A guide to fast broadband
For many UK homes, cheap standard broadband or an affordable fibre broadband deal is more than enough.
But if you've got a busy family home where the Wi-Fi connection is shared, or you simply want to get downloads as quickly as possible, then signing up for the right package speed is vital.
But how fast do you need to go? This guide to the fastest broadband in the UK is a good place to start in your search for a new high-speed broadband connection.
Fastest broadband: the key points
• The fastest broadband in the UK is a full-fibre service with a speed of 1Gb+
• Virgin Media has the fastest broadband available to most homes
• Enter your address into our deals checker to find the fastest broadband in your area
What is the fastest broadband in the UK?
The fastest internet in the UK is an ultrafast gigabit fibre service. This is a full fibre connection that offers broadband speeds of 1 Gbps. That's one gigabit per second or more, with a few areas lucky enough to have the option of speeds up to 10Gb!
But full fibre broadband isn't available everywhere. For most of us, Virgin Media will be the fastest broadband provider available. Its network is available to around 53% of homes, and it provides average speeds up to 1.1Gb.
There are also specialist high-speed internet service providers or ISPs focused on smaller areas. For example, Hyperoptic delivers gigabit broadband in London and some other major cities. It's also been focusing on adding fibre optic cables to new-build blocks of flats. Similarly, Community Fibre provides very fast fibre optic internet, but it's all in parts of London.
If you can't get Virgin Media or one of the full fibre services, the next fastest option for the UK's average home is a BT Openreach fibre service. These will often have average speeds of around 65Mb. So, still pretty good!
What is Openreach?
Openreach is the company that maintains the former British Telecom Network used for the majority of broadband and phone services. If a repair or installation is required, it’s Openreach who will send an engineer, not your provider.
More than 650 service providers using the Openreach network. That’s the majority of the UK’s broadband providers. This includes Sky, TalkTalk and BT. The exception to this is Virgin Media - it uses its own, separate cable network.
How much do the fastest broadband packages cost?
The fastest broadband packages aren’t actually that expensive.
Hyperoptic’s top speed of 1Gb is available for around £45 per month, while Virgin Media 1.1Gb fibre starts at around the same price. And there are always special offers and free extras available to make them better value.
The fastest Openreach network fibre deals are even cheaper, with prices under £30 on some deals.
Which other providers offer fast speeds?
Virgin Media is the single fastest provider with a nationwide presence. But there’s a wide choice of providers offering fibre optic broadband over a regular phone line using the Openreach network, which is available to more homes.
You can use our home broadband comparison tools to see other fast broadband services and view the latest offers.
What's the fastest standard broadband?
Standard ADSL broadband using a BT phone line is quite a bit slower than fibre, but for some, it may be the only fixed-line broadband that's available.
There isn’t much difference between providers for standard broadband. They all quote an average speed of either 10Mb or 11Mb for the ADSL2+ service available to most homes in the UK. In a few rare instances, you might not be able to get ADSL2+, in which case the speed will be limited to a maximum of 8Mb.
What is the fastest broadband available in my area?
You can instantly find out the maximum broadband speed in your area using our broadband deals checker:
You'll also find the address checker on any of our comparison tables. Simply enter your home address to filter the table by location and show packages available at your door.
If you’d like to learn more about broadband coverage, visit our page to broadband in your area for information about specific towns and cities.
Will my location and postcode affect my speed?
A postcode check shows what's on offer in your area. You'll have to choose a standard broadband package if a fibre connection is unavailable.
However, broadband speed and availability on the BT Openreach services can also be affected by the length of the line. In some cases, the exchange may have fibre optic, but you won't be able to get it because your home is too far to receive the service.
And when it comes to standard broadband, there's a significant impact on performance when you're far from the exchange. To read more about this, check out our guide on fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) vs. fibre to the premises (FTTP). But the main difference to note is that with FTTP, you’ll only have fibre cables providing your broadband. But if you can only get an FTTC package, it uses fibre cables up to the street cabinet, and then runs off the standard copper phone lines to provide the internet up to your router.
No matter what type of broadband you go for, you should always be given an accurate speed estimate using your home address when signing up with a provider.
When will my area get high-speed broadband?
Most homes now have access to fast broadband services using an Openreach telephone line or from the Virgin Media network. Often you’ll have a choice between both.
One of the best ways to keep tracks on when you're likely to get connected to full fibre broadband, if you don't already have it, is on the Openreach website. Here, you can enter your postcode and sign up for updates to get alerted when the full fibre rollout is due to reach your area.
Frequently asked questions about fast broadband
Will I get the speeds advertised?
The advertised download speeds are an average based on the performance of the provider's broadband users. You can reasonably expect to get something very similar to what they’re claiming. However, it’s not guaranteed. You may find that the connection is slower than advertised. In some lucky cases, you might even get faster speeds.
But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. When joining a provider, you should always be given an accurate speed estimate for your address. If the connection is slower than the estimate, speak to the provider about possible solutions.
Do I need the fastest broadband?
Not everyone needs the very fastest broadband they can get.
Standard broadband works great for homes where the connection is only used by one or two people and mainly for web browsing, social media, or a little video and audio streaming.
If you have a busy shared or family home at peak times, or if you’re planning to use it for demanding tasks, then a superfast or even ultrafast broadband service will be necessary. This can include things like downloading lots of files and streaming hours of high-definition video, and video calls, so think about what your household uses the internet for.
What's superfast broadband?
Superfast is a term used to describe broadband services that are quicker than ADSL broadband.
Ofcom defines it as a connection with a download speed of 30Mb+, but it may also refer to broadband speeds of 24Mb+.
How do I test my broadband speed?
You can test your speed right now using the free Broadband.co.uk speed test.
There are a few different reasons why your broadband could be running slowly. You can check our guide on troubleshooting your broadband speeds for more information.
What is 'Broadband Max'?
'Broadband Max' is a term once used to describe a BT product known as ’ADSL Max'. This cutting-edge technology promised a blazing 8Mb, a big improvement over other services available at the time.
But this isn’t available anymore. And, as you can see, fibre broadband today has a much higher maximum speed.
Can I get fibre broadband in my area?
To find out if you can get on the fibre network in your area, use our free postcode checker tool, which you can find further up the page or on any of our broadband comparison tables.
If you live in a rural area, this may be a little less likely. But we have a guide on rural broadband to help you out.
Where is gigabit broadband available?
You can get gigabit broadband from either Virgin Media or a full fibre provider. Use our postcode checker to see what's in your area.
If you'd like to learn more about fibre, we have a dedicated fibre optic broadband page that will explain everything you need to know.
Fast broadband is now available to almost every home in the UK. For those who want superfast speeds, Virgin Media will offer the fastest speeds for many homes. In some places, you can even get full fibre gigabit broadband, which can reach speeds of 1Gb+.
Generally, if you want faster broadband speeds, you'll want to go for a fibre broadband package where you can. This can be with Virgin Media, BT Openreach or full fibre providers like Community Fibre.
Before you look into getting faster broadband, you'll want to know what speeds you're getting right now. You can use our speed test to see what upload and download speed you're currently getting. If you're not happy with your current speeds, then you can use the Broadband.co.uk deals checker to see if there are any faster deals available in your area.