How to get the best fibre broadband deal
In this guide...
Do I need fibre broadband?
You need fibre broadband if one or more of the following statements applies to your household…
- There a more than two people using the internet
- You have five or more devices (smartphones, TVs, computers, tablets etc.)
- You stream a lot of TV and movies (Netflix, Amazon, NOW TV etc.)
- You regularly upload photos and videos
- You download and play videogames on a console or PC
- You use your home broadband connection for work
- You use video calling services (Skype, Facetime etc.)
- You store files, photos and videos in the cloud (iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive etc.)
Why choose fibre broadband?
Fibre broadband is at least three times faster, but it's still questionable whether every household actually needs it. Here are the reasons why you might:
Fibre is much faster
Surfing the web, using social media, using apps on your phone, multiplayer gaming (not downloading the games but playing them), online banking, sharing photos – all these activities and many others like them actually don't require a great deal of speed. If these are the sorts of things you do exclusively, then an old-fashioned ADSL connection will probably be enough.
However, if there are multiple people in your household and they enjoy streaming movies in high definition, downloading games and/or movies the speed you require quickly mounts up.
Fibre offers better value for money
There was once a clear separation between the pricing of fibre versus old-fashioned ADSL broadband. Fibre is much faster/better and what with it being the newer technology providers would price them accordingly, with fibre broadband costing anything up to twice as much. That's simply not the case anymore.
Here, at the time of writing in the middle of 2018, the cheapest fibre deals are a little over £20 per month, with ADSL packages hovering around a couple of quid a month cheaper.
Fibre broadband can cope with lots of devices
Have you noticed how you can connect practically everything to the internet these days? Most households have a computer of some kind – that'll need to be connected. If it has a printer manufactured in the last two or three years, that'll want to be connected. Your smartphone, tablet if you have one. In our household even our amplifier, DVD/blu-ray player and TV want to be connected to the internet.
Depending on how many of these devices your household has, if it's more than five or six, chances are you're going to have to opt for fibre broadband over an old-fashioned ADSL connection, which simply won’t be able to cope.
Essential for large households
It can be difficult to work out exactly the speed you need in your household. The more people you add, the more devices you have to factor and the more complicated this becomes. Generally we recommend allowing 10Mbps per each household member who is an active, regular internet user. If that individual downloads games and movies or streams video onto YouTube or Twitch, for example, you should double that.
Fibre broadband generally has better routers
For example, if you take out ADSL (non-fibre) broadband with BT it'll supply you with a BT Home Hub. It's an okay router for light use, but if you're planning to get 5+ devices running on it you're likely going to start experiencing problems before long. Moving up to BT's fibre packages you now get the BT Smart Hub – it is leagues better than the Home Hub. You're unlikely to run into problems even when you add the 20th device to the mix.
Some providers such as Virgin Media offer the same router no matter what package you get. If you're umming and ahhing between fibre and ADSL it is definitely something you should consider, and check, on a case-by-case basis.
Essential for 4K ultra-high definition (UHD) streaming
You're going to need around 8Mbps per HD stream and 25-50Mbps per UHD (4K) stream. And these requirements are of course exacerbated by the fact that household members typically watch TV at similar times of day. If you have more than one streamer in the house, you absolutely need fibre. If they are doing their streaming in 4K and downloading games and movies to a device, you should probably opt for the fastest connection you can get.
Essential for gamers
At the extreme end, a game like Final Fantasy XV or Forza Motorsport 7 on PC or Xbox One X can clock in at a staggering 120-150GB. If you have no idea how significant that number is 150GB is the same as roughly 30 HD movies or 43,000 songs. It's big. really big. And would take a typical old-fashioned ADSL connection 36 hours to download. That's a long wait. If you were on Virgin Media's 362Mbps fibre, meanwhile, you'd only be twiddling your thumbs for about an hour.
What’s the difference between superfast, ultrafast and hyperfast?
Broadband providers love using these words, sounding as they do all whizzy and space-age. But what do they really mean?
'High-speed' broadband has no official definition, with what it is specifically referencing changing over time. Ten years ago 'high-speed broadband' might have referred to 8Mbps ADSL. Today, it more likely refers to fast fibre of some kind.
Superfast fibre broadband
‘Superfast’ refers to any broadband connection with a download speed of more than 24Mbps and less than 300Mbps. Speeds within this range are what most households should ideally shoot for.
Ultrafast fibre broadband
‘Ultrafast’ refers to any broadband connection with a download speed greater than 300Mbps and less than 500Mbps. Only Virgin Media offers a widely available package in this range. Speeds like this are suited to large households with extreme streaming and downloading requirements.
Hyperfast or ‘gigabit’ fibre broadband
Also referred to as 'gigabit' broadband thanks to the tendency of these packages to off 1Gbps (one gigabit per second, or 1000 megabits per second), ‘hyperfast’ broadband refers to any broadband connection with a download speed faster than 500Mbps. Such connections are only available to a couple of percent of the UK population and, arguably, never needed.
Fibre broadband availability – can I get it?
Fibre broadband is currently available to somewhere between 97% and 98% of UK households. It’s likely you’ll only find yourself in that narrow percentage who can’t get it if you live somewhere very rural such as a very small village or hamlet.
Nevertheless, availability between specific providers does vary. If you want to be sure of exactly what you can get in your postcode, use the checker at the top of this page.