What is gigabit internet? | TechRadar

If you’re looking for the best broadband deals out there, you might have noticed that among the different packages, there’s ‘gigabit internet’ or ‘gigabit broadband’ on offer. These options can be real eye-catchers as they appear to be capable of delivering tremendous average download speeds.

Whether you’re curious as to what’s really on offer here, or just heard the description used recently and want to know more, be sure to read on.

In this explanatory guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about gigabit internet, and as an added bonus, we’ve covered some of the most common FAQs about it.

What is gigabit internet?

A gigabit internet connection is a connection that offers an average download speed of 1 Gbit/s – which is 1,000 Mbit/s. In other words: really, really fast internet. However, this type of broadband is currently only available in certain locations and with certain internet service providers (ISPs).

How does gigabit internet work?

Gigabit internet is delivered in a similar way to fiber and ADSL broadband. However, achieving these tremendous speeds requires a “full fiber” or “fiber-to-the-premises” connection.

With this type of connection, fiber optic lines (which can send data at the speed of light) run directly from the nearest broadband exchange to your property. Therefore there are no interferences or limitations (as with ADSL and FTTC connections).

Additionally, some ISPs with independent networks – like Virgin Media and Hyperoptic – can also offer gigabit speeds over their own cables. These providers often use “coax” cables, which work in a similar way to fiber optic cables.

If you want to know more about the different types of broadband currently available in the UK, read our guide here.

(Credit: Getty Images / Epoxydude) What speeds does gigabit internet offer?

As mentioned above, Gigabit internet offers average download speeds of 1 Gbps or 1,000 Mbps. You may also come across some plans classified as “gigabit broadband” if their average download speed is between 900 Mbps and 1,000 Mbps, since the “full fiber” connections they use are theoretically gigabit speeds can be reached.

However, there are some exceptions and some ISPs can offer broadband plans faster than 1Gbps. The prime example of this is Virgin Media’s premium plan, Gig1, which offers average download speeds of 1,130 Mbps. Currently this is the fastest package you can get in the UK from a leading national ISP. Admittedly, if you live in London you can get a high-performance 3Gbps connection from independent provider Community Fibre, but this is exclusive to select areas of the British capital.

The upload speed should also not be neglected, since this tends to be quite high with gigabit broadband connections. Even those below the average download speed threshold of 1,000 Mbps can achieve upload speeds in excess of 100 Mbps.

To give you a better perspective here, the latest broadband report from UK industry regulator Ofcom states that in September 2022 “the average download speed for home broadband connections in the UK was 65.3Mbps”. While this represents a 10% increase from March 2022, it’s still significantly slower than what gigabit broadband can deliver.

How Reliable is Gigabit Internet?

Largely thanks to the high speeds and the use of fiber optic and coaxial cables, gigabit internet is currently one of the most reliable types of broadband on the market.

The direct-to-property cables avoid performance degradation that might otherwise occur with older, less reliable copper cables that you get with FTTC and ADSL broadband. This is because copper cables are limited by the amount of data they can carry and their broadband speed depends on the distance to the broadband and telephone exchange that serves your property. In addition, fiber optic and coaxial cables are more durable and less prone to damage and wear and tear, which can result in performance degradation.

Direct cable also tends not to experience as many lag issues compared to satellite broadband and 4G and 5G broadband. This is because they are not affected by external circumstances such as bad weather and weak signal strength.

Finally, thanks to the high download and upload speeds, gigabit broadband can easily cope with the intensive use of many different devices at the same time, while maintaining a high-quality connection for each user. This in turn can increase people’s productivity when working online.

What can you do online with gigabit internet?

The possibilities of gigabit internet in terms of downloads, streaming and surfing are almost unlimited, but the high speeds make it particularly good for:

Online gaming – as the chance of lag is significantly reduced. Streaming in UHD – even on multiple devices at the same time you get 4K. With the help of the cloud – any online storage can be accessed and used quickly. Work from home – You can zoom and download and surf without any problems. With VR, the reduced latency and high speeds enhance the experience.

(Credit: Getty Images / Luis Alvarez) Where can I get gigabit internet?

