How does fibre broadband work?

Fibre broadband utilises fibre optic cables to deliver a faster Internet connection to homes.

However, there are various types of fibre broadband, including:

  • Fibre broadband to the cabinet (FTTC)
  • Fibre broadband to the home, or premises (FTTH or FTTP)
  • Cable broadband, which uses a mix of fibre optic and coaxial cabling

Fibre broadband to the cabinet has been around several years and 97% of UK homes can access it. It offers superfast broadband speeds between around 30Mb and up to 70Mb per second.

Fibre broadband to the home is a newer technology where a fibre optic cable is laid all the way into a house or building. It offers much faster speeds from 100Mb up to 1000Mb per second. It's currently available to just over half of the UK, although the Government aims to reach 85% of the UK by 2025, and 99% by 2030.

Virgin Media has commonly been referred to as offering cable broadband, however their network also uses fibre optic cabling and they're currently upgrading parts of their network still reliant on coaxial, or cable, connections to full fibre.

Is fibre broadband available in my area?

Fibre broadband is increasingly being made available across the UK, with a range of technologies bringing download speeds from 30Mb to over 1,000Mb per second.

To check whether fibre broadband is available in your area use our postcode tool above, which will return the best fibre broadband deals available to you.

Superfast fibre broadband, which uses fibre optic cables to the nearest street cabinet, is available to 97% of UK homes. So, most people will be able to get fibre broadband with download speeds of at least 30Mb per second.

Faster fibre broadband delivered by installing fibre optic cables straight into a customer's home is now available to over half of all homes across the UK, and Virgin Media fibre broadband also reaches over 50% of the UK.

There are a few instances where different fibre providers may be available to you:

  • People living in London specifically have access to dedicated fibre broadband providers including Community Fibre
  • People living in rural or remote areas may find dedicated providers such as Gigaclear or B4RN have installed full fibre broadband where they live
  • People living generally across the UK will start to see more independent providers, alongside more well-known names such as BT and Virgin Media, bringing fibre to their area

Lastly, there's a section of households who might not yet be able to get fibre broadband, and confusingly this can be homes that are located very close to their telephone exchange.

We look at this in more detail in our guide to exchange only lines, but basically due to the lack of a green street cabinet, people living in close proximity to their telephone exchange can often be stuck on basic broadband services until full fibre becomes available to them.

Which providers offer fibre broadband?

Superfast fibre to the cabinet and full fibre broadband is offered by most broadband providers across the UK.

Fibre broadband providers include:

  • BT
  • Sky
  • Virgin Media
  • TalkTalk
  • Plusnet
  • Vodafone
  • NOW Broadband
  • Community Fibre
  • Hyperoptic
  • Gigaclear
  • YouFibre

Fibre broadband providers use different fibre optic networks around the UK, for example, Plusnet sells broadband on the Openreach network, while TalkTalk sells fibre broadband on both the Openreach and Cityfibre networks.

Read more about broadband networks in this guide.

More independent fibre broadband providers are becoming available across the UK, including Community Fibre in London, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and YouFibre.

While most well-known broadband providers now all offer full fibre broadband, NOW Broadband, who is run by Sky, only offer access to superfast fibre broadband.

The best provider for fibre broadband will vary between different household needs as well as location. The fibre broadband comparison table above can both check fibre deals in your area, as well as sort them by price, special offer value and broadband speed, and filter deals by phone line options and contract length.

How much does fibre broadband cost?

Fibre broadband costs from around £20 per month, with deals costing more for faster broadband speeds.

Ultrafast and gigabit cable fibre broadband can be more expensive, with 1Gb fibre deals usually costing between £40 and £50 per month.

The price of fibre broadband does vary between providers, with the cheapest fibre broadband offered by independent networks Community Fibre and Hyperoptic, as well as nationwide budget providers like Shell Energy Broadband and Vodafone.

New and switching customers can often access the best prices, with special offers usually discounting the cost of fibre broadband for the initial minimum term period.

The fibre broadband comparison table above allows you to sort by lowest price, which considers the monthly fee as well as any upfront costs and special offer discounts over the length of the contract. The filter in our tool can also help you to find the best value fibre broadband for your needs.

The best fibre broadband deals for price can be found by using the comparison search.

Read more about the cheapest broadband in the UK.

What fibre broadband speed should I choose?

Fibre broadband speeds vary between different locations, so the postcode tool above can filter deals by what is available in your area.

However, where there is a wide choice of speed available it's worth considering how much you use the broadband connection, how many devices go online at the same time, and whether the connection is shared between multiple people in a home.

The fastest fibre broadband providers include Virgin Media with their Gig1 package offering average download speeds of 1.13Gb.

Those with more devices and users will want to look at faster broadband speeds, while people who don't use the Internet that much will find superfast fibre deals adequate.

Read more about what broadband speed to choose in our full guide.

What's the difference between fibre and standard broadband?

Fibre broadband is faster than standard basic broadband, which relies entirely on the copper phone line network to deliver the connection.

Standard broadband offers download speeds usually around 10Mb on average, but it can deliver speeds up to 24Mb in some cases.

Fibre broadband on the other hand starts with average download speeds around 30Mb, and goes up to 1,000Mb or more with full fibre connections.

Because the copper phone line network is being phased out, people still on basic broadband connections should consider upgrading to fibre broadband. As well as being faster and more reliable, it's often now cheaper than copper broadband.

When is fibre coming to my area?

Superfast fibre broadband offering download speeds of at least 30Mb is available to 97% of the UK.

Faster, full fibre broadband has so far reached over half of UK homes, but the Government aims to reach 99% coverage by the end of 2030.

Alongside rollouts by BT and Virgin Media, many independent companies are installing their own fibre networks around the UK, so coverage and availability of fibre broadband is changing on a daily basis.

It's worth keeping an eye on the results for fibre broadband in your area by checking your postcode in the table above, as availability is kept updated across many major providers.

It's also possible to register interest with some providers, including Virgin Media.

How do I switch to fibre broadband?

The fibre broadband comparison service above allows you to filter deals by area and price, as well as any additional features you want such as call plans or a shorter contract period.

Once you've found the best fibre broadband deal, simply click the 'Get deal' button to be taken directly to the provider where you can sign up through their online checkout cart.

Once you've signed up online directly with the provider, they'll handle the setup of the new broadband service for you. For more information see our full guide on the process for switching broadband providers and how it works.

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