Fibre networks in the UK

Last updated: 17 May 2023   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

There are a growing number of fibre networks rolling out full fibre broadband across the UK.

The biggest name in broadband, BT, operates the Openreach network, which has so far passed 10 million premises with its new full fibre network.

Other large fibre networks include Virgin Media, CityFibre, and Hyperoptic, who all pass in excess of a million premises.

There are also a growing number of smaller independent fibre networks rolling out fibre to the home connections in more localised and rural areas.

fibre optic internet connection

Fibre networks at a glance

Fibre networks own, operate and install the cables and equipment to bring broadband to homes, while broadband providers often resell these services with varying prices and offers for new customers.

Fibre network UK premises passed Resellers
BT Openreach 10 million BT, Plusnet, EE, Sky, NOW Broadband, TalkTalk, Vodafone, iTalk, Direct Save Telecom, Shell Energy Broadband, Zen Internet, plus others
Virgin Media 16 million Virgin Media
CityFibre 2.5 million TalkTalk, Vodafone, Zen Internet
Hyperoptic 1.15 million Hyperoptic
Community Fibre 0.9 million Community Fibre
Netomnia 400,000 YouFibre
GNetwork 400,000 GNetwork
Gigaclear 380,000 Gigaclear
KCOM 300,000 KCOM

As full fibre broadband has now reached 15 million premises across the UK, customers also have a growing choice of providers, with 2.5 million able to choose from at least two or more independent networks, and 1.6 million with a choice of at least three or more.

Ultimately, it's worth regularly checking full fibre broadband availability in your area for the latest prices and offers.


Largest fibre networks

The two main fibre broadband networks in the UK are BT Openreach and Virgin Media.

These two networks cover 10 million and 16 million premises respectively, and so customers are most likely to see one or both of these networks as options in their area.

They also have ambitious rollout plans, with BT Openreach aiming to reach 25 million premises by the end of 2026, and Virgin Media aiming to reach 23 million in the same period.

BT Openreach

Openreach operates the largest fibre broadband network in the UK as they've been the main incumbent provider and own most of the UK's telephone network.

However, the traditional copper phone line cables are now being replace by fibre optic cable to the home, which for Openreach has now reached 10 million premises.

Fibre to the cabinet broadband, which offers download speeds between 30Mb and 70Mb per second, is available to around 97% of UK homes. Yet this technology still relies on the copper phone network, so will eventually be replaced by full fibre cables.

Openreach broadband is resold by many well-known providers, including:

Most of these providers sell both fibre to the cabinet, superfast, and full fibre broadband connections on the Openreach network.

Openreach full fibre, or fibre to the premises (FTTP), can deliver average download speeds of up to 900Mb per second, while most providers offer a range of packages from 100Mb to 1Gb deals.

While each provider largely resells access to the same infrastructure, pricing between them varies, including upfront fees and special offers for new customers.

Some of the latest offers from providers are:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 145 145Mb average £27.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Save over £12/mth + No setup fee + Exclusive offers and discounts for Plusnet customers
Full Fibre 100 150Mb average £30.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Reduced price for 24 months + (Ends 27/06/2024)
Ultrafast Broadband 145Mb average £29 £5 18 months
offer Offer: WiFi Max just £3/mth + (£5 refundable setup fee for new customers if applicable)

BT Openreach aim to reach 25 million premises by the end of 2026, and so they're likely to remain one of the largest fibre networks in the UK.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media's fibre optic network currently reaches around 16 million premises across the UK, with all customers on its network able to access gigabit download speeds, since 2021.

While the majority of Virgin Media's network is built on DOCSIS 3.1 technology, and uses coaxial cable to the home, the provider's intention is to complete a full network upgrade to full fibre to the home by the end of 2028.

When Virgin Media merged with O2 in June 2021, they also announced plans to add a further 7 million premises to their network, aiming to reach a total of 23 million premises by the end of 2026.

