Everything you need to know about ultrafast broadband

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Ultrafast broadband is the latest, and fastest, version of broadband available in the UK. Offering lightning fast download and upload speeds, as well as low latency and a reliable service, it’s a fantastic option for households that rely on the internet for their entertainment, socialising and education. While terms like ‘superfast’ and ‘ultrafast’ may sound like they’re just promotional descriptions, they actually have technical meanings.
Last update: October 2021

If an internet provider promises you an ‘ultrafast’ service, there are certain minimum download speeds that they have to guarantee. The same goes for ‘superfast’ broadband packages. If you’re looking for a broadband plan that allows you to stream an almost unlimited amount of movies, games and TV shows at the same time, an ultrafast package could be just what you need. Here’s everything you need to know about this futuristic form of ultrafast internet.

What is ultrafast broadband?

Technically speaking, ultrafast broadband is internet that offers download speeds of between 300Mbps and 1Gbps. It’s normally delivered direct to homes via fibre optic or coaxial cables.
Standard ADSL broadband connections in the UK generally offer download speeds of between 10Mbps and 24Mbps. This is the slowest option for most UK internet users.
If you opt for a ‘superfast’ broadband connection, you should get speeds of more than 24Mbps but less than 300Mbps. With superfast broadband now available to around 95% of UK properties, this is the most common option for medium and heavy internet users across the country.


Type of connection Average download speed
Ultrafast 300Mbps – 1Gbps
Superfast 24Mbps – 300Mbps
Standard Up to 24Mbps


Ultrafast broadband of more than 300Mbps and less than 1Gbps is currently only available to around 55%-57% of UK internet users. However, the infrastructure is continually being upgraded to increase coverage and improve access to ultrafast internet, so the network is likely to grow quickly.

What is the difference between ultrafast broadband, superfast broadband and ADSL?

ADSL

For many years, the main type of internet connection available in the UK was Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, or ADSL. Covering an impressive 99% of homes across the country, ADSL offers speeds of up to 24Mbps, although 10Mbps is probably more realistic for most UK households.
If you opt for ADSL broadband, your data will travel down copper wires, just like your landline phone connection. These copper wires are relatively slow compared to fibre cables, so your connection is never going to exceed 24Mbps.

Fibre broadband

Fibre broadband uses fast fibre cables to connect your local cabinet to your supplier’s exchange. These cables are able to transfer data significantly faster than copper cables and so speed up the internet on offer considerably.
The connection from your local cabinet to your home will be completed by copper cables. Even so, fibre broadband can offer speeds of up to 300Mbps in some parts of the country. However, it’s likely that most households in the UK will see speeds of between 24Mbps and 76Mbps.
In some areas, fibre broadband can reach speeds of between 100Mbps and 300Mbps. Suppliers that can guarantee these speeds often market their packages as ultrafast, even though they’re not served by full fibre or coaxial cable connections.
If you’re looking for a package that’s fast, reliable and affordable, and don’t need your internet to exceed 300Mpbs, one of these deals could be a great option for your home.

full fibre broadband

Internet suppliers are currently working to upgrade the UK’s broadband infrastructure by laying fibre optic cables from local cabinets to customers’ homes. These full fibre connections are also known as fibre to the premises, or FTTP.
Because no copper cables are involved in the connection, internet speeds are very fast. Some full fibre connections are able to reach speeds of up to 1Gbps.
Full fibre optic internet is only available in some parts of the country. However the infrastructure is always being expanded. So, if full fibre isn’t yet available in your region, it should be soon.

Cable

A good alternative to full fibre optic internet is cable internet. This is available from Virgin Media. Like full fibre, cable internet doesn’t use copper wires. Instead, coaxial cables link local cabinets to customers’ homes. Cable internet is also able to offer ultrafast speeds, with some households able to access internet of up to 900Mbps.
Another benefit of cable internet is that it doesn’t require a fixed phone line to be installed. If you don’t need a landline, this means you won’t have to pay for line rental, something that could make your internet connection more affordable.
You can find out if you’re covered by Virgin Media’s cable broadband network by putting your postcode into the supplier’s website or by calling our Broadband Plans. Our experts will be able to check coverage in your area and help you find the deal that’s right for you.
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What are the benefits of ultrafast broadband

The main benefit of ultrafast broadband is its speed. If your average download speed is over 300Mbps, you shouldn’t have any problems downloading, gaming, streaming and video calling online. In fact, multiple people in your household will be able to do all of these things at the same time without anyone having to wait.
The only real downsides to ultrafast internet are its availability and its cost. The service generally costs around £10 – £15 per month more than superfast broadband. This can make it prohibitively expensive for some households.
What’s more, ultrafast broadband is only available in certain parts of the UK. If your region isn’t yet covered by the ultrafast network, you’ll need to wait until the infrastructure is in place before you can upgrade.

