Home  ›  Fibre Broadband
  • Sky Fibre Broadband Unlimited

    Sky
    • Up to 38Mb download speed
    • Truly unlimited monthly usage
    • No calls included, pay for what you use
    6 months half price fibre
    £10
    £20 after 6 mths See Deal
  • BT Unlimited Infinity 1 + Weekend Calls

    BT
    • Up to 52Mbps fibre broadband
    • Unlimited downloads & free BT Wi-Fi
    • Inclusive weekend calls
    Free £100 BT Reward Card & £13 p/m off broadband for 12 months
    £10
    £23 after 12 mths See Deal
  • Virgin SuperFibre 50 Broadband + Calls

    Virgin
    • Up to 5x faster than regular broadband
    • Great for small households with 1-4 devices
    • Unlimited downloads & weekend calls
    £12
    £21 after 12 mths See Deal

Compare by fibre broadband providers

Need help choosing a deal? Call our experts free on

0800 211 8144

We're open from 8am to 9pm everyday

How to choose a fibre broadband deal

The sheer number of speeds, bundles, providers, home phones and optional extras make confusion the ever-changing UK broadband market’s only standing feature. While it’s fair to say that if you take the pot luck approach, chances are you’ll come out happy, you’ll never know how much happier you could have been had you put aside ten minutes of your time to read this section on how to choose.

Further down this page, you’ll find a lot more in-depth stuff about individual providers – who’s best for what and so forth – but in terms of the information you actually need, this section is the only one that matters. So without further ado…

1. Check what you can get in your postcode

This point is somewhat chicken and egg: To know what you should get, you first have to know what you can get. No point getting all excited about 200Mbps of Virgin VIVID if there’s no Virgin cabling running outside your property.

By the same token, putting your postcode into the box above takes you away from this page, onto one that at first might seem pretty determined to overwhelm you with choice – choice that, at this stage, since you have not yet discovered the ins and outs of how to choose, might not make a lot of sense to you.

To help with what follows, then, punch in your postcode and look for just two things: Can you get Virgin Media broadband, and can you get BT Infinity broadband. Don’t worry if you’re not interested in either – whether you can get either, both or none of these only serves to demonstrate what type of cabling you have running past your house (Virgin has its own network and everyone else operates on BT’s). Jot down which are available then jump back to this page to continue reading.

2. How to find out what speed you need

Choosing a speed will take you a big step closer to choosing a provider, because certain speeds are only available from certain providers. It might not get you all that way there, but it will narrow things down a bit. Choosing the right speed will also help ensure you don’t choose a fibre package with either less or more than you need.

2a) Establish the internet usage levels of individual household members

Gather your household together and establish the sort of things each household member uses the internet for. Ensure they include everything from updating apps on their phone, to videogame updates to streaming movies and using social media.

Streaming, gaming and downloading are the highest-usage activities, especially streaming in high definition (HD), while surfing the internet and using social media are the lowest. Try to categorise each household member, including yourself, into light, moderate and heavy.

2b) Use this speed selection chart to identify the speed you’ll likely need

This chart offers a clear idea of which speed your household should be thinking of going for. Most of us with more than two or three people in our households will have discovered that it’s a bit of a hotchpotch when it comes to understanding the needs of each individual.

The temptation, then, is to weight things more towards the heavy users ‘just in case’. Resist that temptation. Broadband providers love it when you upgrade your speed – you can usually do it online and your new speed will be available within a few hours, often less. However, providers throw a lot of barriers your way if you want to downgrade. No provider allows you to do this online, many will put a lot of energy into dissuading you, and some broadband deals won’t let you do it at all.

Remember: Get the minimum, upgrade if you have to.

2c) Consider upload speed, but don’t dwell on it

Digging into the details, you might have already noticed that upload speeds are in all cases a mere fraction of the available download speed. While download speed determines how long it takes data to get from the internet to your devices, upload speed determines how long it takes you to send data to the internet.

