Claire Nottage | November 11th, 2023
Broadband speeds have been getting faster and faster in recent years as the technology to support them slowly rolls out across the country. Where once a 50Mbps connection was considered lightning-fast, now speeds of up to 1000Mbps and more are available.
However, the fastest broadband speed you can get will largely depend on how far your home is from the nearest street cabinet and exchange. The providers that operate on the Openreach network – including BT, Sky and Vodafone – all offer ultrafast speeds, as does Virgin Media, with its Gig1 premium package advertising 1000Mbps. But none of this matters if you are not in an optimum position to take advantage of these speeds.
So how do you find out what the fastest broadband speed is available where you live? In this guide, we tell you how to do just that, as well as explaining the different types of broadband you can get, why upload speed matters as well as download speed, and how to choose a speed that’s right for your home.
The best way to find out what the fastest broadband speed you can get is by using our broadband postcode checker. Enter your postcode and we will provide you with a list of packages from a range of providers that are available at your address. You can then click through to the package you like.
Alternatively, all the broadband providers have one on their websites and you will be asked to put your postcode in to check what’s available to you before you can buy any package. This is for two reasons. First, not all types of broadband advertised by a provider are available at every address. And second, using a postcode checker will enable the provider to give you a good estimate of the speed they are likely to be able to offer you.
It may be the case that once you have run a provider’s postcode check, you will be offered more than one package. You can then either choose the fastest option from what’s been offered, or look at another provider. In most cases however, the speeds available at your address will be the same regardless of provider, unless you can get Virgin Media as an alternative. This is because the majority of providers use the same network – Openreach. What may vary however, is the price, so it is worth using a comparison site such as this one to compare prices for different providers offering the same speed.
|Average download speed
|Average upload speed
|Top advertised speed
|Shell Energy broadband
Although the idea of having the fastest broadband available is appealing, it’s worth working out what speed you actually need to keep your home connected as it’s probably nothing like the highest speeds on offer and you can probably save yourself some cash by going for something slightly slower.
For most households that have five to 10 devices that need to be kept connected, a fibre connection of 65Mbps or thereabouts should be sufficient. As a very basic rule of thumb, allowing 10Mbps per person is a good starting point. If you have a gamer in your household, or you like to stream in UHD, you will need more. In fact, streaming in UHD can eat up to 40Mbps alone, so a faster fibre service will definitely be required.
If you can get Virgin Media at your address, you will have a wide range of speeds to choose from, starting at 50Mbps and going up to 1000Mbps. It may be worth signing up to one of Virgin’s slower speeds, such as 50Mbps or 100Mbps and then upgrade if you find that you need to. Unsurprisingly, Virgin is happy for you to pay more and upgrade at any time, but downgrading will require you to wait out your contract (usually 18 months).
Full fibre services are not yet widely available, but you may be one of the lucky ones. Simply run a postcode check to find out. Again, don’t be tempted to go straight for the fastest option as you almost certainly won’t need it.
For more tips on how to choose the right download speed for your needs, our guide is full of useful advice.
The speed of broadband you can get depends on a number of different factors, but primarily it will come down to the type of broadband you can get as well as your location. Different technology and different materials can make a huge difference in the speed of connection you can receive, from standard ADSL broadband to full fibre. Here is a rundown of the different types of broadband currently available to UK homes.
Also known as standard broadband, this is the slowest broadband available, averaging 10Mbps from most providers and with a maximum download speed of around 20Mbps. The reason ADSL broadband is slow is due to the fact that it travels over exclusively copper wires. Copper is not a rapid conductor and will cause the signal to slow down over long distances. This is why, if you live far from your nearest street cabinet, your broadband speed is likely to be excruciatingly slow.
Some providers no longer advertise standard broadband at all, as fibre is now very widely available. However, if fibre has still not yet reached your area, most providers will still be able to offer you a standard ADSL connection.
