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What is BT Ultrafast broadband?

BT Ultrafast broadband
Faster than fast: Ultrafast is the new broadband buzzword

Welcome to superlative bingo. First there was Fast broadband. Then there was Superfast broadband. Now, Ladies and Gentiles, we’re stepping into the world of BT Ultrafast broadband.

So what is BT Ultrafast broadband? How fast does it actually whistle along the pipe? And what are the catches? Let me explain.

BT Ultrafast broadband deals

There are two different Ultrafast tariffs:

BT Ultrafast 1 gives you downloads of up to 152Mbits/sec and uploads of up to 30Mbits/sec for £55 per month, with a £60 installation fee (a BT engineer needs to check if your home wiring is up to the job).

BT Ultrafast 2 raises the download speed to a maximum 314Mbits/sec and promises uploads of up to 50Mbits/sec. This also raises the price to £60 per month, with a £60 installation fee.

What technology does this use?

You might be surprised to hear that these connections aren’t pure fibre lines – where a fibre optical cable runs all the way from the local fibre cabinet to your door – but is actually based on a new BT technology called G.fast, which the company has been trialling for some time.

G.fast increases the amount of spectrum used in the existing copper cabling. While the VDSL technology used for today’s BT Infinity lines grabs 17MHz of spectrum, G.fast uses 106MHz, massively increasing the speeds available.

G.fast requires BT to strap a pod to existing telephone cabinets or telegraph poles, so it won’t be available everywhere immediately, although we’re led to believe that BT has quite punchy rollout targets.

You’ll need a special modem to take advantage of G.fast. BT has built the modem into its latest Smart Hub – let’s hope these Smart Hubs are less problematic than the last lot.

Is there a speed guarantee?

Unusally for consumer broadband connections, there is. BT says customers will be compensated if speeds dip below 100Mbits/sec. We asked BT to clarify exactly what that compensation looks like, but we’re still waiting for a response. However, the reliable ThinkBroadband reports “you can make up to four claims in a year and get £20 back each time; slowdowns due to a fault and home wiring are excluded”. That last caveat may give BT enough wiggle room to avoid making compensation payouts, but we’ll have to see how it works in practice.

Oddly, those on 314Mbits/sec connections only get the same 100Mbits/sec guarantee as those on 152Mbits/sec, which is hardly a show of confidence in the supposedly faster lines.

Can I get Ultrafast?

The best way to check is usually via the BT Broadband Availability Checker. Look for mention of G.fast on the left-hand side – if you can’t see G.fast you probably can’t get it yet. Fewer than 300,000 premises currently have access to the technology, according to ThinkBroadband, so you will likely have to wait for it to arrive in your patch.

Main image credit: Mike Seyfang/Flickr

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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