Broadband in Hull
By Dan Howdle | Sunday, September 13th 2020
You won't find broadband packages from BT, Virgin Media, or any provider that runs on the Openreach network (most other providers) available in Hull. Instead, KCOM is the incumbent, and residents there have few alternative options.
In this guide we will take a look at how this came to be the case with Hull internet provision, what the current situation is, what alternatives there actually are, and take a look at the packages KCOM offers.
What's different about broadband in Hull?
Before BT, the UK's telephone network was owned and run by the state under the Post Office brand. You might remember that the BT Tower, one of London's most recognisable landmarks, was once Post Office Tower. The Post Office's telecoms arm absorbed most of the smaller, county-level telecoms organisations, which then ultimately became a part of BT.
However, Kingston upon Hull remained independent, which is still the case today. The plus side is that if you live there you have access to KCOM, a broadband and general telephony provider only available in Hull and surrounds. The downside is the same thing. You only have access to KCOM. There is no Openreach or Virgin Media networks there, cutting you off from the vast majority of providers available in the rest of the UK.
Luckily, it's not all bad news. KCOM does offer some of the fastest broadband in the UK, for starters. And there's also the fact that if you're living in Hull and subscribed to KCOM broadband, you are supporting a local business, which is appealing to many.
Who is KCOM, and is it any good?
KCOM started life in the early 20th century as the Hull Corporation, which later became the Hull City Council. Since then it has been known by a few different names and sub-brands, including Kingston Communications, and Karoo. These days everything is under the KCOM brand, and the company continues to be the number one provider in the area. It was bought by MEIF 6 Fibre Ltd in August of 2019, but this has changed little from the perspective of the average customer.
There was also a time when KCOM offered a digital TV service with a set-top box akin to Sky TV or Virgin TV. In fact it was somewhat of a pioneer in this area. Sadly, though, 'Kingston Interactive TV (or KIT)' was abandoned in 2006. Customers living in the area can subscribe to Sky, but since both Virgin Media and Openreach networks do not operate in the are, Virgin TV, BT TV and others are not available.
Primarily, then, KCOM offers broadband and phone packages based on ADSL (standard broadband), fibre broadband (part copper, part fibre), and FTTH broadband (pure fibre). We'll take a close look at the packages and how these offerings differ when it comes to speed in the next section.
What speeds does KCOM offer?
Since KCOM runs its own network, which is obviously on a much smaller scale than the UK-spanning networks owned by Openreach and Virgin Media, it can offer its customers very, very fast download speeds. So while it may be a legitimate complaint from those living in and around Hull that they have less choice of provider compared to the rest of the UK, no one can argue that this leaves them with slow, unsatisfactory broadband unless there is a fault.
Although Virgin Media Broadband remains the fastest widely available broadband provider in this UK with speeds of up to 516Mbps, KCOM has it beat, offering packages ranging from a perfectly adequate 30Mbps, all the way up to a bleeding-edge 900Mbps. The higher speeds in the range are sold under its 'Lightstream' internet brand, which denotes that the connection is FTTH (fibre to the home) – or in other words 100% of the connection is fibre optic, all the way to your door, which enables these very fast speeds.
Providers in the rest of the UK are predominantly FTTC (fibre to the cabinet), which means the span between the cabinet and your home is still made of copper. Copper cannot carry a broadband signal much faster than around 80Mbps, and becomes slower the longer the copper cable happens to be, which is why many who live in remote countryside locations suffer from awful broadband speeds. Here's a quick look at KCOM's internet deals in Hull.
- Standard Fibre Unlimited – Offers 30Mbps download and 15Mbps upload – roughly equivalent to an entry-level package from a provider on Openreach
- Superfast Unlimited – Offers 75Mbps download and 20Mbps upload – about on a par with the fastest FTTC offerings on Openreach
- Superfast Plus Unlimited – Offers 200Mbps download and 35Mbps upload – by far exceeding Openreach providers, and about equal to a mid-tier package from Virgin Media
- Ultrafast Unlimited – Offers 400Mbps download and 35Mbps upload – and is nearing the speed of Virgin Media's fastest packages
- Gigafast Unlimited – Offers 900Mbps download and 50Mbps upload – almost doubling Virgin Media's fastest package
If you're looking for a means to run a KCOM speed test or KCOM speed checker on your connection to test if you're getting what you pay for, look no further than our own in-house speed test tool.
