/ Technology

Superfast broadband – is speed your priority?

The current government hasn’t minced its words over its plans for broadband. It dove straight in with a goal for the UK to have ‘the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015’. So how close are we?

Superfast broadband can broadly be described as any service that’s advertised as offering a speed of over 24 Megabits per second (Mbps). It runs over fibre networks rather than the old-style copper ADSL ones that simply can’t cope with the same speeds.

The most widely known superfast services are probably BT’s Infinity, which boasts speeds of up to 40Mbps, and Virgin Media’s cable packages which claims to reach as high as 100Mbps.

Superfast broadband targets

According to Ofcom, superfast broadband networks can now be accessed by 58% of UK households. Sound like a lot? Well, the government wants 90% of UK homes and businesses to have access to a superfast service by the end of 2015.

It’s a grand aim, though I think it’s rather interesting that the target is around availability rather than people taking it up. But perhaps that’s a wise caveat – is the average Brit actually concerned enough about broadband speed to upgrade to a superfast service?

I’m lucky enough to live in an area where a superfast connection is already available, though there’s not a choice of services yet (I’m currently with Virgin, but BT’s service will arrive at my postcode in March this year according to its broadband checker).

And, I must say that I do notice the difference in response time when I go back to my parent’s house and their slower connection.

There’s only a small time lag, but it’s definitely a frustrating one, especially when websites I use regularly take noticeably longer to load. Perhaps if I’d never have experienced a superfast connection I wouldn’t even have noticed this, but now I don’t think I could go back to a ‘standard’ service.

Don’t forget rural areas

I haven’t forgotten about the remaining 10% of households that the government expects to be without superfast broadband by 2015. We’ve heard from many of you who currently struggle to get any sort of decent broadband speed, let alone a fast one.

The government does have targets in place for these people as well, with an aim to get everyone on a minimum 2Mbps broadband service by 2015. I certainly think it’s more important to get this right first, before concentrating on making already fast services even faster.

That’s not to say less populated rural areas won’t benefit from superfast speeds too – the government’s allocated over £530 million to ensure these areas get access to a superfast service. Time will tell if this actually happens, and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on how this progresses.

There are more superfast options available to us than ever before, with TalkTalk, Plusnet and Zen Internet offering services on top of BT and Virgin. The question is – are you interested in upgrading to one? And if you already have, have you noticed a significant difference?

James says:
13 January 2012

Does your computer connect to the internet via a WiFi router? If so then the maximum throughput for the fastest WiFi (n) is about 13 Mbps. Worth thinking about before you get too excited by higher speeds. I have found it worthwhile installing a wired network at home to get the most out of my relatively modest 20 Mbps Virgin service. Even so the most important thing to me is the reliability of that service. Until last year their service was excellent. Recently however it has become more patchy, and at certain times in the evening, it can slow to a crawl. So I personally would prefer that they concentrate on providing a consistent and reliable service

Majikthise says:
13 January 2012

I have to disagree with you there James. As a *maximum* throughput for a fast WiFi (n) connection you should be getting way more than 13mbps. These WiFi routers are designed to work at up to 300mbps – of course, you need a very good signal to achieve that kind of speed and the 300mbps has to be divided up between everyone who’s using bandwidth on the router, not to mention an overhead for maintaining connections etc, but you should still be able to match the throughput of a fast broadband connection in practice.

I use WiFi (n) to do speed tests on my 30mbps broadband connection without any problems at all.

There are a few things that might be slowing you down. These include:
1) Poor signal – including interference from other radio sources.
2) The encryption type you are using may not be compatible with the highest speeds.
3) Other devices on the WiFi network that use old protocols – the router will have to slow down to cater for these as well as your nice fast wireless N connection.
4) The quality of your router. A lot of people don’t realise this but some routers – especially older ones – simply don’t have the processing power to handle high throughput.

Marius says:
13 January 2012

My MacBook has show Speed Tests of 50Mbps as do the iMac’s.

Tavistock Superfast says:
15 January 2012

This current government may not have minced its words on its plan for superfast broadband delivery. But in January 2012 approaching 2 years of inaction and paper shuffling, have these words any actual meaning? For millions of people and millions of premises, probably not.

Phillip says:
24 January 2012

From experience, fibre is the only way to get reliable & fast broadband, but it does cost. Hopefully the prices of fibre broadband will drop as BT’s Infinity starts to compete with Virgin’s. What really annoys me is the fact that I can’t just have broadband with Virgin. I don’t what a ‘home’ telephone, I’ve got a mobile and I can Skype people, so I’m paying for something I don’t need. It just seems like an excuse to extract more money from the customer. Oh yes, and while I’m on this subject, why don’t the banner headlines in the adverts include the cost of the phone line. To my mind it’s as bad as the airlines sneaking in extra charges when you come to book. I would be interested to hear Which’s view on this.


“Hopefully the prices of fibre broadband will drop as BT’s Infinity”.
Not all fibre is “BT Infinity”! That is just BT’s trade name for it; other firms, like IDNET, do FTTC.

You don’t pay for a ‘home’ telephone; you pay for a landline. How else is the broadband signal to reach your house? Carrier pigeon?

Phillip says:
24 January 2012

xrayspex – I was talking about Virgin Media where you don’t need a copper wire connection when you have a fibre broadband! They are totally separate networks.

NICK says:
14 April 2016

You are completely right you do not need a phone line on Virgin Media


hWat a Con. Superfast broadband and we will end up paying twice! How you ask? Well we have been paying extra (on the licence fee) to go digital on TV. Now that space left over that we have made from the analogue spectrum is going to be auctioned off to commercial operators, the Government will pocket that money and that will ensure we pay through the nose for ou super fast broadband! Taxation via the back door???