Are you in despair at the slow speeds available from your current provider? Or do you want to know if you can get faster broadband so you can download files faster and stream in 4K to multiple TVs around your home?
With many people still using ADSL broadband and struggling along with download speeds of around 10Mbps (or less!), the possibility of upgrading to fibre broadband can be life-changing.
Fibre – meaning fibre optic, the method of sending data using light instead of electricity – currently offers the fastest broadband speeds in the UK. And the provider which can deliver those speeds is Community Fibre, with download speeds of 3Gbps (3000Mbps). That’s over three times faster than the 900Mbps offered by most rivals, including BT, but the snag is that you Community Fibre is only available in certain parts of London.
However, there’s good news if you live elsewhere because broadband speeds are about to get a lot faster in the UK. The roll-out of full fibre is well underway and BT’s Openreach is aiming to have 25 million homes hooked up by the end of 2026. And you may not have to wait that long: some areas already have it, while others are being upgraded over the next few months.
There’s an alternative, too. Virgin Media has completed the upgrade of its cable network, meaning around 15.5m UK homes already have the option of signing up to its Gig1 plan. This has average download speeds of a little over 1.1Gbps. By the end of 2027, Virgin plans to expand Gig 1 to another 7m homes.
If you can’t get Virgin at your address, then the 900Mbps full fibre service is the next fastest option, available from BT, TalkTalk, EE, Vodafone and others.
Remember that these are all download speeds. Upload speeds can be much, much slower. Virgin Gig1 has a nominal upload speed of 52Mbps, for example, which is about 95% slower than the download speed. With 900Mbps full fibre from BT, TalkTalk and others, upload speeds are around 110Mbps.
Upload speeds are important for video calls where your video needs to be sent to the others on the call, and a faster upload speed means any videos you need to post on YouTube will be uploaded quicker. Similarly, if you have security cameras which record to the cloud, that video needs to be uploaded regularly, so don’t only ever look at the download speeds.
Some providers offer equal upload and download speeds, which can make them a better choice if you do a lot of video calls, or upload a lot of video or other large files to the cloud. One example is Gigaclear, which offers 300Mbps, 500Mbps and 900Mbps plans, but Hyperoptic and Community Fibre also have matching upload and download speeds.
Wherever you live, the chances are that you can get quicker speeds at your address. And if you’re concerned that switching is too much hassle, there’s more good news: the process is about to get a lot simpler thanks to Ofcom’s new One Touch Switch.
Fastest broadband in rural areas
If you live in a rural area, you’ll almost certainly find that full fibre and Virgin’s Gig1 service aren’t available to you. There are a few options for going faster than what’s available over your copper telephone line, including mobile broadband (4G or 5G from Vodafone, EE, National Broadband and others) and satellite broadband (Starlink, Freedomsat). Again, you’ll need to use each provider’s coverage / postcode checker to find out if you can get their services.
Although these are the fastest speeds available from providers, another way to look at “fastest” is to take the average speeds available across the country. Broadband Genie has just done this (in March 2023) by running almost 416,000 speed tests as part of its annual broadband awards.
It found LightSpeed (based in Lincolnshire) was fastest overall with an average download speed of 312Mbps. Virgin placed 22nd with with 149Mbps and BT was 47th with 66Mbps.
Elon Musk’s Starlink was the fastest wireless service with an average of 87Mbps, but it costs £460 for the hardware and £75 per month.
The fastest broadband plans in the UK
Here’s what the fastest broadband packages cost, and the speeds they offer.
1. Community Fibre | Download / Upload Speed: 3Gbps
Contract length24 monthsMonthly cost£99 per month (£109 after contract)Setup cost£0
Community Fibre offers an incredible 3GBps, for uploads as well as downloads, which is probably a lot more than you need. It’s only available in parts of London. Even if you can get it, it may not be the best idea. That’s because current Wi-Fi routers and devices fall well short of that speed. Indeed, the Zyxel Wi-Fi 6 router that Community Fibre provides can deliver speeds of only 400-650Mbps, so 3Gbps is overkill unless you plan to invest in a faster router.
2. Virgin Media Gig1 | Download / Upload Speed: 1130Mbps / 52Mbps
Contract length18 monthsMonthly cost£45 per month (£62 after contract)Setup cost£0 (usually £35)
This is the price for broadband only. But if you want, you can get a phone line for an extra £4 per month or go for the Ultimate Volt bundle which adds 230+ channels with Entertainment, Anytime calls, Netflix Standard + O2 unlimited SIM for £85 per month (a good deal overall).
