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Fibre Optic Broadband: A Buyers Guide

Fibre optic broadband has become very popular and can offer speeds that simply seemed unimaginable five years ago. It is currently the fastest way to get Internet access in the UK.

In this guide we talk you through what fibre optic broadband is, what it can offer and whether or its right for you.

What is it?

It’s not really that different from other types of broadband currently available, the only difference is fibre optic broadband is delivered via fibre optic cables instead of traditional copper phone lines. However there is a big difference in terms of speed, fibre optic broadband is easily the fastest way to connect to the internet.

Types of Fibre Optic Broadband

Currently there are two different ways of supplying fibre optic broadband to a household they are:

Fibre to the premises (FTTP): This method requires a fibre optic cable to be routed all the way inside your house and be connected to a fibre optic router. This type of fibre optic broadband is actually quite rare at present, and is really only available in a very select number of areas. Because this method requires the fibre optic cables come directly into your house it means you’ll never have to worry about losing speed or performance; and some providers of FTTP can offer speeds of up to 1Gbps.

Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC): Sounds a little strange, but this method is where the fibre optic cable for whatever reason can’t be delivered directly into a property. Instead the cable is installed in your local street cabinet – those green boxes with ‘fibre broadband is here’ written on them dotted about the UK. Between the cabinet and your house the broadband supply will come through the old BT copper telephone wires – or if you’re a Virgin customer coaxial cables. As the last little bit isn’t actually fibre optic you can will suffer losses in performance and speed. And the highest speeds you can receive won’t match what FTTP can offer, but FTTC should still be good for 100Mbps. This is the more common option of the two fibre optic offering and if you do have fibre broadband it’s highly likely you’ll be using FTTC.

Coverage

Being a relatively new technology, much like 4G mobile broadband, fibre optic broadband isn’t currently ubiquitous. At present around 70% of the country can has access to either FTTP or FTTC (in the majority of cases it will be FTTC). If you live in a major city of town then you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be able to access fibre optic broadband, unfortunately the more rural and remote areas of the UK are not yet covered. If you’re unsure if fibre optic broadband is available to you use a postcode checker. These are available on the websites of all the major providers and by tapping in your postcode you can see if your area is covered.

Do I need it?

This depends on a couple of factors, how often you’re online, how many people in your house are accessing the web at any one time and how much do you can afford to spend on broadband each month. If you have a large family and they’re all constantly accessing the internet via one device or another, then fibre optic broadband really does make sense. If however, you or your family use the internet every now and then, for example, checking emails or posting a Facebook update then fibre optic broadband really isn’t necessary and you’ll be paying for something you don’t really need.

Compare Providers

There are several different companies who offer fibre optic broadband so the best way to separate all their deals and see which one is right for you is to use a comparison website. They let you search through what’s available based on what you need and should help you come to a decision about which provider to go with. A good tip with comparison sites is to check more than one as they sometimes don’t always have all the offers currently available so you could be missing out.

Drawbacks

While fibre optic broadband is a huge step forward it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Firstly it is the most expensive type of broadband currently available; the price has been coming down since it first hit the market and will continue to do so as it becomes more readily available, but at present it is much more expensive than other types of broadband. You can save money on fibre optic broadband by bundling your TV and phone service in with your broadband package.

As previously mentioned fibre optic broadband isn’t yet available to everyone, but even if you’re area is covered installation can be an issue. Laying fibre optic cables is quite a tricky task and takes much longer than installing a standard broadband connection. This is largely because the BT copper cables have to be replaced, and it means installation can take hours rather than minutes.

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