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Fibre broadband 40Mbps: BT vs Sky vs TalkTalk vs Virgin Media vs the rest

Britain’s broadband is getting faster. High speed fibre-optic connections are no longer the preserve of a lucky few on pilot projects with BT and other broadband providers.

Fibre Infinity loop by Metropilot/FlickrThe key is fibre-to-the cabinet (or FTTC) technology, which connects your local BT telephone exchange to the green streetside BT cabinet near your home. These are usually within a few hundred metres of the front door, so the copper wire can handle very high speed downloads.

BT Openreach, which runs the BT exchanges, has already put more than a quarter of the UK’s homes and businesses in reach of a fibre-enabled cabinet. The plan is to make this two-thirds by in 2014, and hopefully continue to about 90 per cent of the country.

If you need something faster, we’ve also compared the 80Mbps (or up-to-76Mbps) advanced FTTC option from a smaller selection of ISPs.

How fast is FTTC?

As usual, even though they use the same infrastructure, there’s quite a lot of difference between the different broadband providers offering the basic tier of fibre-to-the-cabinet internet. This delivers around 35Mbps downstream for most people, with upstream a choice of either up-to-2Mbps or up-to-10Mbps upstream.

BT Openreach offers every ISP a ‘Minimum Best Effort’ quality of service, which guarantees either 12Mbps at any time of day. There’s also an optional ‘Elevated Best Effort’ which prioritises your traffic at busy times of day so you’re guaranteed more than 16Mbps.

Aquiss Fibre

  • Monthly fee: from £30/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: £2/month
  • Line rental: not required
  • Minimum contract: 12 months
  • Installation charge: £95

Aquiss Broadband has four FTTC packages with different download limits of 30GB (£30/month), 45GB (£38/month), 90GB (£48/month) and 135GB (£58/month).

Aquiss claims that 90 per cent of its customers get a line sync speed of more than 29.54Mbps, and downloads are not measured from midnight to 8am weekdays, and weekends are completely unlimited. Upload speeds can be boosted from 2Mbps to 10Mbps for £2/month.

All packages come with a single static IP address for hosting servers and online gaming, which can be upgraded to eight IPs for £2/month plus a £12 setup fee. Email and online security are also included free-of-charge, with mobile email for an extra £1/month.

Installation’s charged at £95, and you can also pay for BT Openreach to repair any faults on your line faster with Enhanced Care for £12/month and upgrade to Elevated Best Efforts for £7.20/month.

BT Retail 

  • Monthly fee: £18/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: not available
  • Line rental: £14.90/month (£10.75/month advance)
  • Minimum contract: 18 months
  • Installation charge: £25 

BT has offered to upgrade all of its existing BT Infinity FTTC customers to the new 80Mbps service, which it calls BT Infinity 2, for no extra charge.

The 40Mbps BT Infinity service remains as a lower tier with a 40GB download cap, and if the 10Mbps upload speed is available in your area, there’s no extra charge. Exceeding your allowance will cost £5 per 5GB, and there’s a network management policy.

You’ll have to take BT’s line rental at £14.90/month (or the cheaper £129/year in advance), which comes with inclusive evening and weekend UK landline calls. Anytime calls cost and extra £4.90/month.

Claranet SOHO (business)

  • Monthly fee: from £37.99/month + VAT
  • 10Mbps upload speed: £4/month
  • Line rental: not required
  • Minimum contract: 12 months
  • Installation charge: £TBC

Claranet SOHO operates all of its fibre broadband services at 80Mbps where it’s available, but has a choice of 40Mbps services for business customers – either FTTC or fibre-to-the-premises where available – and all with unlimited downloads.

The basic 40/2 service costs £37.99/month plus VAT for a guaranteed minimum of 12Mbps, or £45.99/month plus VAT with BT’s Elevated Best Effort Speed of 16Mbps. It’s an extra £4/month to upgrade to 10Mbps uploads.

