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Fibre broadband explained

If you're searching for fast, reliable and affordable internet, your best bet will be to compare fibre broadband deals.

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 home 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-optic broadband deals.

Can I get fibre broadband in my area?

Fibre-optic broadband availability varies across the country, in large part depending on which type of fibre broadband you're after. There are many types of fibre broadband connections, and the type that you have determines the speeds you can expect.

Superfast fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband

The most widely available type of fibre is known as fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), which uses fibre-optic cables from your provider's broadband exchange to the green cabinets on your street.

The rest of the connection then relies on the same copper wires as ADSL, making it faster than a purely copper connection, but still slower than 'full fibre', or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband.

FTTC broadband is available to around 96% of UK premises, so there's a very good chance it'll be available to your home. It provides superfast broadband speeds between 30-70Mbps.

Full fibre broadband

Full fibre, also known as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband, uses fibre-optic cables for the entire connection from the provider directly into your home.

In the spring of 2022, full fibre was still the least-available option for fixed-line broadband in the UK, available to just 33% of homes across the country.

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

You can look for broadband in your area with our postcode checker to see what types of broadband are available to you.

Which are the best fibre broadband providers in the UK?

Almost all internet providers in the UK offer fibre broadband, and there's no one 'best' option. The best one for you entirely depends on what you need, whether it's a cheaper superfast fibre deal or an ultrafast broadband or gigabit connection.

Plus, each provider has a different reputation for customer service, bundle options, complaints handling and more. So you should make sure to choose one that delivers what you value the most.

Essentially, it pays to run a fibre broadband comparison to ensure you're getting the right fibre-optic broadband package for your household.

Here are some of the fibre broadband you can compare deals with today. Keep in mind that many of these brands also supply full fibre broadband connections.

Openreach fibre broadband

Openreach, formerly called BT Openreach but still owned by BT Group, is by far the largest broadband network in the UK.

The majority of homes rely on the Openreach network, as it is the only supplier of copper-based ADSL and fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband — both of which take up the vast majority of connections in the country.

It also has a growing full fibre (or FTTP) network where certain customers can access ultrafast BT deals, but there is a lot more competition amongst other providers for this type of connection than there is for the slower, more widely-available types.

Have a look at our BT fibre checker to see if the provider has superfast or ultrafast deals in your area.

Virgin Media availability

Virgin Media's cable broadband is different from fibre in a few key ways. While it also uses fibre-optic cables from its exchange to each local street cabinet, it then uses its own 'coaxial' cables to finish the journey to your home.

This means Virgin Media is also capable of delivering very fast broadband speeds — currently ranging from 100Mbps to 1Gbps, after it upgraded its entire network to be gigabit-capable at the end of 2021.

Because it isn't part of the Openreach network, Virgin has its own broadband infrastructure — which is why its Virgin Media coverage is a bit more limited, at around 52% of UK premises.

However, Virgin Media is available in more areas than full fibre, so if you're looking for ultrafast or gigabit speeds, it's worth checking to see if Virgin Media broadband deals are available in your area.

Our latest Virgin Media broadband deals.

Full fibre broadband providers

Some broadband providers only supply full fibre connections, which means the average speeds they offer are much faster than many, but their overall availability across the country is much lower.

Compare our best fibre broadband deals in August 2022

PackageBroadband speedContract length
Hyperoptic 150Mb Fibre Broadband - 12 Months158Mb average*12 months
Virgin Media M100 Ultrafast Fibre broadband only108Mb average*18 months
Virgin Media M200 Ultrafast Fibre broadband only213Mb average*18 months
Sky Superfast Broadband59Mb average*18 months
Vodafone Superfast 267Mb average*24 months
Gigaclear Ultrafast 300 Broadband300Mb average*18 months
Virgin Media M500 Ultrafast Fibre broadband only516Mb average*18 months
BT Fibre 1 Broadband50Mb average*24 months
BT Fibre 2 Broadband67Mb average*24 months
Vodafone Superfast 100100Mb average*24 months
More broadband deals

Do I need fibre internet?

