Ultrafast broadband is the fastest type of broadband available in the UK. But how does it compare to other types of home broadband, including ADSL and Superfast?
What types of broadband are there?
Home broadband is split into three different types: ADSL, Superfast, and Ultrafast, each with varying speeds and connection.
Standard ADSL broadband
The oldest type of broadband available, ADSL uses only copper telephone wires and has average download speeds of between 10Mbps and 24Mbps.
ADSL is now considered to be antiquated, especially as BT Openreach no longer carries out upgrades to the copper lines in preparation for the PSTN switch-off.
If you live somewhere with old, frayed, or degraded copper lines, you may get much slower speeds than advertised. You may also experience slower speeds depending on how far you live from the cabinet that is used to deliver the connection to your home.
Download speeds with Superfast broadband generally range between 24Mbps and 67Mbps.
Superfast uses a mixture of copper cables and fibre optic cables to deliver its connection.
Although it is more reliable and faster than ADSL, you may still face connection issues depending on how far you live from the cabinet and whether the copper cables from the cabinet to your home are of poor quality and if you live a certain distance from the cabinet itself.
Also known as Full Fibre, Ultrafast is fastest and most reliable type of broadband available. It uses only fibre optic cables for its connection, and offers symmetrical download and upload speeds from 100Mbps up to and above 1Gbps (1,000Mbps).
Availability of this type of broadband, once very limited, is now increasing, with up to three quarters of the country (75%) now able to access it.
Do I need ultrafast broadband?
As more and more internet-capable smart devices become available for the home, the need to have a number of gadgets connected to the internet at once increases. Each time you connect a device to your WiFi, you will be placing some kind of strain on the connection itself.
However, the average household in the UK doesn’t require that much speed, especially for activities such as surfing the internet, streaming movies and TV shows on apps such as Netflix and Disney+, and gaming online.
If these activities are being caried out on only one device, there isn’t much to worry about. However, if you are a larger household and therefore have more devices connected to your WiFi at the same time for these types of activities, having a faster connection can certainly help.
When deciding what broadband speed is right for your household, it’s a good idea to allocate around 10Mbps per person. This should help you determine whether or not ultrafast broadband is essential for you.
Which broadband providers offer an Ultrafast connection?
All major broadband providers now offer ultrafast broadband. But whether your provide is an independent broadband provider, or is one that operates on the BT Openreach network, can dictate the maximum speeds you will get with their ultrafast offerings.
Despite the incredibly-fast speeds on offer, and although they are an independent provider with their own infrastructure, the Virgin Media broadband network predominantly relies on Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) technology.
This means that, rather than a full fibre connection, Virgin uses a combination of multi-core-copper coaxial (DOCSIS 3.1) and fibre-optic cables to deliver its broadband. In other words, Virgin uses a more advanced version of the standard Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) broadband.
Virgin has announced that it has begun to upgrade its infrastructure, with plans to switch their entire network to full fibre by 2028.
BT Openreach providers
All broadband providers on the Openreach network offer speeds ranging between 100Mbps and 900Mbps. Those who use the BT Openreach network includes BT, EE, Sky, and Vodafone.
TalkTalk and Plusnet – who are also on the network – both offer lower full fibre speeds of 74Mbps.These are considered ultrafast as they use an entirely fibre connection.
London-based Community Fibre is another broadband provider that operates and maintains its own network. It is also one of the fastest full fibre broadband providers in the UK. Unfortunately, their services are currently limited to 32 boroughs of London.
Another London-based broadband provider with its own infrastructure, G.Network currently covers around 400,000 premises across the Capital. It’s long-term aim is to reach 1.3 million premises by end-of-year 2026.
Hyperoptic Broadband runs an entirely independent full fibre network. And, although they're based in London, their FTTP packages are available to homes and businesses across 13 UK cities and towns: Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff, Greater London, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Reading, and Sheffield.
I live in a rural area. Can I still get ultrafast broadband?
Although broadband in rural areas is more limited, there are some providers who have begun to expand their services to meet demand. This includes Gigaclear - the UK's leading rural broadband provider, and whose entire network is full fibre only.
However, if you have run a postcode check and don’t seem to be able to get ultrafast broadband in your area just yet, other types of internet connection – such as Satellite and Mobile broadband – could potentially give you ultrafast speeds.
Ultrafast Vs Superfast: what is the true difference?
The key difference between “superfast” and “ultrafast” broadband refers to both different speeds and broadband types.
- Speed: Superfast broadband refers to internet services offering typical download speeds of between 30Mbps and 67Mbps.
- Type: It is often delivered through Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology. This is where fibre optic cables run from the exchange to the green street cabinet, and from there, uses traditional copper wires to complete the connection to your home.
- Usage: Available to more than 97% of the country, superfast broadband is the most popular type of internet connection available in the UK.
- Speed: Download speeds with ultrafast broadband are usually classed as offering download speeds greater than 100Mbps, all the way up to 1Gbps (1,000Mbps) and beyond. For example, London-based ultrafast broadband provider CommunityFibre, offers download speeds of up to 3Gbps (3,000Mbps).
- Technology: Ultrafast broadband is delivered through what is known as a Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) – also known as Fibre to the Home (FTTH) – connection. This is where the entire connection from the exchange to the home is made using just fibre optic cables.
Although Virgin Media offers ultrafast speeds, it does so using a DOCSIS 3.1 connection, which is a mix of fibre optic and co-axial copper cables.
- Usage: Ultrafast broadband is ideal for those who use the internet for a lot of online activities, such as using multiple devices to stream in 4K, play video games online, or work from home and need o transfer large files or attend video conferences.
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