According to the latest data from Ofcom – and the Spring 2023 Connected Nations report – there are 21.9 million households in the UK that have access to gigabit-capable internet via a ‘full fibre’ or cable connection , i.e. about 73% of all properties. But if we look at full fiber in isolation, it’s about 48% of households.

These numbers continue to rise, and network operators such as Openreach and Virgin Media have set themselves the goal of having gigabit broadband in 99% of all properties by 2030.

However, this lack of widespread adoption is one of the downsides of gigabit broadband, ultimately not being as accessible as some other types. This is perhaps most striking when compared to fiber broadband, which is accessible to 97% of the UK.

If you are interested in a gigabit broadband deal, your best bet is to look for the best broadband deals with these speeds of 900-1000 Mbps and then go to the provider to see if their network matches your location or yours property can be connected to it.

Which ISPs offer gigabit broadband?

Using our guide to the best broadband deals and widget at the bottom of this page, we can show you a selection of UK ISPs currently offering Gigabit and Gigabit-enabled packages.

However, to give you a good overview, here is a selection of popular providers where you can find tariffs with speeds from 900 to 1,000+Mbps:

One tip to keep in mind here: apart from independent cable providers like Virgin and Hyperoptic, most ISPs use the Openreach network and therefore invariably offer similar speeds in their broadband packages – they’re just packaged differently and priced differently.

(Credit: Getty Images / Thanasis) Gigabit Internet and Gigabit Broadband: FAQs

To give you additional insight on the subject of gigabit broadband, here are some of the frequently asked questions about it:

Do you need special technology for Gigabit Internet?

Broadly speaking the technology is the same as most types of broadband as you will need a router, some connections and possibly a modem. The difference is that you probably need a modern router that can handle and distribute WiFi at these high speeds. However, your provider will likely provide this as part of the contract.

Another point to note is that if you are using older devices, you may experience WiFi connection issues or you may not get the fastest speeds.

Are there other incentives to access gigabit broadband?

In the UK, the government has pledged £5 billion under its Project Gigabit scheme. This is intended to help bring gigabit-capable broadband to all parts of the country. However, there is a special voucher system that helps certain households cover the cost of installing broadband in their homes.

You’ll find more about it here.

Do you always get a gigabit connection?

As with any broadband connection, advertised speeds do not always match the speeds you get as performance can be affected by factors such as the following:

The number of people using the Internet. The quality of your router and your distance from it. Whether or not you use a wired connection to the router. Technical problems with the provider. Will all new build homes in the UK get gigabit internet?

UK only. In January 2023, the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced changes to the country’s ‘Building Regulations 2010’. As a result, all new homes in England must now be built with gigabit broadband connections.

(Image credit: Openreach) Is gigabit internet expensive?

Gigabit broadband tends to be at the more expensive end of the broadband market, but you can still find good deals if you shop around.

Is gigabit broadband the same as “ultra-fast broadband”?

That depends on the ISP. Some providers may categorize their gigabit broadband under the label “ultra-fast”. This is now widely accepted as a designation for the fastest deals they offer.

In comparison, the slower ADSL speeds are commonly referred to as ‘standard’ broadband, while fiber is referred to as ‘super fast’. If you’re ever in doubt, just ask the seller when inquiring about a quote.

(Credit: Getty Images / Adrienne Bresnahan)Should I get gigabit internet?

Whether gigabit internet is the right choice for you really depends on your budget. As if you were willing to spend a little more for seamless, future-proof, and reliable broadband, getting these ultra-fast speeds is a no-brainer.

However, if you have older technology at home, you should check whether these devices are compatible before making your decision.

And if you’re looking for something a little more affordable, keep in mind that you’ll still get good and fast speeds even in mid-range packages, while still being able to meet the demands of busy homes and businesses.

Where to get your next gigabit broadband deal

As mentioned, our Best Broadband Deals page shows you which gigabit internet packages are currently available. However, you are welcome to use our widget below. Just enter your zip code and it will show you exactly what’s available near you.

Otherwise, you may want to go straight to your current provider and see if you can upgrade or switch to a gigabit broadband offering. It might also be worth waiting for their special offers to be released if you want to snag a few extras or cut your monthly costs a bit.