Broadband in your area
Despite the frustratingly slow deployment of superfast broadband to bring us fully into the 21st Century, the UK does benefit from a wide variety of broadband services with a vast mix of packages to suit most budgets, a far better situation than many other parts of the world.
But that is far from consistent across the nation. Many towns and cities enjoy the option of multiple providers using different technologies with an extensive choice in speed and pricing, while other areas still have a very limited selection. And then there are some lucky people enjoying incredible 1Gb fibre optic broadband.
All these potential options, from the very fastest broadband to basic ADSL, mean some research is required when selecting a provider to ensure you get the best broadband deal on the right service. This is especially important when moving to a new area as there’s no guarantee that you can receive the same speeds or even continue to use the same supplier.
Read on below to find out more, or start comparing offers in your location by entering a postcode:
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What's the cheapest broadband in your area?
Broadband deals are available from under £20 per month including line rental, but when buying a cheap deal you need to make sure that it fits your requirements in other ways. Is the connection fast enough? Does it have a data usage cap? Are you missing out on extra features that might be useful? Visit our cheap broadband page to compare offers and learn how to get the best deal.
What's the fastest broadband in your area?
Fast broadband is now widely available, with more than 95% of UK premises having access to at least 24Mb broadband. But what exactly is fast broadband, and is it something you need? Read our guide to the UK’s fastest broadband for more information.
Why does availability differ depending on location?
Broadband coverage tends to be best in urban areas, because when building networks the operators prioritise locations where they can get the most from their investment. Installing a network is expensive, so it doesn’t always make sense for them to install new lines or upgrade a connection if it’s only going to serve a small number of homes.
The Openreach (BT telephone line) network has the widest coverage, but there are still a few areas where broadband is either very slow or not available. The other major network, Virgin Media, covers slightly more than 60% of premises and tends to be concentrated in towns and cities.
From 2020 the Universal Service Obligation (USO) will mean that anyone has the right to request a minimum 10Mb broadband connection, however, even then there’s a small minority of premises where fixed line access is not financially viable. There is a cost threshold for installation, and those in remote locations may have to pay extra or look for alternatives such as wireless broadband or satellite broadband.
Why does broadband speed change in different areas?
As well as the availability of a connection there is also a difference in speed between areas.
The ADSL and Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) technology used for many broadband services have a maximum range and get slower the further you are from the exchange, so those at the very end of the line will experience slower and less reliable connectivity in comparison to people whose homes are very close to the exchange. This is less of an issue in an urban area where we may never be far from an exchange but can be problematic in the countryside. Speed can also be impacted by the number of users sharing the network in a given area, which may be especially apparent during peak hours when lots of people are online at the same time.
Some locations also benefit from access to different types of broadband technology which can deliver much faster speeds. Virgin Media offers fibre broadband up to 362Mb, far quicker than the 65Mb-ish available for most homes using the Openreach network. And a lucky few - around 3% - can get ultrafast Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) which can provide gigabit speeds.
Which providers have the fastest broadband?
There is not a huge variation in speeds for ADSL deals, all ADSL broadband providers advertise average speeds of 10Mb or 11Mb.
Openreach fibre optic
Virgin Media fibre
Virgin Media VIVID 350 fibre broadband offers an average speed of 362Mb.
Fibre to the premises is capable of delivering speeds of 1Gb (gigabit per second), which is more than twice as fast as Virgin Media’s best speed. However, FTTP is only available to a very small number of homes.