Fibre broadband is available to most properties in the UK. It offers faster speeds than those attainable on an ADSL connection. Most providers offer two fibre speeds averaging 35Mbps and 65Mbps, both of which are sufficient for the requirements of the majority of homes, comfortably supporting a handful of devices and enabling video streaming, gaming and browsing.
Fibre broadband is delivered via fibre optic cables that run as far as your local streetside cabinet. This is why this form of broadband is also called FTTC (fibre to the cabinet). The final distance from the cabinet to your home uses copper wires, which can slow down the connection speed. Hence, if you live a fair distance from your street cabinet, your broadband speed can still end up being quite slow, even if you are on an FTTC (fibre) connection.
When you look at signing up to a new fibre connection, the provider will supply you with an estimated speed so you can get an idea of what to expect before you commit.
Full fibre broadband offers the fastest download speeds available – up to and even beyond 1000Mbps in some cases. Full fibre broadband packages are promoted under various names, including Pure Fibre and FTTP (fibre to the property). A full fibre connection is different from a fibre connection in that the cables go all the way to your home, not just to the street cabinet. This removes any requirement for copper cabling, which in turn should ensure you suffer minimal slowdown.
Most providers offer a range of full fibre download speeds, including 100Mbps, 200Mbps, 500Mbps and 900Mbps.
Virgin Media was the first provider to offer full fibre broadband packages. Virgin operates on its own network, rather than the Openreach network used by the vast majority of other providers. The kind of cabling it uses differs from that used by Openreach but it still offers some of the fastest speeds available.
Unlike the cabled forms of broadband, 4G and 5G broadband relies on the same wireless signals used for smartphones. A number of providers, including Vodafone and EE, now offer 4G/5G home broadband as an alternative to cabled broadband. The speed on offer will vary according to your proximity to a mast, but can be up to 100Mbps for some households – easily as good or better than a regular fibre connection. There is no need for any installation hassle; you will be supplied with a special router that you simply plug in and switch on.
4G/5G home broadband is an ideal alternative for anyone that struggles to get a decent fibre connection to their property, or who would prefer to avoid having any installation or cabling. Some providers offer unlimited downloads on a home 4G/5G connection, but others still only offer limited data. The main downside is that you must have a strong signal available in your area in order to use the service.
Download speed is the speed that you will see advertised by the providers. This dictates how quickly you can download information from the internet – whether that is webpages, emails, photos, documents or videos. It is generally the most important aspect of a broadband package, enabling us to keep our homes connected and running smoothly.
However, for every download speed, there is a corresponding upload speed, except that in most cases, upload speeds are considerably slower than their download counterparts. This is because we have much less need for fast upload speeds than fast download speeds. Upload speed dictates how quickly you can upload information to the internet, such as posting photos and videos online, sending emails and uploading documents to cloud servers.
Upload speeds can vary considerably, but generally will average around 5-10Mbps when paired with a download speed of 35Mbps, and 20Mbps with a 65Mbps download speed. So generally, the faster the download speed you choose, the faster the corresponding upload speed will be as well. Some of the full fibre packages come with symmetrical speeds, meaning that the download speed is the same as the upload speed.
In most cases, the upload speed that comes with your download speed will be more than adequate, but there are a few cases where upload speed will be extremely important. They are as follows.
This will vary depending on how you and your household use your internet connection. For detailed advice, visit our guide on how to choose the right broadband speed.
The best way to do this is to use a postcode checker, like the one on this page. Simply key in your postcode and we will show you a list of all the deals in your area, which you can arrange from fastest to slowest.
This is usually due to the fact that most of us use wifi to keep our devices connected, which results in a slower speed than a cabled connection. If you suspect that even your cabled connection is slower than the estimate you were given, get in touch with your provider.
For most people, a fixed fibre broadband connection is ideal, but if you cannot get a fast fibre service in your area, then it might be worth considering a 4G/5G home connection.