Fibre optic broadband
Hands up who’s tired of sluggish ADSL broadband? Even if you’re lucky enough to be in the small minority of those getting more than 10Mb from ADSL we all look jealously at the state of broadband in places like Hong Kong or Kansas City, where screaming-fast 1Gb internet links are available.
While we’re not quite at that point yet, there is a new generation of superfast broadband rolling out in the UK.
Fibre optic broadband is here and it’s now affordable and widespread enough to cover a large amount of the population in a comforting blanket of super-speed connectivity.
What is fibre optic broadband?
The majority of broadband in the UK currently uses the old copper telephone wires. While this is cheap and covers vast areas of the country it was never designed for this purpose so has a number of problems with speed and the degradation of the signal the further you are from an exchange.
Fibre broadband uses high-tech fibre optic cabling which transmits signals as light, allowing for far greater speeds than copper wiring without the exchange distance issues.
Because of this you will find with fibre optic broadband that when it says ‘40Mb download’ that is the speed you actually achieve (or very close to it), rather than the vague estimate of an ADSL connection.
FTTC vs FTTH
To complicate things a little more there are two different types of fibre optic connection available: fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the home (FTTH) which is sometimes also called fibre to the premises.
FTTC is the most common, and cheaper, option because it only uses fibre cables up to your nearest telephone cabinet (those green boxes you see by the side of the road). From there into your home it utilises the same copper cables as ADSL.
The downside of this is that speeds can be negatively affected by the condition and length of this cable, but it is much cheaper to install and those savings are passed onto you.
Right now the vast majority of fibre optic broadband areas are served by FTTC.
There is a push to expand FTTH however, as this is vastly superior. As you’ve probably guessed FTTH eliminates that last stretch of copper and brings the fibre link right into your home. That makes it far more expensive to install but allows for vastly improved speeds, in the region of 1Gb and beyond.
Some providers are offering FTTH in the UK, though coverage remains very limited. BT has been trialling it in a few areas but most of the work here is being done by small local companies which serve a specific town or city.
Fibre optic broadband providers
When it comes to fibre optic broadband more UK providers are gradually starting to offer this alongside their standard ADSL products. TalkTalk, Sky, EE, PlusNet, John Lewis broadband and Eclipse all now supply fibre optic to their customers.
Prices are higher for fibre than than the ADSL options of course, but then you’re benefiting from much higher speeds. If you need the cheapest broadband possible you should consider a standard ADSL broadband internet instead as cheap is not really a feature of fibre optic broadband right now.
Like the telephone service, BT owns the fibre optic lines and allows the other companies to resell access. It’s also currently the major fibre ISP with its popular BT Infinity service.
But we shouldn’t forget Virgin Media either. Cable internet does use fibre optic cables and is therefore able to offers speeds of up to 120Mb, however Virgin owns its network and does not allow others to use this, so we tend to talk about cable and fibre optic internet as two separate things even though the core technology is the same.
Virgin Media is not as widespread as the BT fibre optic network, so while those in major towns and cities could have both options, and should include it in their comparison, there are many areas where BT fibre optic is the only choice for superfast broadband.
Fibre optic broadband in my area?
The big question is...can you get fibre broadband in your area?
It’s easy to find this out by visiting our fibre optic broadband provider page and tapping in your postcode. We’ll then display all the available services using our postcode checker tool, along with all the b est broadband deals and offers and reviews from other users so you can compare the options before you buy.
Fibre optic broadband now covers more than 60% of the UK population and availability is growing all the time. BT regularly adds new exchanges to its fibre network so if you can’t get it now there’s a good chance you will be able to very shortly.
Unfortunately the more remote areas of the country are unlikely to have fibre broadband any time soon. There is a government initiative to ensure everyone can get access to at least 2Mb broadband but if you live in a small country village it could be sometime before you see the kinds of speeds found in larger towns. Due to the cost involved fibre optic broadband areas will naturally encompass those places where communication firms can make the most profit.