In this guide
If your current broadband service just isn’t doing the job it may be time to think about an upgrade to superfast broadband.
But what is superfast, and do you need it? This guide will tell you everything you need to know.
If you’re just interested in finding the best superfast service then head over to our broadband deal comparison pages and use the postcode checker to see what’s available in your area., or click the button below:
What is superfast broadband and how does it work?
Superfast broadband is a high speed internet connection which provides much quicker internet speeds than standard ADSL broadband.
It is a general term referring to the speed, not a specific type of broadband.
Many homes and businesses now have the option of getting a superfast broadband deal to significantly improve broadband speeds.
How fast is superfast broadband?
At Broadband Genie we use the Ofcom definition of superfast broadband to mean a connection with a download speed of 30Mb+ (upload speed is not defined, but you can expect this to be reasonably fast too). Like ultrafast, "superfast" is a simplified label for broadly categorising internet speeds and not an official technical term with any universally recognised definition.
The Ofcom definition means the standard ADSL broadband available to most homes and businesses is not what we would consider superfast. But superfast is widely available using other broadband technologies. You can get superfast broadband right now with 4G mobile internet, satellite broadband, Openreach (BT line) fibre optic and Virgin Media fibre.
Here are the average or up to speeds you can expect to get with different types of superfast broadband:
- Openreach (BT line) fibre optic: 35-38Mb / 50Mb (BT Infinity only) / 63-68Mb
- Virgin Media: 54Mb / 108Mb / 213Mb / 362Mb
- 4G mobile broadband: up to 21Mb / up to 40Mb / up to 60Mb / up to 100Mb
- Satellite broadband: up to 30Mb
Average speeds are based on 50% of the provider’s customers so provide a fairly accurate portrayal of the actual performance, though you should always be given a personalised speed estimate when joining a provider.
An “up to” speed is the maximum possible speed, but in practice the performance could be much lower.
For mobile broadband - unlike fixed line home broadband - you will not receive an estimate of speed from a mobile network as performance is highly variable depending on numerous factors.
For more help with this topic our guide to broadband speeds goes into a lot more detail.
- FTTC, HFC & FTTP
Superfast broadband is a broad term and not a specific type of connection, but most of the superfast home broadband services in the UK use one of two broadband technologies: FTTC or HFC. You may also hear about FTTH or FTTP, which offer even greater speeds.
Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC)
This is the broadband service offered by most ISPs, using the Openreach (BT) telephone network. An FTTC connection uses fibre optic lines up to street cabinets then it’s carried into our homes with the old copper telephone line.
Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC)
HFC is the technology used by Virgin Media. Like FTTC it uses fibre optic cables to street cabinets, but then relies on coaxial cable to reach into homes. This allows Virgin Media to offer faster broadband speeds, as well as telephone and TV services.
Fibre To The Home/Premises (FTTH or FTTP)
Another type of broadband technology that’s less common but will (hopefully!) dominate in the future is Fibre To The Home/Premises (FTTH or FTTP). This is a “full fibre” connection which eliminates the old copper telephone wires and can provide very speedy “ultrafast” broadband.
Can I get superfast broadband?
You probably can get superfast broadband right now. More than 94% of premises now have access to fixed line superfast connectivity, many places have 4G network signal, and for everyone else there is always satellite broadband.
The rollout of superfast broadband has been going on for several years, and aims to provide superfast connectivity to the vast majority of premises by 2020. In most cases superfast will be delivered over an Openreach or Virgin Media line. The Openreach site has a map showing superfast coverage and future deployments.
You can find out if superfast is available in your home right here on Broadband Genie - enter your postcode into our broadband comparison tables to filter the results by location. This will quickly show you what superfast services are available in your area. If you would like to find out more about the availability of broadband in specific towns visit our local broadband hub for guides to many parts of the UK.
