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Is 38Mb fibre broadband fast enough?

By Richard Murphy
Thursday, March 30th 2017

A 38Mb download speed is the lowest fibre speed offered by most broadband providers, except Virgin (50Mb) and BT (52Mb).

For the vast majority of people, 38Mb is ample, enabling you to stream, surf, shop and email on several devices without any problem. However, if you're still not sure, you can read all the details below. In the meantime, if you're looking for a 38Mb package, we suggest you take a look at these:

Most popular fibre deals

  • TalkTalk Faster Fibre 38Mb

    TalkTalk
    • Up to 38Mb download speed
    • Truly unlimited monthly usage
    • Pay as you go calls
    Cable.co.uk exclusive - £70 reward, Fixed price for the contract length & No fibre setup fee
    £25
    Zero set-up cost includes line rental See Deal
  • Sky Fibre Broadband

    Sky
    • Up to 38Mb download speed
    • 25GB monthly usage
    • Pay as you go calls
    Free £50 reward card
    £20
    £59.95 set-up cost includes line rental See Deal
  • BT Unlimited Infinity 1 + Calls

    BT
    • Up to 52Mb download speed
    • Truly unlimited monthly usage
    • Free weekend calls
    Offer ends 22nd February, Free activation worth £50 & Free BT Sport for 18 months
    £29 .99
    £9.99 set-up cost includes line rental See Deal

What you can do with 38Mb fibre broadband

Browse the internet

A 38Mb internet connection will make browsing the internet an uninterrupted joy. Web pages will open instantly regardless of what’s on them, and online audio and video sites like YouTube will play in the highest possible quality setting.

Keep up with social media

Social media isn’t particularly bandwidth intensive, so those who need their finger constantly on the social pulse will be more than accommodated by 38Mb. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will load instantly and play videos and audio clips without interference.

Send and receive emails

Sending emails without attachments will be instantaneous. Most email clients will have a limit for the size of a file you can send, and this limit is usually well below what 38Mb can comfortably send, so you’re well covered.

Internet banking

Trying to balance the books and keep an eye on your accounts on a sketchy and slow internet connection can make you feel rather insecure, which is not ideal. A 38Mb connection will mean your screen will load instantly so you know your information is safe.

Stream HD TV, HD movies and music

If you use streaming software like Netflix, the BBC iPlayer or Spotify getting a 38Mb connection will mean you can watch films and TV or listen to music on the highest quality setting without interruption.

No more enforced tea breaks while the next episode of Dr Who buffers, and those marathon Game of Thrones sessions just got more streamlined. Here’s what you could be enjoying…

Netflix

With a 38Mb internet connection you can watch Netflix on all its quality settings, including the Ultra HD setting. Ultra HD, or 4K as it’s known in some parts, is a step up from HD and you’ll need a TV capable of viewing the picture.

Netflix suggests a connection of 25Mb and above to watch in this quality, so 38Mb is more than enough.

BBC iPlayer

Things aren’t quite as demanding with the BBC iPlayer. The BBC recommends a minimum of 2.8Mb to watch its content in the highest possible quality. A 38Mb connection can quite comfortably accommodate this.

Now TV

Now TV recommends at least a 2.5Mb connection to watch, so you’ll be well catered for with 38Mb. We won't talk about the fact Now TV only delivers images in standard definition (or 720p on Apple TV). The less said about that, the better.

Amazon Prime Instant Video

Those with an Amazon Prime Instant Video account will be well aware that Amazon suggests you need a 900Kb broadband connection to watch in standard definition, and a 3.5Mb connection to watch in high definition.

They will also be aware that a 38Mb connection will be more than sufficient to watch at both qualities.

Spotify

Streaming music is less intensive than streaming HD video, so listening to Spotify barely scrapes the sides of a 38Mb connection. It suggests that you have a 320Kb to listen in the highest quality, which is no problem with 38Mb fibre optic.

Pandora

Pandora requires 300Kb to stream its content in the best possible audio quality. Like Spotify, 38Mb is more than enough.

Play games online

Playing fast-paced multiplayer games

Making sure you’ve got a solid and reliable upload speed is the key to online gaming supremacy. When you choose your 38Mb broadband, check to see what your upload speed will be.

