What is fibre broadband and how does it work?

Find out more about fibre broadband and where you can get it.

Fibre broadband is a form of superfast broadband and is increasingly available from a range of broadband providers. As the name suggests, it uses fibre optic cables to transmit data at the speed of light for a faster, more reliable connection.

How does fibre optic broadband work?

Fibre optic broadband uses plastic or glass cables to transmit data to your home. This differs from the standard copper wires used in regular broadband connections. Each tube is about as thick as a human hair. Data travels as flashes of light through the tubes, bouncing off the reflective walls.

It’s super-fast compared to conventional copper wires. Other than the fibre installation, you won’t need any special equipment or software. Most fibre providers use BT Openreach’s network, including BT. Hyperoptic has its own lines. The cable provider Virgin Media uses fibre optic for all but the last mile between the exchange and your home, which is copper.

How fast is fibre broadband?

Fibre broadband is significantly faster than standard ADSL broadband. Packages vary according to the provider. Hyperoptic, for example, which has its own fibre optic network, claims to offer speeds from 30Mbps to 1Gbps.

BT similarly offers a range of packages with claimed speeds ranging from 35mbps (Superfast Fibre Essential) to 73Mbps (Superfast Fibre 2). Virgin Media has fibre packages ranging from 54Mbps to 362Mbps.

The actual speed you receive will depend on how far your home is from the local cabinet or telephone exchange. Many broadband providers will be able provide you an estimate of your minimum speed before you sign up.

How does fibre optic broadband get to my house?

There are two types of fibre, Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), sometimes known as Fibre to the Home. FTTC is what’s known as superfast broadband. This is where fibre optic cables run from the telephone exchange and the phone cabinet on your street. Copper cables then connect this cabinet to your home.

FTTP is ultrafast broadband and refers to where fibre optic cables run all the way from the telephone exchange to your home. This makes for much faster fibre broadband.

Where can I get fibre broadband?

Superfast broadband is available to 94% of UK homes and businesses as of 2018, according to the regulator Ofcom. There are a number of UK providers offering fibre broadband including BT, Hyperoptic, Plusnet, Now Broadband, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. Some websites, including BT’s, will tell you instantly if it’s available in your area.

Packages vary and you’ll find a range of claimed speeds, monthly prices and contract lengths available so, as always, it’s worth shopping around.

Do I need a phone line for fibre broadband?

Technically, you don’t need a phone line to get fibre-optic broadband. However, there aren’t many no-landline broadband packages available with fibre. Virgin Media is the only major provider to offer fibre broadband without line rental.

What are the pros and cons of fibre broadband?

Pros include that fibre optic cables transmit data much faster than copper ones. They are also resistant to interference and so have a lower bit error. They tend to corrode less. It’s relatively easy to install new fibre and the UK now boasts 94% coverage. Fibre is considered secure because the cables don’t radiate signals; this means it’s impossible to eavesdrop on the transmission passing through. A physical break leads to a total system failure making breaches easy to spot. As popularity is increasing, the cost is coming down. There are a few cons of fibre networks. Notably, because they’re smaller and lighter.

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