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Can I get BT Infinity in my area?

Dan Howdle
Friday, January 15th 2016

BT Infinity is fast and has a carefully sculpted public image to get across both its speed and usefulness. But not everyone can receive it. BT's ongoing rollout still leaves parts of the country with nothing but slower, old-fashioned, copper infrastructure.

Here's everything you need to know whether you can receive it, and if BT Infinity fibre broadband isn’t currently available in your area, some alternative options you may wish to consider.

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BT Infinity 1 and BT Infinity 2 availability

BT Infinity is not available everywhere

Naturally, BT is on the (BT) Openreach network. Most other UK providers also share this network, and it is by far the most widespread, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can get it everywhere.

BT’s rollout of its fibre broadband service – BT Infinity – continues apace, working alongside the government to bring ‘superfast’ (variously 24Mbps or 30Mbps depending on who you ask) to 95% of UK homes by 2017. The remaining 5%, provided BT hits its target will not be reached by BT’s Openreach network, maybe not never, but unlikely in the next decade.

The ‘final 5%’ as they’re commonly referred to still constitutes 1.3m UK homes. If you’re one of them – and at this stage there is no way to be certain of that – you likely live in a tiny village or hamlet whose population is so small, it’s simply not economically worthwhile to extend BT Openreach’s fibre network your way.

BT Infinity is currently available to around 85% of UK households, so there is a very good chance you can get it. To be sure, just enter your postcode at the top of this page. Even if you can’t get it, we’ll present you with a list of available alternatives.

If you can’t get BT Infinity, you may still be able to get fibre broadband from Virgin Media

It’s not unheard of that some folks who can’t get BT Infinity do, in fact, have a Virgin Media cable running past their house. If fibre broadband is what you’re after and you can’t get BT Infinity, do consider Virgin Media’s fibre broadband offering instead.

Virgin Media’s fibre broadband speeds start at 50Mbps and go all the way up to 200Mbps – nearly three times faster than BT Infinity’s fastest speed. No one really needs broadband that fast, but if it’s a luxury you can afford, then why not? If you want to find out if you can get BT Infinity, Virgin Media broadband or any other broadband provider where you live, enter your postcode at the top of this page.

What is BT Infinity?

BT Infinity is fibre optic (superfast) broadband supplied by BT. There are two types of broadband supplied by BT in the UK. They are…

Standard BT broadband (also referred to as ADSL or copper broadband)

BT’s standard broadband – referred to by BT as the plain and rather non-descriptive ‘BT Broadband’ – is broadband delivered to homes throughout the UK entirely through our creaking old copper phone network. That’s why standard broadband is sometimes referred to as ‘copper’.

Here’s something fundamental to understanding the difference between copper broadband and fibre broadband. In the case of copper, the further the distance that data must be transmitted along the wires, the slower the speed available to the end user (that’s you) becomes. That’s because copper, though conductive, is electrically resistant. The more copper, the more resistance, the longer the wire, the slower the broadband.

Believe it or not fibre broadband shares this problem, only to a lesser extent. That’s because fibre broadband also arrives through copper wires, but only the bit the telecoms industry refers to as ‘the last mile’ – that is, that last bit between your home and the cabinet (that green thing you see standing on street corners).

BT Infinity broadband (also referred to as superfast or fibre optic)

As mentioned above, BT Infinity arrives at your property first through fibre optic cabling, then through the old copper phone lines across the ‘last mile’.

BT Infinity fibre broadband is at least twice as fast as its standard BT Broadband counterpart. Whether or not you need that extra speed really comes down to how you tend to use the internet. Those with large families, lots of devices and a tendency to stream a lot of high-definition (HD) TV and movie content will definitely want to consider BT Infinity fibre broadband.

Of course, BT Infinity comes in two flavours – 38Mb and 76Mb, or BT Infinity 1 and 2 as BT calls them. Which you choose, again, largely comes down to how many people there are in your household, how much and how often they use the internet, and what specific types of activity they undertake.

You can find a wealth of information to help you choose which speed is right for you further down this guide.

How does BT Infinity work?

BT Infinity is a nationwide network of fibre optic cables spanning the UK and currently reaching around 85% of UK homes. There is, however, a rather large footnote to this description.

BT Infinity, or any other fibre broadband deal offered by a provider who operates on BT’s Openreach network, still uses the old copper phone network to cover the distance between the cabinet on the street (those ugly green things) and your home.

