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According to Ofcom, fibre broadband is now available to around 97% of UK homes, which means you should have an excellent chance of getting it where you are. However, the picture is somewhat more complex than that when you consider the rollout of so-called 'Full Fibre' as well as gigabit speeds from Virgin Media.
Thankfully though, you can instantly discover whether fibre broadband, Full Fibre broadband, or Virgin Media cable broadband are available in your area by using our broadband postcode availability checker. Just click on the button below to perform a live check to see what's available. Meanwhile, what follows here is what you may need to better understand the results both in terms of the different technologies that are available, and how they affect the speed you can get.
Fibre broadband used to refer to the fastest broadband you can get, but that's just no longer the case. In fact, it was, right from the outset, mis-named. So called 'fibre broadband' or 'superfast broadband' as it's sometimes called is actually an amalgam of two different cabling technologies: Fibre optic cable from the cabinet to the network, and copper telephone cables from the cabinet to your home. And it's that copper part that has meant you won't ever see speeds exceeding about 70Mbps in a best-case scenario.
Fibre-optic cables are capable of speeds exceeding 10,000Mbps, by contrast (though no one offers such speeds to homes just yet – 1Gbps, or 1,000Mbps is roughly the maximum you'll see available). It's future-proof though, because Full Fibre doesn't rely on copper in any part of its network.
There are other advantages to Full Fibre too. Since it doesn't rely on a mashing together of two different technologies, it's more reliable, and the speeds you see advertised much more likely to represent the actual speeds you will get. That's because it has always, traditionally, been the length and condition of the copper cable coming into your home that has determined whether you'll get the advertised speed or less.
A quick note on Virgin Media before we move on. Virgin Media isn't 'superfast broadband', or 'fibre broadband', and it's not 'Full Fibre broadband either. Instead, Virgin Media has its own network using cables that used to carry the signal for cable TV, and still do with Virgin Media's own TV service. Turns out that these multi-core coaxial cables are very good at carrying a very fast broadband signal, which is why despite Virgin Media's network not being 'Full Fibre', it's able to offer the fastest widely available broadband speeds in the country, with its Gig1 package averaging a mighty 1130Mbps.
For network operators, it makes no sense to invest in the infrastructure needed to supply Full Fibre broadband in a rural area with a small population, so if your property is in a remote location, you’re less likely to have access to Full Fibre broadband than a city dweller, and that's likely to stay the case for years to come.
Don't think that means you can get Full Fibre broadband automatically just because you live in a city, though. Ofcom says 57% of UK homes can get Full Fibre as of the end of 2023. However, this number is heavily boosted by altnets (small, alternative networks that are unique and tend tend operate in a handful of towns within a specific geographical area). When it comes to Full Fibre from major providers such as BT, TalkTalk, Sky and so on, your chances of getting it are much lower (around 30%).
If you live in a large block of flats, you might also find your choice of broadband is more limited. Some new builds now have Full Fibre broadband installed while they’re being constructed, but they are still rare at the time of writing.
Projects such as Building Digital UK (BDUK) has worked to fix gaps in fibre broadband provision throughout the UK, and is now working with industry partners to improve access to full fibre across the country.
It's really no different from a standard broadband connection from a customer point of view. You sign up, wait for your installation date, and you're off. However, if you don't already have a Full Fibre cable running into your home, you will need an engineer visit to install it. Remember, Full Fibre does not come over your phone line the way 'superfast fibre' or ADSL once did. It needs a new cable.
The process is nevertheless painless, but you will need to either be the homeowner or have permission from the owner to have the work done, since it does require drilling a new hole in your wall to feed the cable through. The entire process will be done in under an hour in most cases.
Many Full Fibre broadband deals come with free installation, and some require you to pay a fee to cover the equipment needed (router, sockets, cables, etc.). You may also be charged an activation fee to get you up and running. Check the small print of your deal to find out what’s included, and what isn’t, before signing on the dotted line.
For more information, see our guide to getting broadband installed.
Full Fibre offers many advantages over fibre broadband. Firstly, it’s more reliable, as fibre optic cables carry information more efficiently than the pre-existing copper-plus-fibre wiring that fibre broadband is reliant upon.
Secondly, it’s much, much faster than fibre broadband (depending on the speed you opt for), and with this increased speed comes better online experience, provided your household can make use of all that bandwidth.
While fibre has a typical average download speed of 35Mbps to 63Mbps, Full Fibre is significantly faster. Entry-level packages from providers sharing the Openreach network (big players like BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet and many more) usually offer speeds of around 100Mbps to 150Mbps, while mid-range and faster deals provide average download speeds of up to 944Mbps.
Even faster speeds are available from Virgin Media, which owns its own cable network – currently available to around 60% of homes across the UK. Virgin’s average download speeds are ultrafast, ranging from 54Mbps all the way up to a lightning 1130Mbps.
Upload speeds (where information is transferred from your device to be stored online, rather than the other way around) are typically faster with Full Fibre broadband. These can reach up to 100Mbps with ultrafast fibre deals. Most gigabit-speed from altenet providers (small, local providers with their own networks) packages offer symmetrical speeds, where the download speed and upload speeds are the same.
Openreach, the network on which BT, Sky, TalkTalk and all the others operate (not Virgin Media, though), is in the process of rolling out Full Fibre across the UK. However, it'll be five to ten years before we see availability similar to what we currently see with standard fibre broadband (97%).
If you need the very high speeds provided by Full Fibre, but you can't get it, don't forget to check if you can get Virgin Media (using the tools on this page). It's actually a bit faster at the top end, and very, very reliable.
The Openreach website has a page dedicated to its full fibre broadband roll-out plans. If you’d like to find out when full fibre will arrive in your area, simply type in your postcode and you’ll be shown detailed information on whether it’s currently available, planned or under review.
Find out when Openreach is coming to your area.
Virgin Media is a little more cagey when it comes to revealing plans to service new areas. This is because it doesn’t sell its services to other providers, so it’s not in Virgin’s interests to share information about its plans with the competition.
If you’d like to find out more about when and if Virgin Media’s fibre broadband will be available in your area, your best bet is to give Virgin a call and ask. You can also visit the website and register your interest.
For the fastest fibre broadband on the UK market, Virgin Media wins, but currently by quite a narrow margin. Virgin Media has recently announced the rollout of its 'Gig2' service, which it claims will provide 2Gbps. The announcement has demonstrated a few reasons why we shouldn't really be thinking about 2Gbps though. Firstly, it's breathtakingly expensive, at £90 per month for symmetrical upload and download speeds. Secondly, no one really needs it, and thirdly it uses a completely separate cabling technology to the existing Virgin Media network, making rollout very, very slow.
Still, Virgin’s speeds do, marginally outstrip those offered by providers on the Openreach network (the likes of BT, Sky and TalkTalk), with speeds of 1130Mbps compared to 900-944Mbps from the other providers.
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