With the upgrade to our broadband infrastructure being accelerated, ultrafast broadband is becoming more accessible with each passing day.
So you might now be wondering, is it time to upgrade to a faster deal? But what exactly do you get, and what are the benefits to ultrafast broadband? Let's take a look.
What is ultrafast broadband?
Anything with a download speed over 100Mb can be classified as ultrafast.
There are a lot of different technologies that are able to deliver these faster speeds, including upgraded street cabinets that use the G.fast technology, Virgin Media's cable and fibre network, and the growing number of full fibre, or fibre-to-the-home, services that are being rolled out across the country.
Coverage is still quite patchy, but a majority of UK homes can get an ultrafast service from at least one provider, with as many as 59% able to get speeds of at least 300Mb.
Do you need ultrafast broadband?
While faster is very much better, the normal fibre broadband connections that most of us still use are extremely capable.
A 67Mb connection is good enough to allow you watch Netflix or Amazon Prime in 4K, and can download a 1GB file in just a touch over two minutes. You shouldn't experience too much in the way of problems, even with a fairly busy household.
But remember, your available bandwidth is divided between all the devices connected to your network. The more devices you add, the more likely you are to experience slowdowns on some of your tasks - your videos drop to a lower resolution, your downloads take longer, and so on. Ultrafast broadband reduces the chances of this happening, and the faster your connection, the less likely it gets. It allows you to connect more devices, and more people, without putting any limits on what they can do.
So while you might not have a desperate need for ultrafast, right now, there are lots of good reasons why it will benefit you.
Your browsing in general will speed up. You'll notice it especially with complex web apps like Google Docs, or photo heavy sites. You get a shorter ping rate, too, which means better online gaming.
You will experience much faster downloads. This isn't just files you're actively downloading on your laptop, but other things like those Windows 10 updates that happen in the background, video game downloads, and even Ultra HD movies you load on your Sky Q box. For reference, a 5GB file will take over 10 minutes to download on a 67Mb connection, and just 42 seconds with gigabit broadband.
Along with faster downloads, you also get much faster uploads. Full fibre broadband is symmetric, which means the upload and download speeds are the same. If you work from home, especially, this could be a huge benefit.
Ultrafast broadband is future-proof. Internet use on the Openreach network, which covers most UK broadband suppliers, more than doubled throughout 2020. Yes, it was driven in part by lockdown, but it was also the continuation of a long established trend that's unlikely to change any time soon.
In some cases, ultrafast broadband might also be your best option. Lots of rural areas, as well as new build homes, have frankly terrible options when it comes to fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband - and some don't have it at all. But full fibre is independent of the old copper-based network, so you might increasingly find that it's your best, and maybe, only choice.
Can you get ultrafast broadband?
The provider with the widest ultrafast broadband coverage throughout the country is Virgin Media. They're available to approaching two-thirds of the UK and they offer speeds up to an average 630Mb. Vodafone, EE and Sky are among the other big providers that can offer ultrafast broadband at varying speeds.
There's also a big growth in the number of specialist full fibre providers, some focussing on specific regions. These include Community Fibre in parts of London and TrueSpeed in the South West, while Gigaclear target rural areas in 22 counties across the Midlands and south of England. Coverage is improving all the time, as are the range of options available to everyone.
Are you ready to upgrade to ultrafast broadband? Use our postcode checker to find out if it's available in your street already.
UK broadband is getting faster. The average download speeds broadband-using Brits are getting has risen by a quarter over the last year, while more than one in five of us can now access a full fibre connection.
Those are the big findings in new research from Ofcom, which also shows that gigabit-capable broadband is now available across well over a third of the country - and it has grown by nearly 40% in just three months.
The spring update to the industry watchdog's Connected Nations study has shown how rapidly the UK's ultrafast broadband infrastructure is developing.
As of January this year, nearly 11 million homes - some 37% - were able to access a gigabit-capable service. That's up from 7.9 million last September. This change was driven largely by a major upgrade to Virgin Media's cable network, which brought these faster speeds to an extra 2.8 million homes.
