If you want to enjoy the fastest, most reliable broadband internet connection at your home or workplace, then opting for fibre broadband should be your first choice. And if you were wondering just how this incredible technology comes to your computer or smart TV, read on to discover the facts in our guide.
First of all, it’s important to understand just what is meant by the term “fibre broadband”. Simply put, fibre broadband refers to the high speed internet that is delivered via a network of cables made from fibre optic materials. Whilst the older broadband internet was delivered by copper wiring, fibre optic broadband cabling is more effective at transmitting the data that makes up movies, TV, and websites.
The advantages of fibre optic over copper cabling come down to a number of key differences. Copper cabling transfers data via electrical signals along metal wires, which limits the amount of traffic to 40 Gbps (gigabits per second) and can carry a signal reliably over relatively short distances before it becomes distorted. By contrast, fibre optic cabling transfers data by sending pulses of light over flexible glass threads, which allows this cabling to deliver incredibly fast (theoretically able to achieve speeds of terabits per second) data over a much greater distance.
Furthermore, the data sent through fibre optic cabling is not affected by electromagnetic interference (EMI), which is a challenge for broadband delivered by copper wiring. Where there are a number of metal cables in close proximity to one another, interference commonly known as “cross talk” can occur, which means information may need to be resent and can also cause security risks.
And when it comes to size, fibre optic cabling wins out once again. Fibre optic cabling is approximately four times slimmer than its copper equivalent, meaning that it takes up less space.
In practical terms, you can expect a fibre broadband connection to deliver speeds of 3b Mbps to 1 Gbps, with the speed depending on a number of factors, such as the kind of connection you have. These types of connection fall under three main categories: fibre to the cabinet (FTTC), fibre to the premises (FTTP), and fibre to the node (FTTN).
Fibre to the cabinet, commonly referred to as Superfast broadband, is currently the most popular method of fibre broadband delivery and can provide speeds of around 30 to 70 Mbps. In this method of fibre delivery, fibre optic cabling is used to connect the internet provider’s broadband exchange location to a box on your street or local area. This box could be located up to 300m from your home or premises, and the rest of the connection is made via copper cabling. This kind of broadband connection requires that you have a phone line installed, as the phone network uses the same kind of copper wiring as the ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) broadband internet.
Fibre to the premises is the fastest form of broadband connection and involves the fibre optic cabling being run straight into your home or workplace. This cuts out any use of copper cabling, and means that you will be able to enjoy the fastest internet speeds of up to 1 Gbps. As this kind of broadband is entirely provided via fibre optic cabling, there is no need for a phone line to be installed. You will, however, need to be connected to this fibre optic network by a properly qualified engineer.
Meanwhile, fibre to the node connections are the slowest type of broadband connection available. In this kind of connection, copper wiring connects your home to a network point located at some distance from you – in some cases, this distance may be a number of miles away. This means that the greater use of copper wiring will slow internet delivery, and, as it is a similar method to FTTC, will mean that your home or work premises will also require a phone line to be connected.
The UK government has recognised the importance of delivering fibre broadband and is currently overseeing a rollout of this improved internet infrastructure across the country. These improvements are intended to eliminate the disadvantages faced by communities who cannot access high speed, reliable broadband. The rollout is being overseen by Ofcom, and carried out by BT’s Openreach division and Virgin Media, the UK’s two largest internet carriers.
The goal is that by 2025, 85% of UK homes will be able to enjoy the benefits of FTTP broadband, with its associated speeds of up to 1 Gbps. At present, the majority of UK residents can expect, on average, broadband speeds of around 151 Mbps, but this varies considerably between regions. Those in rural or remote areas are likely to receive poor quality, slower broadband. You can look up the speeds available in your area online, or run a speed test on your current connection.
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