The world of internet connectivity is changing rapidly. For those of us Millenials who grew up in the nineties, the screeching of a dial-up connection is permanently seared into our collective memories.
Those days are long gone. Most of the UK can now benefit from the high-speed broadband connections brought by fibre optics. Here’s our complete guide to fibre optic broadband.
What is a fibre optic broadband connection?
Fibre optic broadband is a high-speed internet connection that uses optical fibres to send and receive data from the internet.
Openreach, Britain’s telecoms infrastructure provider, aims to roll out fibre optics to 25 million homes by December 2026.
Fibre optic broadband will dramatically increase the speed and reliability of internet connection that homes and businesses rely on. Take a look at the progress of ultrafast fibre broadband in your area with Openreach’s interactive tool.
How does fibre optic broadband work?
To best describe how fibre optic broadband works, it’s worth remembering what an internet connection actually is. Internet connections allow your devices to interact with the wider internet by sending and receiving data packets.
A fibre optic broadband connection uses fibre optic cables to transmit these packets of data. Here’s what a bundle of fibre optic cables looks like:
At the centre of the cable is a thin strand of glass, about the diameter of a human hair.
Fibre optic cables transmit packets of data using light signals. A laser sends data at one end of the cable as a series of flashes. Light from the laser travels along the cable by continually reflecting off the walls of the internal walls of the glass fibre.
Light travels really fast in glass (about 125 miles per second), making fibre optic cables the fastest type of broadband connection available in Britain.
What are the benefits of fibre optic broadband?
A fibre optic broadband connection provides a significant upgrade to an ADSL broadband connection. Here are the key benefits of fibre optic broadband:
Speed – fibre optic broadband is typically 10 or 20 times faster than a standard copper cable broadband connection. Fast internet allows high-definition streaming of Netflix, high-quality VoIP calls, and no lag when gaming. See details below on what speed you can expect from fibre optic broadband.
Consistent speed – ADSL connections relying on copper cables suffer from lower speeds at peak times when internet traffic in your area is high. Fibre optic lines don’t suffer from traffic jams providing consistent speed throughout the day.
Reliability – Fibre cables are more reliable than their copper counterparts. Fibre networks have significantly better signal durability than copper, meaning that the infrastructure is less reliant on electricity supply and, therefore, is unaffected by local power cuts.
Faster upload speeds – Traditional ADSL connections are asymmetric (it’s actually what the ‘A’ stands for), meaning that download speeds are significantly higher than upload speeds. Fibre optic cables work both ways equally.
Who provides a fibre optic broadband service?
Here’s a list of Openreach accredited fibre optic broadband providers:
List of British fibre optic broadband providers
- Andrews & Arnold
- Beaming (Business only)
- Cerberus Networks
- Claranet (Business only)
- Your Coop Broadband
- Daisy Communications (Business only)
- Digital Wholesale Solutions (Business only)
- EE (Home only)
- Cuckoo (Home only)
- FluidOne (Business only)
- Gamma (Business only)
- Gradwell (Business only)
- HighNet Telecoms (Business only)
- ID Net
- Internet Central
- LCC Communications
- Lily (Business only)
- Link Connect (Business only)
- OptaNet (Business only)
- Orbitalnet (Business only)
- Pine Media
- Sempervox (Business only)
- Sky (Home only)
- Spitfire (Business only)
- Stream Networks (Business only)
- Structured Communications
- SureVoIP (Business only)
- Utility Warehouse (Home only)
- Vfast (Home only)
- Wavenet (Business only)
What are the different types of fibre optic broadband?
Fibre to the Home (FTTH) – This is where a fibre optic cable runs directly to your home. FTTH is often advertised as Ultrafast Full Fibre Broadband.
Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) – This is where fibre optic cables run directly to a commercial property. FTTP is often advertised as Ultrafast Full Fibre Business Broadband.
Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) – This is where fibre optic cables only run as far as your local cabinet (usually in a green box on the street’s pavement). From the cabinet to your property, an FTTC connection will rely on copper cables, which significantly decreases speed.
Fibre to the node (FTTN) – This is where fibre optic cables only run as far as a local broadband node, which could be up to a few kilometres from your business property. The journey from the node to your property will use copper cables.
How fast is fibre optic broadband?
The speed of a fibre optic broadband connection depends on how far the fibre optic cables reach your property. Essentially, the less of the journey travelled in old-fashioned copper cables, the faster your connection will be.
In the case of FTTP or FTTH connections, the fibre optic cables reach right into your property, allowing the fastest broadband. The speed of FTTP or FTTH packages ranges from 50Mbps to 1,000 Mbps.
In the case of FTTC, where the fibre cable only reaches as far as a box in your street, the connection speed ranges from 30 to 80Mbps.
These are wide ranges because the broadband speed available to your property depends on numerous factors. Check out our complete guide to broadband speed.
It’s worth noting that even partial fibre optic, partial copper cable connections compare favourably to ADSL broadband that relies entirely on copper cables resulting in slower speeds of around 10Mbps.
This is because most of the data traffic jams on the copper cable network occur in the main lines where data from hundreds of homes converge into a single bundle of cables.
Fibre optic broadband jargon buster
The broadband market is composed of many different providers, all of which go to great lengths to advertise their broadband packages. This has resulted in confusing ways to describe a fibre optic broadband connection. Here’s a jargon buster to help interpret the language used:
Ultrafast full fibre broadband – Where a fibre optic cable runs all the way to your property. The formal names for this situation are Fibre to the Home (FTTH) or Fibre to the Premise (FTTP).
Full fibre – Another advertising term used by some broadband providers to describe FTTP (Fibre to the property) and FTTH (Fibre to the home) broadband connections.
Hyperoptic broadband – An alternative advertising term used by some broadband providers to describe FTTP (Fibre to the property) and FTTH (Fibre to the home) broadband connections.
Superfast fibre broadband – Where fibre optic cables run to the broadband cabinet on your street, but the connection to your house uses copper cables. The formal name for this situation is Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC).
GFast Fibre Broadband – Another advertised name for the situation where fibre optic cables run to the broadband cabinet on your street, but the connection to your house uses copper cables. The formal name for GFast Fibre Broadband is Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC).
Standard broadband – A term typically describing an ADSL connection, a basic broadband connection that only uses the copper cable network.
Fibre optic broadband – FAQs
Does my fibre optic cable require a phone line?
It depends on the types of fibre optic broadband.
FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet) and FTTN (Fibre to the node) connections require a phoneline because the connection relies on the copper phone line cable into your property.
FTTP (Fibre to the property) and FTTH (Fibre to the home) connections do not require a phone line.
Can I get fibre optic broadband?
Openreach provides a handy postcode finder tool to see if fibre infrastructure is ready in your area.