There are some tasks for which you might need a good upload speed. If you rely on cloud computing to store all your personal files, run a home office, or regularly broadcast live video to the likes of Twitch. If all that sounds foreign to you, however, you can forget upload speeds exist. Which is why they’re so slow in comparison to download speeds: There are a lot less uses for upload and they tend to be quite specialist.

2d) Shortlist providers from your findings thus far

Interesting picture, isn’t it? The lower your required speed the greater the choice still available to you. The more you need, however, the easier it becomes. Notice how, at the very top end, Virgin Media stands alone.

Time to take a look at the notes you made in step one. If you can get BT Infinity, you can get fibre from any provider who offers it except Virgin Media and the Post Office (which only offers non-fibre ADSL broadband). If you can get Virgin Media either instead of or as well as BT Infinity, then the choice becomes a little harder.

Fret not. The purpose of taking you through this is not so you can make a choice here and now, it’s so you have a keener idea of what you’re looking at when you begin comparing deals. Stick with us, we’re nearly there.

3. Questions to ask yourself to further narrow things down

Every provider in the UK has a unique offering to some extent. Some offer TV packages, many don’t, some offer mobile SIMs, others don’t. And depending on which network you, and depending on where you live, there may even be more chance with one provider that’s you’ll get the speed you pay for than with another. To help narrow things further, then, ask yourself…

3a) On which network am I most likely to get the speed I’m paying for?

Remember: There are only two widely available networks in the UK. Virgin Media owns the smallest – available to around 52% of UK homes. Virgin’s network delivers exclusively fibre packages with copper coaxial cabling taking it some of the way. Despite the cabling not being 100% fibre it offers by far the fastest speeds (on its top broadband packages).

The other network is called Openreach, a fibre network that’s also part-copper (we’ll explain why this is important in just a sec), owned and run by BT. Both BT and all other widely available UK broadband providers (Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet, many others) operate on Openreach, which is why the speeds they offer are largely the same. Openreach fibre is available to around 86% of UK homes. Standard, non-fibre (ADSL) broadband is available to almost everyone.

Both networks have their quirks. BT’s Openreach network and the providers who operate on it (everyone except Virgin) deliver slower speeds than advertised to those living 800 metres or more from their nearest cabinet. This is due to the technical limitations of the copper bi-wire used over what is known in the trade as the ‘last mile’ – the distance between the cabinet and your home. To find out how far you are from your nearest exchange, you can check here. It won’t tell you the distance, but it’ll show you where it is on a map and you can work it out.

Virgin’s network is delivered in part via the coaxial copper cables that used to deliver cable TV back when that was a thing. It’s a sturdier, more capable cable and doesn’t suffer to the same extent as Openreach when spanning distances. Virgin customers can and do suffer with slow speeds, however, but from something called ‘over-utilisation’. This is when too many people in one area subscribe to Virgin Media and overload the local equipment.

To avoid this, ask a neighbour who has Virgin Media to tell you what speed they’re getting (versus the speed they’re paying for) at peak times. If the former is significantly less than the latter, you might want to avoid Virgin Media altogether, as it’s likely you won’t get the speed you need when you most need it. Just make sure the speed they give you wasn’t tested over wi-fi, but on a device connected physically to the router. Airwave interference can give you misleadingly slow results.

3b) Do I want broadband-only – broadband on its own with no home phone and no line rental?

Easy one, this. Virgin Media is the only provider that offers true broadband-only deals. That is, broadband with no home phone and no line rental – but there’s a catch. It’s broadband-only packages tend to be significantly more expensive than those that provide a home phone line and charge line rental. In essence, it all evens out price-wise. That makes no sense to us either, but there it is.

Some other providers claim to offer broadband-only deals (Plusnet, Origin, one or two others), but what they’re really offering is broadband through an existing phone line (on which you pay line rental to someone else). Since the majority of those searching for broadband-only deals are doing so to avoid paying line rental, naming these packages ‘broadband-only’ is unhelpful to say the least.

3c) Do I want to bundle fibre broadband with a TV package?

