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Fibre Optic Broadband Deals

Fibre broadband is now available to over 97 per cent of households in the UK, so if you haven't upgraded to it yet, you could be missing out on the extra performance and bandwidth that it offers. If you are thinking that it's time you switched then you'll want to know more about what's involved and how to find the best fibre broadband deals.

What is fibre?

Fibre broadband means that the signal is delivered at least part of the way to your property using fibre optic cable rather than the older, copper telephone cables. It's important to note that fibre comes in two different flavours, fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the premises (FTTP).

For most people, the fibre broadband deals they can access are FTTC. This means the fibre cable from the exchange terminates at a street cabinet (the green box at the end of your road) and the signal then comes the rest of the way to your house on copper cables.

This has an effect on performance because the further you are from the cabinet, the lower the speed will be. Even so, an FTTC connection should allow you to get speeds of up to 80 Mbps if you're within 150 metres of the cabinet. At 300 metres away you should get around 45 Mbps.

FTTP connections mean that the fibre optic cable comes all the way into your home or business. This form of broadband is less common, only available to around nine per cent of the UK, and mainly in cities. FTTP, also known as 'full fibre', offers speeds of 300 Mbps or more.

Do I need fibre?

If you already have ADSL broadband (asynchronous digital subscriber line - delivered via the copper telephone network) then you need to consider whether it's worth upgrading to fibre. This will depend on how you use the connection.

If you are just checking emails and maybe a bit of online shopping and banking, then ADSL will probably be sufficient. If any of the following apply to your household, however, then it's probably worth you upgrading to fibre:

  • You have more than five devices connecting to the internet - PCs, smartphones, smart TVs, smart speakers, games consoles, etc.
  • There are more than two people using the internet
  • You stream TV from iPlayer, Amazon, Netflix, etc.
  • You regularly play online games
  • You upload videos and photos regularly
  • You make extensive use of cloud storage services such as Dropbox and OneDrive
  • You work from home
  • You use IP calling services such as Facetime and Skype

Fibre broadband offers more bandwidth than ADSL, making it faster and more reliable. When it comes to streaming media, for example, you won't have those annoying pauses while the data buffers.

Comparing deals

The first thing to consider when looking at fibre broadband deals is what speed you need. As a general rule, you need to have 10 Mbps for each person who is using the internet. Add an extra 10 Mbps if you have a high definition Smart TV, especially if it's 4K. If anyone is downloading and playing online games then allow them 20 Mbps.

Once you have an idea as to the speed you need, you can look at what's available in your area. Most service providers and many comparison sites have a postcode checker which will tell you if you can get the service and what speed you are likely to see.

The next thing to look at is cost. At the time of writing, the cheapest fibre broadband deals are around £22 per month. ADSL isn't all that much cheaper, perhaps a couple of pounds a month, so given the performance advantage, you may think that fibre represents better value for money. You also need to read the small print; some providers offer an attractive price to begin with but the price will go up after a few months.

We've talked about the speed you need from your broadband, but you also need to think about the volumes of data you'll be downloading or streaming. An HD movie, for example, will be about 4GB in size. Some broadband deals place a cap on the amount you can download each month and if you exceed this, you'll be hit with an extra charge. If you know you'll be downloading a lot, look for packages that offer unlimited downloads. Note, however, that even an 'unlimited' package is usually subject to fair use limits and may restrict what you can download at peak times.

Broadband often comes bundled with other services such as TV and landline calls. Some providers will also give you a better deal on your mobile phone service if you take it from them too. These things are only good value if you are actually going to use them, so don't be coerced into paying for something you don't need.

Almost all fibre broadband deals come with a router. Check to see if you are going to be charged a delivery fee for this; indeed check if there's any form of one-off setup fee at the start of the contract. If you have a large household or lots of devices, you may want to upgrade to a better router. This will be an extra cost so make sure that you factor it into your calculations.

Most fibre broadband contracts are for 12 or 18 months, if you leave before the time is up, you will have to pay a penalty. If you're not comfortable with this, some providers offer a rolling month-to-month contract although this is likely to be more expensive. On the other hand, you may be able to get a better price by signing up for a longer period of two years or more.

Top service providers

There are lots of companies offering fibre broadband deals in the UK. The big names including BT, Sky and Virgin offer a range of packages, often bundled with TV and phone deals. Note that Virgin uses its own network, so is not available in all areas. Other well-known providers include TalkTalk and mobile companies such as EE and Vodafone. Plusnet is owned by BT but offers a 'no frills' service.

With providers other than Virgin, it's important to understand that regardless as to which firm your contract is with, the service is delivered via the Openreach network. This means there is usually very little difference between the performance you can get from different suppliers. It also means that it's worth considering smaller companies that you may not have heard of. A number of retailers and even the Post Office offer fibre broadband services, so there are plenty of options.

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