What is ultrafast broadband?
Ultrafast broadband is a very high-speed internet connection. It usually refers to broadband that can offer download speeds between 300Mb+ and 1Gb. However, some providers will also use it for broadband packages where speeds are faster than 100Mb+.
Ultrafast broadband services tend to use landlines, or cable broadband. Technically though, 5G mobile internet is speedy enough to be referred to as ‘ultrafast’, too.
How fast is ultrafast broadband?
To put things into perspective, let's take a look at the other broadband options available:
The slowest broadband you can currently sign up to a contract for is ‘ADSL broadband’. This internet service uses the same copper wires as your home phone line.
Although it’s fine for basic web browsing, ADSL2+ download speeds peak at a maximum of 24Mb. This can make it trickier to carry out tasks like streaming if more than one of you are online at a time.
Standard fibre broadband deals (also known as ‘fibre to the cabinet’ or 'FTTC'), give you the option to enjoy speedier, superfast internet.
FTTC is widely available on the Openreach network. Instead of solely using copper wires, fibre optic cables are used up to the street cabinet. From there on, the traditional copper cabling completes the rest of the journey.
With superfast fibre broadband you can expect download speeds of between 36Mb to 74Mb. Around 97% of UK premises have access to a superfast broadband package. That's plenty enough for 2-3 people to comfortably be online.
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.
Ultrafast home broadband is delivered either by Virgin Media’s cable broadband network, a rarer technology called 'GFast' or full fibre. This is sometimes referred to as ‘fibre to the premises’ or ‘FTTP’ broadband. No copper wires are used at all. Faster cables are installed right up to your home.
The rollout of the UK’s full fibre network is still ongoing. As of September 2023, around 56% of properties are hooked up to a FTTP network.
Still not sure whether you need ultrafast broadband? Read our guide: 'what broadband speed do you need? Do you need fast broadband?'
Which providers offer ultrafast broadband deals?
The list of broadband providers offering ultrafast broadband deals is getting longer as more customers across the UK get access to a much faster full fibre connection.
Here are some of the more popular providers who offer ultrafast broadband packages:
Virgin offers deals with average speeds between 132Mb to 1.1Gb and around half of UK homes can sign up to its products. The availability of Virgin Media deals is different to many other broadband providers. This is because Virgin Media runs its own cable network, unlike most others who piggyback off BT Openreach. As well as broadband only deals, Virgin Media has plenty of ultrafast options that also bundle in TV and phone.
BT has Ultrafast packages available with speeds up to 900Mb. This is available through full fibre (FTTP) or a different technology called ‘G.fast’, depending on availability.
What is G.fast?
G.fast is type of broadband technology that can offer download speeds of up to 330Mb. It uses the same lines which currently supply Fibre To The Cabinet fibre optic broadband. Higher speeds are achieved by expanding the frequency range. Unfortunately, this only works over short distances. This means it's limited to customers who live no further than 500 metres from an exchange. The rollout of G.fast has been halted, for the most part, in favour of full fibre broadband.
Hyperoptic operates its own fibre broadband network and can deliver speeds up to 1Gb. It mainly operates in major cities and is often found in new-build flats.
Like Hyperoptic, there are plenty of other smaller, alternative network providers that could turn out to be a great alternative for an ultrafast deal. These providers almost always offer full fibre deals on their own network. Use our deals checker to see what else is available in your immediate area.
TalkTalk is one of the cheapest providers when it comes to bundled broadband, TV and phone deals. Its entry-level ultrafast option comes in the form of Full Fibre 150, but packages with speeds up to 525Mb and 925Mb are also available.
Sky offers two different Ultrafast packages. Sign up to Ultrafast fibre for an average download speed of 145Mb. Alternatively, ‘Ultrafast Plus’ takes things to another level with download speeds of 500Mb. Its fastest full fibre broadband package comes in the form of ‘Gigafast’. This offers average speeds of 900 Mbps. Ultrafast packages are available as ‘broadband only‘ deals, or you can bundle in features such as Sky Stream or Netflix.
Offering speeds from 100Mb to 910Mb, Vodafone has plenty of options available for those looking for ultrafast deals. Its Pro II Fibre 1 and Pro II Fibre 2 options also come with automatic 4G backup, should there ever be any technical problems with the fixed line service (hybrid broadband). A Wi-Fi coverage guarantee is included.
Other providers on the Openreach network that offer ultrafast broadband and are available to most homes include:
You can also find out more on our FTTP deals page.
What's the monthly fee for ultrafast broadband?
The good and somewhat surprising news is that ultrafast isn’t too expensive!
Entry level Ultrafast broadband packages, including Virgin Media M125 and BT Full Fibre 100, will set you back around £27-£30 per month for new customers. Even the very high-speed gigabit broadband connections are relatively affordable, with Hyperoptic charging around £40.
