Hyperoptic is part of a new wave of ‘alternative’ broadband providers that have built their own ‘full fibre’ networks in parts of the UK, rather than relying on the national Openreach infrastructure that powers BT, TalkTalk, Sky and others.
You may not have heard of the company but it’s certainly making an impact. It was founded in 2011 and now has networks in more than 28 towns and cities across the UK. It has raised significant funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and private investors to facilitate a £100m expansion that will see it cover five million premises by 2025. But if you’re looking for a broadband provider today, can you get it and is Hyperoptic worth it?
Central to Hyperoptic’s appeal is that it uses fibre for the entire connection, boosting speeds and capacity. The overwhelming majority of the UK’s superfast broadband infrastructure (excluding Virgin Media’s cable network) is powered by fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, which uses copper for the final few hundred metres from the cabinet to your home, slowing down speeds.
Hyperoptic’s entry-level product provides 30Mbps download speeds, and it also offers a 150Mbps service. The former is ideal for a household with a few devices for streaming, online gaming and general web use, while the latter provides extra capacity for multiple users and 4K streaming with a bit to spare.
But the real gem in the Hyperoptic crown is the headline 1Gbps package which is the UK’s fastest home broadband service. If you need a fast connection, there’s not really anything else in the UK that can rival it.
More traditional rivals, such as BT, can serve up a 330Mbps ‘ultrafast’ connection in some parts of the UK, while Virgin Media’s own network upgrades mean it can provide a 350Mbps service, although tests show it can go higher in real-life scenarios.
According to Ofcom data, the average actual fixed broadband download speed is 36.2Mbps, so this is a huge upgrade. Although 1Gbps is indeed the fastest broadband speed in the UK, Hyperoptic is by no means unique in this regard as other FTTP providers such as Gigaclear can also offer gigabit broadband. But in the future, Hyperoptic could get even faster since it successfully trialled a 10Gbps service at the former athletes’ village in the Olympic Park in East London.
All Hyperoptic’s bundles are available on a rolling contract, but if you commit to a 12-month minimum term then there are significant savings to be had. Either way, there is an activation fee to pay. Just bear in mind that availability is extremely limited. You can check whether you can get Hyperoptic via the link below. If you can't get it, however, your best chance at ultrafast broadband is Virgin Media.
With many broadband services, the upload speed is a poor relation to downloads with huge disparities between the two. One of the beauties of FTTP is that it can offer symmetrical speeds – that means the download and upload rates are the same (if the provider chooses to enable it, of course).
Although the 30Mbps service offers just a meagre 1Mbps upload speed, the 150Mbps and 1Gbps services offer the same upload speed as download. This is a godsend if you regularly deal with large files such as video or audio, and a huge advantage over FTTC-powered services from other providers.
And what’s more, all three packages have absolutely no download limits. Although to be honest, there would be little point in splashing out for the UK’s fastest broadband service if you were a slave to a monthly data allowance.
It’s worth pointing out that you don’t need a phone line to get Hyperoptic, but if you want to pair your broadband service with a home phone, you can. The phone package includes free evening and weekend landline calls and you can even keep your existing phone number, a process which takes up to 15 days. Hyperoptic can only transfer an active phone number, so you’ll need to keep your existing line active until the porting process has been completed.
The phone connects to the HyperHub router (detailed below), which is compatible with most conventional phone handsets. Hyperoptic uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to deliver its phone service, which means calls are carried directly over the broadband network, which should improve quality.
However if there is a fault with the network, such as a power failure, then you won’t be able to make calls. This includes calls to 999, so make sure you have an alternative – such as a mobile phone – lined up.
So Hyperoptic is fast, but is it readily available? Well, it’s complicated. Hyperoptic is currently only available to around 350,000 homes and business across the UK and it’s difficult to get connected unless you live in an apartment block or in a new build.
Hyperoptic invites landlords and residents to express an interest in being connected, while the company also works with local councils to bring gigabit broadband to social housing. It has also partnered with more than 100 home developers. Again, it has ambitions to reach five million within a decade, but you’ll need to patient in most areas.
If you are lucky enough to be covered, then installation is a little bit different to most providers. As Hyperoptic is independent of Openreach, its engineers will need to install a separate ‘Hyperoptic Socket’ inside your home. The installation generally takes an hour and engineers will install a socket up to 10 metres from the entrance. If you want the socket any further into your property, then there is an additional fee.
Hyperoptic promises that all work will be done ‘discreetly’ and that existing risers, false ceilings and trunking will be used to connect your property to the building connection, which is usually located in the basement.
As you can imagine, if you want a whole building to be connected, this will take a little longer. Hyperoptic will ‘assess’ the building to see if it is a candidate for connection and seek permission from the freeholder or building management company. If all is well, the process will take four to six weeks.
For home installations, the engineers will provide the HyperHub, which has been selected to support the 1Gbps speeds over a wired connection. The router should be set up and all Hyperoptic ask is that there is a power source to connect it to. The service can be activated as soon as the Hyperoptic socket has been installed.
Because Hyperoptic’s service uses its own infrastructure there are two distinct advantages. One is that because it uses FTTP, your exposure to congestion is significantly reduced, and the other is that if there is a fault with the service, you don’t get an issue whereby your provider is asking you to ring Openreach and vice versa.
Online feedback regarding reliability for Hyperoptic tends to be positive, despite the fact that most customers naturally tend to post about negative experiences. It seems that Hyperoptic’s speed has inspired a degree of customer loyalty.
If you do have any problems, then Hyperoptic has a 24-hour customer support team which handles anything from router problems to connection issues. As with most broadband providers, there are some complaints about delayed or missed engineer visits, but in general the feedback is positive.
The fact that Hyperoptic offers the fastest speeds available in the UK will be enough for some people, especially those who deal with large file uploads, or those simply desperate to get away from anything running on BT Openreach. You’d be forgiven for thinking that such an advanced service would be prohibitively expensive, but all of its bundles are relatively affordable, even when compared to more conventional rivals.
However it’s disappointing that there are only meagre savings available for those who don’t want a home phone service. Given the Openreach network is bypassed entirely, the absence of line rental and phone charges would be a huge selling point for a generation that is ‘cutting the cord’.
It’s also worth pointing out that most web users won’t actually need 1Gbps, or even 150Mbps. So is the increased cost worth missing out on discounted television services and free wi-fi from other providers? But the biggest issue is coverage. Hyperoptic might have big plans in the works, but for now it’s very limited when compared to the national scale of BT and Virgin Media. If you need, and want, gigabit broadband, then Hyperoptic definitely comes recommended – if you can get it.
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