Put simply, fibre broadband means that at least some part of the connection, between your home and provider, uses fibre-optic cables. It is likely that your home already has some sort of fibre broadband, unless you have ADSL broadband which is supplied in full through the original copper telephone network.
Fibre broadband delivers much faster speeds than standard broadband and will help to significantly reduce buffering times, lagging out of a video game, waiting too long for a file to download or streaming in low quality.
Fibre-optic broadband is more expensive than the standard ADSL broadband that you may currently have in your home, so it’s important to consider whether you really need it. If you only use your broadband for basic tasks such as browsing the internet and checking email, or if there aren’t many people in your home, then standard broadband might be fine.
However, the cheapest fibre options are often very similarly priced to out-of-contract ADSL costs, so it’s worth considering if the investment is worth it if you’ve been outside of your fixed-term period for a while.
The most important thing is that you identify your needs and your budget (the maximum you want to pay every month) before you make a decision around potential broadband packages.
Most people in the UK should be able to get fibre-optic broadband. Openreach, the company in charge of building and maintaining the UK’s largest broadband network, estimates that 96% of the UK can get superfast broadband speeds of more than 24Mbps.
Compared to ADSL, fibre gives you better performance, impressive speeds and fewer drop-outs. Full fibre especially has five times fewer faults than copper connections according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Fibre broadband is not only faster, but it’s also capable of hosting more devices without slowing down – meaning you can get the best out of phones, tablets, laptops, games consoles and smart home devices.
The fibre broadband installation process works differently depending on the type of fibre broadband you have purchased. The most common fibre options use the same copper phone lines as existing ADSL connections from the local street cabinet to your home, and therefore don’t require an in-home installation.
Full fibre broadband has fibre-optic cables running directly into your home, so unless you live in a newbuild with a preinstalled full fibre connection or a lucky area where it’s already been rolled out, you’ll likely need to wait before it becomes available to you.
Be aware there will be an element of minor disruption to your day during broadband installation while the engineer carries out their work.
Unfortunately, not all fibre broadband is the same. Broadly speaking, there are two different types of fibre broadband – FTTC and FTTP.
By far the most common type of fibre broadband, FTTC broadband means that your local cabinet is connected with fibre, but the connection from your home to the cabinet still uses traditional copper lines. With FTTC broadband you can expect average speeds of 35–70Mbps.
The fastest broadband internet you can get in the UK, fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband, more commonly known as ‘full fibre’, means that a fibre-optic cable runs directly from your local cabinet into your property. With FTTP broadband you can expect incredibly fast average speeds ranging up to 1Gbps (1000Mbps).
To understand how you can achieve the highest available broadband speeds you need to understand the differences between cable broadband or fibre broadband. They offer similar speeds but are not the same thing.
Fibre broadband delivers superfast and ultrafast broadband connections and is available through a number of internet service providers. Cable broadband is run by Virgin Media on its own broadband network.
While it also uses fibre-optic cables from the broadband exchange, it’s the journey from the street cabinet that makes the difference. Instead of using copper wires, cable broadband uses coaxial cables to connect your home to the cabinet in your area, providing a faster internet connection (up to 600Mbps) than traditional copper phone line cables used for ‘superfast’ broadband connections (often up to 70Mbps).
This means that while cable broadband isn’t quite as fast as a full fibre connection, it is faster than ‘fibre-to-the-cabinet’ (FTTC) broadband.
Because of the fibre-optic and coaxial cable technology providing ultrafast connection speeds up to 600Mbps you are able to get a higher level of performance from your broadband. Cable broadband is much more reliable than those connections that still rely on copper wires, like ADSL and FTTC broadband connections.
In order to achieve those top-end speeds, you will need to have fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband — sometimes also called fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) — which means your connection is entirely serviced with fibre-optic cables, from the exchange to your street cabinet and then also from the street cabinet to your home.
FTTP broadband currently only has limited availability through a small number of providers. If you’re able to get FTTP broadband you’ll be able to access speeds well over 200Mbps.
All of the major broadband providers offer fibre broadband deals, as well as many that you may not have heard of as they specialise in fibre broadband.
Here are the main providers you will be able to compare to find the cheapest fibre broadband.
Do not despair if, according to industry regulator Ofcom, you live in one of only 155,000 UK properties unable to access broadband with speeds of more than 10Mbps, as there are still options available to get you faster internet speeds.
The Government has introduced something called the Broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) which means that anyone in the UK can enforce a right to request high-speed broadband (speeds of 24Mbps or more). You can request connections from now and these are made through BT and KCOM. Find out more on the USO scheme here
If you are tired of waiting, you can take matters into your own hands and apply for community-funded broadband. Working with local authorities, Openreach and your local community, you can joint-fund the costs of installing fibre.
If you don’t want to have to wait to receive fibre-optic broadband, there are still some options available to you:
If you live in a rural area, satellite broadband could be a solution. All you need is a satellite dish which will connect to a satellite in orbit and send a broadband connection down to your home. However, the satellite broadband deals available to you cost roughly the same as fibre but are significantly slower than fibre speeds.
Do you have a good mobile signal at home? If so, you might be able to use a 4G or 5G network connection to get fast internet. Many mobile carriers offer 4G routers, known as MiFi, that can deliver 4G home broadband that’s both fast and reliable, and providers like Three and Vdoafone have just started to roll out the first 5G mobile broadband routers too.
FWA uses the UK’s new 5G network to deliver wireless broadband without expensive cables or lines. It offers all the benefits of 4G home broadband and satellite broadband, but typically with faster speeds.
A MiFi device is a small bit of tech that creates a Wi-Fi hotspot by connecting to a mobile network. Because it creates a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can connect a number of devices to the internet at the same time – like a laptop or tablet.
The router works just like a mobile phone, using a SIM card to connect to the mobile network. It then amplifies that connection through a personal, secure Wi-Fi network that you join like any other Wi-Fi network.
The speed that you get on a MiFi depends on the mobile phone network that it is connected to. Just like with your phone, mobile signal is variable, and a weaker signal will result in slower internet speeds.
Typically, MiFi will connect using 3G, 4G or 5G to the network. However, 5G is currently limited to larger cities and comes at a premium cost.