Broadband Service Availability Checkers:The road from the basics of dial-up internet access to the nirvana of fibre optic cable broadband has been a long and rocky one and there is no end in sight just yet. Indeed, it was estimated that around 10% of internet users in the UK still had dial-up access in 2009, mainly due to a lack of service availability for broadband where they live.
Fibre optic internet access in this country is mainly provided through two networks:
Virgin's Coverage Map
You can check Virgin's fibre optic availability here »
You can check BT's fibre optic availability here »
Since Virgin Media has full control of its network, it has been quickest to upgrade it to fibre optic and as a result already has a 50 Mbps broadband speed available for downloads, with the prediction that this would be available to nine million homes by the end of 2008. However, even here it does not offer a full fibre optic service, with the connection from the street to the home still being by co-axial copper wire. This led to complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency in 2008 over its adverts being misleading, although these were not upheld.
BT's progress has been somewhat slower, given its need to support the full telephone infrastructure. It launched a pilot scheme in Kent at the start of 2008, aiming to deliver connection speeds of up to 100 Mbps to 10,000 new homes in Ebbsfleet.
After a ruling by Ofcom in 2008 that enabled BT to set its own prices and get a fair return on its investment, the company began a rollout to existing customers in 2009 at trial sites at Muswell Hill in London and Whitchurch in South Glamorgan. These cover over 15,000 premises and were expected to be available by summer 2009. They are part of a £1.5 billion project that was intended to deliver fibre optic broadband internet to 10 million homes by 2012. With the plan ahead of schedule, a further 1.5 million homes were added to the scheme in October 2009.
Although new builds will get fibre to the premises, this will be initially limited to street cabinets for upgrades. The final link to the property will remain copper wire for some time, with no prospect to change this for the foreseeable future.
If you want to know what's available where you live, you can process a broadband availability check. Besides our own checker above, entering your postcode to Top 10 Broadband will run an availability test and list different types, as will Broadband Checker. However, BT's own broadband availability checker is a bit uncertain over its phone numbers but better on postcodes, although not as precise as others. † [last update: 11.11.09]