If you're in a small household of one or two people and you only use the internet for small things like scrolling through social media, sending emails or watching the odd YouTube video, standard broadband speeds should cover you.

However, in most cases you can now get fibre broadband for the same price or cheaper than standard ADSL, so if that's the case in your situation you should definitely go for a fibre connection. It's certainly worth checking to see if fibre broadband is 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 TV shows and movies 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 home broadband speed you need for each individual device while it's in use:

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 trying 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.

Use our postcode checker to see if fibre broadband is available in your area.

Search for fibre broadband in your area.

How does fibre internet 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 (unlike the old days of dial-up).

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

While both transmit data at roughly the same speed, much more data can fit into these light pulses than the electrical signals of copper wires. Plus, unlike copper, fibre signals don't get weaker over time, so the connection is more consistent.

Essentially, this means that fibre broadband can provide a lot more bandwidth in a shorter period of time. So not only does that mean much higher internet speeds, but the internet also won't slow down if you live far away from your local street cabinet.

What's the best fibre-optic broadband?

If you want to find the best fibre broadband deal, you need to look for the best package for you and your household. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to broadband, because certain features and services would be more suited to you than others.

How many people live with you?

The more people in your home using broadband, the faster internet speed you will need — and therefore the higher monthly price you’ll likely need to pay.

Regardless of how much internet you personally use, you’ll have to account for everyone else’s usage too. So you should consider the number of people in your household — and how much they all use the internet — to properly judge what fibre-optic broadband deal you should choose.

For example, there could be plenty of times when someone is streaming Netflix, while another is listening to music on Spotify, and another is gaming online. So your internet speed needs to be fast enough to handle all of these tasks at the same time.

As a rough rule of thumb:

  • 1-2 people per household: You could likely get away with a cheaper, slower fibre broadband speed below 50Mbps. But if you both often use the internet separately for bandwidth-hungry things like 4K streaming or gaming, you might have to look for something faster.
  • 3-4 people: If your entire household only occasionally uses the internet, a speed of 35Mbps could be the most cost-effective option. But if you or your children are often watching Netflix or YouTube or playing online games, a speed of 50-100Mbps would be best.
  • 5+ people: 50-100Mbps would be a safe bet if your household casually uses the internet, or you have children watching lots of videos. But if most people in the household use the internet a lot, such as high-quality TV streaming and working from home, a speed of 100Mbps or above would be ideal.

Bundle offers

Another thing to consider is whether you could benefit from a bundle deal that includes other services like pay-TV or a mobile contract. So the best fibre broadband deal for you might end up being one that brings multiple services into a single, cheaper monthly payment under the same provider.

Broadband and TV deals combine both your broadband and your TV service into the same contract. This is only possible with providers that offer both services, such as Sky, BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and others. But if you use both services quite regularly, you could save a significant amount each month, and avoid paying extra for two separate bills.

Some providers also let you add a mobile phone contract to your broadband package, which will also let you save money by combining both services into a single package. Providers that have mobile phone networks, like Vodafone, BT and EE, will offer these bundles.

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, full fibre, or suitable mobile broadband, you can get broadband without a landline.

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.

Why can't I get fibre broadband deals?

There are a few reasons why you might not be able to get fibre broadband:

  • You may live in a remote or hard-to-reach area, which is expensive for providers to install fibre cables
  • If you live in purpose-built flats, it can be difficult to install a fibre connection in each individual property
  • You can get partial fibre, which is slower, but not full fibre

All hope is not lost, though. If you have a mobile internet signal on your phone at home, you might be able to get 4G or 5G mobile broadband if you want similar speeds to fibre.

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.

Do I need an engineer to install fibre?

If you already have fibre installed, you won't need an engineer to switch to a new fibre connection — unless you are upgrading to full fibre.

The same goes for if you're currently on a copper ADSL broadband connection. Most fibre deals use the same copper wires as your phone line, so you also don't need an engineer to switch to those.

But if you want full fibre, you'll need an engineer to install a fibre cable at your property.