Hyperoptic broadband - worth the hype?
THOSE people reading this over a standard broadband connection at peak time, wondering if they'll ever get anywhere near "up to 17Mb" should probably stop reading now.
For a lucky few, Hyperoptic can offer connection speeds of up to 1Gb.
Since they connected their first building in 2011, they've gradually been rolling out their fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) - also known as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) - service in the biggest cities around the UK.
Being able to connect to the Hyperoptic network isn't the only factor - speeds of up to 1Gb don't come that cheap.
That said, Hyperoptic are actually very competitively price compared to their big rivals - there's more on that below - and to further encourage potential customers, they usually have some kind of introductory deal available.
At the time of writing, those offers include the following:
Something for everyone?
So as well as offering seriously ultrafast broadband with download speeds of up to 1Gb per second, they have a couple of slightly more affordable, "standard fibre" connections available as well, of 20Mb and 100Mb.
Here's a quick summary of their main packages, including Hyperoptic's phone service with evening and weekends calls:
Note the price of the 20Mb deal. Just as the more widely available ISPs have taken to offering their standard broadband at a discount or even free to tempt new customers, so too do Hyperoptic.
Also, while the prices above include line rental, as the service is fibre-optic, going phone free is a real option.
There's no connection fee for people choosing to take Hyperoptic broadband with phone; anyone thinking of going phone-free should factor in a one-off £40 charge.
Bearing that in mind, here's how losing the phone affects prices:
Unusually for fibre broadband, the standard contract for all packages is just 12 months.
There is another option available for those who aren't sure which of the deals above is for them: a 30-day, "no contract", contract.
I beg your pardon?
Getting any kind of broadband without being tied into at least a year long contract is unusual enough - only a few providers do it, as we cover here, and most only offer ADSL.
But for Hyperoptic to offer ultrafast connections without the 12 month commitment makes sense in a way.
As with all their packages, it's only available to people in enabled buildings. The technology's already there - it just needs connecting.
Compare that to the likes of BT's (currently stalled) FTTP service, where each order is for an individual building, and the effort and cost involved tend to be greater.
Even so, we don't see this kind of thing being offered in the pockets of more rural FTTP provision being created under Broadband Delivery UK - and it's unlikely to happen in York where Sky and TalkTalk are selling their FTTP 1Gb services.
As with other ISPs offering a month by month service, Hyperoptic charge more for the privilege of having that flexibility. The difference is between £2 and £4 a month - before taking introductory offers into account.
Whether choosing to have a phone or not, going contract free will incur a £40 connection fee.
Those prices then; first with a phone line:
|Package||Contract term||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|20Mb Fibre Broadband + Evening and Weekend calls||30 days||£40||£27|
|100Mb Fibre Broadband + Evening and Weekend calls||30 days||£40||£41|
|1Gb Fibre Broadband + Evening and Weekend calls||30 days||£40||£67|
...And here's what it'll cost to be both phone and contract free:
|Package||Contract term||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|20Mb Fibre Broadband||30 days||£40||£24|
|100Mb Fibre Broadband||30 days||£40||£38|
|1Gb Fibre Broadband||30 days||£40||£64|
It may be more expensive, but for the commitment shy and those wondering whether to take the plunge - and which package is right for them - it's a real boon.
Nationally, there's only one other provider that offers anything like Hyperoptic - Virgin Media. Let's see how they stack up against each other. First, taking the phone line:
And then without the phone:
This is one of those times when we have to point out that it's really not a fair fight. Yes, Virgin Media's most expensive broadband is cheaper than Hyperoptic's, but Hyperoptic offer top speeds of almost seven times faster.
If, however, we look at the 100Mb packages, it's a really close fight - and there's another comparison it's quite telling to make.
Hyperoptic's 20Mb package is the closest thing they offer to standard broadband.
That said, the fact that it comes via the fibre optic line straight into the building, it'll put even the best "up to 17Mb" connections to shame.
