Whether you work from home and need a fast, reliable internet connection, or you live in a household where several people want to stream video and make video calls at the same time, it’s worth knowing what’s available in your area.
This is the main problem with broadband in the UK – availability of gigabit speeds (1000Mbps) varies not just from region to region, but from street to street.
Fortunately, the situation is improving. Full fibre is being rolled out across the UK and BT’s Openreach is aiming to have 25 million homes hooked up by the end of 2026. At the moment, this is delivering download speeds of 900Mbps.
Meanwhile, Virgin Media has completed the upgrade of its cable network, meaning around 15.5m UK homes can now get its Gig1 plan, offering average download speeds of a little over 1.1Gbps. The company is working on expanding the service to another 7m homes by 2027.
With many people still using ADSL broadband and struggling along with download speeds of around 10Mbps (or less!), the possibility of upgrading to gigabit broadband can be life-changing.
The bad news is that the fastest speeds tend to be available in towns and cities, with rural areas still being underserved.
But as impressive as these are, they’re not the fastest available in the UK.
Fastest broadband provider in the UK
Currently, the fastest broadband available in the UK is from Community Fibre, and only in certain parts of London. It has download speeds of 3Gbps (3000Mbps) and costs a not-insignificant £99 per month.
Even if you can get it, it may not be the best value. 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 – for the time being.
For most people, the fastest broadband that’s worth paying for is Virgin Media Gig1. If you can’t get that, then the 900Mbps full fibre service is the next fastest option, and is available from BT, TalkTalk, EE, Vodafone and others.
Remember that these are download speeds, and upload speeds can be much, much slower. Gig1 has a nominal upload speed of 52Mbps, for example, which is about 95% slower than the download speed. With 900Mbps full fibre, 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. 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 the same 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.
If you live in a rural area, you’ll almost certainly find full fibre and Virgin’s Gig1 service isn’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.
Fastest broadband packages in the UK
Here’s what the fastest broadband packages cost, and how fast they are.
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.
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.
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.
£45 (£48 after contract, plus rise linked to inflation)
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 is cheaper. This is the base, broadband-only plan, but you can see all Vodafone Gigafast plans.
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.
Beyond the five listed above, these following providers were other top performing broadband providers in the UK:
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.
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.