There’s a choice of 12-month or 24-month contracts: installation is free on the 24-month contract but Claranet doesn’t advertise its installation costs. There’s a free Zxyel NBG4604 Wireless N Gigabit router and UK-based customer support.

Eclipse Home Fibre

  • Monthly fee: from £21.50/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: £5/month
  • Line rental: not required
  • Minimum contract: 12 months
  • Installation charge: £100 (free on 24-month contract)

Eclipse has yet to upgrade to 80Mbps, but offers a range of home and business fibre packages, independent of line rental and with a free Netgear N300 WNR2200 wireless router. Installation costs £100 on a 12-month contract, but it’s free with a 24-month deal.

The basic package is £21.50/month with 10GB monthly usage, rising to £25/month with 20GB, £29.50/month with 50GB, £37/month with 100GB, and £37.50 for unlimited downloads. All packages come with unlimited downloads from 11pm to 9am, and at weekends. Faster uploads at 10Mbps cost £5/month.

John Lewis

  • Monthly fee: £25/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: £5/month
  • Line rental: £13.50/month
  • Minimum contract: 12 months
  • Installation charge: free

Britain’s newest broadband provider has a simple up-to-38Mbps fibre broadband package with a 100GB monthly allowance.

You have to get John Lewis line rental at £13.50/month, which includes evening and weekend calls to UK landlines. There’s no installation charge and extra data costs £5 per 5GB.

All John Lewis Broadband packages come with an email address, free UK customer support, a Wireless N router, and Bullguard security software for one PC.

Merula

  • Monthly fee: from £16/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: included in some packages
  • Line rental: not required
  • Minimum contract: 12 months
  • Installation charge: £80

Huntingdon-based Merula offers up-to-38Mbps broadband with either 2Mbps or 10Mbps upload speeds, starting at £16/month for Fibre Basics, a 40/2 service with 10GB monthly download allowance (extra usage 40p/GB).

Fibre Lite costs £20/month and has a 30GB allowance with 40/2 speeds, and extra usage at 65p/GB. Fibre Pro costs £25/month for a 100GB allowance and 40/2 speeds, and extra usage at 65p/GB. Fibre Premium is the top-tier package with 40/10 speeds and 200GB monthly allowance, plus 50p per extra GB used.

All Merula packages come with one or more fixed IP addresses included, a free email account, access to Merula’s UK based support centre, and no port throttling or traffic shaping on top of your allowance.

Plusnet Fibre

  • Monthly fee: from £16.49/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: not available
  • Line rental: £12.99/month (£9.49/month advance)
  • Minimum contract: 18 months
  • Installation charge: up to £50

Plusnet is expecting to launch 80Mbps broadband, but for now has a range of 40Mbps services on 18-month contracts.

Fibre broadband is available as a standalone product with a £50 installation fee for new customers, £25 for existing Plusnet customers, or free if you also take line rental and phone calls with Plusnet.

The Value package costs £16.49/month with a 40GB monthly allowance; Plusnet Extra is £21.49/month with a 120GB monthly allowance, although downloads aren’t metered from midnight to 8am. Extra usage costs £5 per 5GB, and there’s no option for the faster 10Mbps upload speed.

All packages come with a free wireless N four-port router (£4.99 delivery fee), UK customer support, and the Plusnet Protect powered by McAfee security software costs £2/month with Value or is included with Extra.

Sky Fibre

  • Monthly fee: £20/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: not available
  • Line rental: £12.25/month (£9.95/month advance)
  • Minimum contract: 12 months
  • Installation charge: £50

Sky offers up-to-38Mbps downloads and 2Mbps uploads on its single fibre broadband package, with unlimited downloads and no traffic management. It costs £20/month plus line rental or £12.25/month (or equivalent to £9.95/month if you pay for a year in advance). There’s a £50 installation fee.

Sky Fibre Unlimited comes with a wireless N four-port router, free access to The Cloud WiFi hotspots across the UK, and evening and weekend UK landline calls. There’s also a free 12-month trial of McAfee Internet Security Suite and 24-hour customer support.

