Ready to discover more about fibre broadband and find the perfect deal? You're right where you need to be. Whether you're looking to buy or find out more about fibre, Broadband Genie has you covered.
Check out the latest deals now using the table above, or read on to learn more about fibre optic broadband.
What is fibre broadband? How is it different from standard broadband?
Fibre optic is a broadband service that provides fast internet speeds using fibre optic cables.
Standard broadband uses copper telephone wires. This technology is known as 'Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line' (or ADSL, for short). As it just relies on standard landlines, it's the most widely available and cheapest broadband technology. But speeds average 10Mb, so it’s relatively slow by modern standards.
Fibre broadband is much faster and more reliable. It’s also widely available in every part of the country.
How fast are fibre broadband speeds?
On average, a standard broadband ADSL connection will give you top download speeds of 10Mb. Fibre optic broadband can be 100 times faster than this, with speeds ranging from 35Mb to 1Gb+.
Even the cheapest fibre deals are more than three times faster than the best standard ADSL internet package.
Is fibre broadband better than ADSL?
Fibre broadband has many advantages over ADSL, but that doesn’t always mean it’s better (although we do recommend it to almost everyone). Here are a few things to consider:
- Fibre broadband download speeds: Fibre optic is much quicker than ADSL and can handle more. This is important for video streaming and gaming. It's a must-have for anyone living in a shared home, where multiple users may be online at the same time.
- Fibre broadband costs: There's not a huge difference in cost between a basic fibre package and ADSL these days. You can even sometimes find a superfast fibre deal that’s cheaper!
- Fibre broadband coverage: Now the vast majority of UK homes can get fibre optic broadband, though coverage is still not as widespread as ADSL. If you only have access to standard broadband, you can learn more about what to expect in our guide to ADSL.
Fibre broadband vs Virgin Media cable: what's the difference?
Virgin Media used to be known as ‘cable broadband’. This term is no longer used and instead, it’s referred to as 'fibre broadband'. Unlike other providers (ISPs) who use the Openreach or CityFibre network, Virgin Media operates its own cable network.
Virgin Media broadband is much quicker than many other services, with speeds up to 1.1Gb. But it can also be more expensive compared to other fibre deals.
Its coverage is smaller than other providers, meaning fewer homes will be able to access Virgin Media broadband.
Find out whether you could get it in our guide to Virgin Media availability and coverage.
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.
What's superfast fibre and ultrafast fibre?
When comparing fibre optic broadband deals, you may come across the terms “superfast” and “ultrafast”. What do these mean?
This refers to broadband with a download speed of 30Mb-100Mb.
This usually refers to a speed of 300Mb+. However, it may also be used by some providers to refer to broadband packages of 100Mb+.
How does fibre optic internet work?
We know it's faster and more reliable, but how does fibre optic broadband offer its high-speed internet connection? The answer is pretty magical.
With fibre, information is first converted into light, which is sent bouncing down very thin glass tubes which form part of a fibre optic cabling network. Information is then converted back to data at the other end.
The glass fibre tubes that form a fibre cable can transmit data at the speed of light. That's how we get very fast internet access, which lets us do things like download big files quickly, or stream TV in HD without buffering.
What are FTTP, FTTC, FTTH, Full-Fibre and HFC?
There are many different types of fibre broadband technology.
Understanding what these mean will help you make a well-informed choice when comparing providers, speeds, and deals. Let’s check these out:
‘Fibre-To-The Cabinet’ is the most common type of fibre. It's widely available on the BT Openreach telephone network. FTTC uses fibre optic cables that connect to your nearest telephone cabinet (those green boxes you see by the side of the road). From here to your home, it uses the same copper wire as standard broadband service.
FTTC is much cheaper to install than full-fibre. The downside? It isn't as fast, and performance can be negatively affected by the condition and length of the copper wire. Right now, the vast majority of fibre optic broadband areas are served by FTTC over the Openreach network. Most homes in the UK have access to this.
FTTP / FTTH / Full-Fibre
‘Fibre-To-The-Premises’ (sometimes referred to as ‘Fibre-To-The-Home’) is also known as full fibre. No copper wires are involved. Instead, this technology brings the fibre link directly into your home. It's more expensive to install, but speeds are significantly better than FTTC.
With full fibre, you can get broadband at rates of 1Gb and beyond. Many providers now offer full fibre in the UK, though only around 58% of UK properties have access to this.
In addition to BT and Virgin Media, a lot of the work here is being done by other companies such as Hyperoptic, CityFibre, and Gigaclear. These are all focussing on bringing full fibre broadband to new builds, rural areas, and larger deployments for specific towns and cities.
Hybrid Fibre Coaxial is the technology used by Virgin Media for most (but not all) of its network. Like FTTC, HFC runs on fibre optic up to the street cabinet. But it then uses coaxial cable rather than copper telephone lines to carry the signal the rest of the way.
This is faster than a regular telephone line and has allowed Virgin to deliver much better speeds of up to 1Gb. However, Virgin’s network is only available to around 50% of UK households, and it doesn’t allow other providers access. That means there’s less choice in terms of special offers with HFC.
