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What is fibre optic broadband?

Fibre optic broadband is a type of broadband technology that offers a faster speed and more reliable internet connection than standard broadband. Its name is based on its plastic or glass cables, which allow for faster data transfer than copper wires.

How does fibre broadband work?

While a standard ADSL broadband connection relies on the traditional copper phonelines that connect to your home, a fibre broadband connection is a whole different system, using separate cables which offer superfast and ultrafast speeds.

These cables allow data to be transmitted far more quickly, but also sustain those speeds over distance. The copper phonelines can’t deliver fast speeds over a distance, with the speeds dropping the further away you are from your street cabinet.

There are two types of fibre broadband to know about, but we’ll get into them properly a bit later:

  • Fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) – this is the most common, and the fibre-optic cables run to your street cabinet, before finishing the journey to your home over the traditional copper phonelines. While the connection to your cabinet can be superfast, your phonelines won’t be able to sustain that speed over a long distance, which means your speed will depend on how far you are from the street cabinet.  
  • Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) - while harder to find access as mass rollout is still early days, FTTP offers the fastest speeds, because the fibre cables connect directly to your home, which means you won’t see your speed drop off during the final part of the journey.

What are the benefits of fibre broadband? 

We’ve put together some of the reasons why fibre broadband can change the way you browse, stream and work:

What is the difference between fibre and standard broadband?

Standard broadband, known as ADSL, is the most basic type of broadband connection out there, using your traditional copper phonelines to connect you to the internet. These will get you average download speeds of around 11Mbps, but not much more. This is fine if there’s only a few of you in the home, or you’re not big on TV and movie streaming or online gaming, but if that’s not the case, you might want to consider superfast or even ultrafast fibre broadband.

Fibre broadband can handle multiple devices using the internet at the same time. It provides sufficient speeds for you to easily stream and download content and tends to be more reliable than conventional broadband, with fast speeds allowing you to work from home. On top of that, it’s now almost the same price as basic broadband.

Can I get fibre broadband in my area? 

The majority of UK towns and cities are now receiving fibre broadband. To check if your area is covered, simply  enter your postcode below, and you’ll be able to see which speeds are available to you. 

Compare with us and see what fibre broadband deals are out there with the speeds you need, at the right price.

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What are my broadband options?

There are three types of broadband available. You could narrow down your choice by finding out what speeds you need and what connection you have. This can be tricky, so the easiest way to do it is to select a package and see if it’s available in your area.

  • ADSL broadband: Delivers internet connectivity down the copper wires used by your existing phone line. ADSL speeds vary according to how far you live from your local telephone exchange, but the average download speed is about 11Mbps. The top download speeds are usually up to 24Mbps, and the top speeds for uploads are usually up to 2Mbps. ADSL broadband is widely available in the UK, with coverage available for more than 99% of the UK population. As such, the majority of homes in the UK have ADSL connections.
  • Cable: Uses a mix of fibre optic and coaxial cables. It’s faster than ADSL, but not yet available everywhere. For this reason, the decision to get cable or not may be out of your hands.
  • Fibre: Information is carried as pulses of light down microscopically thin ‘pipes’ of glass or plastic, before being turned into internet data. You’ll generally know if you have this because of a green box on the corner of your street, or a tech box at home that holds your broadband connections.

Types of fibre broadband

  • Fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) is the most common, with fibre optic cables running to green boxes (also known as cabinets) on street corners that house the telecoms connections to each house. From the cabinet, copper telephone wires send the information to your home. FTTC can be fast, with providers like BT delivering up to 76 Mbps superfast broadband. But that last leg from the cabinet to the home can slow things up. This means speeds will vary based on how far you live from the cabinet, and on the quality of your copper wires.  
  • Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) is often referred to as “full fibre”, and is faster than FTTC because the fibre cables travel all the way to your property. Gigaclear, an internet service provider, uses FTTP and can provide speeds of up to 900 Mbps in certain locations. FTTP is sometimes known as fibre to the home (FTTH), so don’t be confused if you see that.

Is fibre broadband unlimited?

Just because a broadband package uses fibre broadband, it doesn’t mean it’s unlimited. Some deals may include data caps, which blowing through will cost you extra fees. To make it simple for you though, all broadband deals we compare offer unlimited data, which means you can download, stream and play as much as you like.