  • Speed
  • Low latency
  • Reliability
  • Future proof


  • Cost
  • Coverage

What is ultrafast broadband good for?

Ultrafast broadband is ideal for very heavy internet users. So if you like to watch multiple HD, 4K or 8K movies, play online computer games or make video calls, and don’t want to wait for your videos, games or calls to buffer, ultrafast is a great option for your household.
Ultrafast internet is also an excellent choice for properties with multiple heavy internet users. So, if you live with friends or have teenage children who like to stream, game and call at the same time, an ultrafast connection will ensure there’s plenty of internet for everyone and no one needs to fight over the bandwidth.

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Which providers offer ultrafast broadband?

While most suppliers offer superfast broadband, because ultrafast internet is still only available in a small number of UK regions, not all providers offer ultrafast packages. In fact, if you want to upgrade to an ultrafast connection, there are a relatively small number of options to choose from.
At the moment, the main suppliers offering ultrafast broadband packages are:

  • Virgin Media
  • BT
  • TalkTalk
  • EE


A number of other smaller suppliers, like Gigaclear and Hyperoptic, are working to roll out their own ultrafast networks using their own cables and infrastructure. However, these providers still only cover very small parts of the country, so it’s unlikely they’ll be available in your area.

Who is the best ultrafast Internet provider?

Currently, Virgin Media has the best ultrafast broadband network in the UK. The provider has been working on its ultrafast network for some time and now serves around 60% of homes in the UK.
BT labels its 100Mbps broadband ‘ultrafast’. However, at this download speed, the internet is technically only ‘superfast’. While this will still be more than enough for most people, it may not be good enough for those who need the extra bandwidth.
BT’s true ultrafast internet is only available in a small number of areas, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get the service where you live.
Other providers like TalkTalk, Gigaclear and Hyperoptic also only serve limited geographic areas. You’ll need to check coverage on their websites, or call our Broadband Plans, to see if your region is covered.
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Do I need to have ultrafast broadband?

Most households in the UK will probably be ok with a good superfast broadband connection, so you probably don’t need ultrafast internet. If your download speed is between 50Mbps and 300Mbps, you shouldn’t have any problems streaming, gaming and making online video calls.
However, if multiple people in your home want to stream, game or otherwise consume a lot of internet at the same time, you may run into difficulties.
If you currently have a superfast connection but still experience buffering, high levels of latency or interruptions to your signal, upgrading to ultrafast broadband could help to solve these issues.

How much does ultrafast broadband cost?

In general, ultrafast internet is more expensive than both ADSL and superfast broadband. This is because providers have to invest heavily in order to upgrade their networks to handle ultrafast speeds.
Virgin Media, the UK’s largest ultrafast internet provider, offers two main ultrafast broadband packages: M350 and M500. BT also offers a choice of two ‘true’ ultrafast options while EE has one package with average speeds of over 300Mbps.
The table below shows a comparison of some of the most widely available ultrafast broadband deals.


Contract length Monthly cost Average download speed Setup fees
Virgin Media M350 18 months £40 per month then £56 per month 362Mbps £35
Virgin Media M500 18 months £46 per month then £62 per month 516Mbps £35
EE Unlimited Max Fibre Broadband 300 18 months £42 per month 300Mbps £25
BT Full Fibre 300 24 months £49.99 per month 300Mbps £9.99
BT Full Fibre 900 24 months £59.99 900Mbps £9.99
Hyperoptic 12 months £45 per month then £60 per month 900Mbps £0
TalkTalk 18 months £29.95 145Mbps £0
Gigaclear 18 months £49 per month then £79 per month 900Mbps £0


As Virgin Media has the largest ultrafast broadband network, you’re most likely to have coverage from this provider in your area. In some parts of the country, you may even have a selection of ultrafast broadband providers to choose from, but in most cases, there will just be one supplier on offer.

guy zipping through space with ultra fast broadband

Is ultrafast broadband available in my area?

