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Fibre broadband deals explained

Fibre-optic broadband is the most popular type of broadband connection for UK customers, offering much faster speeds and a more reliable connection than the broadband that runs on old-fashioned copper telephone lines. But what is fibre broadband, and how does it differ from other types of broadband?

From internet speed, to availability in your area, to monthly price, to enticing add-ons, here's everything you need to know before you compare fibre broadband deals.

Fibre broadband prices starting from:







Onestreamfrom £19.95
Hyperopticfrom £19.99
POP Telecomfrom £20.50
Originfrom £20.99
Vodafone fibrefrom £21.95
TalkTalkfrom £22

What's the difference between fibre broadband and copper broadband?

The main difference between standard ADSL broadband and fibre broadband is the internet speed it provides. Fibre-optic cables transmit much more data in a given time period than the older, copper-based phone lines used for ADSL broadband.

Most ADSL broadband services will offer average download speeds of around 10Mbps — though due to the dated infrastructure and other variables it can be quite inconsistent.

Whether it's the particular line you're connected to, your distance from the broadband exchange, how far you are from your street cabinet or how many people in your neigbourhood are using the internet all at once, many factors can have an effect on the ADSL speed you receive. So in reality, you could receive anything from around 16Mbps to less than 1Mbps, depending on your circumstances.

Most fibre broadband services, on the other hand, start at around 36Mbps — some three times faster. They also use more robust technology that allows for a more consistent service that doesn't fluctuate in speed as much.

It's also worth noting that fibre packages at their lowest speeds are often the same price, sometimes even cheaper, than many ADSL prices nowadays — especially if you're currently out of your initial fixed-term contract.

There's a huge push for people to take up fibre from both the industry and the government right now, so we're likely to see fibre broadband become the most cost-effective option for almost everyone from now on.

Plus, its speeds don't just stop there. Fibre broadband deals are offered at a range of speeds up to around 1Gbps (that's 1000Mbps), depending on the type of fibre connection. That's about a hundred times faster than copper-based broadband, and it would future-proof your home for years to come.

We perceive it as 'faster' internet because it means downloads complete in a much quicker time, and webpages, images and videos load a lot sooner. But it also means the quality of what you do online significantly improves, because it allows for more detail in the things you watch and listen to. 4K video, for example, is made possible with superfast fibre speeds.

Do I need fibre broadband?

If you're in a small household of one or two people and you only use the internet for scrolling through social media, sending emails or watching the odd YouTube video, standard broadband should do the job — that is unless you can get fibre broadband for the same price.

It's definitely worth checking to see if fibre broadband is actually cheaper than your current connection before you decide what to get. You may find the extra investment worth it for the extra reliability fibre provides.

If you want to stream video regularly, play games online, download large files and programs, or you live in a household with three or more internet users, the speed advantage offered by fibre broadband is invaluable.

Take a look at these examples to see the broadband speed you need for each individual device while it's in use:

  • Social media: 1Mbps
  • Web browsing: 2Mbps
  • Standard definition Netflix streaming: 3Mbps
  • HD Netflix streaming: 5Mbps
  • 4K Netflix streaming: 25Mbps
  • Online gaming: 3-6Mbps
  • Cloud gaming (like Google Stadia): 35Mbps

Of course, different services will have their own requirements. But, the more internet you want to use at once, the more bandwidth you will need.

If you've got four people wanting to watch Netflix at the same time, you'll need to account for four times the minimum recommended speed for that activity. Otherwise you may have to put up with arguments over who gets to use the internet at what time.

How does fibre broadband work?

Fibre broadband gains its speed advantage from the way it delivers data. Standard ADSL broadband uses the same copper wires as your landline telephone, using separate electrical frequencies so both services can work at the same time.

However, fibre-optic broadband cables, which are made of plastic and glass, use pulsing beams of light (hence 'optic') to transmit the data at lightspeed.

Not only does that mean data travels significantly faster than copper, but it also won't slow down due to distance since the data is already moving at the fastest possible speed.

Types of fibre broadband

There are two main versions of fibre broadband. The most common is known as fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) — this only uses fibre-optic cables as far as your local street-level cabinet and then relies on copper phone lines to connect the last part of the journey to your home. It delivers what is known as 'superfast' speeds between 30-70Mbps.

Then there is full fibre, which is technically called fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP). As the name suggests, this does away with copper completely and runs fibre-optic cabling right from the exchange to your property.

Given that full fibre runs fibre-optic cables all the way to your home, it's capable of much faster speeds. They're capable of supplying 'ultrafast' connections (over 100Mbps) and even 'gigabit' internet speeds (around 1000Mbps), but it can be a lot more expensive as a result.

To learn more about how fibre broadband works, take a look at our detailed fibre broadband guide.

Compare fibre broadband deals on Uswitch.com in June 2021

PackageBroadband speedContract length
TalkTalk Unlimited Fibre 65, TalkTalk TV and Unlimited UK Calls67Mb average*18 months
Vodafone Superfast 263Mb average*24 months
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra & Phone Line66Mb average*18 months
Virgin Media M100 Ultrafast Fibre Broadband & Phone108Mb average*18 months
Virgin Media M200 Ultrafast Fibre Broadband & Phone213Mb average*18 months
Sky Superfast Broadband59Mb average*18 months
NOW Broadband: Super Fibre & Anytime Calls63Mb average*12 months
BT Fibre 2 Broadband67Mb average*24 months
Virgin Media M500 Ultrafast Fibre Broadband & Phone516Mb average*18 months
BT Fibre 1 Broadband50Mb average*24 months
More broadband deals

What’s the difference between superfast, ultrafast and gigabit broadband?

Superfast, ultrafast and gigabit may all sound like marketing buzzwords, but they actually have specific definitions referring to the speeds you're able to achieve.

