How many companies are actually offering fibre optic broadband services in the UK? We see the major ISPs, such as BT and Virgin Media, advertising in the press all the time, as well as low cost competitors such as Talk Talk and Plusnet. Competition is fierce in this sector at the moment, with ISPs constantly offering reduced price deals, cheap or free installation and other add on perks to their packages in an attempt to draw customers. But what about the growing Fibre to the Home (FTTH) market in the UK?
There are in fact dozens of ISPs in the UK offering their services in sometimes niche or specific areas of the country. The FTTH market is perhaps the fastest growing of all with plenty of companies offering speeds of up to 1 Gbps (1000mbps) download and upload speeds if you know where to look. FTTH coverage across the UK is increasing fast and in this article we will look at some of the major companies involved in bringing Fibre to the Home to various parts of the UK.
Standard Fibre – Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) – A Quick UK Summary
We will take a brief first at some of the Standard FTTC internet packages available in the UK at the moment. These are basically the most common packages that you see advertised in the press and online, with fierce competition between the main ISPs. FTTC or Fibre to the Cabinet means that the connection is fibre optic up until the point where it enters the street cabinet, after which it is carried by copper the remaining couple of dozen or hundred yards to the consumer’s house.
Copper does not carry data as fast as fibre optic strands so this can increase the delay any traffic takes to get to the consumer verus if it was carried on fibre optic all the way (FTTH). This is still the most common form of internet connection in the UK today, and can often deliver pretty good speeds in its own right. Of the major ISPs Virgin Media has the most impressive speeds, with its top range Vivid packages able to deliver download speeds of 200 or 350 megabits per second.
We will not spend too much time going over the major ISPs as they are well known to customers by now. There are in fact several dozen smaller ISPs across the UK providing fibre broadband services, but we will summarise the packages offered by the main 6 providers. With strong price competition in the industry it is a great time for consumers to shop around and take advantage of better deals they can get elsewhere.
For Fibre packages we especially recommend looking at the smaller competitors (Now Broadband, Talk Talk and Plusnet) who are using BTs Openreach internet infrastructure but offering cheaper packages using the same lines. If you are looking for a no nonsense fibre only package then they can be an excellent cheaper alternative to either of the two main ISPs of BT and Virgin. Sky Broadband also offer decent value using BT’s network.
An added bonus of using these companies is that there is a good chance you may already have the correct BT lines installed, which may make switching over easier and potentially cheaper (some installation fees may be waived). We have summarised the different packages below, both entry level fibre and faster packages.
We have tried to keep prices and costs up to date but ISPs are always introducing temporary offers in a bid to attract customers so you may find some prices even cheaper and installation costs reduced or waived altogether.
Entry Level Fibre Packages – A Quick Comparison
|Provider||Package||Average Download/Upload Speed (mbps)||Monthly Data Usage||Monthly Price (Initial Contract Term)||Rising To (After Initial Contract):||Total Setup Costs (Install/Activation/Router)|
|BT||Superfast Fibre Essential||36/9||30GB||£26.99 (18 months)||£37.99||£59.99|
|Virgin Media||VIVID 50||54/3||Unlimited||£35 (12 months)||£42||£60|
|Sky||Sky Fibre Unlimited||36/9||Unlimited||£25 (18 months)||£38.99||£59.95|
|Talk Talk||Faster Fibre Broadband||38/9||Unlimited||£24.00 (24 months)||£36.00||£30|
|Now Broadband||Fab Fibre||36/9||Unlimited||£24 (12 months)||£43.99||£59.99|
|Plusnet||Unlimited Fibre Broadband||36/9||Unlimited||£23.99 (18 months)||£35||£49.99|
For browsers wanting more bandwidth to play with for downloading, streaming or houses where you have quite a few users, we have also summarised the more expensive packages. For real heavy downloaders Virgin Media stands out as having by far and away the fastest packages, but for more moderate users the smaller competitors offer great value for money and low installation costs which are sometimes waived altogether for short offer periods.
Faster Fibre Packages – A Quick Comparison
|Provider||Package||Average Download/Upload Speed (mbps)||Monthly Data Usage||Monthly Price (Initial Contract Term)||Rising to (After Initial Contract)||Total Setup Costs (Install/Activation/Router)|
|BT||Superfast Fibre 2||67/18||Unlimited||£39.99 (18 months)||£59.99||£59.99|
|Virgin Media||Vivid 100||108/6||Unlimited||£40 (12 months)||£47||£60|
|Virgin Media||Vivid 350||362/6||Unlimited||£42 (12 months)||£57||£60|
|Talk Talk||Faster Fibre Speed Boost||63/17||Unlimited||£28.50 (18 months)||£38.50||£39.95|
|Now Broadband||Super Fibre||63/18||Unlimited||£30 (12 months)||£43.99||£9.99|
|Plusnet||Unlimited Fibre Extra||66/18||Unlimited||£28.99 (18 months)||£39.98||£49.99|
Fibre to the Home (FTTH) – The New Standard for Gigabit Internet Speeds
Fibre to the Home (FTTH), also known as Fibre to the Premises or Fibre to the Building (FTTP/B), is the next level of internet service, capable of providing much faster speeds than even Virgin Media’s top Vivid package. Instead of being fibre cable only to the street cabinet, FTTH connections are wired as fibre all the way to a customers home with no copper in between.
