Can my home get fibre broadband?

When you want broadband faster than a cheetah in a Ferrari, it’s got to be fibre.

Fibre optic broadband is still a fairly new technology - which is great, because it means our connections are super top-of-the-line and future-proof… but it also means it’s not available everywhere we want it just yet.

Thankfully, the majority of UK towns and cities now have access to fibre broadband, so there’s a good chance that you can get it where you live. Providers have even found solutions for getting fibre to remote areas and islands. In Orkney, for example, old Royal Navy barriers are now used for carrying fibre optic lines - and an undersea fibre cable has been diverted to connect the Isles of Scilly.

Around 80% of the country is covered by BT’s fibre network (with download speeds up to 76Mb), and around 50% by Virgin Media (speeds up to 200Mb), and those numbers are rapidly growing day by day. There are plenty of other smaller fibre providers with their own networks too, such as Hyperoptic or KC in Hull.

To find out if you can get fibre optic broadband, enter your postcode into our postcode checker at the top or side of the page. We’ll tell you exactly what broadband you can get where you are.

Which providers offer fibre optic broadband?

  • BT - BT Infinity is the largest fibre optic network in the country
  • Most providers that use the Openreach network - including Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet, and EE
  • Virgin Media
  • Hyperoptic - in apartment buildings and tower blocks with lots of residents
  • Various small, local fibre providers, such as KC or Wightfibre

Why can’t I get fibre?

There are all kinds of reasons why a property can’t get a fibre optic connection. It may be because:

  • The phone line between your home and the local street cabinet can’t support fast enough speeds
  • You live too far away from the nearest street cabinet
  • Demand for fibre in your postcode is high, and the street cabinet is full to capacity
  • Your home is connected directly to the exchange rather than to a cabinet
  • You live in an apartment building where the internal wiring can’t support fast enough speeds
  • You live in a rural area which is difficult for cables to reach
  • The nearby terrain is too awkward to run fibre cables - such as mountains, lakes, and islands
  • You’re in the middle of a major city centre where providers can’t rip up the pavement to install cables
  • There aren’t many homes and businesses where you live, and providers don’t consider it financially viable enough to roll out fibre

There are schemes in place to get fibre broadband to as much of the UK as possible, so it’s certainly worth looking into whether it’s coming to your area in the near future. Look for details on the Openreach website, your county council under Broadband Delivery UK, or Virgin Media’s website.

If you can’t get fibre…

When fibre isn’t available, the next best thing is a standard ADSL connection. It won’t be nearly as fast, but it’s reliable, much cheaper, and you can get totally unlimited packages. Download speeds are usually up to about 17Mb, which is more than enough for most households - as long as you don’t have multiple people streaming iPlayer or downloading huge files at once, of course.

Compare ADSL broadband deals

If speed’s the name of the game, however, take a look at wireless broadband, mobile broadband, or satellite broadband. These are all kinds of broadband connection that work over radio signals, like 4G, rather than through cables. Speeds are often comparable to fibre but latency (lag) can hold you back, and most have restrictive download limits.

Relish is a great choice for wireless broadband if you’re in central London, as it offers affordable, unlimited packages at pretty good speeds.

Read more about mobile broadband

Got your heart utterly set on fibre, and won’t be happy until you get it? We don’t blame you. While there’s very little you can do to get new lines installed - assuming you don’t have several hundred thousand pounds in cash just lying around - you can ask providers to consider bringing it to your postcode. Register your interest in a rollout on the BT, Virgin Media, or Hyperoptic websites.

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FAQs

  1. How do I get fibre broadband?

    Exactly the same way you'd get regular broadband. Put your postcode into our comparison tool to see what’s available where you live. You’ll need an active phone line for the majority of fibre services, such as BT Infinity, as they’re delivered through that.

    The main exception is Virgin Media, which doesn't require a phone line because it uses a separate network. Once you've found a package that ticks all the boxes, click through to the provider’s website and sign up. Then it won’t be long before you’re all set up.

  2. How do I switch broadband provider?

    The process of changing your broadband provider is actually pretty straightforward. First, you put your postcode into our impartial comparison tool. We’ll display the broadband, phone and TV deals available where you live, and then you can use our search filters to narrow down the options and find the perfect package for your household. Finally, you sign up with your new provider online. They’ll contact your existing provider and take care of everything else for you (unless you're switching to or from Virgin Media).

    The actual switch should be virtually seamless, and in the vast majority of cases it is. Your new broadband provider will send you all the stuff you need to get set up, like a new wireless router and/or TV set-top box.

  3. How long does it take to switch broadband?
    When you sign up to a new provider, they’ll contact your existing one and request a transfer of your service. The only exception is when you're switching to or from Virgin Media, in which case you'll have to call and cancel. While switching times vary depending on the type of package, it shouldn’t usually take more than 10 working days. It can take longer if you don’t currently have a phone line, as an engineer will need to come out and install one for you.
  4. Can I keep my email address if I change provider?
    This depends entirely on who your current provider is. If your email address is from BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, or Plusnet, you'll still have access to your emails at least temporarily - but we'd suggest changing over to a free service like Gmail or Outlook so you don't need to worry about losing all your emails just for switching broadband. See our guide for more info.
  5. Can I get broadband without a phone line?
    Cable giant Virgin Media is the only major UK provider to offer broadband without a telephone line. Its fibre optic network is completely separate from the copper phone wire network that ordinarily connects you to the web. Aside from this, the only alternative is to use mobile broadband instead - then you have no requirement for a landline. But, if your internet use is anything other than particularly light, this might just prove to be too slow or too restrictive to need your needs.
  6. Do I need fibre optic broadband?

    Fibre optic broadband is much faster and much more reliable than broadband through the phone line, but it’s not essential for everyone. If you just want to browse the web, check email, Facebook, Twitter etc, you’ll be fine with standard broadband through the phone line.

    However, if you stream a lot of video, download music, films and games, and other such activities, you will likely find a fibre connection hugely beneficial.

    It’s also a boon for large households, especially ones with lots of gadgets like smartphones, tablets, and computers connected up most of the time. The more people using a connection, the slower it will be, so if you have a big family where lots of people want to connect to the web at the same time, for example, a fibre connection will ensure everyone can get a good experience.

  7. How does fibre optic broadband work?

    Fibre optic broadband works by sending information down fibre optic cable instead of a traditional copper wire. It moves incredibly quickly and encounters less resistance, so you get broadband that’s much closer to the advertised speeds than standard (ADSL) broadband wholly through your phone line, where performance is more variable.

    In most cases, the fibre cables run to the nearest street cabinet, with the final leg of the connection - between the cabinet and your house - being either copper telephone wire or, in the case of Virgin Media, coaxial cable. As a result, some speed degradation will still occur, but you’ll still experience speeds well beyond those you’d get with standard broadband.