Broadband in my area: All you need to know
If you’re looking for help finding the best broadband deals, you’ve come to the right place. Here, at Selectra, we live and breathe broadband. But before you dive in to price comparisons, reviews, and pretty charts, the first, and most important, question to ask is: “What are my options with the broadband in my area?”
If you don’t ask “what broadband is available in my area?” you can’t move on to the more pressing stuff: Which broadband is best in my area? Which is the best broadband provider in my area? And which offers the best value for money?
Broadband Choices: Broadband providers in my area
Broadband choices is the name of the game. The more options you have, the better you can play the field, and the more likely you are to find the perfect broadband package to suit your browsing, streaming or gaming needs.
The biggest obstacle to this end is availability. The list of broadband options differs throughout the UK. Different internet providers operate in different regions; some services from the same provider may be restricted to certain areas within the same locality; and some areas have very limited access, meaning few connections reach them, if at all.
Your broadband options very much depend on the hand you’ve been dealt - with regards to connectivity, of course. Much of this is down to the internet and landline infrastructure already in place.
The giants that dominate the UK market - BT, Sky, and Virgin Media - have the furthest reach, with a combined share of 70% of all broadband customers. BT Broadband boasts the most customers of any ISP (internet service provider). This is due, in large part, to the fact that BT owns the Openreach network - the most extensive broadband network in the UK.
Of the national internet providers specified in the chart below, all except Virgin Media make use of the Openreach network to provide a distinct service of their own. Nonetheless, this doesn’t guarantee that they all operate in the same regions.
Virgin Media operates a network of its own, meaning that it may be available in locations that aren’t covered by BT.
The ‘Other’ slice of the above chart contains all the providers that operate regionally. In some cases, these providers operate without competition, whilst others do battle with a few, or all, national providers.
KCOM, for example, is the dedicated internet broadband provider for Hull and its surrounding regions. This provider operates a completely independent network of phone lines and fibre cables, and does so without competition from the UK’s biggest providers. It has recently rolled out its “Lightstream” direct fibre-optic internet connection to more than 200’000 homes in the area.Three Broadband
Three Broadband, formerly known as Relish, provides mobile-broadband and fixed-broadband internet services in London and Swindon. Its internet plans average speeds of 20 Mbps. Broadband offers include a same-day delivery service in central London.
The great metropolis’ and the more populous regions of the UK live a privileged existence when it comes to having a broad range of internet services to choose from. Rural broadband availability and connections can be severely limited and cost significantly more.
Broadband providers may charge more for a service in areas that are harder to reach or that have smaller populations. There are a few reasons for this:
- Establishing and maintaining connections in harder-to-reach areas can be more costly than doing so in metropolitan areas.
- In regions with low populations, the potential for big bucks is lower, which isn’t attractive to providers, resulting in less competition. With less competition, the lesser the scale of the battle to attract consumers, the lesser the need to lower prices.
Plusnet, in particular, has two-tier pricing: one for low-cost areas and another for non-low cost areas. The so-called non-low-cost areas refer to those regions in the UK that are harder-to-reach and less populous - mostly rural areas.
BT and Virgin Media follow a similar model. Although they don’t specify price differences in their tariffs, they can charge considerably more to establish connections in rural areas. Fortunately, there are alternatives.
Gigaclear This provider focuses on providing high-speed fibre to rural communities. It offers a range of home and business FTTP (fibre to the premises) bundles, with average download speeds as high as 900 Mbps. The provider is rolling out its network to Berkshire, Wiltshire, Fastershire, Essex, Northamptonshire, Devon & Somerset, and West Oxfordshire.
John Lewis Broadband: It's internet services are provided by Plusnet, which makes use of the BT Openreach network. What makes this provider stand out, however, is that it guarantees the same price for its broadband plans wherever you live - even in remote rural areas. It’s unlimited broadband and fibre packages start at £26.50, with speeds ranging from 10 Mbps - 66 Mbps.