Now we're going to check out some providers offering fibre:
Which broadband providers offer fibre?
Lack of choice isn't a problem for fibre broadband, it’s offered by a huge number of providers. Here are just some of the fibre ISPs you’ll find on Broadband Genie:
BT provides average download speeds of 36Mb, 50Mb, or 67Mb. It also offers ultrafast fibre packages with speeds up to 910Mb. BT fibre is also available as a broadband-only service without a phone. As a perk, new customers can regularly get a Reward Card as an incentive.
TalkTalk offers cheap fibre optic deals with 38Mb or 67Mb download speed on standard fibre, or up to 925Mb with FTTP.
This is the fastest fibre broadband out there for many. With speeds up to 1.1Gb, but also available with speeds of 54Mb, 132Mb, 264Mb, 362Mb or 516Mb. Virgin also offers broadband without a phone line.
Vodafone has a range of fibre options. Its Fibre 1 package starts with average download speeds of 38Mb. Fibre 2 package offers 67Mb. Full Fibre is also available up to 910Mb.
If you’re looking for a cheap broadband deal, Shell Energy Broadband is a good bet. You can get download speeds of up to 67Mb for a monthly price under £25. Its set-up fees are regularly under £10, and you can normally offset these expensive with generous gift card offers.
Plusnet offers one standard fibre package of 50Mb. It has also started offering full-fibre deals with speeds of up to 900Mb. It’s known for its good customer service.
In our 2023 Broadband Awards, Plusnet was crowned ‘Best Provider’.
Increasing numbers of smaller, localised alternative networks (altnets) are popping up across the country. These can provide a great alternative to the larger providers mentioned above, with fast full-fibre packages at often-lower prices. Check out our guide to altnets for more.
Do I need fibre broadband?
Not everybody needs fibre optic. For some, a cheap ADSL package will do. That said, there are times when fibre is very useful, if not essential. Let's take a look at some examples.
- Families and shared households
The more people you have online at the same time, the greater the demand on your broadband connection. If more than a couple of people are online at home, you’ll be better off with a fibre deal. Slow broadband can be incredibly stressful for everyone.
- Streaming video
Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime require high speeds to deliver great quality, HD video. While you can technically stream with ADSL, fibre optic will give you a much better video quality. It also means that the connection won’t grind to a halt for everyone else while a video is streaming.
- Catch-up TV
Just like Netflix, catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer and Disney+ all work best with high-speed broadband.
Fast fibre optic means less waiting around when transferring files. If you frequently download large files, fibre is a must.
Fibre optic broadband provides a significantly faster upload speed than ADSL. This is very helpful if you often have to transfer big files, such as uploading YouTube videos.
- Video calling and Skype
ADSL internet is perfectly capable of handling a Skype or Facetime call but, like streaming video, you’ll have a much smoother experience with faster broadband. It allows for better quality video and more participants to join in a group chat.
You don’t always need fast broadband to play games online, but gamers are still better off with fibre. Many games are only available as digital downloads, but even boxed copies can require downloads, and these can often be huge files. The faster upload speed of fibre is essential for Twitch and YouTube streaming, and is helpful if you want to host online games.
Again, in terms of 'bang for your buck' we'd almost always recommend at least 35Mb fibre. The small additional cost, for a big leap in speed from ADSL, is almost always worth it.
What fibre package should I get?
Which fibre package is right for you will come down to personal choice. There's no hard and fast rule. Take a look at our guide below. In this case, a ‘user’ would be someone who carries out heavy tasks like streaming video, gaming, or making video calls.
- Basic fibre (~35Mb): Suitable for 1-2 heavy users simultaneously
- Faster fibre (~66Mb): Suitable for 3-5 simultaneous heavy users
- FTTP/Ultrafast (100Mb+): Suitable for heavier still usage requirements
It's all well and good showing you all the different packages out there, but what if fibre isn't an option?
Fibre optic internet availability
The great news is, the vast majority of homes and businesses now have access to fibre broadband.
More than 97% of the UK now have access to broadband with speeds of 30Mb+.
Can I get fibre in my area?
There’s a good chance fibre is available in your area. You can check right now by entering an address into our fibre broadband availability checker.
Broadband Genie availability checker
Virgin Media operates its own network, with slightly less availability nationwide. You can use our Virgin Media checker to see if you can get it in your area.
Why can't I get fibre broadband?
There are many reasons you might not be able to get fibre. It may be too expensive for a network to install. You may live in an area where fibre logistically can't be installed (geographic reasons), or perhaps the current fibre network is full.
When can I get fibre broadband?
This is a tricky question to answer. Most of Openreach's and even the Government's attention has turned to the rollout of full-fibre. For now, Openreach suggests it will show the date they plan to bring fibre to your area when you enter a postcode into its checker.
If you can't get fibre, there are alternatives that may offer faster speeds than ADSL. This includes 4G and 5G mobile broadband, which can offer good speeds if you are in a strong signal area.
