Before we get to how it works, there’s one key benefit with fibre internet connections. They’re a lot faster than conventional broadband. Download speeds are up to 40Mbps in many areas (that’s many times faster than basic broadband) and some lucky customers can even get 100Mbps – that’s tens of times faster than the broadband you probably have already.
Virgin cable customers can get high speeds already, but now BT Infinity is rolling out in more areas (check your availability at www.bt.com/infinity). But it’s not just BT who are providing fibre through traditional phone lines either – Plusnet, TalkTalk and Eclipse are among the other providers offering packages.
So whether you have cable or any kind of BT line (or a normal phone line through a provider such as TalkTalk) you can now get fibre broadband – though be warned that you may have to pay a connection fee to switch between some providers.
How does it work?
Fibre optic cables are each smaller than a strand of human hair and can carry huge amounts of information over long distances. Fibre through a traditional copper phone line uses a technology called FTTC – or Fibre to the Cabinet. This essentially means that there’s a fibre cable connection to the telephone cabinet in your street or area – usually these are green boxes that have recently been upgraded for the new fibre networks. From the cabinet to your house, the system uses your standard phone line. Virgin Media’s system uses coaxial cable to bring broadband into your home.
One of the main advantages of fibre broadband is that it doesn’t get slower the further you are from your exchange (unlike standard ADSL broadband through the phone line). Another key advantage is that uploads are quicker too – while they’re still slow compared to download speeds, you’ll get far quicker speeds (often several times faster than with your existing ADSL broadband) so those videos will whizz to YouTube that much faster!
As ever, you’ll need to take the speed you’re told you’ll get with a pinch of salt – it’s very unlikely it will exactly match – but the speed you’re told will be more accurate than with ADSL. Remember to check it yourself when you get connected with a service such as speedtest.net.
BT hopes to bring fibre broadband to two-thirds of the UK by the end of 2014 – inevitably larger towns and cities have been upgraded first. The Government has also pledged funds to enable more remote areas to get fibre connections, while BT is also investing heavily – to the tune of over £2.5 billion.
The best thing is that speeds will continue to increase. Virgin has trialled a 200Mbps service, for example and there’s much more to come – the future of broadband is definitely fibre.