Here's the package as it stands:
|Package||Broadband||Contract term||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|20Mb Fibre Broadband + Evening and Weekend calls||Unlimited||12 months||£40||£21
for 9 mths,
Compare those costs, broken down, with those of the standard broadband packages offered by the four biggest providers:
Hyperoptic don't offer sweeteners like upfront line rental - possibly it's not quite as much of an issue for their target audience - but paying month by month it's still quite competitive.
Where their budget option does fall down is in the upload speed.
Hyperoptic customers with the faster packages will have matching headline upload and download speeds - that is the 100Mb customers will get uploads of 100Mb, and the 1Gb customers risk blinking and missing their 1Gb uploads.
But 20Mb Hyperoptic customers will find their uploads limited to 1Mb. That's not much faster than many ADSL broadband providers manage - Ofcom's March 2016 figures show 0.8Mb to 1.0Mb is pretty standard.
The Hyperoptic Hyperhub continues the trend for routers that wouldn't look out of place in an Ikea catalogue.
A sleek white box boasting 4 x 1Gb Ethernet connections, it only supports 2.5Ghz wireless connections - so devices like cordless phones, baby monitors and any other wireless AV equipment could interfere with the signal.
This seems a little odd given that the hubs offered by most other providers now have dual-band wireless capability, but it makes much more sense when we consider the speeds Hyperoptic offer.
They say their hub is theoretically capable of wireless speeds of up to 130Mb, but "current wireless technology will struggle to create a throughput of over 70Mb".
With a top speed of up to 76Mb, standard fibre providers don't really have to worry about the slight loss caused by going wireless - but they do need to think about the interference from other devices.
In contrast, anyone with Hyperoptic's 100Mb or 1Gb connections will only get the speeds they're paying for by using an Ethernet cable to connect directly to the hub - which instantly negates any issues about interference from other wireless devices.
As mentioned, Hyperoptic is a "pure fibre" network. The closest thing to it nationwide is Virgin Media's network, although there are pockets of ultrafast broadband from other providers being trialled around the UK.
In York, CityFibre are building a 1Gb fibre network, which is being sold through Sky and TalkTalk.
Despite an extension of the area covered by Phase One of the project, and big talk from TalkTalk, who say they're going to make FTTP accessible to 10 million homes, it's only available to around 20,000 homes, leaving roughly 60,000 households in the cold.
The reason Virgin Media can service whole streets and cities with superfast broadband relatively cheaply is because they use short stretches of much cheaper - but still very efficient - coaxial cable for the final few metres of the connection.
Hyperoptic and CityFibre take the fibre all the way into the building - and to individual flats and offices.
So rather than connecting whole streets at a time, Hyperoptic connect single buildings at a time - and that's more likely to happen in blocks of flats or offices where there are lots of potential connections to balance the cost of installation.
Hyperoptic is therefore a strictly urban affair - available at present in just 12 cities and 1,000 buildings across the UK. The more urban and affluent the area, the more chance people have of being able to get it.
Likewise, it's also possible to see online where Hyperoptic is available already, or where there's been a significant level of interest.
That said, in February this year, they announced a partnership with the Hyde Group housing association, in which they're connecting six existing developments in south London to their network.
The buildings are mixed tenure, with some shared ownership, some privately sold, and some social tenants. Everyone who lives in those buildings will be able to take their pick from the full range of Hyperoptic's deals.
But the real headline here is that social tenants will be given "basic" 2Mb broadband free of charge, as well as the option to sign up to Hyperoptic's 30-day contracts without facing a credit check.
We were so impressed with the details of the joint venture that we named them winner of the category for Inclusion and Accessibility in our ISP Awards earlier this year.
Depending on how the pilot scheme goes - and the Hyde Group tell us that Hyperoptic have had at least twice the level of interest they usually get when considering a development for connection - the programme may well be extended.
All in all
That's not just in comparison with their closest mainstream rival, Virgin. The 20Mb package stacks up fairly well against standard broadband deals, as long as users can live with the limited upload speed.
The fact that they also offer a no contract option is pretty noteworthy too.
But until the network is expanded much more widely, that building-by-building roll out means that for now at least, Hyperoptic is only for the lucky few.