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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.

Cheapest fibre broadband deals on Uswitch, correct as of 27 May 2022:

Hyperopticfrom £15
Onestreamfrom £19.95
Community Fibrefrom £20
Shell Energy Broadbandfrom £21.99
Vodafonefrom £22
NOW Broadbandfrom £22

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

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 it works on and other variables it can be quite inconsistent.

Whether it's the particular line you're connected to, how far you are from your street cabinet or how many people in your neighbourhood 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 home broadband services, on the other hand, start at around 30Mbps — some three times faster. They also use more robust technology that allows for a more consistent connection that doesn't change speed so unexpectedly.

It's also worth noting that fibre broadband packages at their lowest speeds are often the same price, sometimes even cheaper, than many ADSL prices nowadays — especially if you're currently outside your initial fixed-term contract. So that means you could get a much faster Uswitch broadband deal for even less money.

Fibre broadband deals are offered at a range of speeds up to and beyond 1Gbps (that's 1000Mbps), depending on the type of fibre connection you can get. That's about 100 times faster than copper-based broadband, and it would future-proof your home for decades.

We call fibre broadband 'faster' because downloads complete in a much quicker time. That means that webpages, images and videos load a lot sooner as a result.

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 online. 4K video, for example, is made possible with superfast fibre speeds.

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.

Types of fibre broadband

There are two main versions of fibre broadband. Here's a quick rundown of both.

Superfast fibre (fibre-to-the-cabinet)

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, commonly between 30-70Mbps, and is available to 96% of the UK. So contrary to what you might think, you should already be able to get superfast broadband in your area.

Full fibre broadband

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

Given that full fibre runs fibre-optic cables all the way to your home, it's capable of much faster speeds. It can supply 'ultrafast' (over 100Mbps) and even 'gigabit' internet speeds 1Gbps, or 1000Mbps), but it can be a lot more expensive as a result.

Currently, full fibre broadband deals are available to 33% of the UK.

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

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.

Compare our best fibre broadband deals in July 2022

PackageBroadband speedContract length
Hyperoptic 150Mb Fibre Broadband - 12 Months158Mb average*12 months
Virgin Media M100 Ultrafast Fibre broadband only108Mb average*18 months
Sky Superfast Broadband59Mb average*18 months
NOW Broadband: Super Fibre63Mb average*12 months
Sky Ultrafast Broadband145Mb average*18 months
Vodafone Superfast 100100Mb average*24 months
Vodafone Superfast 267Mb average*24 months
Hyperoptic 30Mb Fibre Broadband33Mb average*24 months
TalkTalk Unlimited Fibre 150 and Phone Line145Mb average*18 months
TalkTalk Unlimited Fibre 65 and Phone Line67Mb average*18 months
More broadband deals

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.

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

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

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.

  • Hyperoptic
  • Community Fibre
  • Gigaclear
  • KCOM

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

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.

Gigabit broadband refers to the very fastest connections available — those of around 1Gbps or more — which can only be delivered by full fibre connections and Virgin Media's cable network right now.

While these are the official differences between each speed category, you might often hear 'superfast' used to describe full fibre broadband in the media or elsewhere. So just keep that in mind when you're looking for home broadband deals in your area.

It's currently very rare for 1Gbps to actually be reached through the Wi-Fi signal in the home — 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 is more than enough for almost every household in the UK right now.

Wi-Fi routers will soon have the technical capability to support gigabit wireless speeds, thanks to 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 fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) broadband is available to 96% 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 33%, though there are a variety of providers rolling out new networks over the coming months and years to rapidly increase this figure.

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

Why can't I get fibre broadband deals?

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 it in hard-to-reach areas, and this is a particular problem in rural or remote locations.

It's very expensive for providers to lay cables in these places, and as there won't be many users, fibre broadband providers may not deem it cost-effective to invest so much money for a relatively small number of potential customers.

To combat this, the government 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.

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 install fibre cables, 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 urban areas and new-build homes.

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 copper ADSL broadband. And 5G home 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 get fast broadband speeds without a fixed-line connection.

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.

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.