- Alternatives to fixed line superfast broadband
For most of us a fixed line broadband connection using the Openreach or Virgin Media network is the best way to get superfast, but not everyone will have this option. If you’re in this situation there are alternatives:
Satellite internet works anywhere and is useful if you live in a very remote area; the only requirement is that you must be able to mount a dish with a clear view of the sky. It’s reasonably quick too - most satellite ISPs can offer download speeds up to 30Mb and upload speeds up to 6Mb.
Satellite is a little more expensive though. Setup can be several hundred pounds, and the running costs are a little higher than other types of broadband. Unlimited satellite broadband is especially pricey, but most satellite ISPs offer cheaper packages with unlimited usage in off-peak hours.
The biggest downside is that satellite has a very high latency, making it unsuitable for things like online gaming and remote desktop access.
4G mobile broadband
4G mobile networks can provide a fairly reliable superfast connection so long as you can get a strong signal. Some networks - notably EE and Three - are catering to home users with packages that include 4G routers and a larger data usage caps.
But of course you need to be able to get a signal, and if you don’t have good fixed line connectivity it’s possible that there isn’t much in the way of a mobile network in your area either. If there’s a weak signal it is possible to get much faster mobile broadband by using an external antenna to boost the signal.
Do I need superfast?
Superfast broadband is great for anyone who regularly uses their internet for demanding data-heavy activities such as HD video streaming (Netflix, iPlayer, etc), downloading large files and gaming. It’s also recommended if the connection is shared with other people.
However, if the broadband is mostly for light usage such as web browsing, social media and email then you’re not really going to see much benefit from the faster connection and could save money with a cheaper ADSL service.
Superfast broadband advantages
- Fast! Superfast broadband is significantly quicker than ADSL.
- Better upload speeds. In addition to fast download rates you can also expect a much quicker upload speed, which is useful if you frequently transfer large files.
- Affordable. Superfast broadband is not expensive and there are always lots of great value special offers.
Superfast broadband disadvantages
- Not available everywhere. While superfast broadband over a fixed line does have 94%+ coverage there are still many homes which cannot get it. Alternatives are available (see above) but may not be suitable for everyone.
- ADSL is cheaper. While superfast isn’t expensive, it does still cost a little more than 17Mb ADSL2+. If you don’t need the extra speed you can save money with a cheap broadband deal.
For more help and advice about choosing the right broadband service our guide “do I need fast broadband?” goes into lots more detail.
Which providers offer superfast?
Finding a superfast broadband isn’t a problem when it’s offered by so many ISPs. Some of the providers and packages you’ll find on Broadband Genie include:
BT Superfast Fibre
50Mb or 67Mb average speeds | 18 month contract
Prices start from under £30 for the initial contract term. Extras include free cloud storage, public Wi-F and BT Sports.
36Mb or 67Mb average speeds | 18 month contract
Initial contract prices from under £30. EE offers a £50 early cancellation credit if you’re charged when switching.
NOW Broadband Fibre
36Mb or 63Mb average speeds | 1 month or 12 month contracts
NOW is one of the few providers offering superfast on a flexible rolling monthly contract. You can also get cheap streaming TV bundles.
36Mb or 66Mb average speeds | 18 month contract
Plusnet has a good reputation and is well regarded by customers for its service and support.
35Mb or 63Mb average speeds | 18 month contract
Cheap fibre optic deals, and the option of TV bundles with flexible premium channel add-ons.
54Mb, 108Mb, 213Mb or 362Mb average speeds | 12 month contract
Virgin has the fastest speeds of any mass-market provider, but you must be in a Virgin network area.
To view the above deals in more detail, follow the link below to our comparison page:
How to get superfast deals
To help you find the perfect superfast package we’ve designed our comparison tables so it’s quick and easy to compare all the offers.
To get started head over to our fibre optic comparison page and enter a postcode. On the left side of the comparison table (or up top if you’re on mobile) you’ll find the filters. Use these to narrow down the options. For example, you can tell it to display only deals over a certain speed, or include packages with a TV bundle.
Once you’ve filtered the deals, use the table to sort the results and prioritise by particular features.