You can find out if Virgin is available in your area. Normally Gig1 costs £62 per month, with an additional £35 set up fee, but a deal at the time of writing waived that fee and reduced the monthly price slightly.
3. Hyperoptic 1Gb | Download / Upload Speed: 900Mbps
Contract length24 monthsMonthly costFree for 3 months, then £45 per month (£60 per month after contract)Setup cost£0
Hyperoptic’s fastest broadband plan is called 1Gb, but which runs at 900Mbps on average. Crucially, and unlike BT’s offering, upload speeds are also 900Mbps, which makes this very good value indeed – if you can get it. Check on Hyperoptic’s website to find out.
4. BT Full Fibre 900 | Download / Upload Speed: 910Mbps / 110Mbps
Contract length24 monthsMonthly cost£40.99 per month (£58.99 after contract) Setup cost£9.99
BT’s fastest broadband is the same as it is from all the other providers which use the Openreach full fibre network. That means download speeds of around 900Mbps, and uploads of up to 110Mbps. You can add to the base package with extra features such as Complete Wi-Fi (for a wireless signal throughout your home) and Hybrid Connect which switches over to EE’s mobile network if there’s ever a problem with the fibre broadband. You can also add BT TV to your package.
Find the latest prices and deals on BT’s website, where you can also check if Full Fibre 900 is available to you. At the time of writing, BT was throwing in a year’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for free.
5. Vodafone Gigafast 900 | Download / Upload Speed: 910Mbps / 105Mbps
Contract length24 monthsMonthly cost£49 per month (£46 for Vodafone pay monthly customers)Setup cost£0
Vodafone’s Gigafast isn’t mobile broadband: it’s the same full fibre connection that BT uses. That’s why the speeds are the same, but the monthly cost currently more expensive. This is the base, broadband-only plan, but you can see all Vodafone Gigafast plans.
6. Sky Gigafast 900 | Download / Upload Speed: 900Mbps / 90Mbps
Contract length18 monthsMonthly cost£53Setup cost£0
Sky is another provider using the Openreach full fibre, but the difference here is that the contract is shorter at 18 months. For £5 extra per month, Broadband Boost gives you a strong Wi-Fi signal in every room and guaranteed minimum speeds of 600Mbps. Most providers offer a minimum speed guarantee without paying an extra fee, but the £5 is worth it to have Wi-Fi throughout your home.
You might find that the fastest package Sky can offer you is Ultrafast Plus. That’s 500Mbps with 60Mbps upload speeds for £39 per month.
Beyond the five listed above, these following providers were other top-performing broadband providers in the UK:
If you decide speed isn’t your number one priority, you might prefer to use our tool below to find the best deals available right now. Here are all the best deals available right now. Bear in mind that you can’t simply pick the one you like most. First, you need to check if the service is available at your address. Coverage can vary in the same town or city. In fact, the speeds and providers available will depend upon the exact street you live on.
That’s why you’ll need to enter your postcode and click ‘Check availability’ to see which which offers apply to you.
Which broadband speed is right for me?
All the providers above also offer slower broadband plans which cost less. And it’s worth asking yourself if you need 900Mbps or more. It’s great for downloading large files quickly, or streaming 4K video in multiple rooms. But if you just want to stream in HD, make the occasional video call in HD and aren’t too fussed about waiting a bit longer for files to download and upload, than you don’t necessarily need full fibre.
As mentioned, many UK homes aren’t yet connected to full fibre anyway, which means they’re reliant on their ancient copper phone cables, or the 4G or 5G mobile broadband available in the area.
For most people, download speeds of 30-40Mbps are ok, but it’s still possible to get up to 80Mbps on what’s called fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC). This is different from full fibre because the fibre optic cable doesn’t go right to your property – only to the ‘cabinet’ in your local area. That cabinet connects to your home using copper phone lines, which are what limits the speed, and the actual speed you’ll get is dependent on how far your home is from the cabinet.
You can read our guide to choosing a broadband service for a more in-depth explanation of the jargon, as well as the other things you should look out for besides speed.
Here, though, is a quick overview of the speeds you actually need.
5-15Mbps: Suitable for a household of two people at most where occupants browse the web and check email. Streaming video is usually from a single device, and never in 4K.
40-80Mbps: This speed is ok for household of up to five people constantly using their phones, streaming video to multiple TVs in different rooms, even in 4K and playing online games. Smart devices are scattered around the home and there are a handful of security cameras uploading to the cloud.
200-900Mbps+: Ideal for big households with five or more people, where adults work from home and are frequently on video calls and need to upload large files to the cloud. Such speeds cater for many smart devices, especially security cameras recording to cloud storage.
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