If so, then how serious are you about TV in your household? Only five providers in the UK offer TV packages of any note: Sky, Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk and Plusnet, and only two of those are really worth saying more than a few words about. BT TV, TalkTalk TV and Plusnet TV offer Freeview channels through a box supplied with your broadband and TV deal. BT offers BT Sport in addition – if you like football, this should be a consideration. Other than that, there’s nothing to say.

If you’re serious about TV, it’s really a two-horse race. Sky is the unquestionable king with over 440 channels available, tens of thousands of hours of on-demand content and the ability to add on Sky Sports, Sky Movies (now called Sky Cinema for reasons we can’t fathom) and BT Sport (for the total football experience). Virgin comes second with a still-very-decent 220-plus channels and the ability to add on movies, sports and so on.

3c) Do I want to get a cut-priced mobile SIM for me or even for the entire family?

You’ll be amazed just how much money you can save by opting for mobile sims from your broadband (and/or TV) provider. If you want SIMs this also narrows things down, since only BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk offer them, and BT doesn’t offer free calls between one BT Mobile phone and another, so you can strike them off the list immediately.

Virgin Media (Virgin Mobile) and TalkTalk (TalkTalk mobile, not to be confused with Talkmobile) both offer cheap SIM deals to their broadband and TV customers along with free calling between customers – called ‘network to network calling’ for reasons that make no sense.

Further, if you care about TV you can pretty much discount TalkTalk as its TV offering is distinctly sub-par.

Recap of services by provider

The following chart provides an overview of who provides what – everything covered in this whole preceding section. If you got lost in the complexity of it all or just couldn’t be bothered to read the whole thing, this should help you find your focus. Free network to network calls are, counterintuitively to how they sound, free calling between phones on the same* network

You should by now have enough information to choose a provider, have a good idea of the speed you’re aiming for and know which additional services, if any, you intend to take along with it. Moving on, let’s take a look at each of the major providers in more detail…

BT Infinity 1 & 2 fibre broadband packages

BT Infinity is probably the best-known fibre brand in the UK. The ‘Infinity’ tag refers specifically to BT’s fibre packages, and comes in two flavours: Infinity 1 and Infinity 2. Infinity 1 is the fastest of all the entry-level fibre packages widely available in the UK, clocking in at a respectable 52Mbps – only 2Mbps faster than Virgin Media’s 50Mbps package, but there you go.

Since BT upgraded the speed of Infinity 1 from 38Mbps to 52Mbps back in April of 2016, BT Infinity 2 has been somewhat less able to distinguish itself as the choice for heavy users and speed freaks. Clocking in at 76Mbps, most would find few situations in which the difference between this speed and the 52Mbps offer by BT Infinity 1 is particularly noticeable, which before Infinity 1 speed upgrade was not the case.

Pros

  • At 52Mbps, Infinity 1 is the UK’s fastest entry-level fibre offering
  • The new BT Smart Hub is the best router in the UK, period
  • All BT Infinity packages come with BT TV and BT Sport for free
  • Available to over 80% of UK homes
  • Nationwide access to millions of BT wi-fi hotspots

Cons

  • Infinity 2’s 76Mbps still a long way off Virgin Media’s top (200Mb) offering
  • BT TV is fairly basic compared to Virgin TV and light years short of Sky

Compare BT Infinity

Virgin Media fibre broadband packages

Virgin Media offers by far the fastest download speeds of any provider in the UK. Its tops speed of 200Mb is getting on for three times faster than the top speed offered by any of its rivals. It goes without saying, then, that if you believe you have sufficient reason to put a strong focus on download speed above all else, you should consider Virgin first. That is, if you can get it…

The greatest barrier to entry with Virgin Media broadband is undoubtedly its availability. It’s available to around 50% of UK households. Virgin Media is working tirelessly to extend its reach, but building your own network – rather than piggybacking someone else’s as is the case with all other providers – is slow work.

