How to compare fast broadband
Picking a fast fibre optic broadband package doesn’t have to mean trawling providers’ websites hunting out the best deal. Our comparison table lists the packages with the fastest top speeds, lowest prices and monthly usage, so you can re-order it according to your preferences.
Fibre optic broadband is being slowly rolled out over the country, usually beginning in city centres and creeping its way to large towns and residential centres, so not all the packages you see on the list will be available to you. Make sure you check whether the service is on offer in your area before you set your heart on it.
Many of the packages come with caveats attached, so make sure you sift through the fine print and uncover the details before you sign an 18-month contract. Some packages come with hidden fees, some are on deals that will run out and mean the price will increase after a few months, and some have usage limitations in place, so make sure you don’t get stung by checking the details carefully.
Why choose fast broadband?
There are a number of great reasons to opt for a fast fibre package over a standard ADSL broadband deal.
This seems like a fairly obvious reason, but it’s certainly a good one. Fibre optic broadband comes with much faster top speeds than traditional broadband. The majority of providers offer speeds between up to 38Mbps and 76Mbps, and run on the BT Openreach network. Virgin Media, which has its own cable network, offers three speeds of 50Mbps, 100Mbps and 200Mbps. When compared to ADSL broadband, which usually sits around the 15Mbps to 17Mbps mark, there is very little comparison.
The added speed that comes with fibre optic broadband means you’ll be able to enjoy downloading and sharing more content than ever before. Thankfully, ISPs have cottoned onto this fact and usually provide data without any limits. Instead of this, there are usually different methods used to throttle the amount of data you can download, such as fair usage policies and traffic management at certain times of day. Even with these, you shouldn’t experience too much slowdown unless you use a lot of peer-to-peer sharing sites.
Faster upload speeds are often overlooked characteristic is probably not as important as download speeds, but should certainly not be ignored. Whenever you send something into the wide blue yonder of the internet it is your upload speed that determines how fast it is delivered. This affects things such as sharing images and videos, using VoIP services and online gaming. Most fibre optic packages have faster upload speeds than standard broadband packages, meaning these tasks take less time and run more smoothly.
Pros & cons
- Faster download speeds
- Few restrictions on data limits
- Quicker upload speeds
- Usually more expensive than standard broadband
- Less widespread than standard broadband
- There can be additional fees for installation
Which package is right for me?
There is a wealth of great fibre optic packages out there at the moment, so you should be able to find the ideal one for you. Here are some of the most popular.
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre
This is one of the cheapest fibre optic packages on the market. It comes with a 38Mbps connection speed and an evenings and weekends call plan on an 18-month contract. This is an ideal package for families with moderate internet use, but who still want to browse freely, stream films and keep all of their devices connected via wi-fi.
Sky Fibre Max
This is the fastest fibre optic connection that Sky offers, and with a download speed of up to76Mbps, it should be fast enough for even the most internet-hungry families. You should be able to stream, download, play games online and keep wi-fi devices fed at the same time, and still have some room left over. The extra speed does come at extra expense, so you should only go for this deal if you know you’re going to get good value from it.
Virgin Media’s up to 200Mbps
This package from Virgin Media provides the fastest fibre optic connection widely available in the UK. You can do pretty much everything you want online with a speed like this and not come close to touching the sides of its bandwidth limit. What’s more, because Virgin Media owns its own fibre optic line, you don’t have to pay line rental if you choose a broadband-only package, so it’s not as expensive as you might imagine.
What will I need?
It may seem slightly obvious, but the main obstacle to you getting fibre optic broadband is what area you are in. BT, which also provides fibre for the majority of other providers, has the largest network of fibre optic cables, with new towns and cities being added all the time. You can check whether you can get fibre optic broadband using our postcode checker.
Getting your hands on a good wireless router is key to accessing all your content. Most of the larger providers, such as BT and Virgin Media, offer excellent wireless routers, which project clean, strong signals to all of your wi-fi enabled devices. Some of the budget ISPs have, however, been known to have provided routers incapable of delivering the top advertised speeds, so make sure what hardware is on offer before you make your purchase.
How do I switch?
Make sure you find the right provider for your needs. Have a scour through all the providers that supply fibre optic broadband in your area and weigh up the pros and cons of each. This will help you find a deal that’s the best match for your needs and will stop you from picking something wildly over-priced or woefully inadequate.
Sign up to the new provider of your choice
When you sign up to a new provider, they’ll handle the entire switching process for you, including contacting your current supplier. The exception is if you’re switching to or from Virgin Media. If this is the case, you’ll have to contact your existing provider and cancel the service yourself.
The best time to switch is when your current contract has expired; this will help you to avoid early termination fees.
Fibre optic broadband is a particularly attractive utility, but make sure it’s something you would feel the benefit from before you splash out on it. Do you need to download a HD film in the same amount of time it takes to microwave a bag of popcorn? If the answer is yes, then it's time to start your search.