Home Money Four in five households can now get ultra-fast gigabit broadband… but do they need it?

Four in five households can now get ultra-fast gigabit broadband… but do they need it?

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Speed, at a cost: Gigabit broadband offers extremely fast Internet, but at a high price

Ultrafast gigabit broadband is now available in 24 million UK homes, equivalent to four in five homes.

Gigabit broadband is capable of download speeds of 1 gigabit per second or 1,000 megabytes.

Now regulator Ofcom has confirmed that broadband is available to 80 per cent of UK households, up from 73 per cent a year ago.

The reason is that Openreach has increased the number of households that can access gigabit broadband to 14 million.

Speed, at a cost: Gigabit broadband offers extremely fast Internet, but at a high price

Openreach is owned by BT and powers available broadband from companies such as BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone.

Virgin Media runs a separate network, and all the homes it connects to can also access gigabit broadband packages.

But gigabit broadband remains unpopular, with an average broadband speed of just 69.4 megabytes per second, or Mbps.

Which? Policy and advocacy director Rocío Concha said: “A fast and reliable internet connection is essential for modern life and while it is positive that gigabit-capable broadband infrastructure has progressed, more needs to be done to improve utilization levels among households”.

‘Consumers need better information, clearer and more consistent terms describing these services, as well as targeted coupon and discount systems.

“The Government and Ofcom must also consider gigabit capacity for more rural areas so that no part of the country is left behind.”

So what are the advantages of gigabit broadband, what are the drawbacks, and who really needs internet that fast?

The advantages of gigabit broadband


The main advantage of Gigabit broadband is obvious: its incredible speed.

Many homes won’t need fast gigabit broadband, but it can still be useful in many living situations.

This includes large households, those that work with large digital files, or households that play and stream a lot.


Gigabit Internet works with physical cables, either fiber optic or coaxial. This makes gigabit service very reliable when it comes to interruptions or spotty connections.

The cons of gigabit broadband


Gigabit broadband is expensive compared to traditional broadband.

The cheapest deals depend on a variety of factors, including where you live and what you can negotiate with your potential supplier.

The cheapest deal found by This is Money is £40 a month, from Fibrely, but a more typical cost is between £50 and £80 a month.

Standard fiber broadband typically costs between £15 and £30 a month, so it’s considerably cheaper, but at much lower speeds.

How much does it cost? Signing up for gigabit broadband can cost up to £80 a month

How much does it cost? Signing up for gigabit broadband can cost up to £80 a month

And like most broadband packages, the cost of gigabit broadband will almost certainly increase each year in line with inflation.

This year broadband customers experienced inflation-related Internet price increases of up to 7.9 percent.

Ofcom is planning to ban broadband tariff increases in the medium term, but the earliest this would happen is this summer.

If the regulator takes action, then the upfront cost of all broadband, including gigabit, could rise to offset providers’ lost revenue.


Many homes simply do not need to have Internet as fast as gigabit can provide. For most people, browsing the internet, streaming, and even gaming can be done quite effectively on much slower connections.

May not be available

Ofcom figures suggest that 20 per cent of households cannot get gigabit broadband even if they wanted to, as they do not live in parts of the country where it has been rolled out.

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Broadband price pitfalls to consider

When considering any broadband package, it is also wise to look beyond the initial advertised monthly price.

This is because broadband companies know that households and price comparison websites rank deals based on monthly cost.

This has led to the growth of introductory offers and setup fees that muddy the waters when it comes to determining how much a deal actually costs.

For example, some offers advertise a low rate, but this only applies to the first months. After that point, a higher rate applies for the rest of the deal.

Another thing to keep in mind is the installation fees. As the name suggests, these are one-off costs paid at the start of a new broadband deal and are usually around £10.

You may also have to pay an exit fee if you leave your current provider before the fixed-term contract ends.

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