Fibre Optic Broadband

Even those who most resisted the arrival of the World Wide Web have now more or less accepted that it’s here to stay – and more than this, they have even it installed in their own homes.

Initially, this was achieved by simply unplugging the home telephone and plugging in the internet cable instead. But even for the most traditional among us, the days of dial-up to access your broadband – which meant forfeiting the landline when you were ‘surfing the World Wide Web’ – are long gone.

Since then, one household after another has decided to opt for a broadband connection which not only freed up their telephone, but gave them constant access to the World Wide Web in return for a set monthly fee. Not only was this approach much more reliable, but it was more convenient too. This of course, was known as broadband.

But here we are in 2012 and it’s increasingly the case that not even a standard fixed broadband connection to the internet from your home is adequate. Along with yesterday’s dial-up connection, this is fast becoming old news too.

What is fibre optic broadband?

The term fibre optic actually refers to the cables through which the service is delivered. These are made of glass or plastic. Materials like glass and plastic lend themselves very well to fast movement of data along their entire length. The cables are also stored underground which requires extensive and ongoing work in digging up the roads up and down the country, from towns and cities and – increasingly – even to small country villages.

These new-fangled fibre optic cables are different to ADSL. That kind of broadband ran through copper telephone wires which can either be underground or sometimes overhead. Through these ADSL copper wires, the broadband speed is lost quickly. And this is why ADSL broadband customers will experience different broadband speeds depending on how far their home is from the exchange.

By contrast, those with a broadband connection that is serviced by fibre optic broadband will lose less speed over long distances. This makes it the perfect option for those looking for super-fast connections.

Different fibre optic broadband types

Even though fibre optic broadband is generally faster than ADSL broadband, there are different bands of speed. This depends on if all of the cables which connect your home to the telephone exchange are fibre optic.

FTTC means ‘fibre-to-the-cabinet’, (also known as fibre-to-the-kerb). The cabinet is the box where the wires from your house are connected to in your street, usually a large green box. The cabinet then connects to the telephone exchange via different cables. If you have a FTTC connection this means that the cables from your house to the cabinet will be standard copper broadband cables, then the cables to the telephone exchange will be fibre optic; made from glass or plastic. This will ensure that the data is sent to your house faster via the telephone exchange to the cabinet, but not from the cabinet to your house.

FTTH means ‘fibre-to-the-house’, which means that the whole expanse of cables that you use to receive data from the telephone exchange to your home is all made of copper. This is the fastest type of fibre optic broadband as all of the cable used is either glass or plastic.

Is fibre optic broadband right for me?

Now you know about the process of how we got to fibre optic broadband and what it is, the next question to ask yourself is if it’s the right kind of service for you. And the answer to this really depends on how you use the internet.

If you just hop online from time to time to check your emails and download some holiday snaps, fibre broadband probably won’t be necessary. It is more expensive than ADSL and you won’t be taking full advantage of what it offers.

However, if you watch TV and films that are streamed through the internet, are a heavy video game user and play online with other gamers and require your connection to be 100% quick and reliable, you will need fast upload and download speeds – and these are only available through the more sophisticated fibre optic broadband.

It might also be that you have your own business and need a fast and reliable internet connection which fibre optic broadband would be best served to offer.

Is it possible to get fibre optic broadband in my area?

You may think that, these days, so long as you are prepared to pay for it, you can get whatever you want on a plate. But when it comes to getting fibre optic broadband installed, this might not be the case.

As a matter of fact, not all areas of the UK are serviced yet with fibre optic broadband wires – and, as you would expect, the ones who miss out the most tend to be small towns and villages in the countryside.

It can be frustrating to discover that fibre optic broadband is not yet available in your area – especially if you want to work from home – but the truth is that currently, there is not much you can do about it. The good news however is, it will soon be readily available in every part of the UK rather than just confined to its major towns and cities.

If it is fibre optic broadband is available – as is still the case with the majority of UK households – you will need to shop around online and see what’s available in terms of upload and download speeds as well as maximum usage and compare costs.

Remember too that, just like with ADSL, bundles which incorporate fibre optic broadband are available. So – providing the bundle works for you – this means you can buy your desired fibre optic broadband economically. Our Broadband Comparison tool at MoneySupermarket will show you all the packages on offer in your area, of fibre optic or regular broadband, so you can see the best value deals available to you.

How fast is fibre optic broadband exactly?

The short answer, as we have already mentioned in this guide, fibre optic is up to six times faster than ADSL traditional broadband. But if you want more details, downstream speeds of up to 100Mbps are available through packages like BT’s Broadband Infinity, with upstream speeds of up to 15Mbps and unlimited usage.

Whatever speed is advertised though, unfair as it may seem, this might not apply to you if you live in an area of the country that is not well serviced by fibre optic broadband.

But, in any case, it’s important to compare all fibre optic broadband deals and shop around though so you can see exactly what’s included and for what monthly fee. The good news is, you can do your research on this easily first, by conducting a speed test with

Which providers offer fibre optic broadband?

Currently Virgin and BT offer fibre optic broadband deals but other providers snapping at their heels. Offerings such as down and upload speeds, usage and bundles will vary so have a scout around and compare deals and monthly prices at our comparison channel at MoneySupermarket.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of fibre optic broadband?

So once you are rigged up with your fibre optic broadband, what can you expect?

There are mainly plus sides. For example, fibre optic broadband is really great for speed and capacity. It is also more reliable than ASDL broadband and when bandwidths increase, it’s easy to accommodate so you can benefit from a faster service without taking action or encountering any disruption.

This kind of fibre cable also provides an exceptionally secure transmission medium in terms of security as it is very difficult to ‘listen in’ or monitor any information that is being exchanged. Although of course, this doesn’t negate the need for full security software on your PC or Mac.

But there are some disadvantages too of fibre optic broadband too. The materials the cables comprise of can be susceptible to weather and wildlife damage. Installing fibre optic cables is also still often costly as well as disruptive – it will take a team some hours to fit into your home.

However, as this type of broadband communication becomes more common, thankfully at least costs are starting to fall. And this should get better and better as more broadband providers join in the fibre optic camp. Watch this space!

Compare fibre optic broadband with our comparison tool.

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