How is fibre internet installed?
Getting FTTC broadband installed using an Openreach phone line isn't that different from getting standard ADSL internet installed.
If you’ve not had fibre before, an engineer may need to carry out some work on the phone socket. Otherwise, you simply need to plug in the Wi-Fi router and possibly a separate modem on the day of activation.
In the rare case where there’s no phone line, additional work will involve bringing a cable into your home and installing a BT phone point.
Virgin Media will need an engineer visit unless you already have a Virgin socket in your home. The Virgin engineer will feed the cable through an external wall and install the access point. (If you do already have a Virgin line in your home, you can choose a quick installation option that means your broadband can be up and running within days).
FTTP installation will probably require an engineer, as most homes won't have an existing full-fibre connection. To install full fibre broadband, engineers will run a fibre optic cable from the street (either underground or via a telephone pole) then install it through the wall of your home to a box inside.
What are the best fibre broadband deals?
With so many fibre optic deals to decide from, finding the best fibre optic broadband can be confusing.
To help you out, here are a few areas to look out for as you compare fibre broadband.
What are the cheapest fibre deals?
The cheapest fibre optic broadband deals usually come from the likes of Shell, NOW Broadband, Vodafone, TalkTalk and Plusnet. All of these providers have packages starting from under £25 per month.
Alternatively, you can use our comparison tables to find a cheap fibre deal, start by entering your address to filter packages by location and then sorting by price.
Look out for special offers and free gifts which can add value to a deal. Keep in mind though, where packages have a discounted price for the initial contract, they can become much pricier once that ends. To keep your costs low, you might need to switch regularly in order to take advantage of the latest offers.
What are the fastest fibre deals?
Virgin Media has the fastest deals of any major national network. It offers download speeds up to 1.1Gb.
The very fastest fibre broadband comes from full-fibre FTTP providers such as Hyperoptic and Community Fibre. However, the availability of this is very limited. They both serve small areas.
The fastest broadband deals available to the majority of homes have an average speed of 67Mb.
Frequently asked questions about fibre broadband
How fast is fibre?
Cheaper fibre deals will give you average download speeds of around 35Mb or 65Mb, making them many times as fast as standard broadband. Virgin Media offers a wide range of speeds, from 50Mb up to 1.1Gb. Full-fibre broadband is the fastest service. While most deals deliver up to 1Gb, there are a few that go even further and offer up to 10Gb!
Can I get fibre optic broadband without a phone line?
Virgin Media, Plusnet and BT offer broadband without a phone. You can also get broadband without a phone with Fibre to the Premises (FTTP, or full-fibre) services, as they don’t need a phone line. FTTC fibre from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Sky, TalkTalk, and EE all require a phone line to work. They all offer fibre-optic broadband only deals, though. This will include a phone line for broadband but no other extras, such as TV or free calls. If you don’t use the phone line, choose a package without inclusive calls and keep costs down.
All of the above, and more, will also offer fibre without a phone line on their full-fibre packages too.
How do I switch to fibre?
Switching to fibre optic is easy. Start by searching with your address to view availability in your area, choose a deal, then sign up with your chosen provider. If you currently have ADSL broadband and are moving to fibre from an Openreach network provider (such as BT, TalkTalk, Sky, or Plusnet), the new ISP will handle the switch. If you’re moving to or from another network (such as Virgin Media or Gigaclear) you're responsible for cancelling your current broadband contract.
How much does fibre broadband cost?
The cheapest fibre deals are around £20 per month, though most cost in the region of £25-£30. If you want the fastest speeds and extras such as a TV and broadband bundle, then they can cost £50-£100.
Can you get unlimited fibre?
Yes! The vast majority of fibre broadband deals are unlimited. Do read the small print, though. Not every provider offers truly unlimited broadband. Truly unlimited means a traffic management policy isn’t put into place. This is when speeds are throttled at peak times. Also, watch out for the provider's fair usage policies. These could penalise you for extremely high usage. In most cases, this won't be a concern.
Should I get unlimited fibre?
Yes! We always recommend unlimited broadband, for peace of mind.
How long are fibre broadband contracts?
At Broadband Genie, we want to help you make a good, fast decision about your next broadband package. We've covered all things fibre broadband and ADSL related in this comparison guide.
Let’s have a recap!
After comparing standard ADSL and fibre, we'd recommend fibre optic broadband for most homes. However, in some areas of the UK, you might find fibre broadband still isn't available yet.
Most homes can get fibre using Fibre To The Cabinet technology (FTTC). Fibre cables are brought close to your property from the telephone exchange, then copper cables are run into your home.
In some areas, FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) is now an option. This is where fibre optic lines run all the way into your home. This can be much faster, but only just over half of UK properties can get it right now. This is a net technology, and providers are pushing it heavily. This means there are great deals available if you are lucky enough to be in a full-fibre area.
Also look out for smaller 'altnet' providers in your local area, who provide full-fibre plans for highly affordable prices.
Whether you're looking to go for full fibre, or a super cheap standard internet package, Broadband Genie has got you covered.