Fibre-optic broadband is generally 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 is promising super-fast speeds for all of your daily internet needs.
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 regular broadband connections.
Do I need fibre-optic broadband?
Fibre-optic broadband is useful as it’s quicker and more stable than ADSL, and more widely available than cable – however it’s more expensive than both, and still not accessible to all of the UK.
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. For example, fibre optic broadband is a great choice for gamers.
Data collected by Lightspeed/Mintel in January 2019, accurate as of May 2019
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
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:
- John Lewis
- NOW Broadband
- Shell Energy
- Virgin Media
- Zen Internet
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-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 and play games online, we’d still recommend you get an entry-level fibre service with a speed of at least 20Mbps.
Households with three to four people: For average-sized families, perhaps with a couple of teenage kids, or students living with a couple of housemates, we’d recommend a speed of 30-60Mbps.
Households with five or more people: Large families and large student homes 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 applies to broadband with speeds of 35Mbps-to 213Mbps. 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 of 362Mbps-to 1000Mbps. Ultrafast packages include Virgin Media’s M500 and BT’s Full Fibre 900.
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.
What else affects the speed of my broadband?
Aside from the type of connection you have, your download speeds are also likely to be affected by other people on your connection, devices in your home or the technology being used. While there are a number of ways to improve your speed, here are a few of the more common factors affecting the speed of your connection:
- People or devices using your connection: The more people using or the more devices connected to your broadband, the more bandwidth is being used up – which means the overall connection speed will go down
- Electrical devices in your home: Electrical devices, even those not connected to the internet, may still cause interference with your broadband – so keep these as far away from your router as possible
- Quality of hardware: Old routers and cables, or those in bad condition, can also contribute to slower internet speeds – it might be worth asking your provider for an upgrade if it’s available
- Viruses and malware: Your computer might be slow in browsing the web if it’s got a virus or malware installed – try scanning your computer with anti-virus software
- Weather conditions: Stormy weather can affect phone lines, while underground cables can be damaged in freezing temperatures
- Time of day: During peak internet use hours, usually between 6 and 11pm, it’s normal to see slower broadband speeds
MoneySuperMarket also offer a broadband speed checker tool, so you can see what kind of download speeds you’re getting and whether they match what your provider has promised.
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.
What type of internet user am I?
The way you use the internet is likely to depend on a number of factors, but you can loosely categorise people into either light, medium or heavy users.
Light users: Light internet users generally just use the web for everyday tasks like checking emails, banking or occasionally using social media
Medium users: Medium internet users are on the web more often, regularly browsing social media or other websites and occasionally streaming video or audio
Heavy users: Heavy internet users are the group most likely to benefit from fibre-optic broadband and ultrafast broadband, as the high speeds ensure fewer interruptions when gaming, streaming and downloading video or audio or sharing files
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.
What other types of broadband can you get?
Depending on the provider you choose, your alternatives to fibre-optic broadband packages are either ADSL or cable.
ADSL: The most commonly available type of broadband in the UK, ADSL stands for asymmetric digital subscriber line. While it’s generally easier to find than fibre-optic, it offers slower download speeds of around 10Mb/s – while fibre can provide speeds starting from around 50 to 100Mb/s
Cable: Cable internet offers faster speeds than ADSL, often closer to the speeds offered by fibre optic. However cable is only available to around half the country, and around 80% of the country can access fibre-optic broadband
You can see what types of broadband are available in your area with our handy broadband availability checker.
Sources and methodology
*Based on average monthly bill of £32.69 from nationally representative sample (1000) vs cheapest monthly cost for superfast broadband (>55Mbs), Vodafone £22/m. Annual saving £128.28.
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 5G home broadband solution, such as Vodafone's Gigacube.
How much does fibre broadband cost?
The cheapest fibre broadband packages typically come in at only few pounds more per month than an ADSL service. However, if you want a top-of-the-range gigafast service, expect to pay around £60+ per month.