With broadband, finding out what you can get by checking your postcode is vital. The packages available can vary wildly depending on where you live. Here’s everything you need to know about finding out what broadband you can get in your area…
Broadband availability explained
Wouldn’t it be lovely if the same broadband packages were available to everyone?
Alas, things aren’t quite so simple. The UK’s broadband infrastructure means that what’s available can differ depending on where in the country you live, with different providers extending their networks to different areas. So, it’s important to find out what packages you can get in your neighbourhood when switching broadband. That's why we have a postcode checker - simply put your postcode in the box above (don’t worry, it’s for checking only - we won’t share it with anyone else) and you can see which broadband and TV packages you can get.
Generally, if you live in the countryside or somewhere remote, you won’t get as much choice and you may not be able to get the broadband speeds you can in towns and cities. This is because it’s less profitable for providers to offer packages in places with fewer people, and because the distance to your local telephone exchange is likely to be longer. Data loses speed the further it has to travel, which means slower - in some cases geriatric tortoise-like - broadband.
The latter, at least, is changing though, as fibre optic broadband, which can carry more data and loses less speed over distance, is now available to around 90% of homes and businesses in the UK, which means you’ll be able to get the likes of BT fibre optic broadband in most places within the next three years.
Broadband providers’ coverage
The provider with the biggest coverage range is - drum roll please - BT. Not really a shocker considering it used to be the state telecoms company and owns the national phone network.
BT broadband is available to 99% of the UK. Most providers also use the national telephone network to offer broadband. So, if you can get BT broadband where you live, there’s also a good chance you can get broadband from the likes of…
- Sky - offers broadband with average speeds of 11Mb, 34Mb, and 57Mb, both with unlimited downloads and with download limits - and its TV packages are available just about anywhere.
- TalkTalk - a budget provider with advertised average speeds of 11Mb, 35Mb, and 63Mb, all with unlimited downloads.
- Plusnet - BT-owned and good value. Packages advertise average speeds of 10Mb, 36Mb, and 66Mb.
- EE - has average speeds of 10Mb, 36Mb and 67Mb, plus EE mobile users get a data boost on their mobile plan every month.
- Now Broadband - also lets you bundle in one of its TV Passes.
- Post Office - one of the cheapest providers around, offering both standard and fibre broadband.
...and many more.
The biggest exception to the rule is Virgin Media, which uses its own cable network to provide broadband and TV. However, its network isn’t as big as the national network - it covers around 60% of homes. You’re more likely to be able to get Virgin Media broadband and TV if you live in a town or city, as the network covers most heavily-populated areas.
TV availability explained
Bundling broadband and TV together is a great way to save money if you want both.
The availability of TV packages typically matches that of broadband. BT TV and TalkTalk TV are both based on YouView. This uses your TV aerial for Freeview, but extra channels, catch-up, on-demand and more use your internet connection, so you can only get BT TV with BT broadband and TalkTalk TV with TalkTalk broadband.
Sky TV is different because it's satellite TV, so you can get it just about anywhere in the country. You don’t need to have Sky broadband – or broadband at all - to get it. However, if you want to be use the likes of catch-up, on demand, and the Sky Store, you’ll need broadband.
You can get Virgin Media TV without Virgin Media broadband, but it’s still only available areas covered by Virgin Media’s cable network, the same as Virgin Media broadband. Use our postcode checker to see if you can get it.
Do broadband speeds differ between areas?
Yes. The speeds broadband packages offer can vary quite a bit between different postcodes, and even different homes on the same street.
The download speeds a provider lists represents what at least 50% of the people with that package get. Broadband speed is influenced by so many things - the distance between your home and your street cabinet, the distance between that and your local telephone exchange, the number of people sharing the connection in your area, and even the quality of the wires in your home can have a big impact. As a result, speeds vary from place to place.
If you want broadband that guarantees fast speeds, fibre optic broadband is the way to go, which is considerably more reliable standard ADSL broadband and will give you speeds much closer to those advertised.
Fortunately, you don’t have to buy broadband completely blind. When you’re signing up with a new provider, it should tell you what sort of download and upload speeds you can realistically expect to get from your package.
- Around 10 or 11Mb - download speeds of this level are available pretty much everywhere, though speeds in some areas will be quite a bit lower. This speed will suit you if you use the internet for browsing the web, sending emails, and maybe a bit of streaming.
- 24Mb-72Mb - this is the usual range for download speeds on fibre optic packages, qualifying as 'superfast', and more than 90% of households can get them. It's ideal if you have a lot of gadgets to connect, and like to stream TV, play online games, or download big files on the regular.
- 300Mb and above - connections at this speed and above count as 'ultrafast', and they aren't available everywhere. It's worth considering if you have a big household with lots of people online at once, but for most of us it may be a little more bandwidth than is necessary.
What's the best broadband in my area?
The only way to really find this out is by checking your postcode.
Nearly everyone can get standard ADSL broadband - the cheapest broadband in your area will almost certainly be ADSL. It isn't always the best, though: fibre is faster and more reliable, and it's available to more than 90% of households. If you can get it where you are, a fibre package will give you a better service.
As for the best provider… bear in mind that most Openreach-based providers (including BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet, Vodafone, and EE) will give you pretty much the same service, since they use the same lines. Virgin Media is the only big exception to this, which has its own network - as do certain smaller providers, such as Gigaclear.
If your current provider hasn't been up to the job, try switching to one that uses a different network.
Or, simply switch to fibre or a package with a faster speed.
You can find the fastest broadband in your area with our postcode checker too. Enter your postcode, then either choose a minimum speed in the filters, or sort all the deals by download speed - which will show you the fastest packages available in your area first.
Where do we get our availability data?
We get availability information about standard and fibre optic broadband direct from providers. That data is checked and updated regularly to make sure it’s accurate. How much packages cost can vary between areas too, so we also track prices.
When you enter your postcode we compare it against all data to find deals that are available in your area in about as much time as it takes to blink. We don’t hang about.