Fibre-optic broadband is faster and more reliable than ADSL, and more widely available than cable – but do you need it?
What is fibre-optic broadband?
The latest advancement in broadband technology, fibre-optic broadband promises the very best speeds whether you’re browsing the web, streaming video, downloading games or working from home.
Its name comes from the use of plastic or glass cables, which allow for faster data transfer compared to the standard copper wires which are used in standard broadband connections. It has fast become the most common way to get broadband in the UK, whether you want a basic package or a lightning fast service designed to support a fully connected home or business.
What types of fibre broadband are available?
There are two main types of fibre broadband available in the UK: FTTC and FTTP.
Fibre-to-the-cabinet, FTTC for short, uses fibre cables to bring the internet to the street cabinet nearest your home, before completing the journey into your home over a phone line using copper wires. FTTC plans are usually referred to as Superfast and reach speeds of up to 67Mbps, enough for most households.
Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) is the next generation of fibre broadband. This uses newly installed infrastructure to bring fibre cables right into your home, bypassing the street cabinet and allowing you to get ‘ultrafast’ speeds ranging from 100Mbps to 1Gbps, depending on where you live. According to the government, 72% of the UK is within an FTTP network.
Do I need fibre-optic broadband?
Fibre-optic broadband is great to have as it’s much quicker and more stable than ADSL, and more widely available than cable. It is now widely available, with princes falling as it becomes more common.
If your area can access fibre-optic, fast broadband, think about the kind of internet user you are as this can help you decide if it’s worthwhile. FTTP is great for:
- Gamers - if you stream or download games, fast speeds are a must
- Families - large households where adults want to stream TV and kids need to get online for homework or streaming music can benefit from full fibre
- Students - if you live with a lot of people who need to connect to the internet, a fibre connection can be a smart option
Can I get fibre broadband in my area?
The best way to find out if you can get fibre is to use our broadband availability checker.
Simply pop your postcode in the box below and we’ll show you exactly which providers offer a fibre service at your address.
Compare broadband deals in your area
Do I need an engineer to install fibre?
To get ‘standard’ superfast fibre, you don’t tend to need an engineer. That’s because it’s a FTTC offering, which uses a phone line to complete the journey into your home. If you have a phone line installed, all you need to do is plug in the router your provider supplies. If you don’t, then you’ll need to get an engineer to install one.
If you’re getting ultrafast broadband, FTTP broadband, or are switching to or from certain networks (such as Virgin Media or Hyperoptic), then an engineer will need to come out and set things up.
Do I need a landline for fibre internet?
For superfast deals, you’ll need a physical landline connection as your internet comes from the street cabinet. You don’t have to have a home phone though.
If you’re getting FTTP or Virgin Media, you don’t, as calls will be made over the internet via your router. Some providers insist you take out a phone plan alongside your broadband, however.
Read more in our guide: Do I need a landline for broadband?
What is full-fibre broadband?
Most standard fibre broadband uses fibre optic lines between the exchange and your local street cabinet, then uses traditional copper lines between the cabinet and your home.
The main benefit is that it’s capable of very fast speeds indeed, often up to 1Gbps. It’s generally a much more reliable connection with lower latency too.
That makes it great for downloading and uploading big files quickly, streaming with next to no lag, gaming online, and making video calls with no issues.
The downside is that it can be pretty expensive compared to regular fibre broadband. It isn’t very widespread in the UK right now either, with only about 30% of us able to connect, and there are fewer providers to choose from.
Read more about full-fibre broadband in our full guide, see if you can get it in your area, and compare deals.
When will fibre come to my area?
Fibre broadband availability is being extended to more and more locations all the time, as providers extend the reach of their network infrastructure.
If you’re in area where fibre has yet to arrive, you can get some idea of when it’ll be on offer by using availability checkers on fibre broadband providers’ sites.
Which broadband providers offer fibre broadband?
You can get fibre from:
- NOW Broadband
- Shell Energy
- Virgin Media
- Zen Internet
What's the best fibre broadband?
That depends what you consider ‘best’!
The most popular fibre broadband provider is still the nation’s favourite: BT.
The fastest fibre broadband goes all the way up to 900Mbps-1Gbps. You’ll find those speeds from quite a few providers, including Virgin Media, Hyperoptic, Community Fibre, Sky, Vodafone , EE, and of course BT again. (Bear in mind these speeds aren’t available everywhere, however.)
The fibre broadband providers with the most satisfied customers, according to Ofcom, are Sky and EE.
However, the most important thing is to find the best broadband for you and your household. That might mean the cheapest package, the fastest, the most reliable, or just strike the right balance for what you’re looking for.
To find the best fibre for you, use our comparison tool. Adjust the filters at the side, and we’ll show you the deals that tick every box.
Compare broadband deals in your area
What's the cheapest fibre broadband?
Because it’s such a full market, fibre broadband prices can be very competitive – and that’s great news for customers.
Other ways to keep fibre broadband costs low are by choosing a slower speed, signing up to a long-term contract, or picking a deal with fewer features and extras (such as public Wi-Fi hotspot access or inclusive landline calls).
Plus, you’ll always find special offers from all sorts of providers – whether that’s a discounted monthly bill, a voucher or free gift, or even the first few months free.
