What is gigabit broadband, and do I need it?
The government announced this month that all new build homes will be required to have a connection to gigabit internet. But what exactly does gigabit internet mean, and do you need it?
What is gigabit broadband?
It’s incredibly fast internet – currently the fastest available to homes in the UK. Gigabit internet is so called because it reaches download speeds of up to a gigabit per second – that’s 1Gbps, or 1,000Mbps.
For reference, basic ADSL broadband clocks in at about 10Mbps, while standard fibre optic tends to hover around 30-75Mbps.
Gigabit broadband is almost always fibre optic, and usually ‘full fibre’ or FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises). That means the entire line of your connection is fibre optic, right from the exchange to your home.
This speedy internet is rolling out across the country as we speak, with the goal of it being available nationwide by 2030.
Why is gigabit internet now required for new builds?
In a nutshell, gigabit broadband is the future. Our internet use is only going to continue increasing over time, and requiring new homes to include the capacity for fast speeds helps futureproof them.
A statement by Julia Lopez, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, summarised the new legislation as follows:
All new build homes are to have gigabit-ready physical infrastructure necessary for gigabit-capable connections installed
A gigabit-capable connection installed in a new build home is subject to a cost cap of £2,000
Or, where a gigabit-capable connection is not being installed, the next fastest broadband connection (e.g. FTTC or standard fibre broadband) must be installed without exceeding the £2,000 cost cap
The idea is that, going forward, new homes will be able to access ultrafast speeds without costing the owner or tenant a bomb.
It’s also intended to clamp down on rogue landlords who refuse (or don’t respond to) tenants’ requests to install faster internet in a property – thus helping remove roadblocks to getting us all online.
Can I get gigabit broadband?
Actually, there’s a good chance you can.
According to Ofcom, more than a third of UK homes have access to full-fibre broadband services right now. And a separate government report estimates that around 72% of homes are within the network of broadband providers that offer gigabit speeds. (In many of those cases, however, a bit of an infrastructure upgrade is required to actually connect the network to your home.)
The number of providers offering gigabit broadband is growing all the time, too. It includes big names like BT, Virgin Media, and Sky, as well as smaller independent providers – some of which are dedicated to bringing ultrafast services to difficult-to-reach rural areas, such as Gigaclear.
You can find out if it’s available at your home by using MoneySuperMarket’s postcode checker.
How much does gigabit broadband cost?
Gigabit internet costs more than regular fibre optic broadband, but it’s still much cheaper than you might think.
At the time of writing, the cheapest gigabit deals include a 900Mbps package from Hyperoptic for only £33 per month. The more widely available gigabit providers include a 910Mbps deal from Vodafone, which costs £45 per month.
For comparison, standard fibre optic broadband of around 75Mbps can cost as low as £17 per month.
Do I need gigabit broadband?
That’s the million-dollar question – well, the 30-odd quid per month question. The fact is that for many households, speeds as high as 1Gbps aren’t really necessary. Homes with just one or two people will be adequately served by standard fibre optic broadband at superfast speeds (30-75Mbps), even if you’re fairly big internet users.
Slightly larger households with lots of connected devices can certainly benefit from ultrafast broadband at 100Mbps speeds and above – especially if you have multiple people trying to stream video, play games, make video calls, and so on all at once.
Gigabit internet up to 1Gbps is really only necessary right now for those who massively rely on very high-quality broadband. That could be for work; for a large household with lots of gadgets; for content creators who stream regularly; or intense online gamers.
Of course, with prices as reasonable as they are, you may find it’s actually more cost-effective to go for that faster internet. In some cases, the difference between several hundred megabits of speed is only a fiver or so a month.
You may also consider upgrading simply for peace of mind. The faster your internet, the less likely you are to have to face lag, annoying buffering, dodgy video calls, and generally slow download times. Even if you find yourself increasing your internet use in the next year or so.
Whatever your situation though, there’s a good chance you can save money by switching broadband to a new provider at any speed, as long as you’re out of contract with your current one.
Use our postcode checker to see what’s available for you.