Ultrafast broadband is only available in a small number of UK regions. To find out if this lightning fast internet is available in your area, you’ll need to check on your chosen supplier’s website or call our experts at Broadband Plans.
Our experts will be able to check your postcode to see if ultrafast broadband is on offer in your region. If it is, they’ll talk you through all of the available options to help you find the package that’s right for you. If ultrafast broadband isn’t currently available where you live, our experts will find the next fastest deal that is on offer in your region. This will help you to find a great broadband connection at an affordable price. Get in touch with a member of our team to find out more.
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What is the difference between superfast and ultrafast broadband?

From a user point of view, the main difference between superfast and ultrafast broadband is the speed. Superfast broadband is technically broadband with average download speeds in excess of 24Mbps but less than 300Mbps.
This type of internet is supplied via fibre optic cables to local cabinets and then from these cabinets to customers’ homes via copper cables. It’s also known as a fibre to the cabinet, or FTTC, and is available in around 95% of UK regions.
The copper cables used to complete FTTC connections are a lot slower than the fibre optic cables used for the rest of the infrastructure. As a result, superfast internet is never able to reach speeds of more than 300Mbps.
Ultrafast internet is supplied exclusively by fibre optic or coaxial cables. These cables go all the way from your supplier to your property. No copper cables are used on the way. This dramatically increases the speed of the internet and allows suppliers to provide download capabilities of up to 1Gbps. In the future, it’s likely that ultrafast broadband will get even quicker.
Because fibre optic or coaxial cables are laid all the way to customers’ homes, this type of connection is also known as fibre to the premises, or FTTP.

What is ultrafast broadband speed?

When looking at different broadband packages, you’ll see that a lot are sold as ‘superfast’ or ‘ultrafast’, ‘unlimited’ or ‘full fibre’. This can make it hard to tell the difference between the various deals available.
In general, anything labelled as ‘ultrafast’ should offer download speeds that meet or exceed 300Mbps. However, some suppliers still promote packages with speeds of 100Mbps or more as ultrafast.
To ensure you’re getting a true ultrafast package, you’ll need to check the average download speed offered by your preferred deal. If you’re guaranteed speeds in excess of 300Mbps, then your package will be true ultrafast broadband.

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FAQ

Who provides ultrafast broadband?

The main ultrafast broadband provider in the UK is Virgin Media. The company has been working hard to build its ultrafast infrastructure and now covers around 60% of the UK.
You’ll also find ultrafast broadband packages available from BT, TalkTalk, EE, Gigaclear and Hyperoptic in some parts of the country. However, as these suppliers only cover relatively small geographic regions, it’s unlikely they’ll be available in your postcode.

Can I get ultrafast broadband, and where can I buy it?

The best way to see if you can get ultrafast broadband in your area is to call our Broadband Plans. Our experts will be able to check your postcode to see if you’re covered and then compare available deals to find the best package for your household.
You can also check coverage by looking on your chosen supplier’s website. As Virgin Media has the most extensive ultrafast network, this is probably the best place to start.

What is 'FTTP' broadband? Is it the same as ultrafast?

The term FTTP stands for fibre to the premises. It means that the entire internet connection, from your home to your supplier’s exchange, is made from fibre optic cables.
Because fibre optic cables are able to transfer data much faster than the copper cables used in other types of internet installation, FTTP broadband offers some of the quickest download speeds on the market. In most cases, full fibre broadband will offer speeds in excess of 300Mbps, with some homes able to get up to 1Gbps of download speed.

Is Virgin Media ultrafast better than BT ultrafast?

Virgin Media currently has the most extensive ultrafast network in the UK. It’s able to offer ultrafast broadband to around 60% of homes in the UK and its network is expanding all the time. As a result, Virgin Media is generally the most popular choice for users looking to upgrade their superfast broadband to an ultrafast connection.
BT’s ultrafast network is currently relatively small. While the supplier does offer superfast broadband to large parts of the UK – and occasionally markets this as ‘ultrafast’ – its true ultrafast packages aren’t yet widely available.

Updated on 10 Aug, 2021

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Junior Copywriting Specialist in Broadband

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Alex

Consumer Broadband Expert