Ultrafast broadband: What's available to you?

Last updated: 5 March 2023   By Lyndsey Burton

Ultrafast broadband offers download speeds of at least 300Mb, and is so far available to over 70% of UK homes.

Delivered by full fibre to the home or cable broadband, ultrafast broadband coverage has now reached over 70% of homes across the UK.

Pricing is increasingly competitive too, with 300Mb plans available from as little as £24 per month.

In this guide we look at what ultrafast broadband offers; how it works; who provides it; and how to check availability for your area.

broadband at home
Credit: simona pilolla 2/Shutterstock.com

Is ultrafast broadband available to you?

Ultrafast broadband is now available to over 70% of the UK through a range of providers including Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk, Sky, and budget providers offering low-cost ultrafast plans like Shell Energy Broadband, Vodafone, and Plusnet.

To find out if ultrafast broadband is available in your area, use our postcode checking tool below:


Best ultrafast broadband deals

Here are four of the best ultrafast broadband deals available right now:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
M250 Fibre Broadband 264Mb average £29 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £29 per month + No setup fee (was £35)
Full Fibre 500 525Mb average £39.99 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Money off for 18 months
Full Fibre 500 500Mb average £34.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Save £15/mth and free setup (was £31.99) (Ends 06/06/2024)
Full Fibre Max 500 500Mb average £39.50 Free 24 months
offer Offer: 6 month free Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 20GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup

What is ultrafast broadband?

Ultrafast broadband was defined by Ofcom in 2015 as a broadband connection that offers download speeds of at least 300Mb per second.

Confusingly however, the Government also refer to ultrafast broadband as that offering download speeds of at least 100Mb per second. Some broadband providers have also named their 100Mb+ packages as 'Ultrafast'.

Ultrafast broadband covers connections up to 900Mb or 1Gb, which is where gigabit and gigafast definitions takeover.

For this guide, we'll be focusing on broadband packages offering download speeds between 300Mb and 900Mb. To find out about even faster broadband, check out our guides to the fastest broadband in the UK and who offers gigabit broadband.


How does ultrafast work?

Ultrafast broadband is typically delivered using either full fibre to the home connections or cable connections in the case of Virgin Media.

Installing a fibre optic cable directly into a property enables the broadband to be both faster and more reliable, currently achieving speeds of up to 900Mb on average.

Because full fibre or cable broadband bypasses the existing copper phone line network, an increasing number of ultrafast broadband plans are sold as data-only lines with either an optional phone line or no phone line at all.

Where a phone line is provided this is now a digital voice line, which means the home phone signal is sent and received over the broadband connection itself. The downside to this is that digital voice lines will stop working in the event of a power cut, and need a battery back-up to be reliable in an emergency.

G.Fast is another type of broadband connection that can deliver up to 350Mb download speeds. It's an older technology, but it can boost fibre to the cabinet connections up from their usual top end of 80Mb.

Openreach are no longer investing in G.Fast however as their focus is now solely on their full fibre to the home rollout. In addition, when the copper phone line network is retired in 2025, G.Fast will no longer be supported.


Where is ultrafast broadband available?

Ultrafast broadband has reached over 70% of the UK, which so far has been driven by Virgin Media and Openreach through their full fibre network rollout.

The Government confirmed their commitment to extend gigabit-capable broadband to 85% of the UK by the end of 2025, and 99% by 2030, in February 2022.

But broadband providers have their own ambitious targets, with Virgin Media aiming to reach 23 million premises, or 80% of the UK, by the end of 2026, and Openreach aiming to reach 25 million premises in the same time.

There are also dedicated rural providers like Gigaclear and B4RN who specifically target underserved villages and communities that are otherwise overlooked by more mainstream providers.

Despite this however, rural areas do lag behind urban rollouts of full fibre broadband, with Ofcom reporting in 2021 around 123,000 premises remained without a broadband connection of at least 10Mb.


How fast is ultrafast broadband?

Because ultrafast broadband is generally provided on gigabit-capable connections, it's not the top-end speed of the technology, so advertised averages are generally pretty uniform.

