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Last updated: 21 May 2021
Broadband is an indispensable service for most households in Northern Ireland, and fortunately, most residents have their pick of provider and speed.
Although some rural areas are poorly served, urban areas in Northern Ireland benefit from cutting-edge connections. Thanks to Openreach’s Fibre First programme, Belfast has the second-highest rate of full-fibre coverage in the UK, at nearly 54% - far ahead of UK-wide coverage of just 10%.
All of the UK’s top broadband providers operate in Northern Ireland, many of them selling packages that can be bundled with expansive TV and streaming options.
How fast is broadband in Northern Ireland?
The answer is mostly very fast - or technically, ultrafast (speeds greater than 100Mbps) - but it depends on where you live. Broadband in Belfast and the surrounding areas, including Andersonstown, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Dundonald and Newtownabbey, is particularly fast if you subscribe to top-tier services.
Currently, around a third of premises in Northern Ireland can access full-fibre connections, with speeds approaching 1Gbps. With broadband that quick, you can download an entire HD film in just over a minute.
Virgin Media’s cable network, available to around a third of residences in Northern Ireland, provides another service with dazzling speeds - of up to 516Mbps. Together, these services mean half of Northern Irish homes can access ultrafast connections.
Of course, not everyone needs or wants to pay for the fastest connection on the market. Plenty of people in Northern Ireland subscribe to slower but more widely available FTTC (fibre to the cabinet), with average speeds of 35-38Mbps or 59-67Mbps, depending on the tier you subscribe to. FTTC connections are available to 89% of all households in Northern Ireland, including 98% of those in urban areas and 66% in rural areas.
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Who provides broadband in Northern Ireland?
All the UK’s major broadband providers sell services in Northern Ireland. This includes:
- BT: The UK’s largest broadband provider. In Northern Ireland, it offers ADSL (10Mbps), three tiers of FTTC (36Mbps, 50Mbps and 67 Mbps) and in select areas, full-fibre connections (500Mbps and 910Mbps).
- Virgin Media: Virgin’s cable connections are available to around a third of Northern Irish premises, primarily in urban areas. Entry-level packages deliver speeds of 54Mbps but those who want swifter connections can subscribe to connections with average speeds of 108Mbps, 213Mbps, 362Mbps or even 516Mbps. Virgin broadband can also be packaged with the provider’s market-leading pay-TV offerings, giving you access to potentially hundreds of channels.
- Sky: Sky sells ADSL broadband with speeds of 11Mbps and fibre connections with speeds of 59Mbps. These connections can be bundled with offerings from Sky’s pay-TV menu, for an all-in-one entertainment package. Additionally, Sky will soon begin offering full-fibre connections through Openreach’s FTTP network in Belfast and the surrounding areas.
- TalkTalk: known for its cheap broadband, budget ISP TalkTalk offers ADSL packages with download speeds of 11Mbps and two tiers of fibre at speeds of 38Mbps and 67Mbps. Those packages all come with a Fixed Price Guarantee, which means you won’t be hit with any surprise price increases for the length of your contract (usually 18 months).
Other providers operating in Northern Ireland include mobile networks EE
’s fixed-line broadband operations, and NOW Broadband
(a great choice for those looking for bespoke TV packages).
Finding broadband in Northern Ireland
To find the best internet package for your home, whether it’s in Derry or rural County Fermanagh, plug your postcode into our search engine and run a broadband comparison. Our site will return a list of the providers and tariffs available for your specific property. You can then sort the results by price, to find the cheapest deal, or order them to find the fastest, if speed is more important to you. Check out bundling options too, to get your TV from the same provider, usually with a discount.