What is fibre optic broadband?

What exactly is fibre optic broadband and why should you want it more than your existing connection to the internet? The term fibre optic actually refers to the cables through which the service is delivered – which are made of glass or plastic. These materials are conducive to fast movement of data along their entire length. The cables are also stored underground which requires extensive an ongoing work in digging up the nation's roads.

By contrast, traditional ADSL broadband runs through copper telephone wires which are sometimes overhead. Through copper wires, the broadband speed is lost quickly. This is why ADSL broadband customers will experience different broadband speeds depending on how far their home is from the exchange. By contrast, fibre optic broadband customers will lose less speed over long distances and this makes it the perfect option for those looking for super-fast broadband.

Should I get fibre optic broadband?

So is this kind of cable broadband the right kind of service for you? 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.

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, or you even work from home and require your connection to be 100% quick and reliable, you will need fast upload and download speeds that are only available through fibre optic broadband.

For example, 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. 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.

Can I get fibre optic broadband?

Once you have decided that fibre optic broadband is right for you, getting it installed might not be as straightforward. Not all areas of the UK are serviced yet with fibre optic broadband wires – especially small towns and villages in the countryside. There are broadband postcode checkers online that will show you what services are available in your area.

If you find that Fibre optic broadband is not yet available in your area, it can be frustrating as there is not much you can do about it. However, the good news 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 millions 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.

Advantages and disadvantages of fibre optic broadband

Fibre optic broadband is 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.

Fibre optics also provides an extremely secure transmission medium in terms of security as it is very difficult to 'listen in' or monitor any information that is being exchanged along the cables. Although of course, this doesn't negate the need for full security software on your PC.

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. However, as this type of broadband communication becomes more common, thankfully these costs are dropping. For more information, read our fibre optic broadband guide.

Fibre Optic Broadband

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How to understand your usage

Your broadband usage, measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB), can be a puzzling subject to fully understand. It's not easy to be truly accurate with how much broadband you're consuming on a monthly basis.

That's why we've cut through the technical jargon by creating three different types of broadband user. Simply match your activities to one of the user types below:

Light users A single user, or perhaps there's two of you, who like to browse the internet, send emails and maybe download a few songs during the evenings and at weekends.
Look for

Packages with 2GB of use or more

Medium users Perhaps you're a small family, or a couple who like to watch iPlayer or catch-up TV a few times a week, on top of the usual website browsing, email sending and occasional Skype calls.
Look for

Packages with 20GB or more

Heavy users You're either a large family or shared household. You like to stream TV or Netflix, perhaps play some online video games and generally enjoy living in a connected world.
Look for

Packages with unlimited usage

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How to understand the different broadband speeds

There are three different types of broadband speeds that are available to you when you take out a new deal. These are ADSL, fibre and superfast fibre.

ADSL

ADSL is broadband that's delivered into your house via a telephone line and used by the majority of households in Britain.

These deals offer speeds of up to 16 megabits per second (Mb). ADSL broadband is generally fast enough for you to stream television without too much buffering or pausing and certainly fast enough for day-to-day internet browsing and emailing.

Fibre

Using fibre optic cables to transfer data, you can achieve speeds of up to 38Mb with a fibre broadband connection.

You will happily watch live TV and play online video games with a fibre broadband connection offering minimal delays or lags.

Superfast fibre

Superfast refers to fibre optic broadband connections with speeds over 38Mb.

You may opt for a superfast fibre broadband connection if you require large downloads delivered to you quickly, or were a regular player of online video games that needed a faster than average connection in order to play seamlessly.

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Provider
Offer
Package
Speed
Usage
Monthly
 
BT Total Broadband BT Infinity Extra Up to 38 Mb per second 40 GB £8 Per month + £11.75 line rental Go to site
Online exclusive: £50 Sainsbury's card. 6m half price, then £16 a month.

Package costs

Monthly £16.00
Setup £36.95
Offer  £50 Sainsbury's card. 6m half price, then £16 a month.
1st year cost £180.95
Monthly line rental £11.75
1st year inc. line rental £321.95
Contract length 18 months
Line rental requires payment of 12 months upfront by a single debit card payment, otherwise charged at £15.99 per month.
 
Virgin Media Up to 50Mb broadband on its own Up to 50 Mb per second Unlimited £20 Per month Go to site
Click to call
Offer: £5 off for 3 months. £20 a month for 3m, then £25.

Package costs

Monthly £25.00
Setup £49.95
Offer  £5 off for 3 months. £20 a month for 3m, then £25.
1st year cost £334.95
Contract length 12 months
 
TalkTalk Fibre with SimplyBroadband Up to 38 Mb per second Unlimited £13.50 Per month + £11.75 line rental Go to site
Click to call
 

Package costs

Monthly £13.50
Setup £30.00
1st year cost £192.00
Monthly line rental £11.75
1st year inc. line rental £333.00
Contract length 18 months
Line rental requires payment of 12 months upfront by a single debit card payment, otherwise charged at £15.95 per month.
 
EE Unlimited Fibre 38mbps and weekend calls Up to 38 Mb per second Unlimited £8 Per month + £11 line rental Go to site
Click to call
Offer: Only available to EE, Orange or T-Mobile customers. 6m half price, then £16 a month. Ends 30th Apr.

Package costs

Monthly £16.00
Setup £31.00
Offer  Only available to EE, Orange or T-Mobile customers. 6m half price, then £16 a month.
1st year cost £175.00
Monthly line rental £11.00
1st year inc. line rental £307.00
Contract length 18 months
Line rental requires payment of 12 months upfront by a single debit card payment, otherwise charged at £15.40 per month.
 
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre with Line Rental Saver Up to 76 Mb per second Unlimited £19.99 Per month + £10.99 line rental Go to site
Click to call
Online exclusive: Pay for 12 months line rental in advance for £131.88.

Package costs

Monthly £19.99
Setup £5.99
Offer  Pay for 12 months line rental in advance for £131.88.
1st year cost £245.87
Monthly line rental £10.99
1st year inc. line rental £377.75
Contract length 18 months
Line rental requires payment of 12 months upfront by a single debit card payment, otherwise charged at £14.50 per month.
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