Do I need fibre broadband?

If you have multiple internet users or devices, or you play games online or want to use any kind of streaming service for films, music or TV, superfast fibre broadband can improve the quality.

Here are examples of the speeds you’d probably need for some of the most popular internet activities:

  • Web browsing: 1 - 5 Mbps
  • Watching movies and streaming TV non-HD: 1.5 - 2.5 Mbps
  • Watching movies and streaming TV HD: 2.8 Mbps - 4 Mbps
  • Streaming audio and music videos: 0.5 Mbps – 0.320 Mbps
  • Online gaming: 3Mbps

Consider the typical internet usage for your family or household. Fibre optic broadband could be a good option if you:

  • download films on a regular basis
  • play video games online
  • use video-calling apps - Skype for example
  • use catch-up TV from more than one device
  • use the internet at the same time as others in your household
  • live in an area that has low broadband speed

Not only is fibre broadband faster, it’s also more reliable. That’s why it could be worth upgrading to a fibre deal if your standard connection keeps dropping out.

How much is fibre broadband?

You can usually pay anywhere between £20-£35 a month for a fibre broadband package, but it depends on all sorts of things: speed, provider, contract length etc. The cost of fibre broadband is always changing, as competitors are constantly trying to get the upper hand and attract new customers. This is great news for you, because it means new deals are always becoming available, and we can help you compare them to find which is the cheapest, as well as helping you understand which of them offers the fastest broadband service.

Is it worth getting fibre broadband?

If you’re a home with multiple users, or someone who likes to download, stream or play games online, the speeds on offer with fibre broadband are well worth looking at. While you might look at the information above and think you don’t need really high speeds, if there are even just a few of those things going on at the same time, it can make a huge difference. For busy homes, fibre is worth the upgrade. Especially when it doesn’t cost that much more than standard ADSL.

However, if it’s just you at home, or you only really use the internet to send emails, do a bit of shopping and read the news, then you should be able to get by alright with a standard ADSL broadband connection.

How can I find the best fibre broadband deal for me?

When you  compare fibre broadband deals, think carefully about what you want from your superfast connection. You might want to consider:

  • Price
  • Download and upload speeds
  • Data limits
  • Installation and connection fees
  • Charges for WiFi routers and line rental
  • Contract length

Getting fibre broadband for businesses

If you’re running a business in the 21st Century, you’re almost certainly going to need an online presence. To help you keep up with it all, you’re going to need a business broadband package. Business broadband packages can sometimes be more expensive than domestic broadband, but they often provide extra features, such as:

  • Faster and more consistent download speeds - to help you keep your business running smoothly. Because a drop in speed or disconnection can cost you business.
  • Better security features – to protect your business.
  • 24/7 customer support - so that when issues do pop up, you can get back online ASAP
Business broadband

Compare fibre optic broadband deals

Comparing fibre optic broadband deals with us couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is tell us your postcode and we’ll show you which superfast broadband deals you can take advantage of. Try it today to see if you could save. 

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Frequently asked questions

How fast is fibre broadband?

It depends whether you’re using FTTC or FTTP. Advertised speeds for FTTC (which is much more widely available) typically start at 60 Mbps, for the larger providers. FTTP is advertised as the pinnacle of superfast broadband, with providers boasting speeds of up to 900 Mbps. 

Take a look at some of the ‘fastest broadband’ deals available at the moment.

What is the difference between superfast, ultrafast and gigabit broadband?

When comparing superfast broadband deals or seeing ads for them, you can see a lot of buzz words flying about, boasting about broadband speeds. To be honest, a lot of them sound the same. So, what’s the difference between superfast fibre and the rest? Ofcom defines “superfast” as speeds over 30Mbps, but “ultrafast” is speeds of 300Mbps and beyond. That’s 10x faster. Finally, if you want the best of the best, “gigabit” is exactly that, moving from megabits to gigabits, which means speeds of 1,000Mbps, or 1Gbps.

