Super-fast broadband refers to broadband connections of at least 30Mbps in the UK, according to Ofcom.
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.
Some super-fast broadband products can deliver speeds in excess of 900Mbps through sophisticated fibre-optic broadband networks, although these services aren't widely available. Slower fibre to the cabinet products can deliver speeds of around 36Mbps or 67Mbps on the Openreach network, and Virgin Media's cable network can reach average speeds as high as 362Mbps.
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 as high as 362Mbps available to a large number of consumers. BT also offers broadband with average speeds of 67Mbps, although you can get significantly faster speeds in some areas. Coverage for both is continuing to expand in the coming years.
Although fibre broadband is available to 95% of the UK, it isn't available everywhere just yet. 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 around 24Mbps.
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 362Mbps service. Virgin Media, which offers 54Mbps broadband products as a bare minimum, is able to deliver such fast connections thanks to its super-fast fibre-optic broadband network.
BT's Superfast package offers a maximum speed of 67Mbps, and the aforementioned services from Sky, EE and TalkTalk, which use BT's fibre network and feature average speeds in line with BT.
Alternatively, ADSL broadband products offering an an average broadband speed of 10Mbps (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.