TalkTalk Superfast Fibre Optic Broadband

  • Monthly fee: from £16.50/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: not available
  • Line rental: £14.50/month (£9.50/month advance)
  • Minimum contract: 18 months
  • Installation charge: £30

TalkTalk Superfast Fibre Optic Broadband is a standard up-to-40Mbps downstream and 2Mbps upstream service.

It’s priced as a £10/month addition to either of the Essentials broadband package at a total £16.50/month, or with Plus broadband at £24.50/month. Installation costs £30. Essentials has a 40GB monthly download allowance and Plus is unlimited.

You’ll also need to get TalkTalk line rental at £14.50/month (£9.50/month advance), which comes with unlimited evening and weekend UK landline calls on Essential, and unlimited calls anytime on Plus.
TalkTalk doesn’t currently support static IP addresses for fibre-optic broadband.

Vispa

  • Monthly fee: from £21.99/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: £2/month
  • Line rental: optional £10.99/month
  • Minimum contract: 12 months
  • Installation charge: £99

Vispa’s Home FTTC service runs at up-to-40Mbps, with either 2Mbps or 10Mbps uploads, a free static IP, unlimited overnight downloads (midnight-8am) and a free VOIP service.

Packages start from £21.99/month with a 25GB/month download allowance, £31.99/month with 50GB, £41.99/month with 75GB and £51.99/month with 100GB. There’s no port-blocking or traffic-shaping, UK customer support and five POP/IMAP mailboxes.

Increased upload speeds cost £2/month, WebGuard family-friendly content filtering is £2/month, AVG Security for three PCs at £3.60/month and eight static IPs cost £4.99. Other services include domain hosting and remote backup.

You can also choose to pay line rental at £10.99/month, including evening and weekend UK landline calls.
Business Fibre is also available with 10Mbps uploads as standard and installation £80 plus VAT. Prices start from £28/month plus VAT for a 10GB download allowance, £34/month with 25GB, £40/month with 50GB, £47/month with 75GB and £54/month with 100GB.

AVG Security, extra static IP addresses, domain hosting and remote backup are all available at VAT-exclusive prices.

Zen Internet

  • Monthly fee: £27.60/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: not available
  • Line rental: not required
  • Minimum contract: 12 months
  • Installation charge: £72

Zen has upgraded most of its fibre broadband packages to the 80/20 service, but its entry-level Fibre Lite gives up-to-38Mbps down and 1.9Mbps up, with a 12Mbps minimum speed.

There’s a monthly download allowance of 20GB for a monthly price of £27.60 and a £72 installation fee.

It comes with UK based, local-call customer service and tech support, unlimited uploads, a choice of one or eight static IP addresses, 11 POP3 mailboxes, e-mail anti-virus protection, 2GB web space, a back-up dial-in account and global access to your e-mail with Zen Webmail.

However, you will need to buy a router to go with the BT fibre modem, starting from £42 for the Technicolor TG582n.

Cable comparison: Virgin Media 30Mb

  • M onthly fee: £22.50/month
  • 10Mbps upload speed: not applicable
  • Line rental: optional £13.90/month
  • Minimum contract: 12 months
  • Installation charge: £49.95

Virgin’s 30Mbps unlimited download broadband service is broadly equivalent to an up-to-38Mbps fibre broadband connection, with a typical upload speed of 3Mbps.

It costs £22.50/month on its own, or £14.50/month with the basic Virgin home phone package at £13.90/month, also including free weekend UK landline calls.

There’s no download allowance, but a traffic management policy is in place from 10am-3pm and 4pm-9pm daily.

All Virgin broadband customers get a Virgin Superhub, which will allow upgrades up to 120Mbps, 24-hour support, free servicing and repairs, and a Virgin Media Security package including firewall, antivirus and parental control software. Identity protection costs £2.50/month. 

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