Broadband speeds in my area
By Dan Howdle | Thursday, September 24th 2020
Despite widespread coverage from the Openreach network – on which you'll find BT, Sky, TalkTalk and others – and to a lesser extent the Virgin Media network, broadband speeds continue to vary considerably depending on where you live.
It's a bit of a lottery. There is an increasing (yet still very small) number of locations where speeds of up to 1,000Mbps are available. And likewise a similar percentage where speeds are slow enough to fall far below what most would consider even adequate. In this guide we'll take a look at how to find the best speed where you live, what speed you actually need and what the alternatives are if what's available simply isn't enough.
What broadband speed can I get in my area?
This is going to vary based on a few different factors. Before we cover those, bear in mind that you can check exactly what you can get, at a glance, using our postcode checker tool, which is updated daily. That said, the following three factors primarily dictate the speeds available to your home.
How far is my home from the nearest cabinet?
Those green cabinets you see on the street? They route both telephone lines and fibre broadband to homes in your area. The Openreach network is used by all providers besides Virgin Media. On Openreach the span between the cabinet and your home is made of copper, not fibre optic cable. And on copper, the longer the span, the slower the speed you will get.
This is why homes that are very remote or rural often suffer slow speeds, as the copper line has to travel a long way to reach each house.
Which networks are available?
Almost every home in the UK can get broadband from providers on the Openreach network. Typically, then, unless located a long way from the cabinet as described above, you're going to be looking at top speeds of around 70Mbps. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere Openreach is rolling out FTTH (fibre to the home, or pure fibre), then you will be able to receive speeds that are much faster, but only a handful of locations can currently get that.
Virgin Media runs its own network, and is available to around 60% of UK households. Virgin Media's network is much faster than Openreach as things currently stand. So if you can get it, and you want your broadband very, very fast, it should be considered your first choice.
Can I get 5G home broadband?
We will look at this in a bit more detail in the 'alternatives' section some way down this guide. But for now, consider that a fixed-line connection is not the only way to get broadband these days, and that 5G specifically can deliver speeds faster than those available on Openreach, if you can get it.
What speed do I need?
This is a question asked time and time again. The thinking is that if you can pick just the right speed, you'll be paying the least and getting only what you need with no waste. To a certain extent, though, that assumption is false. Providers often offer their fastest packages at prices all but inseparable from those of slower packages. The best advice, then, is to get the fastest speed available from the provider offering the best value for money.
Regardless, if you're trying to get an idea of how much speed you actually need, we have something called 'the 10 megabit rule'. That is, count 10Mbps for every household member who uses the internet, and you won't go far wrong off what you need. Beyond that, there are a couple of cases you should consider adding extra speed for.
- If one or more members of your household is a gamer – Gaming online itself actually uses very little bandwidth. Downloading games on the other hand – well, the size of these things is crazy, and as the technology evolves it's only getting crazier. You should add another 10Mbps at least for each gamer in your household
- If you have a 4K TV and stream 4K content – Both 4K (ultra high-definition) TVs and 4K streaming content are becoming more and more common. And the bandwidth required for one 4K stream can be anything up to 40Mbps on its own. Bear this in mind when choosing your speed
A note concerning upload speeds
So far we've only talked about download speeds, but upload speeds (sending data from your device to somewhere elsewhere on the internet) can be important for certain types of users. If, for example, you work from home and store a lot of large files in the cloud, you should consider the upload speed offered by your chosen package.
Why is the internet slow where I live?
If you're here reading this guide because your current internet connection is too slow and you can't seem to find a way to remedy that, we have some tips here for you depending on what the actual problem happens to be.
You live far from the nearest cabinet
Refer to the first section of this guide for the full explanation, but in a nutshell the further you are from your nearest green cabinet, the slower the speed you can receive. If that is the issue the only way to speed things up is to switch to Virgin Media if it's available (which runs on a different network), or 5G mobile broadband, again if it's available.
Your router is not set-up correctly
If you're getting the speeds you're paying for when you hook up your computer to your router via a LAN cable, but you can't get similar speeds over wifi, don't panic. Wifi is often slower than the speed you can get via a LAN cable – that's normal. If you can't get any sort of wifi in some parts of the house, you should first contact your provider and inform them of the problem. Many providers now offer wifi extenders at a small additional cost, which will help the signal reach your whole home.
There is a fault
If you were getting satisfactory speeds – or at least the speeds you were supposed to be getting – but then suddenly things are slow or non-existent, chances are there is a fault. You should contact your provider to inform them of the problem if it persists. First, though, check your provider's website as most provider these days will be able to show you if there is a fault in your area, if they are working on fixing it, and when exactly it is likely to be fixed. If such information is available, all you need do is sit and wait.
You simply need a faster package
If you commonly hit bottlenecks with your broadband connection, where things slow down to a crawl, or video streams start buffering (pausing with a little spinning circle in the middle), it's time to find a faster package, provided one is available. There's nothing wrong with your connection per se, it's just that over time your needs have begun to overwhelm it.
Alternatives to fixed-line broadband
If you're on the fastest broadband connection available to you and for whatever reason it's still too slow for your needs, it may be time to start looking into alternative technologies. There are three primary alternatives to fixed-line broadband and each is the best choice depending on your precise situation/location.
- 4G or 5G mobile broadband – If you can't get a decent enough speed via a fixed line, but you can get a good 4G or 5G mobile signal, many providers now offer home routers that operate via a mobile network. 4G can offer good speeds comparable to entry-level fibre if you can get a clear signal. Likewise, 5G can offer speeds that far exceed it
- Satellite broadband – Is available to everyone, but bear in mind it should be considered a last resort. It is for homes in locations where literally no other solution is available. This is because satellite broadband is expensive, carries data caps, and suffers extreme latency
- Fixed wireless broadband – This is where a small town or village location has a line-of-sight wireless network installed. Vodafone has a few sites like this around the UK, where it uses the highest point in the village – usually a church spire – to mount a transmitter, which beams broadband to homes within sight of it. Needless to say, locations where this sort of technology exists are extremely rare
Frequently asked questions
What speed is the internet in my area?
You can get a good idea of the speeds available to you where you live by using our broadband availability checker. Simply enter your postcode and we will show you which providers, packages and speeds are available to you.
What is the average broadband speed in the UK?
Cable.co.uk, in association with M-Lab, produces annual broadband speed figures for almost every country on the planet. The most recent average speed for broadband in the UK (in 2020) is 37.82Mbps.
How do I find out the best speed where I live?
The best way to see what speeds are available and indeed what the top speed is where you live, is to use our broadband postcode checker. It is updated daily.
Why is my broadband speed slower over wifi?
Where a LAN cable offers a direct, uninterrupted signal between your router and your device, wifi has to deal with interference from other people's broadband networks, walls and floors in your house, and interference from various appliances. Wifi is usually slower than the speed you would get via a LAN cable, therefore.
Can I boost my wifi speed?
There are definitely ways to both tweak your existing connection, or upgrade to a new one. For more detailed information, see our guide on boosting broadband speeds.