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A guide to rural broadband

a whimsical illustration of a countryside setting in pastel colours

Ask anyone who lives in a rural area what one of the biggest downsides is, and most will probably mention slow broadband speeds.

Although much of the UK can now enjoy a faster, full fibre broadband connection, the infrastructure to supply reliable, speedy connections to those out in the sticks is still lacking.

Over the course of this page, we’re going to be investigating the internet connection options currently available if you live in a rural location. We’ll also explore what improvements are currently in the pipeline to improve the broadband experience of countryside residents.

Rural broadband: the key points

  • Rural locations may have fewer wireless broadband options, with slower speeds and a smaller choice of providers.
  • Superfast broadband packages are now available to the majority of homes.
  • Alternatives for rural homes include satellite broadband and mobile broadband. 
  • Some rural areas do have access to very fast full fibre internet.

Why is rural broadband so slow?

The reason rural broadband is much slower is mainly technical, but naturally, money comes into it too.

The internet connection in your home connects to a street cabinet. In turn, this links to your local exchange. The types of services on offer at the exchange, and sometimes even the distance between that wall socket and the exchange, determine how fast your broadband is.

Broadband signals degrade the further they have to travel. So, the further your house is from the local exchange, the slower your broadband becomes. Which, unsurprisingly, is a problem for rural communities.

Faster home broadband is made possible through new technology. But installing an internet network is an incredibly expensive business. Broadband providers can make their money back more easily in urban areas where they'll have a larger number of sign-ups, than in rural areas with fewer potential customers.

When will rural broadband get better?

Superfast broadband of more than 30Mb is now available to almost 98% of properties in the UK. Meanwhile, just over 60% have access to a full fibre service (FTTP). Throughout the country, just over half are hooked up to Virgin Media’s cable network.

The government says it plans to deliver gigabit-capable ultrafast broadband nationwide by 2030. However, these targets should always be taken with a pinch of salt. And there’s a cost threshold, so some homes in the most remote areas will have to either pay for the remaining installation fees or need to turn to alternatives.

How to get broadband in rural areas

There are a few ways you can get set up with rural internet:

ASDL Broadband

ADSL is broadband provided using a BT Openreach network telephone line. It’s cheap, and just about everyone can get it.

BT and the many Openreach resellers, such as Sky, TalkTalk, EE and Plusnet offer ADSL broadband. However, by the end of December 2025, these older copper lines (Public Switched Telephone Network) will be switched off. Time is ticking to get faster, more reliable broadband out to rural properties without access to a dedicated, ultrafast full fibre service.

  • 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.

Standard fibre broadband

Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) broadband uses fibre optic cabling up to the street cabinets, and then a telephone line carries the signal into your property.

As we’ve already mentioned, by the end of next year, Openreach will be shutting down its copper telephone network. This means if residents don’t have access to a full fibre network, they’ll need to be offered alternative technology. Whether new networks will be ready or not, only time will tell.

For the time being though, FTTC is the most common type of fibre broadband in the UK at present, and many homes already have access.

Here are the best broadband deals at the moment.

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Full Fibre broadband

With fibre-to-the-premises broadband (FTTP), fibre optic cables carry data all the way into your home, and it doesn’t rely on phone lines.

You have more scope for high-speed packages. Full fibre customers can typically sign up to deals with average download speeds of 1Gb, or even faster!

However, because this is expensive to install, it’s a postcode lottery whether rural areas have availability.

There are a few internet providers specifically set up to offer faster broadband for rural Britain, including Gigaclear.

If you’re interested in finding out more about full fibre developments in your area, you can add your postcode into the Openreach checker. Select the ‘Keep me updated’ option to register for further news.

You can also quickly find out whether you can sign up to full fibre broadband deals yet by entering your address into our deals checker.

Broadband Genie deals checker

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Mobile broadband

Mobile broadband offers a ray of hope for internet services in rural areas. It uses the mobile phone network to provide broadband for phones and computers and doesn’t require expensive cabling. RuralBroadband.co.uk, Three, EE, Vodafone and other networks offer mobile broadband with a dedicated router for home use.

It can actually be faster than fixed-line connections if the reception is good, plus it offers a lot more flexibility locations and contract lengths (1-month contracts are readily available).

Of course, some rural areas also have terrible data signals, so this wouldn’t be a good solution.

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Satellite internet for rural areas

Satellite broadband uses a satellite dish to send and receive a broadband signal, much like satellite TV. It works anywhere, so is the last resort if there's no other option.

Unfortunately, satellite broadband is expensive to set up and run. It also suffers from high latency, which makes it unsuitable for some activities, such as online gaming.

Fixed wireless broadband

This is a broadband service installed in a village or community. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘line of sight’ broadband. It delivers an internet connection to homes via a mast and receiver. It’s the same principle as home Wi-Fi.

How to get a faster rural internet connection

While you’re waiting for network developments in your area, or a decent 5G signal, there are a few things you can do to achieve a faster internet speed.

If you have a good 4G phone signal outside your property but not indoors, you can buy signal repeaters that can fix that. Repeaters make mobile broadband more accessible to anyone within range and could plug the broadband gap until your area is connected to fibre. Three, EE, Vodafone and other mobile broadband providers offer repeaters that work on their own networks.

Mobile broadband performance can also be significantly improved with an externally mounted aerial to provide better reception.

Rural broadband is a slowly evolving picture but is steadily getting better. Even if you don’t yet have the option for fibre or superfast connections, the range of connectivity options is now larger than ever. Hopefully, there should be at least one piece of tech out there to get you connected!

Expert Summary

Although fixed-line broadband is available to almost all of the UK, there are still some rural communities who don’t have access to a reliable fibre connection. They’re also paying the price to get connected and missing out on the cheaper broadband deals that so many others have access to.

For those of you who can’t get fixed-line broadband, mobile broadband offers excellent speeds, just keep an eye on data caps and what sort of service you can get. If that doesn’t work because you’re somewhere truly rural, then satellite broadband is definitely an option. However, it’s not very fast and it can be expensive.

If you’re living in a rural area, and you’re looking for new broadband, we suggest doing your research. You can start by using our deals checker to see what's available at your home address.

Here are some other guides you might find useful:

Meet the author:

Online Editor

Broadband Genie's Editor, Emma Davenport, has been contributing to the site since 2007. She has 20 years of experience writing articles, guides and tutorials on consumer technology for magazines and online.

Specialist subject: Broadband advice for vulnerable people

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