With an extensive array of different connection types and speeds, broadband in Northern Ireland is readily available. Services are offered by all the major UK providers, while satellite broadband provides an alternative for residents in rural areas.
Northern Ireland offers every traditional type of broadband, including ADSL along telephone lines. Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and full-fibre (FTTP) broadband provide faster connections, while satellite broadband services are also available.
Northern Ireland was once the UK region with the fastest average broadband connections, though other areas have since caught up. According to Ofcom data from January 2020, more than 41% of homes in Northern Ireland have access to FTTP services, and 52% can access ultrafast speeds of at least 300Mbps. Ofcom reported 89% of homes in Northern Ireland could receive superfast broadband, while 94% benefit from access to 10Mbps connections.
According to Ofcom’s most recent Connected Nations report, the average download speed delivered to Northern Ireland homes is 55Mbps. This should be significantly improved by the Department for the Economy’s Project Stratum scheme, which will see £165 million invested in improving connectivity to the 98,000 homes still unable to access broadband services of 30Mbps or higher. A procurement was launched in July 2020, and further updates are due shortly.
The major UK internet providers all offer broadband services in Northern Ireland:
These providers offer the same plans and packages in Northern Ireland as the rest of the UK, depending on network coverage. There are no ISPs exclusive to Northern Ireland, but there are locally operated providers such as Fibrus, offering hyperfast FTTP fibre broadband through proprietary networks.
Fibre optic broadband is widely available across Northern Ireland. Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) broadband is now the most common type of broadband in UK homes, offering high-speed connections to local exchanges but slower speeds for the final leg of data’s journey into the home.
Fibre optic plans change constantly, but the best broadband deals in NI currently include the following:
Plusnet offers unlimited broadband at 66Mbps on an 18-month contract.
Sky provides unlimited broadband at 59Mbps with an 18-month contract.
TalkTalk offers an average download speed of 67Mbps with unlimited downloads on an 18-month contract.
Vodafone provides 63Mbps connections with unlimited downloads on a 24-month contract.
More and more homes in Northern Ireland are becoming eligible for fibre optic broadband each month, so keep checking if it’s not yet available. You can view some of the best broadband deals in Northern Ireland here.
Full fibre connections are also known as Fibre to the Premises, since they extend through local exchanges into your property. By 2021, FTTP speeds will reach 1Gbps, though these speeds are not yet being reached in Northern Ireland by Openreach providers.
Ultrafast connectivity is often the preserve of Virgin Media, whose proprietary cable network offers significantly higher speeds than providers reliant on Openreach’s network. Virgin Media customers can enjoy broadband in NI with speeds of up to 516Mbps.
Virgin Media is available to roughly 330,000 premises in Northern Ireland, including about 98% of Belfast homes, with some of the best broadband deals in NI for people needing ultrafast connectivity.
If you want to compare broadband in NI, the following providers use the Openreach network to offer FTTP connections:
Broadband deals in NI are unlikely to match up to advertised speeds of up to 1Gbps, so always check what broadband plans are available for your specific postcode.
Fibrus is a local ISP offering hyperfast fibre connections along its own FTTP network. This provider claims a maximum speed of 1Gbps, with an advertised average of 900Mbps for unlimited downloads with no peak-time slowdowns. Installation and activation are free, as is your router, and you’ll receive a free engineer’s visit if needed.
Fibrus offers 24-month contracts, and the customer support team is based in Belfast. This is a great option not only for supporting local business, but also for achieving optimal speeds. However, as with all FTTP broadband in Northern Ireland, availability is currently limited.
For customers with limited budgets, some of the best broadband deals in Northern Ireland are no contract policies. These are becoming increasingly popular, and you can view some of the best deals currently available here.
Traditional broadband connects your home to a local exchange, but a high proportion of Northern Ireland’s population live in remote areas which are too far away from exchange points. These must be within four to five miles of a home for a connection to be viable.
Providing a connection using a dish network, as opposed to a fixed line, satellite broadband is able to reach speeds of between 30-50Mbps. In order to bring broadband connections to every home in Northern Ireland, the government previously partnered with BT Satellite and the Avanti Communications Group to offer subsidised satellite broadband in rural areas.
Because 3G mobile data tends to be unavailable in rural counties, satellite broadband is one of relatively few options for getting connected if you live in a remote corner of Northern Ireland. Speeds are modest, and services often come with hefty connection fees, so these contracts are rarely among the best broadband deals in NI. You’ll also need to have a satellite dish installed, which may be an issue if you rent your home, or live in an area where there are planning restrictions on external modifications to homes.
Beacon Broadband’s satellite services include four plans whose available speeds range from 10Mbps to 40Mbps. Every plan offers unlimited broadband with a free router and no contract; customers can opt for a 12-month contract should they desire, although this means having to purchase all equipment outright. Beacon also offers free installation for anyone unable to receive internet speeds of more than 2Mbps via traditional means.
BigBlu offers speeds between 12Mbps and 33Mbps across its Bronze, Silver and Gold packages. Data is unlimited, but subject to a fair usage policy. Large downloads are restricted outside peak times (6pm to midnight), and each plan has a priority data allowance. After this allowance is exceeded, speeds may drop.
Bluebox is a satellite broadband provider with over 170 broadcast points across Northern Ireland, offering coverage to over 92% of NI residents. It offers three residential plans with download speeds ranging from 10Mbps to 50Mbps.
The best broadband deal will depend on your specific circumstances. You can get broadband at almost every available speed if you live in urban parts of Northern Ireland, with plenty of options to suit your internet usage habits. We’ve compared many of the best broadband deals in Northern Ireland, which could save money and also improve your online experience.
If you live in a rural or remote area, there may be fewer options. You could opt for satellite broadband, but with high installation and operation costs, it may be worth waiting for the government-funded effort to bring superfast fibre broadband to the whole of Northern Ireland.
All the major broadband providers offer additional services like TV packages and calling plans, while some smaller firms deliver budget broadband plans that prioritise value but don’t offer extra features. Decide what’s best for you based on your budget and your local coverage, and then compare broadband in NI to find the most suitable package for your needs.
Last updated: 14 December 2020