Here are the average download speeds of some main ultrafast broadband plans, which at least 50% of a provider's customer base are receiving during peak hours.

Download speed (average) Upload speed (average)
BT 500Mb 73Mb
TalkTalk 525Mb 71Mb
Sky 500Mb 60Mb
Virgin Media 516Mb 36Mb
Hyperoptic 522Mb 522Mb

We can also look at independent research carried out by industry regulator Ofcom into real-world broadband speeds of BT and Virgin Media customers.

Average download speed at peak times Number of customers reporting
BT 145Mb FTTP 145.72 146
BT 300Mb FTTP 297.55 136
Virgin 362Mb 354.03 95
Virgin 516Mb 470.97 42

BT's full fibre to the premises connections delivered very close to their advertised speeds in Ofcom's research reporting 145Mb on their 145Mb plan and 297Mb on their 300Mb plan.

Virgin Media's peak time speeds were slightly below their own provided averages, with their M350 deal delivering 354Mb, around 8Mb slower than the advertised 362Mb average. The M500 plan had a larger difference, with Ofcom reporting 470Mb for the plan, while Virgin Media provide a peak time average of 516Mb.

Ultrafast vs Superfast

In terms of how ultrafast broadband compares to superfast broadband and whether someone would want to upgrade their service, it's worth considering the major difference between ultrafast and superfast, other than speed, is technology.

While superfast broadband, that offering 30Mb speeds or greater, is generally provided over the Openreach fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) network, ultrafast broadband is mostly provided using a full fibre to the premises (FTTP) connection.

Upgrading a connection from FTTC to FTTP should provide a faster real-world experience, as well as a more reliable and stable connection.

Upload speeds are also boosted with ultrafast broadband, with some full fibre providers like Hyperoptic and Community Fibre offering symmetrical upload speeds that are as fast as the headline download speeds.

Overall, ultrafast broadband is a noticeable improvement over superfast broadband that goes beyond headline speeds to real-world experience and reliability.

Ultrafast vs Gigafast

The upgrade from ultrafast to gigafast is less impactful than superfast to ultrafast because the technology is usually the same, and so the main difference between the two is really only download/upload speed.

That said, 500Mb ultrafast upgraded to 1Gb gigafast is doubling the download speed, and so will be of benefit to larger households where many people are using the Internet at the same time.

There can be a larger jump in price between ultrafast and gigafast plans, with gigabit broadband deals coming with a price tag to match the top-end appeal of the fastest available broadband.

Ultrafast broadband then can be a more affordable way to access very fast broadband speeds and a more reliable broadband connection, that will easily support multiple users carrying out download heavy online activities, whether they're streaming Ultra HD movies, working from home, or supporting multi-player online gaming.


Ultrafast broadband providers

Most broadband providers now offer download speeds of 300Mb and up, including a range of low-cost budget providers which have helped to bring the cost of ultrafast broadband down.

BT

BT own Openreach, and so they offer ultrafast broadband over Openreach FTTP and G.Fast connections.

BT offer a range of ultrafast packages including:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 100 150Mb average £29.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Save £1/mth and free setup (was £31.99) (Ends 06/06/2024)
Full Fibre 500 500Mb average £34.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Save £15/mth and free setup (was £31.99) (Ends 06/06/2024)

BT also offer a gigabit capable broadband package called Full Fibre 900, which offers average download speeds of 900Mb.

EE

EE is a subsidiary of BT and as such all their broadband packages are provided over the Openreach network also.

EE offer the following ultrafast broadband packages, launched in 2020:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre Max 100 100Mb average £31 Free 24 months
offer Offer: 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 20GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup
Full Fibre Max 500 500Mb average £39.50 Free 24 months
offer Offer: 6 month free Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 20GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup

Like BT, EE also offer a gigabit broadband deal with 900Mb average speeds, which is called Fibre Max Gigabit.

TalkTalk

TalkTalk provide ultrafast broadband using a range of different technologies across both the Openreach and CityFibre networks.

They offer both G.Fast and FTTP Openreach connections, and they also have some availability on CityFibre's full fibre network, which reaches an additional 1 million premises.

