Super-fast broadband refers to broadband connections of up to 300Mbps in the UK.
Super-fast broadband connections enable users to surf the internet, download music or video, and stream television at speeds that are massively higher than most internet users.
While the current average UK broadband connection is around 28Mbps, super-fast broadband products deliver speeds of up to 300Mbps through sophisticated fibre-optic broadband networks such as Virgin Media and BT's Infinity fibre-optic cables.
Coverage for cable broadband has widely increased in the past few years, so if you're still using ADSL and want to get faster internet, compare super-fast broadband packages in your area now at uSwitch.
How does super-fast broadband work?
Unlike the majority of UK broadband connections — which use telephone lines — the UK's fastest broadband products are delivered by a cable, or fibre-optic, broadband network. These cables are made up of glass and plastic, which allows data to move much faster than along the copper pipes used by ADSL broadband.
For most areas, Virgin Media offer the fastest network with speeds up to 200Mbps available to a large number of consumers. BT also offers an up to 76Mb fibre-optic service called BT Infinity (although you can get 300Mbps in some areas). Coverage for both is continuing to expand in the coming years.
Although only Virgin Media and BT own cable infrastructure, other providers offer super-fast broadband, too. The likes of TalkTalk, Sky and EE have piggybacked on BT's Infinity service to launch rebranded super-fast cable broadband products of their own.
If fibre isn't available in your area yet, you may be able to get faster broadband by switching from ADSL to ADSL2+.
This type of connection uses the same wiring and telephone exchanges as regular ADSL phone line connections, but because of the software and technology used, it can deliver faster speeds. ADSL2+ is capable of delivering speeds up to 24Mbps; however, most advertised speeds are only up to 17Mbps.
Your speed depends, as always, on the quality of the wiring and the distance you are from the exchange, but if you live in a city or built-up area, you can realistically expect speeds of up to 17Mbps or more. This still provides more than enough bandwidth for heavy internet users and at a lower cost than cable.
Which super-fast broadband product is the fastest?
Among the UK's fastest broadband products is Virgin Media's 200Mbps service. Virgin Media, which offers 50Mbps broadband products as a bare minimum, is able to deliver such fast connections thanks to its super-fast fibre-optic broadband network.
BT's Infinity package offers a maximum speed of 76Mbps, and the aforementioned services from Sky, EE and TalkTalk, which use BT's fibre network and feature headline speeds in line with BT.
Alternatively, broadband products offering an up to 17Mbps (or thereabouts) connection are available from most providers. The arrival of these speeds has been facilitated by an upgrade of BT's network with ADSL2+ technology, enabling the existing cabling to carry more data.
How do I get super-fast broadband?
Your first step is to see which super-fast broadband services are available in your area. Check which products are available using the uSwitch broadband postcode checker.
Advantages of super-fast broadband
Super-fast broadband lets you make the most of all the entertainment on offer on the internet. You'll be able to download movies in a matter of minutes, allowing you to watch what you want, when you want it, and banishing the days of long waiting times for very large downloads.
Fans of on-demand TV can enjoy their favourite shows on the BBC iPlayer, as well as rival services from ITV and Channel 4, smoothly and without interruption.
Reduced 'ping' and improved response times delivered by super-fast broadband means that online gamers gain a competitive advantage over the opposition and can enjoy a better gaming experience.
Disadvantages of super-fast broadband
As always, speeds are never 100% as advertised, although fibre-optic speeds are often very close. Generally, your actual speed will depend on things that are out of your control, like the quality of wiring and the distance you live from their exchange. Even if super-fast broadband is on offer in your area, these limiting factors may yield little difference in speed for a much higher cost.
Who is super-fast broadband for?
The massive growth in the number of people downloading music, video and watching TV online means that there is no longer a typical user of super-fast broadband and almost anyone can benefit from switching to a faster speed.
However, if you're a heavy downloader or are one of the increasing number of consumers who prefer to catch up with TV programmes online, it makes sense to sign up for a super-fast broadband deal, preferably fibre-optic for the best service.
Super-fast broadband is also ideal for fans of online gaming. This is because a faster connection eliminates the delays to in-game responsiveness — known as ping — that are often caused by slower ADSL broadband products. These can seriously ruin your gaming experience.
If you only use the internet for checking your e-mail and for the occasional search, it's more prudent to opt for a standard ADSL deal.
Compare our best-selling ADSL broadband packages at uSwitch now.