Nowadays, being connected to the internet is no longer considered a luxury or a “nice to have” – instead, it’s seen as an essential service, much like other important utilities such as water, electricity, and gas. The modern family uses the internet in a variety of ways, from enjoying streaming TV and music, and gaming online, through to using it to work and study at home. Many households also rely on smart devices such as speakers, central heating, lights, doorbells, even kitchen appliances such as refrigerators, which all make use of a wireless internet connection.
The important role that the internet now plays in our lives means that having a fast, reliable service is more vital than ever before. For many people, this means choosing a full fibre broadband connection. Read on to learn more about this high performance form of internet connection.
When the internet was first rolled out into our homes, offices, and places of study, it was delivered through the landline telephone network, and was known as a dial-up connection. If you were using the internet back at the turn of the 21st century, you may remember the familiar sounds of the dial-up connection slowly being made. Broadband, which began to gradually grow in popularity from the early 2000s onwards, was a big improvement over this service: it was faster, both for browsing the web, and for downloading documents, music, and other content. This meant that activities such as online teleconferencing and real-time gaming became viable, as well as enabling the creation of virtual private networks (VPN), which were a major benefit in ensuring online security.
The original broadband internet services were delivered via several methods, one of the most popular being a technology known as ADSL, or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. In simple terms, this meant that the internet connection was made through the use of copper wiring, as used by telephone networks. This meant that it was essential to have a landline connection in order to be able to access broadband internet services. However, a key advantage of broadband using ADSL over dial-up internet connectivity was the ability to make telephone calls whilst simultaneously accessing the internet.
Yet whilst ADSL broadband was a great leap forward for internet access, it was soon to be replaced by fibre broadband. The name fibre broadband was attributable to the use of fibre optic cabling, also known as optical fibre, which replaced the copper wires that had been used to deliver the data before. This fibre cabling is much more efficient at transmitting the data along the network, and uses pulses of infra-red light to do so. Using fibre optic cabling offers significant advantages over the old copper wiring, including faster download and upload speeds and greater reliability.
With fibre broadband, the fibre optic cabling network ends at the nearest street cabinet. The final leg of the journey (from the street cabinet to your home) sees your internet data transmitted via the old copper telephone wire. This kind of broadband connection is also known as fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC). Of course, this means that the same problems caused by the use of copper wire can arise. The result is that the fastest, highest performing, standards of broadband are simply not achievable with this kind of internet connection. And the impact of even this short amount of copper cabling can be significant, meaning that a home located close to the street cabinet will be likely to enjoy a far superior internet service than their neighbours who are located a number of doors further down the road.
The use of this last stretch of copper cabling means that fibre broadband is really only “mostly fibre broadband”, or “partial fibre broadband” So, the newest connections, which use a fibre optic cable connecting right to the home, has become known as “full fibre broadband”, thereby distinguishing it from the earlier fibre broadband. Full fibre broadband is also known as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) or fibre-to-the-home, for this reason.
Another benefit of full fibre broadband is that it does not require you to have a landline connection, so there is no need to pay for a telephone line as well as your internet service.
In practical terms, having a full fibre connection means being able to access the very fastest upload and download speeds. To understand this, it’s important to know how broadband is classified. The slowest speeds are achieved by an ADSL broadband connection, which average download speeds of around 10-11 Mbps. This is termed Standard broadband. Next fastest is Superfast broadband, for the average download speeds can range from 30 Mbps up to 300 Mbps. The UK average speed is within this category, with the industry regulator Ofcom finding it to be 79.1 Mbps in 2021 . Finally, there is Ultrafast broadband, with which average download speeds can be between 300 Mbps up to 1000 Mbps. Ultrafast broadband that is able to deliver average download speeds of 1000 Mbps is also known as Gigabit broadband, and a full fibre broadband connection is required for this top performing internet access.
So how is full fibre able to achieve such fast speeds? As well as the improved transmissibility of fibre optic cabling over copper wires, accessing the internet via a full fibre connection is a much simpler process. With a full fibre broadband connection, the information you request is received by your internet provider at its broadband exchange, then transmitted via the fibre optic cable network right into your home. Your wi-fi router then transmits this data to your device. This simple approach also means that future improvements to broadband delivery will be easy to achieve.
If you are considered a “light” internet user, who simply goes online to check emails, or carry out routine tasks, then there won’t be much need for you to pay for the fastest speeds of fibre broadband. If you are a medium user, who enjoys using social media, reading content or streaming movies or music, then Superfast broadband may be a better choice, especially if you share a home with similar internet users. Those who are particularly heavy users (online gamers, or sharing large work files regularly) may like to ensure that they are receiving a connection speed towards the higher end of Superfast, or preferably Ultrafast speeds, particularly if there are others in the home who are also likely to be placing a large demand on the service.
You may have heard about the UK government’s plans to upgrade the nation’s access to broadband. The UK government has recognised the power of full fibre broadband connectivity, and has launched a plan to roll out this standard of broadband access to the whole of the country. The recent coronavirus pandemic exposed the need for a fast, reliable internet service as a means of ensuring the continuity of business and education, and the government believes that committing to an upgrade of the current internet infrastructure will help protect the country in future, too, and help us to become a “world-leading digital economy” .
After all, some of the copper telephone wiring that is currently being used to deliver broadband services is already over a hundred years old. Another benefit of this network upgrade will be an improved choice of broadband providers, with Ofcom expecting that 70% of UK homes will be able to choose from a variety of companies. BT full fibre broadband company Openreach, meanwhile, has promised to deliver full fibre broadband access to 10% of the nation’s most rural locations, which adds up to around 3.2 million properties.
Right now, almost a quarter of UK homes can access FTTH or full fibre broadband , and, of course, this figure is on the rise as improvements to the nation’s internet infrastructure continue. As a general rule of thumb, those living in urban areas are more likely to be able to access a full fibre connection than those who reside in the most remote rural areas.
If you want to find out whether your home is in an area where fibre-to-the-premises broadband is possible, then you can visit one of the many online checkers available, which simply require your postcode to tell you whether you can get full fibre at your address. You can find such checkers on the website of the main full fibre broadband providers, as well as other details of their service, along with any perks. For example, when it comes to full fibre broadband EE promises an Ultrafast Gigabit connection, with enough power to connect 100 devices in your home at once. EE full fibre broadband also comes with offers such as discounts on your broadband bill and free XBox Game Passes.
If you live in an area that offers full fibre broadband connection, you could well be tempted to get it installed for your home. There are also bundles which combine full fibre broadband services with other subscriptions, such as TV and mobile phone contracts, which can work out as good value if you require these additions.
Yet before you sign up to a new service, it’s important to be sure that doing so would really be the right choice for your household. Right now, having a full fibre broadband service is still significantly more expensive than standard fibre broadband, and, of course, this cost will need to be met over the duration of your contract period. A smart way to find out whether you can meet the ongoing cost of full fibre broadband is to take an affordability check. There are many free affordability calculator tools available online, such as this budget checker at the UK Citizen’s Advice website , which can also offer useful tips on other areas where you could be able to make savings each month.
Furthermore, unless you live in a very large household that places a great demand on your broadband service, need ultra-fast connection for work, or love online gaming, you may not really need to access full fibre broadband right now. Take a look at your current broadband internet speed by using a free online tool (available from all of the major broadband providers) and you may be pleasantly surprised by the service that you already receive. After all, the current fibre network is able to deliver superfast broadband speeds to 96% of UK homes , which is more than ample for the majority of people. And, with the government’s plans to roll out full fibre access to all of us over the next few years, it shouldn’t be too long to wait before the prices start to fall.
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