This opens the way for much higher bandwidth and much faster transfer speeds as fibre optic strands can carry far more data than standard copper wires. Residential FTTH packages can currently offer download and upload speeds of up to 1 Gigabit (1000mbps), with the potential to open up more capacity in the future.
This is a complete game changer for internet users and opens up far more bandwidth than most people even need at the moment; however having a full fibre optic network future proofs a country against any rising bandwidth needs that may arise in the future. Once you have a FTTH connection you are sorted for any bandwidth needs for years into the future.
Installing FTTH is a complex procedure often requiring manual work like digging up streets and driveways and is understandably expensive as a result. In addition the UK is behind many other European countries who started targeting widespread FTTH coverage in the mid 2000s. This is one of the reasons certain countries such as Scandinavian ones have much faster average internet speeds than the UK.
Unfortunately FTTH was only available to around 1.2 million premises or 4% of UK homes as of April 2018, but coverage is now rolling out faster and should reach at least a couple of million homes in the next few years. In the last few years the UK has started to catch up with targeting widespread FTTH rollout.
In March 2018 the UK Government launched the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, pledging £67 million to help communities and businesses install gigabit FTTH broadband. It allows consumers to claim up to £500 discount on FTTH installations so it is well worth seeing if a participating provider is available in your area. See here for more details on how the scheme works. Some of the FTTH providers we detail below, such as B4RN and Cambridge Fibre, are part of the scheme so it is well worth checking them out if you live in their coverage area.
FTTH Internet – Some UK Providers
So let’s look at some providers of FTTH gigabit internet in the UK. As we said coverage is still quite low at around 4% of UK premises but there are a growing number of companies covering their own niche areas the country.The two main providers, BT and Virgin Media do offer FTTH packages, but currently only in a very small number of installations.
BT has an Ultrafast service that installs as FTTH in a very small number of cases, and Virgin Media’s Vivid 200 and 350 packages are offered as a FTTH installation in certain areas (see here for a coverage map). But the “big two” are not massively pushing FTTH at least in their marketing, though their coverage is slowly increasing. We will look at some independent providers who focus exclusively on FTTH installations.
Almost all providers also allow you to register interest on their website if they are currently not available in your area. If enough people register within a certain area to justify installation then they will, so it is worth registering your interest and encouraging interested friends and family to do the same.
Hyperoptic – Superb Value FTTH in Major Cities
Hyperoptic are first on our list as they offer brilliant value for money and are available in a large number of cities across the UK. Their 30 mbps package starts at just £19 per month for the first year, although installation costs can be up to £240. Outside of London you will struggle to get a FTTH package for such a low monthly price so they are our current number one recommend value-for-money FTTH provider if available in your area.
They currently cover around half a million UK premises with a target to reach 2 million UK premises by 2022. They tend to install in large multiple occupancy buildings at the moment for efficiency but they will likely expand to more and more properties. They are expanding rapidly having just secured significant bank investment and are set to have coverage in 50 UK cities by 2019.
They are currently available in the current cities: Greater London, Basildon, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Preston, Reading, Reigate, Sheffield, Slough, Southamption, Southend-on-Sea, Warrington, Watford, Woking.
Gigaclear – Rural Areas Surrounding London
Gigaclear are our next recommended provider, covering mainly rural areas to the North and West of London. They offer four residential packages with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 50, 100, 200, and 900mbps, with a £229 installation fee and 15 month contract. Their prices start at £41.30 per month, rising to £76 per month for their premium package.
Their full coverage areas as of Summer 2018 are: Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Devon , Somerset , Essex, Gloucester, Hertfordshire, Herefordshire , Kent, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, West Berkshire. See here for their full coverage map.
Many of these areas are rural, hence the expensive installation and package costs relative to other ISPs due the the work involved in getting FTTH connections to these remote areas. They are an excellent option though for people wanting fast internet in areas that are perhaps more difficult for the major ISPs to reach.
Community Fibre, Vision Fibre Media and Pure Fibre – London FTTH Providers
London has probably the most FTTH providers, but we have picked out three main ones. Value for money is the noticeable here, with all three providers having cheap starter packages and offering free standard installation with no hidden line rental charges. So what you see is what you pay and you first month’s payment is all it takes to get up and running.
