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UK Broadband Improvements: high in fibre, low in availability (for now)

Broadband is getting broader (well, sort of). There’s a new kid in town called ‘Full Fibre’ service (also known as Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) or Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP)). It’s much faster, more reliable and uses newer technology.

So what exactly is ‘Full Fibre’ and how does it differ to normal broadband? In this blog, we take a look at the issues you might want to consider.

The Full Monty

Full Fibre is a broadband service delivered directly to your building on a fibre-optic cable – a type of glass wire through which light is shone (see here for more detail). Think about fibre-optic Christmas trees and you’re half way there. Currently only ~2% of the UK can get it, but this is growing. Traditional broadband is delivered through copper wires but these are slow, flimsy and prone to interference.

The difference that Full Fibre gives you is mainly in the speed of your internet. Speed is based on how quickly electronic signals are sent. Fibre-optic cables are incredibly fast at transmitting these signals when compared against traditional copper wires. Fibre-optic cables have less interference, operate at a higher frequency and keep the signal strength over much greater distances than copper. Higher frequency means you get greater bandwidth. Greater bandwidth means faster connection speeds.

But speed is affected by several technical and environmental issues – such as the number of customers using the service at the same time (typically peaking at 8-10pm most days). The busier the service, the slower the speed is.

It makes calculating the potential speed of Full Fibre internet very difficult. Most providers advertise Full Fibre speeds of somewhere between 150-300Mb download and 25-50Mb upload (find out more about what download and upload speeds are here). These figures are estimates based on the average download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time across the network. Because they are estimates, the speed you receive may be lower or higher than that listed above. And because Full Fibre is relatively new, there’s not much data to accurately estimate the speed you might get.

I can get Full Fibre in my area but will it look like Jodrell Bank if I go ahead? 

While a fibre-optic Christmas tree looks pretty, the reality of the aesthetics of Full Fibre internet is slightly underwhelming. A few flashing lights, yes… baubles and reindeer, no. Typically, the only difference you’ll physically see is the installation of a new white box called an Optical Network Termination point (ONT). Your router connects into this box. Nothing too extravagant – and you can of course add a token reindeer if you wish.

Fibre isn’t available in my area so what can I do?
If you to live in a community where even the standard Fibre – let alone ‘Full Fibre’ – is not available, there are a few options you might want to consider:

  • You can (as a community) work with OpenReach (BT) to get your area enabled (find out more at https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/community-fibre-partnerships). This can take some time and there may be costs involved, but it’s worth considering.
  • If the above doesn’t take your fancy, OpenReach are testing something called ‘G.fast’ which should deliver faster speeds over your existing copper-wire phone line. Look out for more information about G.fast in a future blog.
  • You may be able to get something called a “leased-line” service to achieve the Full Fibre experience. It’s expensive – usually starting at £200 a month – but if you need it and are prepared to pay for it, the option is usually available.
  • If none of these work for you, fret not. OpenReach are working hard to improve the UKs broadband infrastructure – so the situation should improve.

 

If you want to discuss Full Fibre with us, please do contact us.