What broadband speed do I need? Fibre, ADSL, Ultrafast and more compared

What broadband speed do I need?
(Image credit: CASEZY)

The best broadband deal might not be about getting the fastest speeds, but rather the ideal price for your needs. But what do you need and what is the best broadband speed for you?

Committing to a broadband deal might be easier than ever but you will want to make sure you've taken everything into consideration before you do. Will it last you into the future? Is the speed fast enough for you needs? Can you save money and go slower? Or perhaps it's just about getting a connection where you are based on what's available.

This guide will break down the different broadband types, in speed order, so you can assess which is right for your needs.

What broadband speed do I need?

ADSL broadband

ADSL broadband is the slowest of the lot and, usually the most affordable. It's also, crucially, very widely available where others might not be. A typical ADSL speed will be around the 11Mb mark, on average.

Netflix, as a guide, recommends at 25Mb line for 4K UHD content but you can go for an HD video stream and a line about 2Mb can be enough.

Another factor, beyond content quality, is the number of connections required. If you have people in lots of rooms using many devices all at once, you're going to be limited by the broadband speed coming in, which then gets split. 

ADSL broadband is good for one to two people in a property that doesn't require 4K UHD streaming. So for working from home and having average quality Zoom calls, this could have you covered. 

Fibre broadband

Fibre broadband deals are a step up, using optical cables which transmit light, allowing for greater speeds and easier future upgrades. But since this requires those cables, it's not available to everyone.

Fibre speeds vary but typically offer an average range of 30 to 60Mb. This means you will get 4K and UHD streaming, and you can game at high quality too. But expect this to be for use by fewer people, ideally for properties with no more than four people – and certainly not doing everything in high-quality at the same time. But for a good quality Zoom meeting, or a few at once, this is the way to go.

Wi-Fi modem in home

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Fast fibre broadband

Once you step up to fast fibre broadband speeds they're averaging between 60Mb and over. This is good for most tasks, be it high-response rate gaming or UHD video streaming on Netflix and YouTube. And, yes, working from home too.

This is ideal for those homes that have a high-quality TV stream on often but also want to game online and connect lots of smart home devices. Get that video call in without worry of issues, even when everyone else at home is using the internet as usual. Since it offers a high-speed to start with, splitting that shouldn't be an issue presuming you have a decent router.

Ultrafast broadband

Fibre broadband can now reach speeds of up to 1Gb in some areas. But reasonable prices start at around the 100Mb mark and run up to around the 500Mb end. Virgin Broadband has a 362Mb top-end line, while BT Broadband offers 300Mb speeds, for example.

These sorts of speeds are only for those very demanding situations. So if you have more than five people at the address, want 4K videos and ultra-responsive high-quality gaming, smart devices, home office work and more, all running at the same time – this could be worth paying the premium for.

Is there anything faster than Ultrafast?

Technically, yes. There is a slow movement of broadband providers offering what is known as 'gigafast' internet. This, as the name suggests, is 1GB+ plus speeds. That is incredibly fast and realistically, will not be necessary for the majority of people.

This is faster than what most big businesses need and is roughly 10x faster than the faster fibre plans we mentioned above. However, while you can get currently get it, it is both quite rarely available and expensive.

Brands like Hyperoptic offer it if you live in the right area and Virgin and Vodafone are rapidly building to offer it. Gigafast internet is mostly an idea of what things could become like down the line.

What is the best option for most people?

For the large majority of people, ADSL will prove to be slightly too slow but on the other hand, Ultrafast is going to push your budget further than you might like.

That means the perfect middle ground for most will be either fibre or faster fibre. These can put your costs between the £20/£30 a month margins while also getting you comfortable speeds for a large household.

These kind of speeds will work perfectly for working from home, gaming or just generally running a host of devices off of your Wi-Fi network. However, if you're looking to run a business from home or you have a intensive job that involves big downloads or exports, consider the jump to Ultrafast.

Luke Edwards

Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.