As full fibre or cable broadband doesn’t rely on a traditional landline, you can also wave goodbye to unnecessary line rental charges. So, if you’re not a regular home phone user and happy to use your mobile phone for calls, you might immediately start saving money by moving to an ultrafast option.
It’s likely that once ultrafast broadband is more widely available, we’ll see cheaper deals as providers compete for customers.
The only thing to bear in mind is that you’re likely to be asked to sign up to a longer contract length. 18 month contracts or 24 month contracts are typical.
Do I need ultrafast broadband?
Ultrafast broadband is capable of doing anything a regular broadband service can do, only quicker!
It’s particularly good for data-intensive activities, such as:
- Downloading and uploading files: You’ll be able to download much quicker with ultrafast full fibre broadband compared to superfast broadband or standard broadband. The upload speed is also much better, which is very helpful if you need to frequently send big files.
- Family and shared homes: If your connection often slows down when your entire home is online at the same time, especially during peak times, ultrafast broadband can provide more than enough bandwidth. That means everyone can do what they like without connections slowing to a crawl.
- Streaming video: Ultrafast broadband is quick enough to handle very high-definition 4K video streaming and video calls, even if several people are all streaming video at once. Goodbye buffering!
- Gaming: Ultrafast broadband can let you download large games much faster. And the extra upload speed is useful for gamers who host, or stream on Twitch or YouTube.
Few of us could truly claim we need ultrafast, but if you do any of the above regularly, you’ll appreciate the extra speed. More than anything else, it'll be a big quality-of-life upgrade for homes where the connection is shared between many users and devices.
Can I get ultrafast broadband, and where can I buy it?
It’s possible you could get ultrafast right now, but it currently isn’t available to all homes.
Ultrafast broadband deals are available to buy from Broadband Genie. By entering a postcode or address into our deals checker, you’ll be shown all the broadband deals available to you. You can also use the table filters to search for average download speeds, or sort by monthly price and contract length.
Broadband Genie deals checker
When will my area get ultrafast broadband?
The rollout of ultrafast broadband is gathering pace and coverage is improving all the time, but it’s hard to say when you may be able to get it. If you’re in a larger town or city, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to sign up in the next few years. However, more remote locations might need to be a bit more patient. Keep an eye on the news for broadband in your area to get a heads-up of new developments.
One of the easiest ways to find out when you’re able to sign up to ultrafast broadband is to type your postcode into Openreach’s ‘fibre availability’ checker. If you can’t get it yet, you can register your interest for email updates.
FAQs about ultrafast broadband
What’s the difference between superfast and ultrafast broadband?
Ultrafast broadband is a very high-speed broadband connection. It usually refers to broadband that can offer speeds of 300Mb+. Meanwhile, superfast broadband is usually applied to broadband with average download speeds of 24Mb+ or 30Mb+.
Do ultrafast broadband packages have faster upload speeds?
Ultrafast packages do tend to have faster upload speeds, but you may be disappointed. Although some providers, such as Hyperoptic, offer ‘symmetrical downloads’ (so upload speeds are same as download speeds), others don’t make a feature of this. As an example, if you signed up to Virgin Media’s M125 package, you’d enjoy 132Mb download speeds, but only 20Mb average upload speeds.
Do I need a special router for ultrafast broadband?
When you sign up to an ultrafast broadband packages as a new customer, you’ll receive a dedicated router as part of the deal. If you’re interested in finding out more about the type of hardware bundled in with a contract, check out these round-ups:
I’m running a business. Do I need ultrafast broadband?
Some businesses would definitely benefit from ultrafast broadband. If you have more than a handful of employees, you could find that regular ADSL or even superfast fibre broadband services get very slow when everyone is online at once. Ultrafast, or at least leased line broadband, could solve this.
Businesses are also more likely to frequently send or receive large amounts of data. In some cases, even a small business could benefit from an upgrade to fast broadband.
Businesses can sign up for the same ultrafast services as home users. Many providers have business broadband deals that deliver the same speeds, plus additional features such as specialist support. On the downside, the upfront set-up fees can be more expensive. If you’d like to learn more, our guide to business broadband can help.
Ultrafast broadband might not be something that many of us need, but if you live in a busy home, it could make things easier for you.
Not everyone has access to ultrafast broadband yet. The rollout of this is still ongoing. But it’s not a disaster if you don’t. Superfast or standard fibre broadband will often be more than fast enough.
Gamers should think about getting ultrafast broadband, if it’s available. This allows you to use the internet without having to worry about slowing it down for others in your phone.
Unsure what kind of speeds you’re getting at the moment? Why not try out this handy speed test tool. You’ll be able to see what download and upload speeds you’re getting in a flash!
For more help, we also recommend reading our ‘easy guide to broadband speeds’.