A superfast connection means download speeds above 30Mbps. Ultrafast, according to most broadband providers, applies to speeds of 100Mbps and higher, although Ofcom defines it as above 300Mbps.

Gigabit broadband only refers to the very fastest connections — those of around 1Gbps or more — and can only be delivered full fibre, or FTTP connections.

While these are the official differences between speeds, you might often hear 'superfast' used to describe full fibre broadband in the media or elsewhere. So just watch out for that when you're looking for coverage in your area.

It's currently very rare for 1Gbps to actually be reached through Wi-Fi signal in the home, so you'll have to plug an ethernet cable into the device you're using to reach that level. However, a wireless connection can still offer you several hundred megabits per second, which for almost every household in the UK is still more than enough.

Wi-Fi routers will soon have the technical capability to support gigabit wireless speeds with the introduction of 'Wi-Fi 6' technology. So it won't be long before you can enjoy the fastest possible speeds without having to plug your device in.

Take a look at these examples to compare broadband download times:

One-hour standard TV programme

Broadband connectionBroadband speedDownload time
Standard11Mbps10m48s
Superfast36Mbps3m18s
Ultrafast108Mbps1m6s
Gigabit1Gbps7s

Two-hour HD movie

Broadband connectionBroadband speedDownload time
Standard11Mbps58m34s
Superfast36Mbps17m53s
Ultrafast108Mbps1m6s
Gigabit1Gbps38s

Large new-release PS4 or PS5 game

Broadband connectionBroadband speedDownload time
Standard11Mbps21h41m30s
Superfast36Mbps6h37m40s
Ultrafast108Mbps2h12m33s
Gigabit1Gbps14m18s

Can I get fibre broadband in my area?

The vast majority of homes in the UK are able to get fibre broadband from at least one supplier. According to figures from Ofcom, superfast FTTC broadband is available to over 95% of UK homes.

Most connections are delivered as FTTC via Openreach's networks. Meanwhile, the number of UK homes able to access full fibre (FTTP) stands at roughly 21%, though there are a variety of providers rolling out new networks over the coming months and years to rapidly increase this figure.

You can use our broadband postcode checker to find out what types of broadband are available in your area.

Why can't I get fibre broadband?

There are several reasons why some homes still can't get fibre broadband. One of the most common is the cost for networks to install the infrastructure, and this is a problem particularly in rural areas.

It's very expensive for providers to route cabling to remote locations, and as there won't be many users, fibre broadband providers may not deem it economically viable to invest so much money for a relatively small number of potential customers.

However, even if you live in a city or suburb, this is no guarantee of fibre broadband either. Some areas are so densely populated that there simply isn't room to add additional capacity for fibre connections, and many purpose-built flats and apartment blocks are also poorly served because of the way they are wired internally.

However, some full fibre providers like Hyperoptic are working hard to specifically improve broadband connections for apartment blocks in particular.

If you can't get fibre, there are still some speedy options available in the form of mobile broadband. 4G speeds can often reach around 24Mbps, which is still more than double the average speed of ADSL broadband, and 5G broadband (while its coverage is currently quite low) can even offer ultrafast speeds of up to 300Mbps.

Take a look at our latest mobile broadband deals to see if you could still get fast broadband speeds without a fixed-line connection.

The government has recently launched a full fibre rollout programme called Project Gigabit, in order to get 1Gbps speeds to the hardest-to-reach rural homes in the country. See the first locations it plans to fund here.

Which broadband providers offer fibre broadband?

Almost all broadband providers in the UK offer fibre broadband, with most of them using Openreach's network. However there are some full fibre providers that use their own infrastructure to deliver ultrafast and gigabit services.

Essentially, it pays to compare fibre broadband deals to ensure you're getting the best broadband package.

BT is the UK's most popular provider of fibre broadband services, though Sky and TalkTalk are also very popular nationwide. Virgin Media, the other member of the UK's 'Big Four' broadband providers, runs its own fibre-based cable network. It supplies faster speeds but has more limited availability, at around 52% of premises.

Here are some of the fibre broadband providers you can compare deals with today.

  • BT
  • TalkTalk
  • Sky
  • Virgin Media
  • Plusnet
  • Direct Save Telecom
  • Vodafone
  • John Lewis
  • EE
  • Hyperoptic
  • SSE
  • Relish
  • Origin
  • NOW Broadband
  • First Utility
  • Onestream
  • Shell Energy
  • POP Telecom

Can I get fibre without phone line rental?

If fibre-optic broadband is delivered to your home via copper cabling as part of an FTTC network, then you will still need a working phone line to deliver it. However, if you have access to Virgin Media's cable broadband or full fibre connections available, you can do away with this requirement.

See our guide on how you can get fibre broadband without a phone line.

Can I get fibre broadband only deals?

Bundling fibre broadband with TV is very popular because the faster broadband speeds make for smoother TV and streaming connections. A number of major broadband providers often bundle fibre and TV together because of this.

If you don't need TV, however, it's easy to find fibre broadband-only deals, too. You can compare these deals on our broadband only deals page and clicking the 'fibre broadband' filter.

What is fibre broadband?

Fibre broadband uses fibre-optic cables to connect your home, which carry data via beams of light. These cables offer greater speeds over longer distances, providing faster and more reliable performance than older, copper-based ADSL lines.

How affordable is fibre?

Fibre broadband in the UK is very affordable, with the cheapest deals often only a few pounds per month more expensive than much slower standard broadband. Compare fibre packages and you're sure to find a deal that suits your price range.

What is full fibre?

Most fibre connections only use these cables as far as the street-level cabinet, with copper connecting the last stretch to the home. Full fibre, however, uses fibre all the way to a customer's front door, offering far higher speeds than other fibre connections.

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