Written by
Sarah Johnson, Money Saving Evangelist
, 9 October 2017

Given how many adverts for fibre-optic broadband flood your television on a daily basis, you will have no doubt heard of this fast and reliable connectivity option. If you’re thinking of making the switch from a standard ADSL connection, it might be worth learning a little more about how it actually works, before confirming that it is actually available in your area.

What is fibre-optic broadband?

Fibre-optic broadband is a modern innovation that doesn’t use telephone lines to transmit data. The cables themselves are made from either glass or plastic, which won’t suffer from corrosion, unlike traditional copper can, and therefore transmits data faster and with fewer interruptions. Fibre-optic cables can also connect to your television, for a fully integrated home media package.

How does fibre-optic connect to a house?

The way fibre-optic connects to your home can vary greatly, depending on the type of connection you choose. The most common connections are:

  • FTTH. Fibre to the home is the least freely available type of fibre-optic connection and offers the fastest speeds because it runs directly into your home, without being interrupted by a connection to a telephone cabinet.
  • FTTB. Fibre to the building refers to large properties that have been split into smaller apartments or offices. The connection ends at the building, not individual spaces within, but still offers excellent connection speeds and reliability.
  • FTTC. Fibre to the cabinet is more widely available and sees fibre-optic cables connecting to on-street telephone cabinets, which then uses standard copper wires for the last part of the journey to your home. Decent speeds are generally enjoyed, as cabinets are not usually more than a few hundred metres from your home.
  • FTTN. Fibre to the node is similar to FTTC, but the cabinet can be miles away from your home, not mere metres, with copper wiring making up the shortfall. It will still, be quicker than ADSL connections.

What speeds can you expect from fibre-optic?

This is one of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ questions, but in general, fibre-optic broadband offers a minimum of around 30Mbps and some providers claim they can garner up to 1Gbps. Location will play a huge role in this, but if fibre-optic is available in your area, you can be guaranteed that it will be far quicker than ADSL connections, not to mention a lot more stable as well, making it ideal for more than just internet surfing.

What are the benefits of a faster broadband connection?

If your household frequently streams media, enjoys online gaming and downloading things such as music files, a faster broadband connection will allow you to do all of these with much less interruption.

What’s the availability of fibre-optic broadband in the UK?

If you live in an urban location, the chances are that fibre-optic broadband is available to you, but it’s not a done deal. A countrywide roll-out is in progress however, which should see 95% of the UK able to tap into faster and more reliable speeds. Use our online broadband availability checker to see if your area has been connected yet and if it hasn’t, you can contact suppliers to register your interest in their products, when they become available. The more demand, the quicker more remote locations will be included in Fibre-optic coverage.

Is a broadband speed test important?

Broadband speed tests are designed to offer you an insight into the speeds of all types of connections, from ADSL through to fibre-optic and mobile. While they only offer a snapshot as to the speeds you can expect at the exact time of testing, it’s an interesting insight as to how your service is performing.

How does a speed test work?

Dummy packets of data are uploaded and downloaded via ‘pings’, which travel back and forth from UK servers. The amount of time it takes for the packets of data to be sent and received by your individual computer denotes your broadband speed.

How can I guarantee accurate results?

To make sure that your broadband test offers up accurate results, there are a few precautionary steps that you can take.  These are:

  • Ensure no downloading is taking place at the time of the test.
  • Shut down all applications that require an internet connection.
  • Disconnect any other devices that share the same wireless network connection.
  • Be sure that your connection is stable.
  • Locate your computer as close to your wireless router (if you have one) as possible.
  • Remove any large items that are sat between your computer and your router.
  • Electric devices can zap signal strength, so be sure to turn off microwaves, baby monitors and all similar items.
  • If you are testing a mobile speed, be sure to remain stationary and within an area of good signal.

My results are bad, what can I do?

If your speed test results are disappointing and show that your connection is slow, you should perform another test, after checking that any cables and routers are all connected properly and working. If all is well and you are still registering slow speeds, call your broadband supplier, to check for a fault on the line or a problem with the equipment they have supplied you with. If nothing helps, it could be time to consider switching to a new supplier.

Written by
Sarah Money Saving Evangelist
, 9 October 2017