This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.

What is full fibre broadband? 

Full fibre, also known as ‘fibre-to-the-premises’ (FTTP), is the next generation of broadband. It is capable of ‘gigabit’ download speeds, meaning speeds of at least 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps), or 1 gigabit per second (Gbps). 

Full fibre is an upgrade over the previous generation of ‘part-fibre’ broadband, known as ‘fibre-to-the-cabinet’ (FTTC), which is capable of speeds of around 30 to 80 Mbps.  

Some telecoms companies have, in the past, advertised FTTC as ‘fibre broadband’. Ofcom, the regulator, no longer allows this as consumers might mistakenly believe they are purchasing full fibre.  

Who provides full fibre broadband? 

Broadband networks are built by private companies called network operators. Openreach (which is owned by BT) is the largest, but there are many others including Virgin Media O2 and CityFibre.  

Internet service providers (ISPs) such as BT, Sky, and TalkTalk use the networks built by network operators to offer internet services to consumers. Some network operators, such as Virgin Media O2, also act as an ISP. 

Price comparison websites allow consumers to compare packages offered by ISPs in their area.  

As ISPs only work with certain network operators, the range of choice available to consumers will depend on which network operators are active in the area. For example, full fibre deals from BT and Sky are only available in places where Openreach has built a full fibre network. 

When will my area get full fibre broadband? 

Thinkbroadband’s interactive broadband map shows where different network operators have built full fibre. 

Openreach has published a map showing its future full fibre network deployments. However, other network operators do not generally publish detailed future build plans. 

Is government funding available for full fibre broadband? 

The UK Government provides funding to support the rollout of full fibre broadband networks to parts of the UK that would otherwise not be commercially viable. The funding programme, known as Project Gigabit, has two main parts: 

  • Contracts awarded to network operators subsidising the deployment of networks across large areas covering thousands of premises. 
  • A voucher scheme designed to support smaller, local projects in rural areas. Residents can use the scheme’s website to find a network operator active in their area, and approach them to discuss building full fibre infrastructure. The network operator, rather than the residents, can apply for vouchers (worth up to £4,500 per premises) to cover the cost of the project.  

The devolved administrations have their own programmes for deploying gigabit networks alongside Project Gigabit: R100 in Scotland, Superfast Cymru in Wales, and Project Stratum in Northern Ireland. 

There is no government funding to help individuals pay the monthly cost of a full fibre broadband package once it is available to them. ISPs have introduced a range of low-cost social tariffs for individuals who receive certain benefits, such as Universal Credit. 

Will my area benefit from Project Gigabit? 

Building Digital UK (the government agency responsible for Project Gigabit) publishes quarterly Project Gigabit progress updates. The updates show the projected timetable for each region. 

Before awarding a contract, Building Digital UK consults network operators to understand their plans for rolling out gigabit broadband. Following this, it publishes a map and list of postcodes which show the areas that are expected to receive commercial investment. These are available at Project Gigabit: Public Reviews. 

Postcodes that are not expected to receive commercial investment in the next three years may be eligible for public funding. They are shaded white on the maps. 

A collection of awarded contracts published by the government Once the contract has been awarded to a network operator, the operator might publish information on when it expects to start rolling out full fibre in the area.  

Northern Ireland’s Project Stratum is being delivered by telecoms company Fibrus. It has published a map showing the timetable for its network deployment.  

What other options do individuals have to get better broadband? 

There are some options available for individuals who are not covered by a commercial or government-funded full fibre roll-out. 

Community-led schemes  

Groups of residents may be able to set up schemes to bring full fibre broadband to their area. Guidance on community-led schemes is available from the government. Openreach has set up a Fibre Community Partnership programme to help guide applicants through the process. 

No government funding is available specifically for community projects, although Project Gigabit broadband vouchers can be put towards the cost. 

Wireless broadband 

Wireless broadband may be an option if wired broadband is unavailable. Wireless technologies include fixed wireless, 4G or 5G mobile broadband, and satellite broadband. 

The government has said that it will introduce measures to help premises get access to wireless broadband if they are too expensive to reach with wired technologies. 

Universal Service Obligation 

The government’s Universal Service Obligation scheme requires BT (or KCOM in the Hull area) to provide ‘decent’ broadband (defined as over 10 Mbps) to anyone in the UK who requests it, up to a cost threshold of £3,400 per premises. Residents would be expected to pay any costs above that. To be eligible for the Universal Service Obligation, individuals must be unable to get 10 Mbps at their home using other technologies such as 4G mobile broadband at an affordable monthly price (defined as £54 per month). 

In October 2023, the government consulted on reforms to the Universal Service Obligation, including reviewing whether 10 Mbps is sufficient as a standard of ‘decent’ broadband. It has not yet responded to the consultation. 

What if a landlord doesn’t allow broadband companies to install broadband? 

Individuals who live in a rented property, or a multi-dwelling property where communal areas are owned by the freeholder, may need their landlord’s (or freeholder’s) approval before broadband can be installed. That is because network operators must have the permission of the owner to enter a property.  

As property owners, landlords have a right to refuse access to their property. 

The government introduced a new process in 2021 which allows network operators to gain access to blocks of flats if a resident has requested broadband but the owner does not respond to repeated requests for access. However, it does not apply if the owner has responded and refused permission. 

The rights and obligations of leaseholders and freeholders are set out in their lease agreement. Leases may include terms that are relevant to telecommunications or more broadly to improvements to the property. Leaseholders can pursue legal action if disputes cannot be resolved informally, although they should take professional advice first. The government-funded Leasehold Advisory Service can provide free advice. 

Further information 

Commons Library, Gigabit broadband in the UK: Government targets, policy, and funding 

Commons Library, Building broadband and mobile infrastructure 

Commons Library, Mobile and broadband: affordability and consumer protection 

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