More BT broadband customers get faster download speeds, but Virgin Media still miles ahead

BT has connected thousands more of its customers to faster full-fibre broadband. In its latest progress report, BT-owned Openreach confirmed that it has connected an additional 620,000 customers to next-generation broadband in the last three months. That brings the total to 5.78 million premises nationwide, compared to 5.16 million during the previous financial quarter.

Full-fibre broadband is a huge step-up from older copper technology as it’s capable of beaming data at faster speeds (up to 1Gbps) and boosting upload speeds – essential for smooth video calls and backing up data to the cloud. Not only that, but fibre-optic cables are more durable and aren’t impacted by bad weather, unlike copper cables. The 1,000Mbps download speeds available with full-fibre connections are over 14x faster than the average broadband speed in the UK, which was recorded at 70Mbps earlier this year.

While 5.78 million might sound impressive, it’s not close to rival Virgin Media O2. The broadband company, which completed its merger with O2 earlier this year and now offers additional perks for customers who rely on Virgin Media for broadband and O2 for their mobile contract, upgraded an additional 67,000 premises during the last three months.

Virgin Media is close to upgrading all of its customers, roughly some 14.3 million homes across the UK, to gigabit-capable broadband. At those speeds, you’ll be able to download a two-hour film from Netflix in High Definition (HD) in under 30 seconds. But in all honesty, when was the last time that you downloaded a feature-length film?

In reality, those ludicrous speeds are more likely to come in handy in busy households. If you have multiple people at home streaming boxsets from Netflix in Ultra HD 4K quality, making video calls, streaming music, backing up their photos or downloading operating system updates to their laptops, smartphones and more …that’s when you’ll really notice the difference. After all, Netflix only suggests 25Mbps to stream in 4K… but that soon adds up when you have multiple people trying to watch at the same time in different rooms, while others are making calls, software updates are happening in the background, others are playing online multiplayer games, and you still want Alexa to respond immediately on your Echo.

While Virgin Media looks likely to reach its goal of bringing a gigabit-capable connection to 14.3 million homes by the end of the year, the company is pushing ahead with plans to bring full-fibre connections – capable of even faster speeds – to those same premises by 2028.