The network currently offers the fastest widely available broadband speeds, with their Gig1 package delivering average download speeds of 1.13Gb per second at peak times.

Here are some of Virgin Media's latest offers for new customers:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
M125 Fibre Broadband 132Mb average £25 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £25 per month + No setup fee (was £35)
Gig1 Fibre Broadband 1.13Gb average £41 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £41 per month + No setup fee (was £35)

While Virgin Media's fibre network is widely available, it doesn't yet match the symmetrical upload speeds of independent networks where more advanced technology is used, such as with Community Fibre in London, or Hyperoptic.

So far, despite many rumours, Virgin Media has yet to offer its network on a wholesale basis, and so customers can only sign up directly through Virgin themselves.


Challenger fibre networks

While BT Openreach and Virgin Media are the main broadband network operators in the UK, there are a growing number of smaller independent networks rolling out full fibre broadband.

Here we look at five of the larger challenger fibre networks, all vying for customers in the current move to gigabit-capable connections.

CityFibre

CityFibre have become a major challenger to the big networks, passing more than 2.5 million premises as of early 2023.

They also have ambitious rollout targets, with a plan to reach 8 million homes and 800,000 businesses by the end of 2025. This would see them active in over 285 cities, towns and villages across the UK.

CityFibre are an entirely wholesale provider however, and so they're resold by providers including:

Full fibre broadband from CityFibre offers symmetrical download and upload speeds, with average speeds up to around 944Mb per second with TalkTalk.

CityFibre resellers don't all necessarily offer their services where it's available, instead partnering with them for select areas, and working with other wholesale operators like Openreach as well.

For example, it was confirmed in late 2021, Vodafone was the first provider to offer availability across the whole of the CityFibre network, with Zen Internet joining them in 2022.

Here are some of the latest prices from CityFibre resellers:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 500 500Mb average £33 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £3 off for Vodafone pay monthly customers
Full Fibre 500 525Mb average £39 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Free setup and P&P

Hyperoptic

Hyperoptic are a full fibre provider that started connecting buildings, like apartment blocks and social housing flats, and has now moved into connecting individual homes and businesses too.

They're active across the UK, and have so far added over 1.15 million premises to their network, making them one of the larger challengers to Openreach and Virgin Media.

Hyperoptic, like CityFibre, also provide symmetrical download and upload speeds, which puts them ahead of the slower upload speeds found with Openreach and Virgin Media full fibre.

Customers can choose from a range of packages with average download speeds reaching 900Mb per second on their fastest plan.

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Superfast (24 months) 158Mb average £30 £19 24 months
Hyperfast (24 months) 900Mb average £36 £19 24 months

Hyperoptic pricing is often competitive, and customers can choose from a range of contract lengths from one month to 24-month deals.

They've also made a name for themselves championing fixed price broadband contracts, while other providers are all pushing prices up with above inflation mid-contract price rises.

This led to the network winning our Fair Terms award for 2023.

Community Fibre

Community Fibre is a dedicated London based full fibre broadband network, covering 932,000 premises across the capital.

They're active in all 32 London boroughs, and offer customers average download speeds of up to 920Mb, and even 3Gb in some locations.

Like Hyperoptic, they're the sole seller of their fibre network, and their technology also offers symmetrical upload and download speeds.

The provider is actively expanding their network, with plans to reach 2.2 million premises across London by the end of 2024. This will lead to around 60% coverage of London.

While Community Fibre acquired Box Broadband in 2021, a network covering 7,000 premises in the South of England, there's not yet been any notice of intention to expand outside the capital.

For Londoners though, Community Fibre are one of the fastest and most affordable fibre broadband networks around.

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
150Mb Fibre Broadband 150Mb average £18.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Installed in 48 hours + Free setup
1Gbps Fibre Broadband 920Mb average £26 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Installed in 48 hours + Free setup

Their pricing is highly competitive, and customers can choose to add a digital voice line and TV box via Netgem.

