm Park and St Anne’s in Milltown. It is also available in parts of Meath and Laois.

Satellite

Satellite broadband is the only option for some households in rural Ireland, particularly where the home is more than five miles from an exchange or where a mobile signal is compromised by buildings, thick walls, forests or mountains.

Start up costs are pretty hefty – you won’t get much change out of €600 and you really need a telephone line as well or the speed will be poor. VoIP services like Skype don’t work well on satellite because of the satellite delay. Worth bearing in mind if you’re considering it for business purposes.

Broadband via smart phones

All smart phones like the iPhone and Android are essentially mini-computers with wi-fi courtesy of the mobile phone signal. The Google Android phones can be turned into a wi-fi hub which means you could power your laptop off the phone when you’re on the go. Worth considering if you’re on the move a lot and pay big bills for wi-fi connections in hotels or airports.

You can also get wireless connection to your computer via an iPhone via what's known as "tethering". You will need to phone your operator to turn this on. You maybe charged separately for this, so work out what sort of quantity of data you would download before opting for this on-the-go option instead of a dongle. They may be comparable, but do check first.

Broadband via The iPad

This is a large mobile phone with a mini-computer. Again, not practical for work on serious documents, but you can pimp it up by plugging in a portable keyboard.

Price of basic broadband to the home*

This lists the cheapest broadband packages available from various operators. Check with the provider for speed and any added extras.

Make all these into hyperlinks

UPC €32.75 

Vodafone €38

O2: from €15

Meteor: €19.99

Three: €9.99

Eircom: €46.79

Perlico €16.99

Satellite broadband (Digiweb) €34.99. Installation from €490

National Broadband Scheme (for rural areas) from €19.99

Digiweb DSL (landline) €25

Digiweb (former Smart Telecom) €39.95

Magnet €49.99

Wi-max €25

*These prices were correct in November 2010. This is a guide to prices, check individual sites before making a decision