TalkTalk's ultrafast plans include:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 150 152Mb average £29 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Free setup and P&P
Full Fibre 500 525Mb average £39 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Free setup and P&P

TalkTalk also offer a Full Fibre 900 package with average download speeds of 944Mb, which makes it the second fastest widely available broadband in the UK.

Sky

Sky use just the Openreach network to provide their ultrafast broadband plans, but they do offer both G.Fast and FTTP connections, which they launched in 2020.

Sky ultrafast broadband plans include:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Ultrafast Broadband 145Mb average £29 £5 18 months
offer Offer: WiFi Max just £3/mth + (£5 refundable setup fee for new customers if applicable)
Ultrafast Plus Broadband 500Mb average £32 £5 18 months
offer Offer: WiFi Max just £3/mth + (£5 refundable setup fee for new customers if applicable)

Sky also offer their Broadband Gigafast plan with 900Mb average download speeds.

Plusnet

Plusnet only recently launched full fibre broadband packages, but are now one of the cheapest places to get ultrafast speeds.

Owned by BT, Plusnet offer ultrafast broadband using just the Openreach FTTP network. Their plans include:

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 500 500Mb average £33.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Save over £19/mth + No setup fee + Exclusive offers and discounts for Plusnet customers

Plusnet are the only ultrafast broadband provider that doesn't also offer a gigabit broadband plan.

Shell Energy Broadband

Shell Energy resell broadband from TalkTalk wholesale, so they too offer full fibre broadband packages over both the Openreach FTTP and CityFibre networks, as well as offering G.Fast plans.

Shell Energy Broadband offer one of the widest selections of ultrafast speeds, including:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 100 109Mb average £26.99 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Money off for 18 months
Full Fibre 300 311Mb average £34.99 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Money off for 18 months
Full Fibre 500 525Mb average £39.99 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Money off for 18 months

Like TalkTalk, Shell Energy Broadband also offer a gigafast broadband plan with average download speeds of 944Mb.

Vodafone

Vodafone offer ultrafast broadband over both the Openreach FTTP and CityFibre full fibre networks, yet their availability doesn't exactly match either BT or TalkTalk, so it's always worth checking your postcode for an accurate idea of ultrafast availability.

Vodafone offer the following ultrafast broadband plans:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 200 200Mb average £30 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £3 off for Vodafone pay monthly customers
Full Fibre 500 500Mb average £33 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £3 off for Vodafone pay monthly customers

Vodafone also offer a Full Fibre 900 plan with average download speeds of 910Mb, making them the third fastest broadband provider in the UK.

Hyperoptic

Hyperoptic operate their own independent full fibre network that rolls out on a building-by-building basis, rather than to individual houses.

As such the provider is generally focused in urban areas in apartment blocks, flats, and housing association buildings.

Hyperoptic's ultrafast plans include:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Superfast (24 months) 158Mb average £30 £19 24 months
Ultrafast (24 months) 522Mb average £33 £19 24 months

Hyperoptic also offer a gigabit-capable plan called Hyperfast, which offers symmetrical average download and upload speeds of 900Mb.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media also offer broadband over their own network, and they have the widest availability of ultrafast broadband, covering 55% of the UK.

Virgin Media are in the process of upgrading their entire network to full fibre, yet some customers may still be within an area that still uses coaxial cable. Despite this however, all customers on Virgin's network can now receive average download speeds of up to 1.13Gb.

Virgin Media's ultrafast broadband plans include:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
M350 Fibre Broadband + Weekend chatter 362Mb average £46 Free 18 months
offer Offer: No setup fee (was £35)
M500 Fibre Broadband + Weekend chatter 516Mb average £52 Free 18 months
offer Offer: No setup fee (was £35)

Virgin Media offer the UK's fastest widely available broadband with their Gig1 package, that provides average download speeds of 1.13Gb.

Other ultrafast broadband providers

Smaller, or more localised, ultrafast broadband providers include:

  • Community Fibre, who cover London exclusively
  • Gigaclear, a rural broadband specialist
  • Zen Internet, an ethical broadband provider with great customer service, although prices can be high
  • YouFibre, an independent full fibre provider with speeds of up to 10Gb

There is also an increasing range of smaller, independent, full fibre providers often providing networks in very small areas, or new build housing sites, such as WightFibre who operate only on the Isle of Wight.