Full fibre coverage is now up to 21% - nearly six million homes - with the growth coming from the larger infrastructure operators such as the BT-owned Openreach, as well as smaller, more targeted local providers like Gigaclear and TrueSpeed.
The picture is also improving for people outside of these coverage areas. Ultrafast broadband, which Ofcom define as having download speeds above 300Mb, is now available to 17.7 million homes (61%), while 96% of the country is able to get an internet connection of at least 30Mb.
Access to full fibre
Access to gigabit-capable services
However, there are still some areas that are poorly served, with 650,000 homes unable to get a fixed line internet connection with download speeds of at least 10Mb. That's a little over two percent overall, with Northern Ireland having the highest proportion of underserved homes. Some of these homes may have access to alternative broadband services.
Access to 10Mb services
In separate research, Ofcom also found that the average download speed users of fixed home broadband were getting in November 2020 was 80Mb - a massive increase of 25% compared to the year before. Upload speeds - essential for gaming, video calling and working from home - fared even better, rising by over 50% to an average 21.6Mb. The changes were largely the result of increased availability of ultrafast broadband packages, and happened in spite of the lockdown that caused a massive spike in the amount of bandwidth we all used.
The Government's aim is to roll out gigabit-capable broadband nationwide over the next few years. BT recently confirmed their intention to invest £12 billion into the plan, while the Government also announced the first part of their spending to cover harder to reach rural areas.
Are you ready to upgrade to a faster internet service? Our postcode checker will show you if gigabit-capable broadband is available where you live. Just enter your details and we'll take care of the rest!
How often do you make calls on your landline these days? Chances are, it's not often at all.
The number of landline calls has been slashed by well over a half over the last few years. Millions of us now only have landlines because we need them for our broadband. But that's about to change.
A new wave of standalone, broadband-only services are on their way, spearheaded by BT and EE. And it's not just a passing trend. Within five years this will be the norm.
So why is this happening now? Simple answer: the days of the landline are numbered. The UK's ageing phone network is set to be switched off in 2025, to be replaced by a combination of mobile and internet calls. The transition is already under way.
What's happened is that Openreach, the BT-owned company that runs the network, has effectively split the phone service out from the copper wire network that it works on. So where you'd normally automatically get a phone sevice whenever you signed up to a broadband package that uses the copper network (which is most of them), now you won't.
Most fibre services still need to use the copper lines, but increasingly you won't get a phone number or dial tone unless you really need one.
This is leading to the launch of new broadband-only packages (the technical name for these is SOGEA broadband, but you don't need to worry about that). Our newly updated guide to Broadband Without a Phone Line has got all the details you need.
Leading the way in this new generation are BT and EE.
BT are offering their Fibre Essential, Fibre 1 and Fibre 2 deals as broadband-only packages, on two-year contracts and priced at the same rate as the equivalent with-landline deals.
EE offer as standard all their regular fibre packages as broadband-only on 18-month contracts. If you do want to keep your landline you have to add it during checkout, and also pay a little extra for a call package.
This is awesome news for those of us whose landlines attract cold callers and scammers and nothing else. But you do need to be slightly cautious before you sign up. When you take on broadband-only you will give up your phone line and lose your number. If you later have second thoughts, you'll be able to get a new line, but you won't get your number back.
If you're in any doubt, a simple compromise solution is to stick with what you've got for now and just unplug your phone. There's no real cost difference either way, at the moment.
These new services aren't your only options for landline-free internet. The biggest provider that can give you this is Virgin Media, who offer all their broadband deals with or without a phone connection. Either way, you don't need a BT line installed to get them.
There's also the small but growing band of full fibre providers, like Gigaclear and Direct Save. They have limited coverage, which is expanding all the time, and come with the added benefit of delivering the fastest broadband in the UK. You can get top speeds averaging around 900Mb - around 13 times faster than the most popular fibre deals.
If you're keen to switch to broadband-only, or want to find out what your options are, use our postcode checker to see the best broadband deals available in your area today.