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What is superfast broadband?

Superfast broadband describes any broadband service that provides speeds of 30Mbps or higher, according to Ofcom. The higher your broadband speed, the faster you can download files, movies and games.
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A higher broadband speed also means that more people can be connected to the internet at any one time without the speed being affected, which is why you’ll often see it referred to as ‘bandwidth’.

Superfast broadband is a broad category of speeds, running from 30Mbps to 300Mbps. Anything faster than that falls into either the Ultrafast, Hyperfast or Gigabit categories.

Some form of superfast broadband is available to 96% of the UK from the majority of internet service providers, and in many cases is actually more affordable than slower, old-fashioned ADSL connections, especially if you happen to be out of contract on an ADSL package.

If you're still using ADSL and want to get faster internet, you can compare superfast broadband packages in your area now with Uswitch.

How does superfast broadband work?

Superfast broadband services are connected to homes via fibre-optic cables for some — or all — of their journey from the provider to your router. This is more effective than the traditional copper wires used for landlines and ADSL connections.

These fibre-optic cables can transfer more data at faster speeds than copper wires, and so the more your connection is supplied by fibre-optic cables, the faster your broadband speeds will be.

When shopping for superfast broadband deals, you’ll notice that speeds are given as an average of speeds available to 50% of customers in your area during peak times. As such, superfast broadband speeds often appear in comparison tables in a similar range of speeds: 36Mbps, 67Mbps, and 108Mbps are the three most common speeds for superfast broadband you’ll see on our comparison tables.

Find out how fast your current broadband is with our broadband speed test.

Which superfast broadband product is the fastest?

The main suppliers of high-end superfast broadband speeds are Virgin Media and Hyperoptic, who only provide broadband service through dedicated fibre-optic cable networks. Both providers have top-end broadband packages that reach nearly 1Gbps speeds, the equivalent of 1000Mbps speeds.

Within the superfast broadband category, Virgin Media has a 213Mbps package and Hyperoptic has a 150Mbps package. Another key difference is that Virgin Media is more widely available than Hyperoptic which is only available in certain areas in London.

BT’s popular Superfast 2 package offers a maximum speed of 67Mbps, and other providers such as Sky, TalkTalk and EE who use BT’s fibre network have similar speeds.

Should I get superfast broadband?

Superfast broadband is suitable for all but the most casual of internet users. If you literally only use the internet for checking your email and an occasional Google search, then a standard ADSL broadband deal would probably be fine.

If you use the internet for anything more demanding, then on the whole superfast broadband will be more beneficial for your household.

Advantages of superfast broadband

Superfast broadband obviously has faster download speeds than ADSL, meaning that you’re able to take full advantage of all the entertainment options available online beyond casual browsing. If you regularly download or stream movies, music, games or TV shows, then you’ll want to upgrade to a superfast broadband package.

This includes using streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime, or even using the on-demand features on your digital TV service like All 4 or Sky catch-up. Similarly, if you stream content from apps such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, or Sky Go on other devices like your laptops or iPad, your viewing experience will be much faster, smoother and with less buffering with a Superfast broadband package.

If you’re a gamer, then Superfast is vital as the reduced ‘ping’ and improved response times mean that online gamers will have a competitive advantage over the opposition and can enjoy a better gaming experience.

Disadvantages of superfast broadband

Even though superfast speeds are widely available these days, there is still some variation between the speeds advertised and the speeds you can actually get at your specific address (although fibre-optic speeds are typically very close).

This variation can be frustrating when shopping around for a superfast broadband deal, mainly because the factors affecting it are out of your control. Things like the quality of the connection wiring and the distance you live from their exchange.

Even if superfast broadband is on offer in your area, these limiting factors may impact your actual speeds.

Can I get superfast broadband?

Superfast speeds are now available to 96% of the UK, so bearing any property-specific limitations you should be able to get superfast broadband in your home.

Most homes won't need any kind of special installation to get superfast or cable broadband installed — especially new builds — but this does vary by location.

You can compare different broadband packages in your area to see if superfast is right for you.