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What Is Superfast, Ultrafast & Full Fibre Broadband?

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Full Fibre Broadband

Welcome to our guide to fibre optic broadband in the UK. Here you can find out what fibre optic broadband is all about, check whether superfast or ultrafast broadband is available in your area and compare the best broadband deals from the likes of Virgin Media, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Plusnet.

In this guide: 1. What Is Fibre Optic Broadband? 2. How Does Fibre Broadband Work? 3. Types Of Fibre Broadband & UK Coverage 4. Which Suppliers Offer Fibre Optic Broadband? 5. What Type Of Fibre Broadband Is Available In My Area? 6. Compare The Best Fibre Optic Broadband Deals

1. What Is Fibre Optic Broadband?

Fibre optic broadband is an new type of cable broadband that runs underground as opposed to traditional ADSL broadband that runs from the telephone exchange to the steet-level cabinet and on to your home over ageing and degrading copper telephone wires. Fibre optic broadband is much faster than ADSL broadband and can offer broadband speeds averaging one gigabit per second (1Gbps or 1,000Mbps) in some areas - Making it the best option to satisfy our increasing demands for fast wireless broadband, online gaming, social networking and Internet TV like Netflix and the BBC iPlayer.

2. How Does Fibre Broadband Work?

Unlike copper telephone wires, fibre optic broadband uses underground cables made up of inner glass or plastic that carry light signals. Using these materials as opposed to copper wire means less broadband speed is lost over long distances as information is sent and retrieved at the speed of light. This means super-fast broadband speeds can still be achieved in houses that are further away from their telephone exchange.

3. Types Of Fibre Broadband & UK Coverage

Superfast Broadband

With average speeds of at least 30Mbps (rising to a maximum of 67Mbps), Superfast Broadband uses fibre optic or coaxial cable to the street-level cabinet and then the existing copper wire cable to the home. This is known as Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) or DOCSIS cable and is available to 95% of UK premises. That's about 27.8 million UK homes and businesses.

Ultrafast Broadband

Telecoms industry regulator Ofcom defines Ultrafast Broadband as offering download speeds of at least 300Mbps. It is available to 57% of UK homes, which is around 16.6 million. Virgin Media, with its Hybrid Fibre DOCSIS cable network, is the most widely available Ultrafast Broadband covering around 53% of UK homes (14.6 million) with its top tier speed averaging 516Mbps. Openreach, part of the BT Group uses a combination of Gfast technology and Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) to boost average broadband speeds through the copper telephone wires to speeds up to 314Mbps. They do this by installing a special pod on the side of the street-level cabinet. Around 10% of UK homes (2.8 million) can access ultrafast broadband from Openreach via the likes of BT, Sky and TalkTalk. Roll out has slowed though as greater emphasis is now placed on the delivery of Full Fibre Broadband networks as described below.

Full Fibre Broadband

Full Fibre (also known as Fibre To The Premises or FTTP) uses fibre optic cables all the way from the telephone exchange to the home. No copper cable wire is used. A range of infrastructure providers are building full fibre networks in the UK including Openreach (used by the likes of BT, Sky, TalkTalk & Plusnet), Virgin Media, FibreNation (part of Cityfibre), Hyperoptic, Cityfibre (used by Vodafone and TalkTalk), KCOM, Community Fibre and Gigaclear. The Openreach Full Fibre network has reached around 3.7 million premises (with plans for 4 million by March 2021 & around 15 million by 2025) and can deliver average speeds of one gigabit per second (1Gbps or 1,000Mbps) with potential speeds of 1,000 gigabits per second (1 terrabit) possible in the future. Virgin Media is upgrading its network, with 3.6 million UK premises now able to access their 1 gigabit speeds. Read more about this in our Virgin Media 1Gbps speed upgrade article here. According to Ofcom's Connected Nations Update Report Summer 2020 (published in September 2020 & containing data as of May 2020), Full Fibre gigabit capable broadband is available to 14% of UK properties, which equates to around 4.2 million homes. As of August 2020, Think Broadband estimates full fibre to be available to around 16% of UK properties, with Openreach claiming it is upgrading premises at a rate of one every 23 seconds.

