Is fibre broadband really fibre?

25th January 2017

It is very easy to be confused by technology and for most end users the latest broadband trend is not helping. You will probably have seen all the advertising by Broadband companies offering their latest and greatest fibre broadband products but what do you really get?

For those that don't already know, fibre optic cable is usually a very thin glass cable coated in plastic that carries light along its length. A single strand of fibre can carry many thousands of Megabits per second over very long distances. Telecommunication companies and internet service providers have been using fibre optic cable for many years but its use has grown massively in recent years due to the falling costs of the technology.

Ideally all businesses and homes would have fibre connectivity. Real fibre connectivity would mean that you could currently have internet speeds of hundreds or thousands of Megabits per second or more to your premises. The reason why this doesn't usually happen is that these fibre optic cables have to be dug into the ground from the telephone company all the way to your home or business premises.

The cabled solution that is generally available to you is what is called FTTC or Fibre To The Cabinet. FTTC is a hybrid solution where the telephone company installs fibre optic cable to the boxes you see on the roadside which then connects to some network equipment and converts the light passing down the fibre cable to an electrical signal which is then passed down your old copper telephone wires and eventually enters your house to your socket on the wall. You then have a small piece of network equipment which converts this into something your computer or other device can understand.

As you can imagine, the costs of real fibre are much higher than the cost of FTTC. An average FTTC connection is between £15 and £50 pounds per month and usually does not have an installation charge. The cost of a real fibre circuit can be anywhere from a couple of hundred pounds up to thousands of pounds per month and can cost tens of thousands of pounds to install.

The difference in performance between the two technologies is massive. FTTC usually offers download speeds up to 80 Megabits per second with a much slower upload speed, some companies claim higher speeds. Normally these speeds are not guaranteed and do vary at different times of the day. A real fibre connection on the other hand can offer much higher speeds, many times what can be offered by FTTC and the upload speed would usually be the same as the download speed.

So, in our opinion, the answer to the question "Is fibre broadband really fibre?" is no.