Like the rest of the country, having a reliable broadband connection has become an indispensable part of life for most households across Northern Ireland.
If you live in, or are planning a move to Belfast or the surrounding area, you might be pleased to know that the city has access to the fastest broadband speeds in not only Northern Ireland, but the whole of the UK.
But who is the cheapest provider? And what kind of broadband deals are available? We look at to know about broadband in Northern Ireland including the best options
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All types of broadband are available in Belfast - from standard ADSL to fibre broadband, and full fibre (fibre to the premises). There's also a wide selection of providers to choose from, so it's easy to find a deal to suit your budget and usage needs.
What type of broadband can I get in Belfast?
Belfast has a broad network of providers and along with this, widespread fibre coverage. However, the speed, performance, and type of broadband you can get will vary depending on where you live.
If you live in an area where only a standard (ADSL) or superfast (FTTC) connection is available, and you live a long distance from the nearest telephone exchange or green cabinet, (or the copper cables delivering your service are old or damaged), the average speeds you get may be reduced.
If, however, you live in an area where full-fibre connections are available, you'll have access to an extremely fast and reliable connection. How is it so fast? Unlike ADSL and fibre, full fibre uses only fibre optic cables. A full fibre connection also means that the speeds you experience are less likely to fluctuate throughout the day or drop out at times of high traffic.
Run a quote to find out what type of broadband are available to you.
What speeds are available in Northern Ireland and Belfast?
Northern Ireland and its capital Belfast, have access to a wide range of ultrafast (300 Mbps+) and Gigabit fibre (1,000 Mbps+) internet connections.
Whether it's through Virgin Media or a provider on BT's Openreach network, many providers are available to help get the fastest internet speeds in your area.
How fast is broadband in Belfast?
According to a recent analysis from Fair Internet Report, Gigabit fibre (1,000Mbps+) is now available to 96% of residents in Belfast, leading to an incredible 1220% increase in median speeds over the past five years, from 9.92Mbps to 131Mbps in 2022.
This places the city 146% above the United Kingdom national median of 53Mbps.
What full fibre (FTTP) options are there in Belfast?
Openreach - a subsidiary of BT - is the network that builds, maintains, and manages the bulk of the broadband network in Belfast. Openreach's full fibre network currently covers around 80% of homes and businesses across Northern Ireland.
However, although Openreach is owned by BT, you don't need to be a BT customer to be on their network. Aside from Virgin Media - which operates its own network - most major broadband providers in the UK use the Openreach network to deliver broadband to your home.
Who has the cheapest broadband in Belfast?
In Belfast, broadband options with great speeds come from Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) providers on the Openreach network. These include NOW broadband and Plusnet, among others.
What is Local Loop Unbundling (LLU)
Local loop unbundling (LLU) allows broadband providers to use BT Openreach's infrastructure to offer various internet services at competitive prices.
Who are the best broadband providers in Belfast?
The capital of Northern Ireland has a number of broadband providers available. Here's a few of the best.
The largest broadband provider in the UK, BT offers a range of deals in Belfast. Average download speeds with BT range from 35Mbps on their Fibre Essentials package (FTTC), all the way up to 900Mbps with their full fibre option.
BT also offers a comprehensive range of landline and TV packages which can be bundled together with your broadband.
NOW Broadband - owned by Sky - specialise in offering broadband, TV, and home phone packages on a budget. Their broadband deals are available on either 12-month or 30-day rolling contracts, with prices the same whichever you choose.
NOW also offers the chance to catch-up on all the latest in entertainment, cinema, sports, and US reality shows via their monthly-rolling TV membership passes.
Sky – undoubtedly most famous for their TV-subscription services – also offer a range of broadband deals including partial fibre and full fibre connections.
Plusnet - who are marketed as a low cost alternative to BT - regularly receive awards for their excellent customer service and competitively priced broadband packages.
TalkTalk has a strong reputation as one of the cheapest internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK.
Although they no longer offer their 'fixed-price guarantee', for an additional £3 per month, TalkTalk will “freeze” the price of your broadband bill. This means the cost will remain the same for the life of your contract. And, once your contract has ended, the price you pay won’t rise above the annual rate of inflation.
Virgin Media Broadband
Virgin is the fastest broadband provider in Belfast, thanks to operating its own large fibre network. Although Virgin does have full fibre capability in some areas, some of their footprint is still on HFC (Hybrid Fibre-coaxial) - which uses a mixture of fibre optic cables and older copper telephone lines. So, if you live in an HFC area, you may experience reduced speeds during peak times.
In addition to their ultrafast internet, Virgin also offers phone, TV, and mobile deals, all of which can be added to your broadband plan.
Although not the cheapest provider, you can get ultrafast fibre with Vodafone.
They also have a range of optional extras, including Vodafone Pro, which gives bonuses like a 4G mobile dongle, as well as discounts on monthly bills for existing Vodafone mobile customers.
Should I consider cheap broadband?
There are a number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who offer cheap broadband deals in Northern Ireland.
However, when selecting a broadband deal, it's important to consider a number of factors, including monthly costs. For example, a busier household that uses the it's important to consider how many people will be sharing the connection, and for what online activities, and to make sure that the deal you choose has enough speed and bandwidth to cover these activities.
You should also consider the length of your contract. It is usually cheaper to sign up for a 12-month contract, but this may not necessarily suit your circumstances. So, it's important that if you do need monthly-rolling broadband option, you find a supplier that can offer this to you without breaking your budget.
And, if you use other telecommunications services such as a home phone or TV-box or subscription service (e.g., Netflix, Disney+), some ISPs will offer deals that bundle these services together, saving you money in the long run.
Those who live in rural areas and those who live in urban areas will likely have access to different broadband and mobile networks, so it's a good idea to use a postcode checker to see what's available in your area.
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