Fibre optic cable is manufactured by heating and stretching out fine strands of glass. Glass will transmit light, and so the data itself is sent by switching this light on and off. A simple analogy would be Morse Code, but the speed at which these signals are sent down a fibre optic cable are beyond the comprehension of the average human. It’s fast. Really, really fast.

Peppering the Openreach network are telephone exchanges – usually the same buildings that have always housed the routing equipment for traditional voice calls. These act as hubs, distributing data to and from cabinets, the cabinets distributing data to and from your home.

When is BT Infinity coming to my area?

If you’re asking us this question then you’ve no doubt entered your postcode at the top of this page only to find you can’t, in actual fact, get BT Infinity where you live. We’re sorry about that, but do not fret. Depending on the reason why you wanted BT Infinity in the first place there are a number of alternatives you may consider as your next course of action…

If you’re getting a BT bundle that includes BT TV, you should…

Sign up to BT’s standard broadband instead. This way, you’ll still get BT TV. Bear in mind that 17Mbps – the standard speed afforded by non-fibre broadband across the UK – is plenty for most uses, including BT TV and BT Sport.

You should also pop along to BT’s own website. Its postcode checker will at least be able to tell you whether BT Infinity has any intention of ever coming to your area. If it turns out it is coming, even if that’s soon, you should immediately sign up to one of BT’s standard broadband deals. You can upgrade with no fuss as soon as BT Infinity arrives.

If you want BT Infinity because of a special, limited deal you’ve seen, you should…

Also sign up for standard BT Broadband. Chances are the same special offer you saw advertised for a BT Infinity broadband deal is also available in some form for standard BT Broadband. Ditto what we said above, too – standard broadband will likely do most of the things you need it to while you wait for BT Infinity to arrive.

If you aren’t yet sold on BT, and it appears you can get Virgin Media where you live, you should…

You want BT Infinity. That’s why you’re here, we get that. However, if you can get Virgin Media instead, it is a very, very good alternative. Virgin Media’s fibre broadband speeds are actually significantly faster than BT’s. Virgin Media also offers more comprehensive TV if you want to bundle your services, and if you go for Virgin Media’s TV XL (it’s biggest TV package) as part of your bundle, you’ll even get BT Sport thrown in absolutely free.

We’ll leave that with you. Well worth considering as an alternative if it’s available to you. Find out if it’s available by entering your postcode at the top of this page.

If you’re only willing to get BT Infinity and unwilling to choose an alternative in the meantime, you should…

Reconsider. Not everyone in the UK will get BT Infinity, even in the next twenty years or so. You’re going to need broadband of some kind prior to that, so it may already be time to bite the bullet and either buy a standard BT Broadband deal, or source your broadband from any of a number of other providers.

As ever, to find out which broadband providers, packages and deals are available right now, where you live, put your postcode into the box at the top of this page.

How long does BT Infinity 1 or 2 take to install and activate?

BT Infinity 1 and 2 activation period

Here’s what will happen after you place your order with BT…

    • You’ll agree a date with BT during the sign-up process – this activation date will be around five days from when you order
    • BT will almost immediately send out a welcome pack including router, instructions and two ADSL microfilters
    • In some cases an engineer will need to visit your home to set up your telephone line. There is now way to know whether you need one until BT has tested your line
    • On average, new customers can expect the whole process to take approximately 10 days
    • Existing BT Broadband customers can expect that time to be shorter, but how much shorter will depend on whether or not you need an engineer visit

BT Infinity 1 and 2 installation time

This will depend on whether or not you need an engineer visit, which in turn will depend on the health of your telephone line.

You won’t know if you need an engineer to install your BT Infinity broadband until you sign up. Fret not, it’s no big deal and he or she will only take an hour or so to do what they need to do. You will need to be home, though, and BT will only be able to specify morning or afternoon.

If you don’t need an engineer, then once your BT Infinity 1 or 2 has been activated, it’ll only take as long to install as it takes you to plug the BT Home Hub into the wall and connect some devices to it.

Limited versus unlimited BT Infinity packages

BT Infinity 1 (38Mb) with a 40GB data limit

Rather like Sky’s limited fibre broadband deal, BT’s limited Infinity 1 packages confuse the hell out of us. That’s because plumping for fibre sort of constitutes an admission that you tend to use the internet quite a lot, and for a lot of moderately intensive tasks.