G.Fast ultrafast broadband plans

G.Fast is only available to around 2.8 million homes across the UK, whereas Openreach full fibre broadband has now reached 8 million premises, and Virgin Media reaches 15.9 million.

Yet for people where G.Fast is enabled but full fibre hasn't reached them yet, they may wonder if it's worth upgrading to G.Fast over an FTTC connection.

G.Fast offers average download speeds of around 145Mb or 290Mb, and is available from providers including BT, EE, TalkTalk, Sky, and Shell Energy Broadband.

Here are four of the G.Fast deals currently available:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Ultrafast Fibre Plus 290Mb average £46.99 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Money off for 18 months
Fibre 250 290Mb average £39 £4.95 24 months
Fibre Max 100 (Gfast) 145Mb average £31 Free 24 months
offer Offer: 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 20GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup
Ultrafast Broadband 145Mb average £29 £5 18 months
offer Offer: WiFi Max just £3/mth + (£5 refundable setup fee for new customers if applicable)

It's worth being aware that because G.Fast broadband still relies on the copper telephone network, distance from the local street cabinet, as well as the exchange, will affect the speed G.Fast can achieve.

In addition, it's usually said that where someone lives more than 500 meters away from their nearest street cabinet, that G.Fast is no longer a worthwhile upgrade as the signal degrades too much over the greater distance.

BT, EE and TalkTalk are all current signatories of Ofcom's voluntary code on broadband speeds, which was announced in early 2020. The code sets out that customers should be given a guaranteed minimum speed at the point of sign up, and if the provider fails to deliver this speed, the customer can leave their contract early without penalty.

As such then, customers considering the upgrade to G.Fast may want to look at a provider like BT, EE, or TalkTalk who've signed up to the voluntary code to better ensure their upgrade is worthwhile. Otherwise customers could end up paying more for a service that only delivers superfast speeds.


Summary: Is ultrafast broadband worth it?

According to Ofcom's 2022 Connected Nations report, around 25% of households where a full fibre service is available have signed up.

Based on today's availability figures, that would amount to around 5 million households being on full fibre broadband connections so far.

However, Ofcom also noted that approximately half of full fibre customers chose a 100Mb package, which is the entry-level speed for full fibre broadband, and just 9% took gigafast plans.

This suggests most people feel 100Mb broadband is more than adequate, and the majority of those who have ultrafast broadband available to them are still prioritising cost over the absolute fastest speeds.

While it's true that superfast broadband is adequate for most households, as more people share a connection and simultaneously carry out high bandwidth activities, faster broadband packages are better able to cope without any noticeable slowing down, lags or buffering during periods of heavy use.

Full fibre broadband is also a much more reliable technology, which should result in less dropouts and frustrating disconnections. Although having the right wireless router can also help with connection problems.

Ultimately as the full fibre rollout continues and the copper phone line network is eventually retired, ultrafast broadband will become the default option and customers will gradually move to these packages.

For now, ultrafast broadband can improve the experience of larger households where multiple devices are sharing bandwidth at the same time, and can be especially useful to people who enjoy online gaming, streaming in high definition, and those who work from home.

Check availability and compare prices of full fibre broadband.

Comments

David Collett
24 February 2018

Hello, I have FTTP with Gigaclear, and the service is excellent. When my contract expires, am I able to go to another provider? Or is the Fibre line installed by Gigaclear exclusively theirs?

Many thanks.

Louise Elliott
5 September 2017

Hi, I have FTTP to our home on a new build site. I am currently looking to recontract, I am currently with BT. Can I move to another provider or am I limited to BT?

Choose team replying to Louise Elliott
3 October 2017

Hi Louise, you shouldn't be limited to just BT - a lot of providers use BT's lines and so there should be no problem if you wanted to switch to one of them (more on that here: BT Broadband Review ) and if you want to check if it's possible for you to get Virgin Media, see our article here: Virgin Media Postcode Checker.
Hope this helps!

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