Broadband connections are getting faster each year and the next step in home broadband is the jump to gigabit speeds.
With superfast speeds up to 70Mbps available to 97% of the country, the majority of UK households are able to get decent internet speed at home. But if you’re lucky enough to live in a location with full fibre or Virgin Media broadband, you could access speeds of 1,000Mbps or more with gigabit internet.
Gigabit internet delivers download speeds of up to 1Gbps, the equivalent of 1,000Mbps.
These kinds of speeds are typically only available in locations with fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), commonly known as ‘full fibre’ connections, or areas covered by Virgin Media's network.
However, the biggest difference between full fibre and cable gigabit internet is the significant difference between their upload and download speeds. Upload speeds with Virgin Media are relatively low compared to what's capable with full fibre, where they're sometimes equal to the download speed.
Gigabit-capable broadband connections are continually increasing across the UK, with over 22 million homes (75%) now able to access these top-end speeds.
You can see more stats and information about internet access across the UK on our broadband statistics page.
Obviously the higher your download speed, the faster you can download files and the better quality you can stream smoothly, and gigabit internet offers speeds ten times faster than average superfast broadband.
There are a few key instances when this incredible speed can be incredibly useful.
Gigabit speeds are impressive and the thought of downloading files in seconds can be tempting, but there are times when gigabit internet isn’t worth the additional cost.
Gigabit internet is great, but if your home network isn’t capable of handling those speeds then you won’t see the benefit. You should receive a gigabit-capable router and modem from your provider when you switch, but it’s worth double-checking.
If you’re using old devices, you won’t see the benefit of gigabit internet speeds. This is especially true with wireless broadband, where devices connected over Wi-Fi tend to top out at 300Mbps.
Do a quick inventory of your home technology — if everything is brand-new then you’ll be fine, but if you’re using slightly older tech then you might want to upgrade your gadgets before you upgrade your broadband.
Possibly the biggest twist is that gigabit internet speeds are only really achieved with wired connections. Even with a mesh network, if the devices are connected to each other wirelessly it will cut your effective speed in half. If all your devices connect to the internet via Wi-Fi then you probably won’t notice any difference between 500Mbps and gigabit speeds.
Gigabit broadband deals are the most expensive ones on the market. So if you need to keep your costs low, a cheaper broadband deal that offers slower speeds would probably be a more sensible decision.
That doesn't mean you'll be stuck with a slow speed — superfast fibre broadband deals now come almost as cheap as copper ADSL ones — but it will mean you can be a lot more comfortable with your monthly outgoings.
Several of the best internet providers are investing in their fibre networks, meaning gigabit internet will slowly become more available in the months and years to come. However, at the moment, 1Gbps speeds are limited to a few key locations, and each of these locations is usually supplied by just one provider at the moment.
For instance, Hyperoptic has some gigabit internet availability within London postcodes but is planning to expand to Sheffield, Newcastle, Birmingham and Nottingham. Meanwhile, TalkTalk has launched a gigabit internet service under the name UFO (ultrafibreoptic) which is only available in parts of York at the moment. Gigabit internet is even available in some rural areas from providers like Gigaclear.
Virgin Media began rolling out gigabit internet to several locations in 2020, with 1Gbps speeds currently available in Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester, Reading, and Southampton.
Recently, Virgin Media O2 overtook BT Openreach as the UK's largest gigabit internet provider. Its Gig1 service has average speeds of 1,130Mbps which could be accessed by roughly 3.6 million homes in Leeds, Bradford, Glasgow and surrounding areas.
The phrase ‘Project Gigabit’ is new, but the plan has existed for quite a while.
Initially announced in the Spring 2020 Budget but held back by delays and revisions, it’s based on the government’s pledge to ensure 85% of UK properties have access to gigabit broadband by 2025. Though it has changed somewhat since it was first announced.
Aimed at providing rural and remote properties with future-proofing broadband speeds, Project Gigabit will allow full fibre providers and other gigabit technologies to connect the hardest-to-reach areas of the country for a very low cost.
An extra £210m of the funding will also go to boosting the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.
This initiative makes it easier for rural residents and businesses to afford the installation of gigabit broadband at their property, without having to wait for Project Gigabit-funded providers to lay cables in the local area first. Vouchers will be worth up to £1,500 for residents and £3,500 for businesses.
Project Gigabit is one of many projects currently underway to ensure full fibre (also known as fibre-to-the-premises) and other gigabit broadband connections can be accessed by every property in the UK this decade.
However, the particular focus it has on giving access to people in hard-to-reach areas who have very few options available will hopefully ensure that no household is left behind.
You can also learn more about the different types of fibre broadband available in the UK here.
There are many network providers already building their own full fibre broadband infrastructure and expanding them across the country.
However, since these rollouts rely more on providers’ own budgets, there’s a limit to the areas where they can afford to supply and install fibre-optic broadband cables. Some neighbourhoods are so remote that it actually costs more for a provider to lay cables there than they could make back in revenue.
To combat this, Project Gigabit’s funding will go directly towards helping providers perform these very rural installations. This will allow providers to expand their networks to all possible homes, regardless of commercial interests or economic viability.
There’s also a plan for locations that fixed-line broadband has no chance of ever reaching, such as fully isolated properties in very remote locations. The team behind Project Gigabit is looking into supplying ultrafast 5G mobile broadband and satellite broadband connections to these areas, so they can still access very fast internet speeds through the UK’s mobile networks.
If your area hasn’t yet had full fibre installed yet, you might be able to switch to a faster deal while you wait. And if you’ve been using your current broadband package for at least a couple of years, you’re likely paying much higher prices than you should be for the internet speed you’re getting.
Compare broadband deals with Uswitch to find a package that suits the needs of your household.
Want to switch your broadband service? Here's how to do it all, from finding the speed you need to choosing the right provider for you.Read our guide on switching broadband
Take a look at our guide to broadband speed guide — find out what speeds you have available in your area and how to deal with slow broadband speed.Read our guide to broadband speeds
How does fibre-optic broadband work? Which fibre broadband package is right for me? Do you need a phone line? Take a look at our guide.Read our fibre broadband guide