Would be odd, then, wouldn’t it, to pick a package that has a usage limit? We think so. BT’s Infinity 1 40GB usage limit deals at least have something on Sky’s 20GB limited fibre offering. The ceiling is higher.

Nevertheless, if you’re after a BT Infinity fibre deal of any sort, a limited package is probably not the wisest of choices. Most folks should plump for one of the unlimited BT Infinity deals instead.

BT Infinity 1 (38Mb) unlimited fibre broadband

If you’re after fibre and there’s a few of you in the house, and they have a few devices and you like to stream or download movies and TV, unlimited BT Infinity 1 will be enough for you. BT Infinity 2 is twice as fast, certainly, but unless you’re able to think of a solid example of a time during the day when internet usage in your household is through the roof – and we mean four or five of you all streaming HD movies at the same time – BT Infinity 1 will be enough.

Besides, if you get BT Infinity 1 and it turns out you need BT Infinity 2, upgrading is easy and almost instantaneous. Downgrading on the other hand? Well, BT is going to make that rather tricky for you.

BT Infinity 2 (76Mb) unlimited fibre broadband

This is the go-to choice for very large households chock with people who have a lot of different devices. 76Mbps will hold up under almost any amount of stress a busy household could throw at it. It is overkill for most single, two or three-person households, however.

BT Infinity 1 and 2 line rental

If you want BT Infinity 1 or 2, you must pay line rental

As explained in the section ‘What is BT Infinity?’ near the top of this page, BT Infinity, though called fibre optic broadband, actually covers the distance between the and your home with old-fashioned copper cable – your phone line.

That means it doesn’t matter whether you opt for BT Infinity 1, BT Infinity 2 or standard BT Broadband, and it doesn’t matter whether you actually want a land line or not, you’re going to have to pay line rental. There’s simply no way around it. That creaking old copper network needs some serious upkeep, and your line rental is needed to pay for it.

BT does not offer broadband-only deals

Broadband-only is the term used to describe any broadband deal for which you don’t pay line rental to your broadband provider. Broadband-only deals come in two distinct flavours. They are…

    • Broadband without a phone line from a provider that has its own network (Virgin Media), or…
    • Broadband without a phone line that still requires you get your phone line from someone else

No UK broadband-only provider will help you to avoid paying line rental

Both in the case of Virgin Media and any other providers advertising broadband-only deals, you’re not going to be able to avoid paying line rental, whether they actually call it that or not.

Virgin Media has its own network, so in theory it should be able to supply you with a truly broadband-only deal. And Virgin Media does, but there’s a catch. Its broadband-only deals cost, ballpark, the same as a broadband deal that includes a phone line and line rental. Yes, you read that correctly – Virgin Media makes you pay anyway, it just hikes up the price of the deal instead of separating it out and calling it line rental.

Then there are the broadband-only deals from the likes of Plusnet, Origin Broadband and a number of others. These aren’t really broadband-only either. Not in the true sense, since you still need a phone line, it’s just that that phone line doesn’t necessarily have to be supplied by Plusnet, Origin or whoever. So you’ll still pay line rental. There really is no way out of it.

BT Infinity 1 (38Mb) or BT Infinity 2 (76Mb) – How to choose which speed is right for you

BT Infinity fibre broadband actually comes in three flavours, not just the two you see most prominently advertised. There is BT Infinity 1, which clocks in at a speed of 38Mbps, BT Infinity 2, which clocks in at 76Mbps, and – unbeknownst to most – there is BT Infinity 3, clocking in at a staggering 300Mbps.

The reason you probably haven’t heard of the latter is because BT Infinity 3 is sort of an experiment, really. As such, it’s barely available anywhere, so we’ve elected not to talk about it in a serious or in-depth way. You almost certainly can’t get it, so why bother?

To decide whether or not you should get BT Infinity 1 or BT Infinity 2, you should adopt one of the following strategies…

Strategy number one: Get the 76Mb BT Infinity 2 just in case you need it

This really isn’t a good option. Why are we suggesting it, then? Well, because it is an option. You’ll almost certainly be happy with your broadband connection, but you’ll also never know whether you could have made do with half the speed and paid a little less.

That’s why this option is good for those who really can’t be bothered to work out what speed they need and have enough money they don’t really care about the additional monthly cost.