To see the cheapest fibre broadband on MoneySuperMarket right now, just sort the results in our comparison tool by cost. We’ll show you the lowest-priced deals that fit your needs right at the top.
What fibre broadband speed do I need?
As a rule of thumb the more people in your home, the faster the broadband service you’ll require. Especially if your home’s occupants are likely to be online simultaneously.
However, the speed you need is also determined by what you plan to do with your broadband.
For instance, if you play games online and download DLC, or stream video in HD or Ultra HD, we’d recommend you pay a bit more and get a faster service.
To help you work out which speed meets your needs, we’ve matched typical households with the fibre broadband speeds we anticipate they’ll likely require
Households with one to two people: If you’re a light user, you can probably get by with a low-cost ADSL service and may not actually need fibre at all. But if you watch streaming services, play games online, or rely on the internet for work, you'll likely benefit from an entry-level fibre service with a speed of at least 20Mbps.
Households with three to four people: For average-sized households, including families and groups of housemates, you'll need a bit more speed - perhaps 30-100Mbps, depending what you use the internet for.
Households with five or more people: Large families and full households generally require a fibre broadband package with an average speed of 60Mbps or above. Anything less and your connection could slow down at times of peak demand.
What’s the difference between superfast, ultrafast and gigabit broadband?
Superfast: This label generally applies to broadband with speeds over 30Mbps. Examples of packages at the lower-end of the scale are BT’s Superfast Fibre 1 and Fibre 2. At the higher end, there’s Virgin Media’s M200 and BT’s lower-tier Full Fibre 100.
Ultrafast: Less widely available than superfast broadband, ultrafast broadband covers packages that get you speeds over 100Mbps. Ultrafast packages include Virgin Media’s M500 and BT’s Full Fibre 900.
Gigabit or gigafast: This term applies to the fastest ultrafast packages and solely applies to packages with speeds of 1Gbps or above. You can get a gigafast service with the likes of BT’s Full Fibre 1000, Virgin Media’s Gig1 or Hyperoptic's Hyperfast packages.
Can I get fibre without phone line rental?
You can. Virgin Media, BT and Hyperoptic all offer a selection of broadband packages that don’t require a landline rental.
In BT’s case broadband without landline works out about £5 cheaper per month. And comparable savings on offer with Virgin Media, too.
Do I need unlimited fibre broadband?
Because increasing amounts of us spend more and more time online and use data-heavy services such as streaming and online gaming, it’s a good idea to get an unlimited package that will allow you to use the internet as much as you like.
The good news is that unlimited download limits come as standard on all fibre packages from household-name providers.
Better still, most packages are now ‘truly unlimited’ too. That means your provider will never deliberately slow down your service at periods of peak demand.
Compare fibre-optic broadband deals
Comparing broadband tariffs on MoneySuperMarket is the best way to find a cheaper deal on fibre-optic broadband.
Just tell us your postcode and a little about the kind of connection you want, including minimum download speeds, limited or unlimited usage, and whether you want any other services included.
We’ll show you a list of deals available in your area, and once you’ve found the one you want just click through to the provider to finalise your purchase.
Sources and methodology
*Annual savings based on average monthly bill of £33.99 from nationally representative sample (1000) vs our cheapest monthly cost for superfast broadband (>55Mbs) £18.95/month, May 22. Annual saving: £180.48.
What's the difference between fibre broadband and copper broadband?
Copper broadband, also known as ADSL broadband, is so called because it uses copper wires to deliver broadband to your home. They're the same ageing copper wires that are the foundation of the nationwide telephone network that's operated by Openreach.
Fibre broadband is a newer technology and replaces copper wire with fibre optic cables, which are more efficient at transmitting data. For that reason, fibre provides a much faster connection.
Why can't I get fibre broadband?
If you're unlucky enough to live in an area not covered by fibre from Openreach, Virgin Media or regional providers such as Hyperoptic, you won't be able to get fibre right now. But there's every chance it will become available at some point.
In the meantime, you may have to make do with a standard ADSL service as a stopgap. Or you can look into alternatives to fixed-line home broadband, such as satellite broadband, or a 4G/5G home broadband solution, such as Vodafone's Gigacube.
How much does fibre broadband cost?
The cheapest fibre broadband packages typically come in at the same price as basic ADSL packages, meaning that it’s a no brainer to opt for a fibre plan if you can get one.
If you want a top notch, gigafast service, you’ll need to pay a premium, however. At the time of writing a 1Gbps connection ranges from £40 to £60 per month.
Is fibre better than 5G?
Full fibre broadband is faster and more stable than 5G, because it offers a fixed connection to the home. However, with 5G rolling out quickly and speeds averaging between 150Mbps and 200Mbps, a 5G mobile broadband package a great alternative if you can’t get full fibre where you live.
Remember that mobile data connections can be expensive and that it’s a good idea to have home broadband as well as a phone.
What router do I need for fibre internet?
Your provider will give you a dedicated router when you sign up for a fibre internet plan. All major providers offer routers that deliver the latest Wi-Fi standard, multiple wired connections and antenna to ensure the best connection throughout the home.