Virgin Media broadband is currently offered at three speeds: A very capable 50Mbps, an ‘overkill in most cases’ 100Mbps, and a frankly insane 200Mbps, which we would challenge anyone to legitimately justify. However, we will add that Virgin’s 200Mbps service just isn’t that expensive, so why not?

Pros

  • Virgin’s top speed is almost three times faster than its nearest rival
  • Virgin’s SuperHub router is one of the best offered by any provider
  • Virgin offers decent TV options should you want to bundle up
  • You’re far more likely to get the advertised speed than with any other provider
  • Virgin Media is the only UK provider to offer true broadband-only (no phone line)

Cons

  • Only half of UK households can get it
  • Virgin’s top upload speed (12Mbps) is significantly slower than BT’s (19Mbps)

Compare Virgin broadband

Sky fibre broadband packages

Since Sky Fibre operates on the BT Openreach network, you’d think its offering would be identical to BT’s. At the time of writing, however, you’d be wrong. Despite upgrading its basic fibre speed from 38Mbps to 52Mbps, BT has not extended the privilege to other providers who use its network. Hence, the speed of basic Sky Fibre is still 38Mbps.

What’s more, Sky’s attitude to customers wishing to take up its top speed of 76Mbps – called ‘Sky Fibre Pro’ – is unusual to say the least. You cannot currently get Sky Fibre Pro online – you’ll have to call Sky and speak to them on the phone (0800 840 5394). Our guess is – and it is a guess, since Sky has not let on its reasoning here – that Sky is keen to avoid overloading certain areas – and therefore certain equipment – with too many top-tier connections. If you think about it, what with Sky being primarily a TV provider, it’s far more in Sky’s interests to have more customers who also subscribe to TV and phone than it is to have fewer customers hogging the local infrastructure and preventing new customers from signing up.

The biggest sell with Sky Fibre is not the broadband service itself – though it’s perfectly decent – but Sky’s TV offering, which when bundled offers the best TV-oriented broadband solution on the UK market.

Pros

  • Sky TV is so good it remains the best reason to get Sky broadband
  • Excellent parental control options in the form of Sky Shield
  • Most reliable broadband in the UK (by a very narrow sliver) according to Ofcom
  • Available to over 80% of UK households
  • Almost always available on special offer, meaning it’s usually very cheap

Cons

  • Sky’s router (except Sky Q Hub) is technologically miles behind its competitors
  • Included call package is pay-as-you-go unless you upgrade at checkout

Compare Sky fibre broadband

Fibre broadband packages from TalkTalk

Similarly to BT and Sky, TalkTalk offers fibre broadband in two flavours (38Mbps and and 76Mbps) and, like Sky, does not offer its top speed for sale online. Unlike Sky, however, TalkTalk won’t even allow you to have 76Mbps if you call them. Instead, you’ll have to go through a rather bizarre little dance, first signing up to the 38Mbps package, then, once it’s up and running, applying for a speed upgrade. Weird, huh?

TalkTalk packages are sometimes cheaper than those of its rivals. ‘Budget’ is TalkTalk’s key watchword, something amply demonstrated by its worst-in-class router and shady customer service record. In case you didn’t hear or have forgotten, TalkTalk was also at the centre of one of the worst personal data breaches of the last several years at the end of 2015. We struggle to recommend TalkTalk to anyone, for anything. You have been warned.

Pros

  • Arguably cheap compared to the other three ‘big’ UK providers (BT, Sky, Virgin)

Cons

  • Worst router of the big four providers
  • Worst customer service record of all UK providers
  • Worst TV offering of big four providers
  • Inadequate security around customers’ personal information led to multiple data breaches in 2015

Compare TalkTalk fibre broadband

Plusnet fibre broadband packages

Though offering nothing approaching Sky or Virgin’s dapper TV and broadband bundles, nor anything of particular note that’s exclusive to the service such as BT’s national network of wi-fi hotspots, Plusnet has, however, carved itself a different kind of niche. Plusnet offers the best customer experience – something amply demonstrated not only by the endless string of customer service awards the provider continues to win, but also in our own customer experience research.

