Remember the day you first got broadband? No more dialling up. No more waiting for someone to get off the phone so you could go online. No more watching a web page splutter to life on your screen...
Broadband has come a long way in the short time since it was first introduced in the UK. Its latest – and fastest – incarnation is what’s called ‘fibre optic broadband’.
So what is fibre optic broadband? How is it different from other types of internet connection? And is it for you? Our guide covers the topics you might need to know.
What are the different broadband options in the UK?
Before dealing with ‘fibre’ (as it’s sometimes known) in more detail, it’s worth looking at the different types of broadband available to UK homes. There are basically three types.
ADSL delivers internet connectivity down the copper wires used by your existing phone line. ADSL speeds therefore vary according to how far you live from your local telephone exchange.
Then there’s cable, which uses a mix of fibre optic and coaxial cables. It’s faster than ADSL, but not yet available everywhere in Britain.
Finally, there’s fibre optic broadband. With fibre, information is carried as pulses of light down microscopically thin ‘pipes’ of glass or plastic, before being turned into internet data that your computer can relay to you.
Are there different types of fibre optic broadband?
Yes – there are two: ‘fibre-to-the-cabinet’ (FTTC) and ‘fibre-to-the-premises’ (FTTP).
FTTC is the most common, with fibre optic cables running to a ‘cabinet’ – that’s a fancy name for those green boxes on street corners that house the telecoms connections to each home. From the cabinet, your copper telephone wires take over to get the information to your home.
FTTC can be fast, with providers like Sky and Talk Talk delivering up to 76Mbit/s. But that last leg from the cabinet to the home can slow things up. As such, speeds will vary based on how far you live from the cabinet, and on the quality of your copper wires.
FTTP (also known as FTTH, or ‘fibre-to-the-home’) is usually faster, because it uses fibre optic cables all the way to your property. This gets round the limitations of copper wires.
Do I need fibre optic broadband?
Every week, some 40,000 more premises get connected to superfast broadband, says the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. So why are they upgrading?
Gone are the days of the single ‘family’ PC in the home. As we increasingly live our lives online, there’s a growing need for faster, more reliable internet connections. We have phones, tablets, laptops, consoles and smart TVs, all demanding connectivity at the same time. Then there’s our expanding use of the internet: music and video streaming, online gaming, video calls... all of these require large amounts of data.
The connection speeds that fibre optic broadband makes possible allow households to do all these things at once, with minimal loss of quality.
In 2014, Ofcom looked into how many internet ‘outages’ of 30 seconds or more broadband customers experienced in a day. ADSL users averaged one every other day; for fibre and cable users, it was one every ten days.
Can I get fibre optic broadband?
Not all homes and businesses in the UK can get fibre optic broadband just yet. In August 2015, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport claimed four out of five UK homes now have access to superfast broadband.
As a rule, fibre is more readily available in urban than rural areas. The government and local authorities are currently investing £1.7 billion to make superfast broadband more widely accessible.
The government’s Broadband Delivery UK initiative aims to achieve close to 100% coverage by 2018. And in November 2015, the government announced its intention to make speeds of 10Mbit/s a legal right, putting broadband up there with water, gas and electricity as an essential utility.
A simple online broadband checker can tell you if fibre broadband has reached your street. These tools also tend to feature a fibre optic speed checker – just type ‘can I get fibre optic broadband?’ into your search engine.
You can also find out about fibre availability where you are by doing a broadband comparison on comparethemarket.com – more on this below.
How do I find the right fibre optic broadband option for me?
If you can get fibre, then you might want to start looking into fibre optic broadband deals.
When you compare broadband offers, think carefully about what you want from your superfast connection. You might want to look for the cheapest fibre broadband you can find, but there are other things to watch out for too: download and upload speeds, data limits, installation and connection fees, charges for wireless routers and line rental, and contract tie-in periods.
The easiest way to find the right fibre optic package for you is to run a search with comparethemarket.com. You can do a broadband speed check, and refine your comparison to suit your needs. You can select from options like ‘fibre’, ‘HDTV’, ‘free calls’ and so on – and even find out what freebies are available!
Whether you’re after broadband only deals, TV and broadband deals, or broadband and phone deals, we’ll show you the fibre optic broadband deals that are available where you live.
Hit the green button above to search for fibre optic broadband with comparethemarket.com today.