Gigaclear

Gigaclear is an independent full fibre network specialising in reaching underserved rural areas, where they've so far connected over 380,000 premises.

They won our Rural Coverage award for the second year running due to boasting a 90% coverage in areas that have yet to be reached by any other full fibre network.

So far, Gigaclear have connected 250 communities across 16 different counties in the UK, including Devon and Somerset, West Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Essex, Northamptonshire and Wiltshire.

Here is Gigaclear's latest pricing for new customers:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Superfast 200 200Mb average £17 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Save over 40% + Free setup
Hyperfast 900 830Mb average £29 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Save over 35%: just £29 per month + Free setup + Free Smart WiFi Node (worth £108) (Ends 31/07/2024)

As well as offering broadband services direct to customers under their own Gigaclear brand, the company also has smaller resellers such as Air Broadband, HFL Broadband, Merula, Squirrel, Village Networks and Wurzel.

KCOM

KCOM, or Kingston Communications, is the incumbent network operator for Hull, so they offer the same universal coverage in that area as we see from BT Openreach across the rest of the UK.

However, KCOM has also started rolling out their network beyond their traditional boundaries and, as it is a full fibre network, that means speeds averaging 900Mb are now available to communities elsewhere in East Yorkshire and in Lincolnshire as well.

KCOM have passed around 300,000 premises, with a plan to cover an additional 50,000 in the coming year.

Here are a couple of deals from KCOM:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 175 175Mb average £24.99 £24.99 24 months
Full Fibre 900 900Mb average £69.99 £24.99 24 months

It's worth noting, unlike the rest of the UK, the majority of residents living in Hull won't have a choice of another fibre network.

The KCOM network itself doesn't have wholesale partners yet either, although it's something regulator Ofcom is keen to see in a bid to improve competition for broadband in the Hull area.


Other fibre networks

As mentioned, there are a growing number of fibre networks rolling out broadband across the UK.

Potential customers will often hear about them as they lay new cables in their area, with funding coming from a both private and Government grants.

Smaller fibre networks include:

Fibre network Areas active
B4RN Lancaster and the North East
Fibrus Northern Ireland
Jurassic Fibre Devon
Netomnia (YouFibre) Durham, Cheltenham, Lincolnshire, Barrow-in-Furness
Trooli Kent, Sussex and Surrey

Alongside the larger players then it can be worth checking your local area to see if any full fibre builds are happening there.

Some operators like Truespeed don't routinely release their coverage figures while operators like FibreNest have specific deals with new home builds like Persimmon, so their networks will expand to those locations.

It's also worth noting that some operators have multiple names or acquire different firms. For example, Trooli and Call Flow Solutions are the same company, with Call Flow deciding in 2021 to adopt the same branding as their sister company.


Summary: fibre rollout growing

Openreach and Virgin Media may be the big names in UK broadband networks, but there are plenty of other companies stepping in to build their own full fibre networks and reach places the big two just aren't interested in (yet).

For customers, this can lead to a patchwork of network builds, as well as increasing choice between networks in more competitive areas.

With Openreach's full fibre network set to reach 25 million premises over the next few years, many more customers will be able to access speeds of up to 1Gb per second, and we'll continue to see smaller providers plugging gaps in coverage.

There are a couple of issues to be aware of though.

First of all, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recently criticised how the gigabit broadband rollout is being managed by the Government. This could lead to unprofitable areas being left without ultrafast broadband for quite some time.

Another worry customers may have is how difficult it can be to switch between these networks.

Unlike switching between two providers on the Openreach network such as TalkTalk and Plusnet, switching between network operators isn't straightforward yet. It can require talking to operators directly and carefully arranging switchover dates to minimise the amount of downtime.

Rules to make it easier for customers have been delayed from their original date of December 2022 into late 2023, so it is a problem with a solution on the horizon, but it's still a problem right now if, for example, you wanted to switch between BT on the Openreach network and Vodafone on the CityFibre network.

Read more about switching broadband providers.

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