Indeed, when we last ran our annual broadband provider awards toward the end of 2015, Plusnet scooped no few than five of them, including top gong ‘Best Broadband Provider’. Indeed, if it’s broadband you’re after, and you don’t need the super-speedy insanity of Virgin broadband, and you don’t need a TV package to end all TV packages such as those offered by Sky, Plusnet must come as our number one recommendation.

Plusnet also offers its own basic Freeview TV service (similar to BT and TalkTalk’s), and has easily the most flexible inclusive calling packages of any provider in the industry.

Pros

  • Highest-rated (by their customers) of any widely available UK broadband provider
  • Won no less than five Cable.co.uk excellence awards last year
  • Plusnet offers the UK’s most flexible inclusive calls packages

Cons

  • Some traffic management (but it likely won’t affect you)

Compare Plusnet fibre broadband

What is fibre optic broadband?

If you typed something approaching ‘get me a fibre broadband deal’ in a search engine to get here, the question ‘What is fibre optic broadband?’ is somewhat paradoxical. That is to say, in order to get here you’d have to know what it is, so why would you then need to be told?

Well, hold onto your bootstraps because we promise you: In this shortish section there will be things you don’t know. We’ll try to keep things relevant to the act of finding a broadband deal, comparing both the technology and pricing to non-fibre ADSL broadband. You never know – you may even find you don’t need fibre at all.

How does ADSL (copper, non-fibre) broadband work?

We’ve had copper phone lines running via telegraph poles and through underground ducting since 1878. Copper’s great for carrying a voice signal because the human brain is terrifically good at filtering meaning even in the face of horrible white noise or interference. Machines, though – machines need that signal to be clean to make head or tail of it.

ADSL broadband – the sort you see advertised at ‘up to’ 17Mbps – arrives through your telephone line using that old copper infrastructure. Without getting too technical, the longer the line (the further you are from the cabinet) the more the signal degrades. Data is sent through these wires on multiple concurrent frequencies, and the number of frequencies that can make it cleanly through reduces over distance – the frequency ‘bandwidth’ narrows. And that’s why we need fibre. We need to fundamentally change the material the cabling is made from in order to avoid these distance problems.

How does fibre optic broadband work?

Fibre optic broadband, by contrast, runs along fibre optic cabling. Fibre optic cabling consists of long, thin strands of glass through which light can travel, even around corners. These are generally wrapped in a sleeve that’s mirrored on the inside to prevent loss of said light.

There is no degradation of light the same way there is with electrical impulses sent over copper. Theoretically, you could have a fibre cable running from here to Pluto and still get superfast internet there – albeit, being limited by the speed of light, a rather slow response time of around five hours (the time it takes light to travel from Earth to Pluto).

All widely available fibre broadband in the UK is not 100% fibre. BT’s Openreach network is fibre up to your local cabinet, then relies on the old copper bi-wire to reach your house, sometimes through underground ducting, sometimes via overhead telegraph poles. This type of fibre is often referred to as ‘FTTC’ – panic not, it just stands for ‘Fibre To The Cabinet’. Easy, huh?

Virgin Media’s fibre is also FTTC, but does not suffer to the same extent as Openreach when it comes to slowdown over distance. That’s because the cabling Virgin Media uses is that which it inherited from the already-established cable TV networks formerly owned by NTL, Telewest and others.

Since they were designed to carry a TV signal originally, the integrity of this signal was paramount. You wouldn’t want your customers receiving snowy, poor-quality TV images after all. So the cabling is better, for one, but also signal boosting over distance is built in at regular intervals. This means broadband signals do not degrade to the same extent. You wouldn’t be able to kit Pluto out with broadband using this method, but it’s better, and fully explains how Virgin Media is able to offer speeds nearly three times that of providers who operate on Openreach.

The other type of fibre – available from only a small clutch of niche providers to a small clutch of households – is called FTTP, or Fibre To The Premises. This is when – you guessed it – the fibre cable runs all the way to your home. It is offered by providers such as Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and a number of speciality rural providers like B4RN. Just to be clear: You almost certainly cannot get it.

