Millions of BT, Sky and TalkTalk customers unlock colossal broadband speed boost

a hand plugs an ethernet cable into the back of a wifi router

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Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 25/04/2024

- 11:09

24 million UK homes can now access gigabit broadband

  • 80% of homes connected to gigabit-capable, up from 73% last year
  • UK Government hopes to reach 99% by 2030 under £5bn Project Gigabit
  • Faster speeds improve experiences like streaming video and online backups
  • However, broadband providers often charge higher prices for these speeds

Blisteringly-fast gigabit broadband is now available in 24 million UK homes, new Ofcom data has confirmed. That equates to roughly 8 out of 10 homes nationwide — an increase from 73% this time last year.

That increase is courtesy of BT-owned Openreach, which recently expanded its gigabit-capable broadband network to 14 million premises. Popular brands like Sky, EE, Vodafone, BT, TalkTalk and Plusnet all rely on the infrastructure maintained by Openreach.

In contrast, Virgin Media operates its own full-fibre network, with all 16.2 million homes able to connect to gigabit-capable speeds. One million of its customers can now supercharge speeds to 2Gbps too.

Gigabit broadband connections are capable of reaching peak speeds of 1,000Mbps. For comparison, Netflix recommends a minimum connection of 5Mbps to watch on one screen in High Definition (HD), while Sky TV's satellite dish-less Sky Stream requires at least 25Mbps.

an ethernet cable is pictured plugged into the back of a Wi-Fi router

If you're willing to pay the price, 80% of UK households can now upgrade to the fastest speeds available — unlocking download speeds of 1,000Mbps or more


But despite the increased speeds available, the average download speed in UK households remains around 69.4Mbps — suggesting that most people still aren't taking advantage of the faster connections.

While 69.4Mbps is enough for most individuals, it will begin to struggle in busier households — with multiple people making video calls, downloading software updates, watching video, streaming music, uploading to social media, listening to podcasts, and much more.

With a pivot to streaming-only television — Sky has slashed the number of satellite dish engineers at the company as its broadband-powered Sky Glass 55" became the best-selling Smart TV in the UK last year, and the team behind Freeview poised to launch its internet-powered Freely — a decent connection will only become more important, something some campaigners fear will leave millions without access to television.

Research has shown that speedier internet can even boost the value of your home.

Speaking about the latest Ofcom data around UK broadband speeds, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which?, Rocio Concha told GB News: "A fast and reliable internet connection is essential to modern life and while it's positive that gigabit-capable broadband infrastructure has progressed – more needs to be done to improve take up levels among households.

"Consumers need better information, clearer and more consistent terms describing these services as well as targeted voucher and discount schemes. The government and Ofcom also still need to consider gigabit capability for more rural areas so that no part of the country gets left behind."

With the latest announcement, the Government appears to be well on-track to reach its goal of 85% gigabit coverage by 2025 and full coverage across the UK by 2030. The UK has some of the worst average broadband speeds in Europe, triggering a multi-billion upgrade project, known as Project Gigabit.

Ofcom data shows that roughly 57,000 premises are still unable to access broadband speeds faster than 10Mbps, which the industry watchdog refers to as "decent speed". That's 0.2% of the country.

Alex Tofts, broadband expert at Broadband Genie, told GB News: “It is encouraging to see the number of homes able to access gigabit-capable broadband reaching a new milestone, with 80% of homes having these faster speeds available to them. An increase in connections of 2% every few months puts the Government’s targets of getting availability up 85% by 2025 well within reach

"While this is positive news, it is still worth bearing in mind that full-fibre broadband connectivity stands at 62% — far behind countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands.

"The elephant in the room is that just because the infrastructure is in place, does not mean that the demand reflects this. There are still barriers to uptake, including cost and confusing language and terminology in advertising campaigns. Headline figures such as 80% of homes being connected to gigabit-capable broadband can be eye-catching, but are misleading and have the potential to confuse consumers into thinking that the broadband they are receiving is the best on the market.

"The bar for what Ofcom deems to be ‘decent’ broadband at 10Mb is unacceptable for the average household in 2024. With so many devices relying on the internet, as well as the rise of 4K UHD streaming and online gaming means that a connection of just 10Mb is going to leave many households pulling their hair out at these sluggish speeds. Ofcom needs to update the Universal Service Obligation to align it with current and future digital demands."

Of course, not every household with a gigabit-capable connection will be enjoying download speeds of 1,000Mbps. Broadband providers typically charge more for faster download speeds, with gigabit broadband costing between £48 per month (Sky Broadband) to £54.99 per month (BT).

That’s over £650 per year to enjoy these faster speeds.

If you’re living in a busy household with multiple people using broadband to stream television, download software updates, back up their photos and devices, make video calls, play video games, and watch YouTube clips – the more bandwidth available, the smoother the experience for everyone.

Smart home devices, such as Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, video doorbells, and smart speakers all require bandwidth – and can quickly add up.

If you're unsure about what broadband speed you need in your home. We've put together the average download speeds for an hour-long television show episode in Standard Definition (SD), roughly 450MB in size.

  • 69Mbps, the average broadband speed in the UK: 56 seconds
  • 150Mbps, the lowest speed available with most full-fibre packages: 24 seconds
  • 500Mbps, widely available from all full-fibre providers: 7 seconds
  • 1Gbps (or 1,000Mbps) is not available from all broadband companies: 4 seconds

BT-owned EE recently launched one of the fastest UK broadband package with download speeds topping 1.6Gbps. At those speeds, your household internet connection can process requests 23x faster than the average UK household broadband connection.

Openreach is reaching around 60,000 new premises every week and published plans to deliver full-fibre in another 142 locations, covering around 1.4 million homes and businesses, including in some of the hardest-to-reach, most rural communities.

Some of the biggest broadband providers in the UK rely on infrastructure from Openreach, including BT, EE, Sky, TalkTalk, and Plusnet. If you're able to access gigabit-capable broadband from any of these companies, you should be able to maintain those speeds when you switch to another.


But not every broadband brand relies on Openreach. Virgin Media maintains its own dedicated fibre network, which offers download speeds of up to 1,130Mbps to roughly 15 million homes, plus there are a number of other smaller brands building their own infrastructure to connect to customers directly, including Community Fibre, HyperOptic, and G.Network.

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