4. Which Suppliers Offer Fibre Optic Broadband?

Virgin Media's top tier ultrafast fibre broadband package with average broadband speeds of 516Mbps is available to around 14.6 million homes in the UK (53% of all UK homes), with prices starting from just £45 a month including phone line rental. BT Fibre packages with average download speeds ranging from 36Mbps to 67Mbps are available via the Openreach network to 95% of UK homes (27.8 million UK homes). Openreach's fibre network is also used by TalkTalk , Sky and Plusnet for their fibre optic broadband services. As mentioned earlier, speeds up to 314Mbps using FTTC and Gfast technology have been rolled out by Openreach and are available to around 2.8 million UK homes via the likes of BT, Sky and TalkTalk . BT's full fibre 900 package with average speeds of 900Mbps (using the Openreach full fibre network) is available to around 3.7 million UK homes and costs £59.99 a month.

5. What Type Of Fibre Broadband Is Available In My Area?

You can check whether your home can get superfast or ultrafast fibre optic broadband from the suppliers listed above by entering your postcode on our fibre broadband checker. Full Fibre, gigabit capable broadband availabilty can be checked on the BT, Virgin Media and Vodafone websites respectively.

6. Compare The Best Fibre Optic Broadband Deals

Provider Package Details Average speed* Download Limit Contract Period Costs More Info
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Broadband

Average speed*: 36Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£0 setup,
1st year cost £275.88,
£22.99* per month
4.5 Star Rating
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Broadband
* For 18 months. Includes line rental. Annual price increase applies
36Mb Unlimited 18 months Monthly cost £22.99 1st year cost: £275.88
£0.00 setup
Online Security & Parental Controls Included

Find out more at Plusnet

No Activation Fee To Pay + £55 Reward Card (Prepaid Mastercard) To Spend Online Or In The Shops
TalkTalk Faster Fibre Broadband

Average speed*: 38Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£0.00 setup,
1st year cost £282,
£23.50 per month*
3.5 Star Rating
TalkTalk Faster Fibre Broadband
*Fixed cost for 18 months. Includes TalkTalk monthly phone line rental cost
38Mb Unlimited 18 months Monthly cost £23.50* 1st year cost: £282.00
£0.00 setup
Industry Leading Security & Privacy Features

Find out more at TalkTalk

30 Day Great Connection Guarantee + NEW Wi-Fi Hub
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Broadband Extra

Average speed*: 66Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£0 setup,
1st year cost £311.88,
£25.99* per month
4.5 Star Rating
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Broadband Extra
* For 18 months. Includes line rental. Annual price increase applies
66Mb Unlimited 18 months Monthly cost £25.99* 1st year cost: £311.88
£0.00 setup
Online Security & Parental Controls Included

Find out more at Plusnet

No Activation Fee To Pay + £55 Reward Card (Prepaid Mastercard) To Spend Online Or In The Shops
TalkTalk Superfast Fibre Broadband

Average speed*: 67Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£0 setup,
1st year cost £312,
£26 per month*
3.5 Star Rating
TalkTalk Superfast Fibre Broadband
*Fixed cost for 18 months. Includes TalkTalk monthly phone line rental cost
67Mb Unlimited 18 months Monthly cost £26.00* 1st year cost: £312.00
£0.00 setup
Industry Leading Security & Privacy Features

Find out more at TalkTalk

No Setup Fee + NEW Wi-Fi Hub
EE Unlimited Fibre Broadband + Pay As You Use Calls

Average speed*: 36Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£0 setup,
1st year cost £324,
£27* per month
5 Star Rating
Unlimited EE Fibre Broadband + Pay As You Use Calls To UK Landlines
* For 18 months. Includes EE phone line rental
36Mb Unlimited 18 months Monthly cost £27.00* 1st year cost: £324.00
£0.00 setup
FREE Norton Security Premium Worth £69.99 + 5GB Data Boost

Find out more at EE

FREE Setup + £3p/m Discount Available For EE Pay Monthly Mobile Customers
Sky Broadband Superfast

Average speed*: 59Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£9.95 setup,
1st year cost £333.95,
£27* per month
5 Star Rating
Sky Broadband Superfast + Unlimited Sky Wi-Fi + Sky Talk Pay As You Go Calls To UK Landlines & Mobiles
* For 18 months. Includes Sky phone line rental
59Mb Unlimited 18 months Monthly cost £27.00* 1st year cost: £333.95
£9.95 setup
FREE Activation + FREE McAfee Internet Security Trial

Find out more at Sky

Add Sky Broadband Boost With Guaranteed Wi-Fi In Every Room For £5p/m Extra
Virgin Broadband Size L + Virgin Phone Size M + FREE TV & TiVo Box