To reach these incredible speeds, you’re going to need the right tech and connections to your home. Superfast broadband is pretty widely available across the UK, and relies on a fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) connection. But, to reach the tippy top ultrafast and gigabit broadband speeds, you’ll need a fibre to the premises (FTTP) connection, which is when the fibre cables are connected directly to your home. These connections are much less commonly available, but mass rollout is underway.

What do ‘up to’ speeds mean on broadband packages?

The ‘up to’ speed is usually the maximum speed you’ll experience. But bear in mind that your internet may be slower than this.

As of 23 May 2018, broadband providers can no longer advertise ‘up to’ speeds because those very high speeds may only be available to 10% of customers. They must now give average speed claims, based on the download speed available to at least half of customers at peak times.

As ADSL is delivered along copper wire, the speed can vary dramatically depending on how far from the telephone exchange you live. With fibre-optic broadband the speed shouldn’t fluctuate so much, particularly if you have FTTP broadband.

Find out more about broadband speeds

Why is fibre broadband more reliable?

Because fibre optic broadband is made of ‘glass’, there’s no electricity involved.

This means it’s protected against interference from power lines or high-voltage electrical equipment. Plus, it doesn’t corrode.

This means you can expect clearer and more reliable communications.

Is fibre broadband available everywhere in the UK?

Most areas of the UK already have access to super-fast fibre broadband. The Government and BT have proposed a deal that could introduce a new Universal Service Obligation (USO). In theory, since March 2020, everyone should be able to request a broadband download speed of at least 10 Mbps.

Find out more about broadband in rural areas.

Which providers offer fibre broadband?

All the big names you’ve seen time and time again offer fibre broadband. Think Virgin Media, Sky, BT, TalkTalk etc. But there are plenty of medium and smaller providers who also offer fibre broadband, some of which may surprise you.

You can compare fibre broadband deals with us for Plusnet, John Lewis, the Post Office and even Shell Energy. So, there’s plenty out there to choose from.

You can find a long list of fibre broadband providers here.

Should I get unlimited data or a data limit?

Having unlimited fibre broadband data means you can use as much data as you like each month, without being charged extra.

The advantage of a limit on a capped deal is that it’s usually cheaper. However, only opt for this if you’re sure you’ll stay within the limit. Exceeding it could see you having to pay additional charges.

To work out how much data you might need, take a look at a few things you can do online (downloading a movie or a document, for example) and see how much data each of those internet activities typically uses.

Can I get fibre without line rental?

You can get fibre broadband without paying line rental, but you won’t have near as many options as you would by paying it. This is because you’ll need either:

  • Fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband – FTTP is the one which means the fibre-optic cables are connected directly to your home, which means you bypass the traditional copper phonelines which require you to pay line rental. This offers the best broadband speeds, but is generally the most expensive and isn’t available everywhere.
  • Satellite broadband – satellite broadband bypasses the phoneline by using, well… a satellite. However, while you might enjoy not paying line rental, satellite broadband can cost more than fibre broadband with line rental included anyway, and the performance through cables tends to be better too.
  • Mobile broadband (3G/4G/5G) – similar to satellite broadband, a mobile broadband connection bypasses the phoneline by going entirely wireless. To get this though, you’ll need to live somewhere where you get a great phone signal, so using your phone as a test is a good place to start. Your connection will run using a USB dongle, which plugs into your devices, or a wireless box.

Will I have to pay anything upfront for fibre broadband?

It depends on the broadband deal you get, but some providers will charge hardware, activation, or delivery fees, possibly a combination of these things. So be on the lookout for extra fees when comparing fibre broadband deals.

Can I cancel my fibre broadband package at any time?

Cancellation fees usually apply if you want to switch early – and they can be high. When choosing a broadband package, it’s important to be comfortable with the overall contract period. 

What do I need to compare fibre deals?

We’ve made comparing fibre deals quick and easy. Simply type in your postcode, tell us the name of your current provider and what type of broadband service you want.

You’ll then be able to scroll down a results page with a list of deals.

Holly Niblett

From the Digital team

"If you live in anything like a modern home, chances are you're going to want fibre broadband. Families with lots of users, or if you're into lots of streaming, downloading or online gaming, will need broadband with plenty of speed and bandwidth to keep up with your busy lives. Making the jump from ADSL to fibre is a game changer."

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