BT announced in Spring of 2016 it has plans to roll out FTTP fibre to millions of homes over the coming years, but don’t hold your breath.

Frequently asked questions

You’ll find everything you need to know in order to choose the fibre broadband deal that’s right for you in the main section ‘How to choose a fibre broadband deal’ above. However, there may be one or two specific questions left over. That’s what this section is for.

We’re happy to answer literally anything (about fibre broadband), so if you have a burning question we haven’t covered, do let us know at info@cable.co.uk.

Do I need a new line for fibre broadband?

No. Any provider operating on the BT Openreach network (that’s everyone except Virgin Media) will provide your broadband via the phone line already coming into your house. In the case of Virgin Media, if Virgin equipment is not already installed at your home, the engineer will have to drill a hole through your external wall and into the room you wish to keep your router.

How long does fibre broadband take to install?

Most providers will have you up and running in two weeks. This can be shorter if, say, you’re signing up with Virgin Media and you already have a Virgin Media line coming into your house, or longer if your home is located somewhere which introduces particular geographical difficulties.

Will I need a new router?

If you’re upgrading to fibre from standard broadband then yes, you almost certainly will. You shouldn’t worry about it, however. All UK providers provide you with a new router suited specifically to your package when you sign up.

What speed should I expect to actually get?

The speed you get will be determined by three factors: The speed you choose, your distance from your local broadband cabinet and which provider you go with. More Virgin Media customers get the speed they pay for because the infrastructure is superior. If you’re signing up with a provider on BT’s Openreach network (anyone except Virgin) we can give you a rough idea of what sort of speed you’ll be getting when you enter your postcode and phone number (at the top of this page).

What are FTTC and FTTH and what’s the difference?

FTTC is when the fibre cabling of the network only goes as far as the cabinet on the street, but not all the way to your home. FTTC stands for ‘Fibre To The Cabinet’. FTTC can suffer from slowdown over distance, with those living in excess of 800 metres from the cabinet and beyond experiencing severely reduced broadband speeds.

FTTH stands for Fibre To The Home, and describes the unusual – in the UK – situation in which the fibre cable runs all the way to your home. Speed on FTTH does not reduce over distance, and the theoretical top speeds are many multiples higher.

How many Mbps is fibre optic?

How long is a piece of string? Fibre broadband is always faster than ADSL (standard broadband), but the number of megabits you get are primarily defined by which package you ultimately choose to take out. Read the main section of this page, entitled ‘How to choose a fibre broadband deal’, for advice on what speed is best for you.

Will fibre broadband improve streaming and prevent buffering?

Probably. It depends where you live. If you’re going to get your broadband from any Openreach provider (every provider except Virgin Media) and you live more than 800 metres from your nearest cabinet, opting for fibre may not improve your speed by very much. As a general rule, though, fibre all but guarantees smooth streaming.

I can’t get fibre, when will it be available in my area?

If you can’t currently get fibre where you live, you can register your interest on Virgin Media’s website, or contact BT to get an idea of when and if it will arrive. Sadly, one can feel rather powerless when it comes to getting superfast broadband. It is, by definition, totally in someone else’s hands. We can offer this advice, however: It’s always better to get the best non-fibre package you can and upgrade when you can than it is to wait it out.

What fibre speed should I get for watching 4K TV?

When thinking about streaming speeds, the best course is to take whatever the recommendation is and double it. The recommended speed for 4K UHD streaming is 25Mbps – double that, so aim for 50Mbps. The reason doubling is necessary is that recommended estimates tend to be based on the minimum needed in ideal conditions.

Streaming different things requires different bitrates – a person’s face in close-up (where not much is changing on-screen) might consumer 10Mbps in UHD, while a flock of butterflies taking off (where lots is changing) may require many times that.

Need help choosing a deal? Call our experts free on

0800 211 8144

We're open from 8am to 9pm everyday