By Dan Howdle | Sunday, November 3rd 2019
Gigaclear aims to bring some of the fastest broadband in the country to rural locations which have been let down by Openreach and Virgin Media in their network rollout plans. With only around 20,000 customers, availability is extremely limited, but if you can get it there is little not to recommend. Let's take a look.
|Average download speed||30Mbps – 900Mbps|
|Average upload speed||30Mbps – 900Mbps|
|Broadband||FTTP full fibre|
|Prices from||£35 p/m plus activation fee|
Gigaclear is a highly unusual broadband provider. For one thing, its network is pure fibre. Other broadband providers, such as those on the Openreach network (that's everyone except Virgin Media) offer fibre networks that are fibre optic only as far as the cabinet on the street. The remaining distance to your property is copper wire, which puts serious limitations on the speed you can get.
A pure fibre network (called FTTP or 'fibre to the premises' in the business) can deliver frankly insane (ultrafast) speeds. And unlike Openreach's FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) it can offer upload speeds that are the same as its download speeds – known as a 'symmetrical' connection. With Gigaclear, three packages are available at 30Mbps, 300Mbps and 900Mbps. At around £75 a month, the fastest speed isn't cheap, but you can't really blame Gigaclear for that. The economics of building its own network into sparsely populate areas gives Gigaclear little choice over pricing.
But with only 20,000 customers, your chances of getting Gigaclear are vanishingly small. And if you live somewhere rural, can't currently get it, but hope to in the future, you're going to have to turn to your own community and drum up enough local support to make it worth Gigaclear's while. Don't get us wrong, what Gigaclear is doing is both fascinating and valuable, but don't raise your hopes too high that it will ultimately solve your own personal rural broadband woes.
According to Ofcom data the UK’s average broadband speed is 46.2Mbps, so this is a huge upgrade. Although 900Mbps is among the fastest broadband speeds in the UK, Gigaclear is by no means unique in this regard. Hyperoptic is another offering gigabit speeds, but in more rural areas.
In terms of contracts, all Gigaclear contracts run for 18 months. This is a fairly typical contact length, and less relevant than it might be with some other providers, since if you live somewhere you can get Gigaclear we think it highly unlikely you're ever going to switch to the handful of Mbps you're going to be able to get with any other provider.
All Gigaclear broadband packages arrive with symmetrical speeds. That means that whichever upload speed you select – 30Mbps, 300Mbps or 900Mbps – you'll get the same upload speed. Upload speeds are generally less useful than download speeds, but if you are able to get upload speeds this fast, there's a good case to be made for using cloud storage for all your data storage requirements.
Most other providers offer upload speeds that are only a third or less (often much less) of their download speeds. Most of the stuff we do on the internet is download-oriented – drawing information or pictures or files or video from a remote server onto a device. Very little is upload oriented – sending those things from a device to a remote server – so most of us barely ever notice.
The router Gigaclear provides as standard is the Genexis DRG739v2, a high speed, reliable, fibre-optic decoder, similar in look to a modem. As with any router, though the Genexis is more than capable of delivering Gigaclear's 900Mbps top speed, but you won't get that over wifi. Wifi as a technology can only support such speeds in laboratory conditions. In the real world there are walls and electrical wiring and other electromagnetic signals that will reduce your wifi speed significantly.
The Genexis is a very capable router, just don't expect to top out Gigaclear's top speeds over wifi.
Installation is not as simple as it is with any other provider. Most broadband deals will arrive via the landline you already have wired into your home. In the case of Gigaclear, it has to physically lay the cable from the nearest point of termination (or POT) to your house. First, that means sending a surveyor to your property to properly understand not only your property, but the route from your property to the nearest POT.
You will need to agree the route, including any digging/landscaping required beforehand, as well as where the network termination equipment (NTE) will be placed in your house. The NTE is basically the breakout box inside your property where your connection to Gigaclear's network terminates. Gigaclear will have to dig a trench on our property to lay the cable, and drill a hole in the wall of your house through which to feed it to the NTE.
If this all sounds super-destructive, don't worry – most times everything will look cosmetically exactly as it did before the work was done.
With Gigaclear being such a small provider, there is no record to be found in any Ofcom report showing how it has been doing with its customers over the years. What we have instead is Trustpilot, where customers go to review their broadband service. At the time of writing, Gigaclear has an average Trustpilot score of 3.6 out of 5.
Although that doesn't sound stellar at first glance it's important to understand that there is generally a heavy negativity bias in broadband provider reviews. People are just far more motivated to go write a review on Trustpilot when they have encountered some sort of issue. And the issue most complainers seem to have encountered is not being able to get the 300Mbps or 900Mbps they pay for over wifi.
This is a failure on their part to understand the technology. As highlighted further up the page, wifi itself will simply not go that fast. If you want your full connection speed, you're going to need to connect via a LAN cable. That means you will never be downloading or uploading at 300Mbps or 900Mbps on your phone or tablet – and that's not Gigaclear's fault.
If you can get it, get it. No other rural broadband solution is going to be as fast or reliable as Gigaclear. There are simply no drawbacks here as there are with 4G home broadband (unreliable, often slow), satellite broadband (huge latency issues, expensive) or any other rural broadband solution. Maybe the fact you can't get a landline from Gigaclear could be seen as a downside, but it's an upside too if you rely primarily on your mobile phone and don't need one.
But of course, it is almost certainly the case that you cannot get it, and if you live somewhere rural where speeds aren't great, but they are adequate, it's unlikely you'll ever be able to get it, since you'll never be able to convince your community of the need.
If you're looking for realistic alternatives, you probably already know the deal where you live. It's likely poor speeds on an Openreach network provider such as BT or Sky, unavailable Virgin Media, or some sort of mobile broadband solution. If you can get Gigaclear jump on it, you lucky so and so!