Fibre optic broadband


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A simples guide to

fibre optic broadband

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

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Frequently Thought Questions

As with any new technology, fibre optic broadband can be a challenge to get your head around. That’s why we’ve put together some answers to those questions that might be in your head. Need to know more about fibre optic broadband? Read on.

Is fibre optic broadband the norm for most internet users in the UK?

No – not yet it isn’t. 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.

How is conventional broadband supplied?

It’s 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.

So why does the world need fibre optic broadband?

The big problem with conventional broadband lies in the use of copper wire. As a signal flows down a copper wire it gets weaker the further it travels. Additionally, 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 say 3 kilometres away, you would see the speed drop to 7 Mbps. As many homes, particularly in rural areas, can be many kilometres from the exchange, speeds can be very low compared to city areas.

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.

What does ‘fibre to the cabinet’ and ‘fibre to the premises mean’?

There are two types of fibre optic broadband connection, fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the premises (FTTP.) With FTTC, there is a fibre optic cable running from the exchange to the nearest green street cabinet, but then from there to your home is still copper. With FTTP, the connection is provided by fibre optic cable right up to your home.

Does it matter if my connection is FTTC?

It’ll still be much quicker than ADSL broadband, but you might still see some speed reduction depending on how far you live from your street cabinet. For example, the speed next door to the cabinet may be over 75 Mbps but that might fall to around 10 Mbps if you’re three or more kilometres away.

Is FTTP much faster then?

It has the potential to be yes, as there is no copper being used. Some superfast broadband speeds of 300 Mbps are now being offered by certain suppliers. There are even suppliers in some cities claiming they can achieve 1 Gbps. 

Why don’t we all have fibre optic broadband?

It’s 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 – you can do that when you start a quote.

How do I know if I need fibre optic broadband?

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 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.

Can I work out how much data I use?

If you want to check further, here are a few things you might do online along with how much data they use. If you’re a regular user of data heavy activities, you’ll benefit from fibre optic broadband:

 

Download a document - 2 MB
Download a music track - 4 MB
One hour of browsing - 10 – 25 MB
One hour on social media - 20 MB
Stream one hour of music/radio - 150 MB
Stream one hour non-HD video - 250 MB
Download a non-HD film - 700 MB
Stream one hour HD video - 2 GB
Download a HD film - 4 GB

Comparing fibre optic broadband deals

There’s a really simple way to compare deals and the good news is, you’re in the right place. We make comparing fibre optic broadband deals really easy. All you need to do is tell us your post code and in a matter of seconds we’ll show you all the deals you could take advantage of. Try it today and see what you could save at comparethemarket.com.