Average speed*: 54Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£0 setup,
1st year cost £336,
£28*
5 Star Rating
Virgin Media M50Mb Fibre Broadband + Weekend Calls To UK Landlines & Mobiles
* For 18 months. Includes Virgin Media phone line rental
54Mb Unlimited 18 months Monthly cost £28.00* 1st year cost: £336.00
£0.00 setup
FREE Setup/Activation Saving £35 + Includes Weekend Calls

Find out more at Virgin Media

Now With Intelligent Wi-Fi To Automatically Sort WiFi Issues
BT Fibre 1 Plus Pay As You Go Calls

Average speed*: 50Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£9.99 setup,
1st year cost £345.87,
£27.99*
5 Star Rating
BT Fibre 1 + Pay As You Go Calls To UK Landlines & Mobiles
*For 24 months. Includes BT phones line rental
50Mb Unlimited 24 months Monthly cost £27.99* 1st year cost: £345.87
£9.99 setup
Add Flexible BT TV Packs For £12p/m

Find out more at BT

FREE £60 BT Reward Card To Go Shopping With
Virgin Broadband Size L + Virgin Phone Size M + FREE TV & TiVo Box

Average speed*: 108Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£0 setup,
1st year cost £348,
£29*
5 Star Rating
Virgin Media M100Mb Fibre Broadband + Weekend Calls To UK Landlines & Mobiles
* For 18 months. Includes Virgin Media phone line rental
108Mb Unlimited 18 months Monthly cost £29.00* 1st year cost: £348.00
£0.00 setup
FREE Setup/Activation Saving £35 + 14-Day Money Back Guarantee

Find out more at Virgin Media

Now With Intelligent Wi-Fi To Automatically Sort WiFi Issues
Unlimited EE Fibre Plus + Pay As You Use Calls

Average speed*: 67Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£0 setup,
1st year cost £360,
£30* per month
5 Star Rating
Unlimited EE Fibre Plus + Pay As You Use Calls To UK Landlines
* For 18 months. Includes EE phone line rental
67Mb Unlimited 18 months Monthly cost £30.00* 1st year cost: £360.00
£0.00 setup
FREE Norton Security Premium Worth £69.99 + 5GB Data Boost

Find out more at EE

FREE Setup + £3p/m Discount Available For EE Pay Monthly Mobile Customers
BT Fibre 2 + Pay As You Go Calls To UK Landlines

Average speed*: 67Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£9.99 setup,
1st year cost £369.87,
£29.99* per month
5 Star Rating
BT Fibre 2 + Pay As You Go Calls To UK Landlines & Mobiles
* For 24 months. Includes BT phone line rental
67Mb Unlimited 24 months Monthly cost £29.99* 1st year cost: £369.87
£9.99 setup
Add Flexible BT TV Packs For £12p/m

Find out more at BT

FREE £100 BT Reward Card To Go Shopping With
Virgin Broadband Size XL + Virgin Phone Size M + FREE TV

Average speed*: 213Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£0 setup,
1st year cost £420,
£35* per month
5 Star Rating
Virgin Media M200 Fibre Broadband + Weekend Calls To UK Landlines & Mobiles
* For 18 months. Includes Virgin Media phone line rental
213Mb Unlimited 12 months Monthly cost £35.00* 1st year cost: £420.00
£0.00 setup
FREE Setup/Activation Saving £35 + Includes Weekend Calls

Find out more at Virgin Media

Now With Intelligent Wi-Fi To Automatically Sort WiFi Issues
Virgin Broadband Size XXL + Virgin Phone Size M

Average speed*: 516Mb,
Download limit: Unlimited,
£0 setup,
1st year cost £564,
£47* per month
5 Star Rating
Virgin Media M500 Broadband + Weekend Calls To UK Landlines & Mobiles
* For 18 months. Includes Virgin Media phone line rental
516Mb Unlimited 18 months Monthly cost £47.00* 1st year cost: £564.00
£0.00 setup
FREE Setup/Activation Saving £35 + Includes Weekend Calls

Find out more at Virgin Media

Now With Intelligent Wi-Fi To Automatically Sort WiFi Issues

About The Author, Steve Tattersall

Steve is a broadband technology writer and digital marketing consultant based in Hampshire (England). He founded the BBC recognised broadband information site BroadbandInternetUk.com in 2004 and is Chief Editor. He has 16 years experience within the telecommunications industry, helping people across the UK with their Internet requirements via a comprehensive range of broadband information, advice and guidance, all delivered on BroadbandInternetUk.com. He was previously a telecoms executive at cable operator NTL, which merged with Telewest to form Virgin Media, one of the UK's leading broadband, phone & TV suppliers. To contact Steve, please visit the contact us page or follow him on Twitter.
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