A simples guide

A guide to fibre optic broadband

Fibre optic broadband is the latest advancement in broadband technology. Promising fast speeds and regular connections, what exactly is it, do you need it and how widely available is it? 


Let’s start by looking at what conventional broadband is

Conventional broadband or ADSL broadband as you might see it called, has been around since about 2000 and still supplies the vast majority of households in the UK.

Conventional broadband is carried along copper cables all the way from your BT exchange to a local green street cabinet that you’ll have seen in the streets when you’re out and about. From here it is routed along more copper cables into your home.

The big problem with conventional broadband, and therefore the big advantage of fibre optic broadband lies in the copper. As a signal flows down a copper wire it gets weaker the further it travels, and also the further it has to go, the more likely it is to get interrupted.

For example, if you live half a kilometre from an exchange, you could expect a comfortable download speed of 8 Mbps. However, if you live just 3km away would see the speed drop by over 1 Mbps.

As many homes, particularly in rural areas can be many kilometres from the exchange, speeds can be very low compared to city areas.

So what changes with fibre optic broadband?

In short, the cable. The cables are no longer made of copper. They’re now made of plastics and glass. These new fibre optic cables don’t suffer in the same way. Speeds are maintained along them and they don’t suffer from interference issues.

However, what has changed in most cases so far is the cable from the exchange to the green box on the street. The cable from the green box street exchange to your house is still copper! This is known as FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) broadband.

With this you’ll still suffer speed reductions the further you live from the box.

This also explains why you see broadband speeds quoted as ‘up to’. The ‘up to’ speed assumes you live next door to the street cabinet.

So, again for example, the speed next door to the cabinet may be over 75 Mbps but that will fall to around 10 Mbps if you’re three or more kilometres away.

Superfast broadband speeds of 300Mbps are now being offered by some suppliers, while some providers are now claiming they can achieve 1Gbps. How?

This superfast broadband is known as FTTP (fibre to the premises) broadband. Quite simply they eliminate the copper element so that it is fibre all the way to your home.


Why don’t we all have it?

It is a matter of cost. If the providers can justify the cost of rolling out the fibre optic network they’ll do so. That’s why fibre optic broadband has been quickly rolled out in cities and why it’s such a problem in rural areas.

Rather damningly it was reported recently that broadband speeds were faster in the Base Camp on Everest than in a number of rural areas of Britain.

You’ll need to do a postcode check with any of the suppliers to find out whether they offer a service to you.


I can get it, do I need it?

Whether you need it depends on how you use the internet.

If you only use it for casual browsing you’ll notice a small improvement in the speed that websites load but not notice a step change in your experience.

If however, you’re a heavy user, you could notice significant benefits, particularly:

  • A family with multiple users using multiple devices with no loss of speed
  • Downloading TV shows or movies, chatting over FaceTime or Skype without ‘buffering’ interruptions. A superfast connection can download a BluRay quality movie in a matter of minutes versus a few hours on standard fibre optic, and a good while longer on conventional broadband!
  • Gaming without lags. Not only will the greater download speeds help but here enhanced upload speeds allowing near instantaneous responses.

To find out what deals are available to you, simply plug in your postcode on our website and let us do the work for you.

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