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Frequently asked questions
What does fibre broadband mean?▼
Fibre means fibre-optic – this is a type of cable that sends data using light pulses, rather than electrical signals, which allows for much greater capacity (bandwidth).
Most households (over 94%) can get some sort of fibre connection if they choose, but normally that will mean FTTC, or Fibre To The Cabinet. The cabinet is the green box you see on the street. The final stretch from the cabinet to your house or flat still tends to be the old-fashioned copper phone line, but it’s still much faster than standard ADSL – anywhere from 3X to 10X the speed.
If you’re one of the lucky households in a fully cabled area, you’ll be able to get Full Fibre (FTTP) which is faster still.
How fast is 'ultrafast' broadband?▼
Ultrafast broadband is a term that describes broadband speeds between 100Mbps and 500Mbps.
This network is much faster than the old copper Openreach network that most ISPs used to use.
According to Ofcom, ‘ultrafast’ defines speeds between 300Mbps and 1000Mbps. This margin is far too wide for any real-world use as a 300Mbps connection is significantly different from a 1000Mbps connection in terms of network technology.
Instead, ‘ultrafast’ is used to describe cable and full-fibre network speeds. ‘Hyperfast’ is reserved for full-fibre speeds of 1Gbps or more – also known as gigabit broadband.
What does 'download speed' mean?▼
Download speed is actually talking about your bandwidth, specifically your downstream.
This is the part of your connection that receives data from the internet.
Your download speed is relevant for almost all online activity as everything you see on the internet has to be sent to you through the downstream.
Instead of making data move faster, a higher bandwidth (what is listed as higher ‘download speed’) means more data can move through your broadband connection at the same time.
The download speed is the maximum amount of data that can be sent to your connection, so a 17Mbps ‘speed’ means you can receive a maximum of 17 megabits of data every second.
Similarly, if you have fibre broadband capable of ‘up to 76Mbps’, that means you can receive a maximum of 76 megabits of data every second.
A higher download speed increases the maximum potential speed of your home broadband.
What does 'upload speed' mean?▼
Your upload speed is how much data your connection can send at any one time. While your computer will constantly send small amounts of data to websites and servers, your upload speed will only really come into play if you’re trying to publish files online.
Putting a video on YouTube or a photo on Facebook will require you to upload your files, so a faster upload speed will make this happen quicker.
Unless you spend a lot of time uploading files, you probably aren’t going to get a lot of use out of a high upload speed connection.
Why can't I get some deals at my postcode?▼
Unfortunately it’s a bit of a postcode lottery, and it mostly depends on the infrastructure in your area.
Some providers can only supply households on their own cable networks, such as Virgin, Gigaclear and KCOM. Most others are reliant on the Openreach network which covers most of the country – but not everywhere. Often rural areas get the short straw because the expense of running cables can be prohibitive.
To get fibre deals, you need to be in an area where the exchange and cabinets have been upgraded to fibre optic cables and there needs to be spare capacity available for your connection.
Providers may choose not to supply your postcode if they aren’t confident of giving you a good speed.