Superfast broadband is a high-speed internet connection that provides much quicker internet speeds than an older ADSL connection delivered using copper cables.
It's a broad term, but one that just refers to speed, not a specific type of broadband.
The term 'superfast broadband' is usually applied to an internet connection with average download speeds of 24Mb+ or 30Mb+.
Many homes and businesses now have the option of getting superfast fibre broadband packages to improve broadband speeds significantly.
Want to know more? This guide will tell you everything you need to know if you’re thinking of upgrading your current broadband.
Alternatively, if you’re just interested in finding the best superfast service, head to our broadband deal comparison pages and use the postcode checker to see what’s available in your area.
Superfast broadband: the key points
How fast is superfast broadband?
Like ultrafast, “superfast” is a simplified label for categorising internet speeds. It’s not an official technical term with any universally recognised definition.
At Broadband Genie, we classify superfast broadband as a connection speed of 30Mb or above, which is the same as the Ofcom definition.
The ADSL broadband we often call 'standard broadband' is available to most homes and businesses. But it’s not what we’d call superfast. Theoretically, it has a maximum speed of 24Mb. More realistically, the average speed is around 10Mb.
But superfast is widely available using other broadband technologies. You can get superfast broadband right now with 5G mobile internet, satellite broadband, BT Openreach lines, fibre optic, and Virgin Media fibre.
Here are the average or up-to speeds you can expect to get with different types of broadband:
- Openreach (BT line) fibre optic: 35-38Mb / 50Mb (BT only) / 63-68Mb / 100Mb / 300Mb / 500Mb / 900Mb
- Virgin Media: 54Mb / 108Mb / 213Mb / 362Mb / 516Mb / 630Mb / 1.1Gb
- 5G mobile broadband: 100Mb-200Mb (approximate average)
- Satellite broadband: 50-100Mb
Average speeds are based on 50% of the provider’s customers, so they are a reasonable picture of what you can expect. But you should also be given a speed estimate when joining a provider that is more accurate.
An “up-to” speed is the maximum possible transfer rate or speed of the connection, but the performance can be much lower in practice.
For mobile broadband users, you won’t receive an estimate of speed from a mobile network, as performance is highly variable depending on numerous factors outside the network's control.
For more help with this topic, we have an easy guide to broadband speeds.
What is fibre broadband?
Superfast broadband isn’t a specific type of connection, but most of the superfast home broadband services in the UK use one of two fixed-line broadband technologies: FTTC or HFC. You may also hear about FTTH or FTTP, which offer even greater speeds.
But what do these acronyms actually stand for?
Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC)
FTTC is the broadband service offered by most ISPs, using the BT Openreach telephone network. An FTTC connection uses fibre optic lines up to street cabinets, then it’s carried into our homes with the old copper wire phone line. This is what makes it widely available, as we’ve all had these phone lines installed for years already, so it’s practical and requires less work to set up.
Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC)
HFC is the technology used by Virgin Media. Like FTTC it uses fibre optic cables up to the street cabinets, but it then relies on a coaxial cable to reach into homes. This allows Virgin Media to offer faster broadband speeds, as well as landline and TV services.
Fibre To The Home/Premises (FTTH or FTTP)
Another type of fibre optic 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 broadband” connection which eliminates the old copper telephone wires and can provide very speedy “ultrafast broadband”, though providers also offer slower and cheaper packages with superfast speeds. The difference between this and HFC is that they solely use fibre cables. So, you need fibre cable installed into your property as well as the street outside.
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.
Can I get superfast broadband?
You can probably get superfast broadband. More than 99% of UK premises now have access to fixed-line superfast connectivity. Many places also have 5G network signals, and for everyone else, there’s always satellite broadband.
The rollout of superfast broadband has been going on for several years and aims to provide superfast connectivity to as many premises as possible. In most cases, superfast will be delivered over an Openreach or Virgin Media line.
You can find out if superfast is available in your home right here on Broadband Genie. Enter your address below to see results for your location. This will quickly show you the superfast services available in your area.
