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What is gigabit broadband?

Fast broadband speedometer

If you're after the fastest broadband possible, then a gigabit broadband service is definitely the way to go. It provides an enormous amount of bandwidth that's enough to handle anything a home user could throw at it. As well as that, it’s more than capable of serving the needs of both small and medium businesses.

So what exactly is gigabit broadband? How fast is it, and how do you get it? This guide will tell you everything you need to know.

Gigabit broadband: the key points

  • Gigabit is a broadband speed of 1Gb+.
  • Virgin Media has the best gigabit coverage in the UK.
  • Most gigabit broadband providers require a full fibre broadband connection.

What is gigabit broadband?

Gigabit broadband is an internet connection that offers a download speed of 1 gigabit per second (1Gbps/1Gb) or more.

With a speed of 1Gb, you could potentially download a 5GB file in just 40 seconds!

Currently, you can only sign up to a Gigabit service with a full fibre broadband connection. 5G is theoretically capable of gigabit broadband, but it'll be a while before we can promise that for practical day-to-day use.

  • What’s full fibre broadband?

    Full Fibre broadband is also known as ‘Fibre To The Premises’, ‘Fibre To The Home’. This is often shortened to FTTP or FTTH. They’re all the same thing!

    Instead of copper telephone wire making up the final part of the journey from that green cabinet on the street, fibre optic cables are installed right up to your home.

    It’s amazing the difference in speed this small data journey can have. With full-fibre broadband you can expect to receive speeds of 1Gb+.

    The downside is full-fibre is only available to a small percentage of homes in the UK, and it’s taking a good while to get everyone up to speed.

What is gigabit broadband useful for?

Gigabit broadband can be used the same as any other broadband service. It’s just faster!

Not many of us could claim we actually need ultrafast broadband, but the additional speed is definitely useful.

If you regularly use the internet for demanding tasks such as transferring large files or streaming HD video, you’ll find these are painless with gigabit. Big files can download or upload in moments.

For those of you who share your connection between many people or devices, a gigabit service should mean there’s more than enough bandwidth for everyone, no matter what you’re doing.

Gigabit broadband can be useful for gamers as it offers faster upload speeds. That means you’ll be able to stream HD games easily on YouTube or Twitch. This could also work out well if you want to host your own website servers.

Just remember that if this is what you're planning, you should check your provider's terms and conditions to see if that’s allowed.

Read more at: 'Gaming Broadband: what speed do I need?'

Gigabit business broadband

While gigabit broadband might be overkill for a typical home user, there are plenty of businesses that would be well served by such a gigabit speed connection. Not just for file transfers either, but also for VOIP, video calls and handling the needs of multiple users.

Currently, internet access for small and medium businesses may be limited to consumer-level services using ADSL (standard copper phone cables all the way through) or standard fibre (FTTC). That can be a problem with even just a few employees. Upgrading to a quicker connection is often possible, but can wind up being very expensive. If the infrastructure isn't in place, you'll have to foot the bill for installation. You could theoretically get a gigabit-capable leased line right now, but that’s going to cost a lot.

Affordable and widespread gigabit broadband would allow small businesses and sole traders to take advantage of the faster speeds.

How to get gigabit broadband

Do you want to future-proof your home by getting hooked up with gigabit-capable broadband?

Unfortunately, while there are lots of providers offering gigabit in the UK, coverage is a little more limited compared to other types of broadband.

Your best bet is to check the availability of Virgin Media in your area. Its broadband network is available in approximately 53% of homes, and it offers speeds up to 1.1Gb. Look for its Gig1 Fibre packages as this is how they refer to their gigabit broadband.

If Virgin Media or other full fibre networks like Cityfibre aren’t available in your area, you can also get gigabit broadband from some popular Openreach providers. More than 650 service providers across the UK use the BT Openreach network. This includes:

Gigabit packages are available for around £50-£60 per month.

Here are just a few of the fastest deals currently available:

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What is Project Gigabit?

Graphic showing percentage of UK gigabit-capable locations at 81 per cent.
Image from Gov.UK Project Gigabit progress update – April 2024 


Project Gigabit is a government scheme being run by Being Digital UK (BDUK). It aims to make sure everyone across the UK has access to fast, reliable broadband, even in hard to reach, rural locations.

This is a long-running project that they’re still rolling out. Originally, it was planned to be finished by the end of 2021, but they are still working on it. The latest Project Gigabit update we had was in April 2024, when it was confirmed 81% of the UK now has access to a gigabit-capable network.

Gigabit Vouchers

If you’re worried they aren’t going to roll out superfast broadband in your area any time soon, it's worth exploring the Gigabit broadband voucher scheme. This is available for people and businesses whose internet can’t reach speeds of 100Mbps, or there isn’t going to be any commercial or government work on the broadband in the area any time soon.

The voucher will go to your local supplier so that they can install the new infrastructure that’ll be necessary for faster speeds. You’ll need to be signed up with this provider to actually access these new speeds, so it could be a long process. But this is something that can help a lot of people in rural areas.

Expert Summary

Gigabit broadband is the fastest broadband home users can sign up to. Not every home will have access to this, but over the next few years, it’s going to become more accessible. Gigabit broadband speeds will allow you to stream HD video whilst someone else works on a website and a third games online.

As it stands, your best bet for getting hold of Gigabit broadband is with a service like Virgin Media. It offers gigabit speeds and is the most readily available network. Just over half of UK properties have access to Virgin Media cable.

If you’re in a more rural area where you’re still on ADSL or other very slow speeds, you should look into Project Gigabit.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a business or a homeowner, you could still be applicable for the voucher scheme provided your speeds are slow enough, and you have a local provider willing to be part of the scheme. It’s entirely possible that the government or someone else local is already on this, so look into it and see whether something is happening.

Meet the author:

Contributor

Matt has been working with Broadband Genie since 2009. A lifelong tech enthusiast, he has 20 years of experience writing about technology for print and online.


Specialist subject: The technicalities of broadband

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