A simples guide

Let’s compare fibre optic broadband

Broadband has come a long way. Higher speeds have revolutionised the way that we can use the internet. Things many of us now take for granted, such as streaming movies, using Facetime, or online gaming are possible due to higher broadband speeds.

Most internet services however, are still provided over old copper wires and cables. The trouble with copper is that the service gets weaker the further you are from the exchange.

This means that if you live relatively close to a telephone exchange or near a green BT street cabinet, conventional broadband can provide you with a decent standard speed. However, typically the further away you live, the lower the speed of broadband you’re able to achieve.

Increasingly, consumers are looking to compare fibre optic broadband to boost their internet speeds as an alternative to broadband.

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What is fibre optic broadband?

With fibre optic broadband, the copper is replaced with microscopically thin ‘pipes’ of plastic or glass. These cables don’t suffer from the same levels of interruption as copper and nor does the signal get weaker with distance.

This means that superfast broadband speeds of 300Mbps are possible, and some specialist providers are even offering 1Gbps for the first time.

Without wanting to get too technical on you, there are two different types of fibre optic broadband, FTTC and FTTP.

FTTC stands for ‘fibre to the cabinet’. This means that fibre optic cables have replaced the traditional cables from the main exchange to the green street cabinet. However, from the cabinet to your house, copper wiring is still used.

What this means is that yes, you’ll get quicker speeds, but you’ll still suffer some reduction depending on where you live relative to the box.

FTTP means ‘fibre to the premises’ and in this situation you genuinely are getting fibre optic all the way to your home. It is under FTTP that you’ll get the truly fast speeds.

What are the advantages of fibre optic broadband?

Well you can probably guess the principle advantage, speed! If you’re a household that is a hungry consumer of internet content, fibre optic broadband can make a big difference. Not only will web pages appear pretty much instantaneously, but services such as watching online movies or playing online games will be possible without any irritating loading screens.

Once installed the service should also be more reliable. As well as suffering from speeds issues, copper cabling is also more likely to suffer from interference which can sometimes lead to an inconsistent broadband performance. With fibre optic this is no longer the case.

Can I get it?

While fibre optic typically costs you more money each month than broadband, it also costs the internet providers more to install the cabling in the first place. The providers have therefore concentrated on towns and cities where they have more users. Start by using BT’s Openreach fibre availability checker to see if it’s reached your address yet.

For customers in rural areas, fibre optic broadband remains some way off. Some providers are unwilling to meet the costs of providing the cabling to remote areas, so unless you’re prepared to pay serious amounts of money we’re afraid you won’t be able to benefit.

Who are the main providers?

BT continues to be the main provider in the UK. This probably isn’t surprising given they own virtually all the infrastructure, and that Openreach, the company that installs and maintains networks, is 100% owned by BT.

Currently, the only other independent national network is provided by Virgin Media. Two other main suppliers complete the top four today, Sky and TalkTalk. Other companies are increasingly starting to offer broadband and fibre optic services such as the Plusnet, Post Office, John Lewis and SSE, however most are still part of BT’s Openreach network.

For fibre optic broadband it makes sense to shop around and compare prices. Simply use our broadband comparison service, enter your postcode and we’ll do the hard work for you, so you can find the right deal.

We like making things simple so hopefully you’ll like what you see. If you do get stuck we’re also waiting to help you on the end of the phone. Just call our experts, 8am - 9pm Monday to Sunday, on 0800 276 1180.

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