If you’re keen to learn more about broadband availability in specific towns, visit our local broadband hub for guides to many parts of the UK.
Broadband Genie deals checker
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 broadband. But not everyone will have this option. If you’re in a situation where fixed-line services aren't available, there are alternatives:
Satellite internet can be a solution if you live in a very remote and rural area where there's no other option for broadband. It’s a great choice, as it’ll work anywhere. 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 providers offer 30-50Mb, while some can deliver more than 100Mb.
But satellite broadband is expensive. The setup fees can run into hundreds of pounds, and it’s a little pricier to run than other types of broadband. Unlimited satellite broadband is especially dear, but most satellite service providers do offer cheaper packages with unlimited usage in off-peak hours.
The biggest downside is that satellite has very high latency, making it unsuitable for things like online gaming and remote desktop access. Although SpaceX Starlink has solved this issue by placing satellites in a lower orbit.
5G mobile broadband
5G mobile networks can provide a reasonably reliable superfast connection, so long as you can get a strong signal. Some networks, notably EE and Three, are starting to cater more to home users. They now offer packages that include Wi-Fi internet routers and unlimited data usage, making it more practical for home use.
But of course, you need to be able to get a signal, and if you don’t have good fixed-line connectivity, there may not be much in the way of a mobile network in your area either. However, if there’s only a weak signal, it's possible to get much faster mobile broadband by using an external antenna to boost reception.
Do I need superfast broadband?
We recommend superfast broadband for anyone who regularly uses their internet for demanding data-heavy activities such as HD video streaming on Netflix or other streaming apps, downloading large files or online gaming and hosting. We also recommend it if you share your connection with other people. That way, the broadband won’t become unbearably slow when everyone in your home is online at the same time.
However, if the broadband is used by one person and mostly for light usage such as web browsing, social media and email, then you’re not going to see much benefit from the faster connection. So, it can be better to save money with a cheaper ADSL service.
For more help and advice about choosing the right reliable broadband service, our guide “do I need fast broadband?” goes into lots more detail. If you're a business and looking for the right broadband, also check out our leased line broadband guide.
Or if you're now sold on superfast, check out some of the best superfast deals currently available:
Which providers offer superfast?
Finding superfast broadband isn’t a problem - there's stacks of choice! Some broadband providers and packages you’ll find on Broadband Genie include:
36Mb, 50Mb, or 74Mb average speeds | 24-month contract
Prices start from under £30 for the initial contract term. Extras include free cloud storage, public Wi-Fi and TNT Sports.
NOW Broadband Fibre
36Mb or 63Mb average speeds | 1 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.
50Mb average speeds | 24-month contract
Plusnet has a good reputation and is well-regarded by customers for its award-winning service and support. Its service is now fully digital, so you won't have to cough up for line rental.
38Mb or 65Mb average speeds | 18-month contract
Cheap fibre optic deals, and the option of TV bundles with flexible premium channel add-ons.
132Mb, 264Mb, 362Mb, 516Mb and 1.1Gb average speeds | 18-month contract
Virgin has the fastest speeds of any mass-market provider, but you must be in a Virgin network area.
How to get superfast deals
To help you find the perfect superfast package, we’ve designed our comparison tables so browsing fibre broadband deals is quick and easy. You’ll be able to compare ultrafast fibre too if you’re looking for an even faster internet connection than your current provider offers.
On the left side of the comparison table (or at the 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.
Superfast broadband is the term for any type of broadband with speeds of 24Mb or faster. It’s not a specific type of broadband and the speeds it needs to reach aren’t set in stone, so you’ll find many providers offering something along these lines.
Now you know what superfast broadband is, it’s time to decide whether it’s worth it for you. Even if you can’t get a fixed-line deal, you might be able to look into satellite or mobile broadband. Whatever your situation, superfast broadband is likely going to be available to you.
Why do we need your address?
We need your address to show you the broadband deals available at your home. This information is gathered in partnership with thinkbroadband.