What you’re really looking for is something stable and solid so your connection doesn’t skip and stutter when you’re on the cusp of a monumental victory.

There isn’t a set upload limit for 38Mb connections, they can be as low as 2Mb or as high as 10Mb. Even so, a 2Mb connection should be solid enough to keep you at the top of the leader board (if you’re any good at online games of course).

Downloading new games

We’ve all been there. You’re trying to download a brand new triple-A game only to watch the download bar crawl across the screen with utter disregard of your burning desire to play. You can download a game with any speed broadband, but the faster the connection, the sooner you can jump into the action.

The majority of new games are about 40GB, which means it should take around two and a half hours with a 38Mb connection. That's about three hours faster than if you downloaded it on a standard 17Mb broadband connection.

Setting up a gaming server

If you want to set up a server to play games like Minecraft or Counter Strike, your upload speed determines how many people you can host.

Look for the 38Mb broadband deals with the highest upload speed for the best results, but even if you’ve got a relatively slow upload speed, like 2Mb, you’ll still be able to host about 10 people on Minecraft.

Connect 6-10 devices without problems

This really depends on what you’re doing with your devices, but a 38Mb connection should be able to support a number of phones, tablets, TVs and consoles at the same time quite comfortably (provided your router's up to snuff), if there’s nothing too download intensive going on.

The line is crossed when somebody starts streaming a film in Ultra HD and downloads a new videogame and watches HD videos on YouTube and conducts an eight-way HD video conference over Skype, all at the same time.

This will both slow down your connection and make you the least popular person in the house.

Downloading apps

Connecting your phone or tablet to your broadband connection is a great way to preserve your data allowance, especially when it comes to downloading new apps, or updating current ones.

A 38Mb connection is more than enough to let you do this, on multiple devices, at the same time, while you do something else. Brilliant.

Establish a small office

With 38Mb you’re well past working from home, you can establish a decent sized office with this connection. This depends on what your business does, of course, but feasibly you could run a number of computers, transferring large files and sending emails all day long.

Using cloud computing services

Using cloud services like iCloud and Dropbox to share files with your colleagues and clients will impact more on your upload speed than download. The faster the upload, the sooner your files will be transferred.

Check your upload speed when you choose your package, but even with a relatively low upload, you’ll still be able to transfer files quite comfortably – certainly a lot more efficiently than on a standard 17Mb connection.

Use VoIP services

Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services like Skype, will require a good upload speed as well as a good download. Skype recommends an 8Mb download and 512Kb upload speed to make a video call on the highest quality setting, so a 38Mb connection has you well covered.

What you can’t do with 38Mb fibre broadband

Watch multiple UHD streams at the same time

With a recommended download speed of 25Mb, you wouldn’t be able to stream UHD films from Netflix on more than one 4K TV at the same time. But frankly, if you can afford more than one 4K TV, you can probably afford a faster broadband connection than 38Mb as well.

You can put a decent amount of strain on a 38Mb connection, but there’s a limit. The more you do online the slower your connection will become and, while you can do almost anything with a 38Mb connection, it’s when you start sharing it over too many people will it begin to bow under the weight.

Run a busy gaming server

Setting up a Minecraft server to let a handful of your friends play together is one thing. Setting up a server to get hundreds of people playing together is a different story, and it’s the upload speed that will let you down.

Upload may be an issue

There is no set limit on what upload speeds come with a 38Mb connection. Some providers are generous and give you 10Mb, some aren’t and give you 2Mb – it just depends on which provider you go with.

Run a large company server

While you might be able to run a small office with 38Mb, you probably won’t be able to run an entire company.

This comes back to how your connection will slow down when you add more and more devices to it. A company with 50 web-dependant employees is going to struggle with a 38Mb connection.

Final note: Speeds are usually slower than advertised

One major caveat that comes with getting a 38Mb fibre optic broadband connection is that the speed you get will probably not be exactly 38Mb. Broadband providers only have to provide that speed to 10% of customers to be allowed to advertise this speed, which means 90% probably can’t get anywhere close.

Shocking right?

Most providers will give you a predicted broadband speed before you buy a package. You can also check your current internet speed (both upload and download) with our speed checker.

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