Wurzel: A Cotswold-based independent service provider, offers FTTP and wireless broadband connections to rural homes in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, and London. Wurzel specialists conduct site surveys to assess FTTP or wireless compatibility, before providing customers with installation quotes.
Broadband for the rural north: B4RN is a nonprofit organisation that runs its own pure fibre network in the north-west of the UK. It provides customers with fibre to the premises (FTTP) connections, allowing for ultrafast gigabit speeds - reaching up to 1000 Mbps. A one-time £150 connection fee is charged to all customers. Households are charged a £30 monthly fee.
Best Broadband Provider: In your area
Once you find out which broadband services are available to you, you should carefully consider which broadband provider operating in your area is the ‘best’. Now, what exactly does the best broadband provider mean?
By best internet provider, we don’t just mean which broadband internet provider offers the bundle with the fastest speeds. You see, procuring the best broadband is like making the perfect omelette: It´s all about balance.
What we’re trying to say is: the best broadband internet service is born of a combination of generous download speeds - sufficient to meet your usage requirements - great customer service, and a decent helping of perks on the side. The end goal is always value for money.
Lucky for you, here at Selectra, we are all about broadband. And in an expertly executed Blue Peter-style ‘here’s one we’ve prepared earlier’ moment, we have prepared a glittering plethora of detailed guides to help you through this process.
- TV & Broadband Choices - what’s the best provider?
- How to find the cheapest provider in 2020
- Fastest broadband in 2020
- Student Broadband Guide
- Cancelling your broadband contract
- How to easily switch your broadband provider
Fastest Broadband In My Area
Which broadband provider supplies the fastest broadband in my area? Good question. Broadband speeds vary throughout the UK, and this goes back to the extent and development of broadband and fibre infrastructure.
Finding the fastest broadband in your area doesn’t solely require an average speed comparison. You also need to look into what infrastructure networks operate in your area and what types of connections are offered.
Ofcom data provided to and analysed by the Financial Times shows that, paradoxically, some of the harder-to-reach rural areas enjoy faster internet than the inner cities of London and Manchester. This, in large part, is due to high speed internet FTTP connections offered by the likes of Broadband For the Rural North.
In contrast, areas where traditional copper wires rule - including inner cities, which are now starting to experience an urban-suburban divide - may experience broadband speeds below the 10 Mbps government-planned "universal threshold".
In cities, providers like Hyperoptic and Cityfibre are plugging the gaps in cities. It’s important to note that independent providers, aside from operating their own networks with fibre capabilities, often rate better for customer service.
When looking for the fastest broadband available, be sure to look out for whether providers use fibre to the premises (FTTP), fibre to the cabinet (FTTC), cable or traditional copper wire connections.
If you’re looking to switch to a new provider, make sure you test your current internet speed for reference with our speed checker. To find out more about broadband speeds - and what download and upload speeds are - take a look at our guide for download speed, upload speed and ping.
Fibre Broadband In My Area: FTTP and more
The projected rollout of FTTP connections over the next few years is guaranteed to significantly boost average internet speeds for households. So what exactly is FTTP, and how does it differ from FTTC and copper wires?
First, let’s get into fibre cables: Fibre-optic cables transmit data a lot faster than traditional copper cables. Using light pulses to transmit data, as opposed to using electrical signals, means that data can literally travel at the speed of light.
Fibre connections come in two forms: FTTC and FTTP. FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) is the current method of choice for most providers. It uses fibre-optic cables from telephone exchanges to local green street cabinets. Existing copper wires from the cabinet to your home do the rest of the work.
FTTP (fibre to the premises) is a direct fibre connection to your home. Without the copper wires slowing down data transmission, FTTP allows for extremely fast speeds.
Virgin Media uses a slightly different FTTC method to deliver its broadband service. Fibre-optic cables connect exchanges to local street cabinets, and coaxial cables, rather than copper wires, do the rest of the work. Check out our Fibre optic vs Cable internet guide to see the FTTP, FTTC and cable comparison in more detail.