How KCOM compares to other UK providers
Broadly, then, you can 'go faster' with KCOM than you can with pretty much anyone else. Of course, the fastest packages are also the most expensive, but look at KCOM's offering alongside the rest of the UK, it compares favourably to…
Providers on Openreach – Even the slowest package from KCOM is roughly equivalent to entry-level fibre from BT, Sky, TalkTalk and all the other providers on Openreach, while its top speed is more than 13 times faster. Openreach is rolling out its own FTTH, but availability is currently very limited. As we're sure you can appreciate, Openreach has a far greater task on its hands rolling this out to the whole of the UK than KCOM does rolling out to Hull.
Virgin Media – Even Virgin Media's top speed of 516Mbps is no match for KCOM's 900Mbps Lightstream service. Mind you, there are no good arguments for why you need that much speed from either provider, and at the time of writing, at £79 per month, KCOM's top speed will cost you. The fact these speeds are available at all, on the plus side, does mean the KCOM router (the Lightstream router), that delivers KCOM wifi to your home, is very capable indeed.
Are there any alternatives to KCOM in Hull?
Although both Openreach providers and Virgin Media are a complete no-show for Hull, that doesn't mean you're completely without choice if you live there. If you've had a bad experience with any provider, it often poisons the well, and will push many to find another company more deserving of loyalty.
As well as 4G or 5G home broadband, and satellite broadband, both of which are available across the entire UK (Hull included), there are also a few, smaller independent providers that have popped up in recent years to cover the area, though some of these provides lease their lines from KCOM, so the speeds and packages offered are very similar.
- 4G or 5G home broadband – This is where you get your broadband connection through a mobile provider. The router installed in your home connects to the airwaves instead of a fixed line. Sometimes these can actually be quite fast, though are often somewhat less reliable than a fixed-line broadband solution
- Pure Broadband – Offers it 'purehome' FTTH broadband service to customers in Hull, and offers speeds of up to 900Mbps
- Wisper Broadband – Has wireless transmitters set up in key locations around Hull, and will beam broadband up to 60Mbps to a special 'dish' on your home, which in turn is connected to your router. Most packages carry data limits, though its top package – Wisper Ultimate – does offer unlimited use
- Giganet – Offer Hull residents up to 1,000Mbps (1Gbps) broadband along with unlimited data and a guarantee of no price rises for life
- Satellite broadband – Is available to everyone in the UK from a number of different providers. It isn't particularly fast, but it is particularly expensive and is a technology reserved exclusively for those with no other options
Frequently asked questions
What broadband can you get in Hull?
The dominant provider is KCOM, which offers broadband speeds of up to 900Mbps. Alternatives include 4G and 5G home broadband via a mobile network, and small, local providers such as Pure Broadband, Wisper Broadband and Giganet. Virgin Media, and providers on Openreach such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and others, are not available in the area.
Why does Hull only have KCOM?
This goes back more than a hundred years to when local authorities had control of their own telecoms. Hull never sold up to the Post Office, which eventually became BT. Hull, therefore, has always retained its own independent telecoms infrastructure.
Can I get Virgin Media in Hull?
No. There are no Virgin Media cables in Hull, meaning you cannot receive any Virgin Media services including broadband, TV and phone.
Can I get Sky in Hull?
You can't get broadband from Sky in Hull since Sky operates on the Openreach network, which does not cover the area. However, you can get Sky TV via a satellite dish just as you can in the rest of the country.
Can I get KCOM broadband-only? (Without a landline)
All KCOM broadband packages are offered without a landline if you so choose. There are no KCOM 'broadband only' packages as such, but rather you will have the option to select 'no phoneline' during the sign-up process.