Are you looking for a new broadband package and interested in a high-speed connection? If so, you might have stumbled across acronyms such as FTTP and FTTC during your search. But what do they mean, and what relevance do these terms have to fibre broadband?
In this guide, we'll explain what you need to know about FTTP and FTTC, what they mean for your broadband speed and how to get an FTTC or FTTP broadband deal.
What is FTTP?
Fibre to the Premises (FTTP, or FTTH - Fibre to the Home) is a superfast broadband solution.
Fibre to the Premises means that the fibre broadband internet connection from the local exchange is connected to the router in your home, which is much faster than the old copper telephone line used by many other broadband services.
The result is you can enjoy very high speeds of 1Gbps (gigabits per second) or more. Though FTTP can also deliver lower speeds which is useful if very fast fibre is beyond your budget, or not required, but might be something you'll use later.
What is FTTC?
Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) is an alternative technology that provides slower broadband speeds compared to FTTP.
The reason FTTC is slower than FTTP is that the fibre cables from the local exchange (or data centre) stop at the street cabinet. From here, traditional copper cabling is used to pipe the data to your router.
You may have noticed the installation of the new local cabinets, and the laying of cabling to them, over the past few years. These cabinets route data to your home, for voice and internet, via existing copper telephone wires.
FTTC is widely available on the Openreach (BT phone line) network, so most fibre optic broadband deals you'll find right now are using this technology.
Virgin Media fibre is a similar technology called Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC), which uses coaxial cables to reach our homes instead of copper telephone lines. These are capable of delivering faster speeds, alongside telephone and TV services.
Using Virgin, you can currently get a maximum broadband speed averaging 518Mbps; extremely fast compared to the average of around 65Mbps you'll get on an FTTC broadband service, which is what almost every other ISP uses.
Openreach is deploying a faster FTTC technology known as G.fast which can offer speeds of more than 300Mbps, but availability is currently limited, and fewer homes will be able to receive a G.fast service compared to existing FTTC broadband as you must live within a minimum distance from the exchange for the technology to work.
FTTP vs FTTC
Which is the best broadband between FTTP and FTTC?
- Very fast broadband - up to 1Gbps download speed, with capacity to go even faster.
- Much faster upload speeds, often the same speed for both download and upload.
- Despite the fast speeds, it is surprisingly affordable.
- Slower speeds available at a lower price.
- Doesn't require phone line rental.
- Availability is currently very limited.
- If you won't benefit from the speed then standard ADSL and fibre are probably cheaper.
- Excellent coverage - more than 90% of premises can get some kind of FTTC service.
- Reasonably good download speeds that are usually sufficient for typical home use.
- Very affordable - FTTC broadband deals are available from under £30 per month.
- Openreach FTTC uses existing telephone lines so engineering work is not usually required.
- Top speeds pale in comparison to FTTP.
- Upload speeds are limited.
- Speed impacted by the length of the copper line from the cabinet.
Do you need FTTP or FTTC?
If you're looking for a faster internet connection, you're probably best served by either FTTP or FTTC. But which one?
For typical domestic users, the heaviest usage is likely to come from streaming video, downloading files or playing games. But in many cases, we just want to enjoy a spot of web browsing, social media and email. If you fall into the latter category then you don't necessarily need FTTP or FTTC. Instead, you can rely on a cheap ADSL connection.
But if you enjoy a nightly Netflix movie or box set, frequently download (or upload) data, or are a gamer, then slower ADSL is less suitable. For these activities, you're best off with FTTC, FTTP, or an equivalent package from Virgin Media.
Another reason to get an FTTC or FTTP fibre-optic broadband connection would be for handling the demands of a busy shared or family home. Even if you're mainly using the connection for web browsing, you could find it gets very slow when everyone is connected at once. Throw in some Netflix, Spotify, online gaming and downloading and only fibre will be able to keep up.
ADSL is almost certainly unsuitable for most business uses, save for a one-person home office.
Businesses may have to support multiple employees all connected at once, might need to operate servers, and could be frequently transferring very large amounts of data.
Depending on your commercial requirements you might be able to use an FTTC or Virgin Media HFC business broadband service, for which you'll find an extensive choice of very affordable business broadband deals. But businesses operating across multiple sites, requiring remote file access, video conferencing, and other online collaboration and training tools, will benefit from FTTP or specialist business broadband leased lines.
Who provides FTTP and FTTC broadband?
FTTP broadband, while not as common as FTTC, is available from numerous providers including:
Hyperoptic runs its own FTTP network which offers speeds up to 1Gb, though slower (and cheaper) speeds are also available. Coverage is fairly limited in comparison to other providers, but it is excellent value for money if you can get it. It's currently available mainly in larger towns and cities and is often installed in new-build flats.
BT has the largest FTTP network, with around 900,000 premises covered by fibre broadband up to 1Gb. It plans to expand to cover three million premises by 2020.
UFO (Sky & TalkTalk)
For areas limited to FTTC broadband, you have a choice between the Openreach and Virgin Media networks.
Recent upgrades to the Virgin Media network to compete with FTTP have resulted in higher speeds. The lowest you can expect from Virgin Media is around 50Mbps for under £30 per month, up to a rapid 518Mbps which starts at around £50 per month.
Other fibre optic providers (such as Sky, TalkTalk, EE, Post Office, Plusnet, and countless others) use the Openreach network. More than 90% of premises now have access to FTTC broadband using a regular telephone line.
FTTC and FTTP availability
FTTC is the most widely-available high-speed broadband service in the UK, with 95% coverage for speeds of 30Mb+. This is including the Virgin Media network, which by itself covers around 65% of premises.
FTTP is far more limited, with only about 3% of premises having access to an FTTP service. While Openreach has a goal of delivering FTTP to 10 million premises by 2025, it's going to be years before FTTP can attain the same level of coverage as FTTC. In the meantime, Openreach is using G.fast technology to provide higher speeds on copper connections.
Can I get FTTP?
To find out if you can get high-speed fibre broadband via FTTP, use an FTTP checking tool. You'll find these on an ISP's website to let you quickly check if FTTP has been rolled out to your area. If not, FTTC is probably the best alternative (unless you live in rural areas).
As the providers of the FTTP infrastructure, Openreach offers a comprehensive FTTP checker. Input your postcode and select your address, and the checker will display FTTP-based broadband options.
Can I get FTTC?
Checking tools can also display the availability of FTTC broadband. You can use Broadband Genie's own postcode check tool right now to see if fibre broadband is available in your area:
Broadband Genie postcode checker
You'll also find a postcode search on any of our broadband deal pages.