There are basically three types of broadband available:
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.
Cable uses a mix of fibre optic and coaxial cables. It’s faster than ADSL, but not yet available everywhere in Britain.
With fibre optic broadband, 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.
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’ – the green boxes on street corners that house the telecoms connections to each home. From the cabinet, copper telephone wires take over to get the information to your home. FTTC can be fast, with providers like Sky and Plusnet delivering up to 76 Mbps. 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 around the limitations of copper wires completely.