Do you sometimes feel as though you’ve only just got to grips with one technology, only for another to come along and replace it? And that you need to start looking for the best products, services and prices all over again?
Sometimes, this can be a good thing. In August 2015, the government announced that more than 80% of UK homes now have access to the latest superfast broadband technology. And growing availability means providers are coming up with increasingly appealing broadband packages to tempt you.
One of the fast broadband technologies now being rolled out across the country is fibre optic broadband. But what is it? And what do you need to know about it?
Let’s take a look at fibre optic broadband in more detail.
What is fibre optic broadband?
Fast home broadband comes in two forms: cable and fibre optic.
With ‘fibre’, as it’s also known, internet data is carried in the form of light down miniscule strands of glass or plastic. With each cable made up of over a hundred strands, fibre can deliver fast internet connections to multiple devices in the same place at the same time.
That’s why fibre broadband is generally considered the fastest way to get internet access in the UK, with advertised speeds usually starting at 38Mbit/s.
Are there different types of fibre optic broadband?
Yes. There are two types of fibre broadband in the UK. The most common is called ‘fibre-to-the-cabinet’ (FTTC), where cables run as far as the street cabinet (that’s the curb-side green box containing the telephone connections to each road). From there, your existing telephone cables take over. This means speeds can still vary, depending how close you live to the cabinet.
Fibre-to-the-property (FTTP) is usually faster. Also called ‘fibre-to-the-home’ (FTTH), it uses fibre optic cables all the way to your property, so copper wires and distance no longer come into play.
Can I get fibre optic broadband?
Most people can, but it’s not yet available nationwide.
You can use an online broadband checker to see if your street’s connected – all you need is your postcode. Just type ‘Can I get fibre optic broadband?’ into a search engine and go from there.
If fibre isn’t available in your area yet, then it should be in the near future. The government and local authorities are investing £1.7 billion to make superfast broadband accessible to 100% of UK homes and businesses by 2018.
What sort of fibre optic broadband package can I get?
With more and more people using fibre, internet providers are having to come up with attractive fibre broadband deals in order to compete for customers.
When looking for a package, the first thing you’ll need to decide is how fast you want your broadband to be. After all, there’s no point paying for speeds you won’t use.
The average family needs 10Mbit/s to meet their internet demands, according to
Ofcom research from November 2015. Most fibre services are actually much faster than that – ideal if you regularly stream films and music, play games online, download large files, or make video calls. It also means you shouldn’t see much difference when the whole family’s online at the same time.
But there are a couple of things to be aware of when researching speed. Remember that the ‘up to’ rates you’ll see advertised are just that – they’re the maximum you can expect, not what you’ll necessarily get at all times. And if you’re looking at FTTC, check how far you live from your green box.
Once you’ve decided on your speed requirements, it’s time to compare internet packages.
There are plenty of cheap broadband only deals on the market. But providers also bundle products together to save you money, offering phone and broadband deals, TV and broadband packages, and products combining all three.
You’ll also need to think about whether you want to shell out more for unlimited broadband offers, or pay less and put up with a monthly data limit. If you opt for a capped package, check that the data ‘ceiling’ is high enough for your needs, as the charges for exceeding it can be expensive.
Other things to consider include tie-in periods, and additional charges for installation, activation and/or line rental. It’s also worth being aware that many providers offer free subscription periods, with a set amount of months free, followed by a tied-in period at a fixed or variable price. Finally, check out any freebies on offer, such as wireless routers or anti-virus protection.
Whichever fibre broadband package you opt for, make sure you’re comfortable with the overall cost for the whole contract period. Cancellation fees usually apply if you want to switch early, and they can be high.
How do I get the best deal?
The easiest way to compare broadband deals is with comparethemarket.com. Our postcode broadband checker will tell you whether you can get a fibre optic connection where you are. You can then select the package options you prefer, and we’ll list out your cheapest offers, all in one place.
Click the green button at the top of the page to compare fibre optic broadband packages with comparethemarket.com today.