Strategy number two: Get 38Mb BT Infinity 1 and upgrade if you have to

Here’s something: upgrading is really, really easy. BT will love you for upgrading. Downgrading? Not so much. The best thing about this strategy is you can test whether a 38Mb BT Infinity 1 connection is enough for you. If it is, great! If not, it only takes a few minutes on BT’s website or a quick phone call and BT will literally double your speed on the spot.

Strategy number three: Try to figure out exactly what your household uses

The best strategy, of course, is knowing which package will suit your household and buying accordingly. But there’s no simple way to work this out, and if you ask just about any broadband provider out there, they will almost universally try to convince you you need the fastest package no matter what you tell them – of course they would.

A good rule of thumb is to allow 10Mb for each household member – that’s a big enough ceiling that even if everyone is streaming in HD at the same time, there’s plenty to go around. Strategy two still remains our favourite, though – it’s totally foolproof.

BT Infinity 1 and 2 upload speeds Q&A

What is an upload speed?

Upload speeds are the opposite of download speeds. Downloads put things onto your device, upload send things from your device to somewhere else. Lots of different applications require upload bandwidth these days.

For example Skype needs you to send video as well as receive it, if you use YouTube of stream your gaming sessions via Twitch, you’ll need a substantial chunk of upload, and the more you have the easier it’ll be to keep your files in ‘the cloud’.

Why are BT Infinity’s upload speeds smaller than their download speeds?

In short, it’s born of necessity. Though, increasingly, more and more day-to-day uses require upload of some sort, those needs are pretty minuscule when averaged out against the need to download things.

BT Infinity is no different from any other UK broadband package in this regard. It offers upload speeds of 10Mbps with its BT Infinity 1 38Mb packages and 19Mbps with it BT Infinity 2 76Mb packages. Although smaller than the download speeds, these speeds are respectable. Faster than Virgin Media’s offerings, in fact, which max out at 12Mbps and feature some traffic management.

Do I need a fast upload speed?

Chances are you don’t. Upload speeds are primarily of concern to people who have a home office and share a remote server, broadcast live video over Twitch or use the cloud to store practically all of their personal data. If you don’t do any of these things you shouldn’t even concern yourself with the question.

As we say, BT Infinity 1 and BT Infinity 2 both provide plenty of wiggle room when it comes to upload speed, so you really should consider it a non-problem.

BT Infinity 1 and 2’s router – Is the BT Home Hub any good?

In short, the BT Home Hub 5 – that’s the router BT supplies with any BT Infinity 1 or Infinity 2 broadband deal – is one of the best in the business. It conforms to the latest standards, meaning it’s fast, is dual-band, meaning it’s rangy and capacious, and it’s not exactly ugly either.

What we like about the BT Home Hub 5 router

    • Small, easy to hide, not ugly
    • Dual-band, fantastic range
    • Future-proofed for all the latest standards

What we don’t like about the BT Home Hub 5 router

    • Not much

That may seem like a bit of a cop-out, but no, we’ll defend that by saying that the BT Home Hub 5 really is a terrific router. Five stars through and through.

Bundling BT Infinity 1 or 2 with BT TV

It’s not Sky by a long stretch, but

We’re not going to excessively sing the praises of BT TV. BT is relatively new to the TV market, and it shows. Compared to Virgin Media, and especially compared to Sky, it finds itself lacking.

However, since BT TV is free with all BT Infinity 1 and BT Infinity 2 packages, you really can’t – and shouldn’t – complain. Well, what BT calls the ‘Starter’ is at least. It’ll provide you with up to 80 freeview channels (BBC, C4, ITV and so on, but also a lot of radio stations), as well as access to BBC iPlayer and AMC – the premium American channel that screens original Series like The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Not bad for nothing.

You’ll also get BT Sport thrown in, which includes all four BT Sport Channels – BT Sport 1 and 2, BT Sport ESPN and BT Sport Europe. It doesn’t, however, include BT’s new UHD 4K resolution sports channel BT Sport Ultra HD.

For a little extra cash, you can upgrade your BT TV package to something far, far better

If you want a more comprehensive TV solution to go with your BT Infinity broadband deal, there are two upgrade options available to you. BT TV’s Entertainment Plus and Total Entertainment packages.

The former adds 28 premium channels to the mix and a set-top box that’ll record up to 300 hours of telly, the latter will record 600 hours, adds 50 premium channels (including 13 in HD and nine kids channels) and will allow you to watch BT Sport Ultra HD, provided you own a 4K TV to watch it on.

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