Community Fibre is our first choice, offering FTTH services mainly in the Wandsworth area of London. They have three symmetrical download and upload speed packages of 20, 40 and 1000 mbps starting at just £20 per month and all packages comes with free installation and router as standard.
They have an installation speed to match their internet speeds, offering a complete up-and-running installation within 24 hours. They currently cover around 60,000 homes in London with plans to reach around 500,000 homes by 2022, so they are definitely worth checking out if you live in London.
Vision Fibre Media are another FTTH provider operating in London, again offering three symmetrical packages of 50, 100 and 1000 mbps starting at £35 per month for the 100mpbs package. for a 12 month contract. They also offer a free router and activation as standard. Unfortunately information on the prices of the other packages is not available unless you progress with an order enquiry.
Pure Fibre are the third London FTTH provider we cover, who are currently offering FTTH services to all properties in the Greenwich Peninsula in South East London. They also offer 3 packages but their most interesting one is their entry level package which delivers speeds of 5mbps download and 1mbps upload. You can either pay £15 per month with no installation fee for this service for the first year or you can simply pay a one off installation fee of £150 and the service is completely free for 5 years after that, which is an excellent entry level FTTH service for light browsers and gamers.
Their more expensive packages offer 100 and 1000 mbps symmetrical download and upload speeds and start at £36 per month with no installation fees. Their gigabit service is £60 per month with no upfont fees but both these packages are ongoing contracts that do not tie you down for a certain period.
B4RN – Rural North West
B4RN are our next provider on the list, offering an impressive coverage area to rural parts of Lancashire mainly north of Preston. They offer a 1000 mbps symmetrical FTTH connection for just £30 per month with a £150 connection fee. Offering a gigabit connection in this area is even more impressive given that the average internet speeds in that area are just 5 mbps download and 0.4 mbps upload.
They have ongoing monthly contracts which do not tie users down and also offer business packages and concessions for partially occupied properties such as hotel rooms and holiday cottages. They have an impressive coverage area in the North West and have more expansions planned.
They have done an impressive job getting superfast FTTH broadband out to areas that have been neglected by the main ISPs and they are definitely worth checking out if you live in rural Lancashire. They are also part of the Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme meaning that new customers may be able to get a discount by registering with them.
Cambridge Fibre and Trooli – Niche Area Providers
Cambridge Fibre are another FTTH provider who offer three packages of 500/10, 900/20 and 900/40 mbps download/upload speeds. As the name suggests they operate in the Cambridgeshire area and their packages start at £32 per month, although contract lengths and upfront costs are unfortunately not specified until you progress further into the registration process.
They are also part of the Broadband Voucher Scheme where new signups may be eligible for a discount of up to £500 on signing up for their services. See their page on the scheme for more details.
Trooli are another niche provider based in the Kent area and again offer three excellent FTTH packages with download/upload speeds of 300/100, 500/200 and 1000/300 mbps. starting at £50 per month with an £80 installation. Their standard contracts are for 18 months.
They are a very new company, only launching in 2018, but they are expanding fast in the Kent area. Their coverage map is here and also details planned expansions into 2019. They are also part of the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme so discounts on installation may be available; see here for their page on the scheme.
UK FTTH Internet Providers – Comparison Table
|Provider||Package 1 (DL/UL Speeds - mbps)||Package 2||Package 3||Prices per Month (Initial Term)||Upfront Costs||Area Served|
|Hyperoptic||30/1||150/150||1000/1000||£19 - £48 (12 months)||£240||See below*|
|Gigaclear||50/50||200/200||900/900||£41.30 - £76.60 (15 months)||£229||See here*|
|Community Fibre||40/40||200/200||920/920||£20 - £50 (12 months)||Free||London - Westminister, Wandsworth, Camden|
|Vision Fibre Media||50/50||100/100||1000/1000||From £35 (12 months)||Free||London|
|Pure Fibre||5/1*||100/100||500/500||£15 - £60 (Monthly)||Free*||London - Greenwich Peninsula|
|B4NR||1000/1000||-||-||£30 (Monthly)||£150||Rural Lancashire - see map|
|Cambridge Fibre||500/10||900/20||900/40||£32 - £48||Unknown||Cambridgeshire|
|Trooli||300/100||500/200||1000/300||£50 - £80 (18 months)||£80||Kent - see map|
* Hyperoptic available in: Greater London, Basildon, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Preston, Reading, Reigate, Sheffield, Slough, Southamption, Southend-on-Sea, Warrington, Watford, Woking.
*Gigaclear available in: Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Devon , Somerset , Essex, Gloucester, Hertfordshire, Herefordshire , Kent, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, West Berkshire
*Pure Fibre – for their entry level 5/1 mbps package you can either pay £15 per month for 12 months with no installation cost or pay a one off £150 installation fee after which the service is completely free for 5 years.