Fibre Optic Broadband

Broadband provided by fibre-optic cable as far as a street cabinet or your home

Author: Edd Dawson

Fibre Optic Broadband Buyers Guide

Fibre optic is the latest buzzword in broadband provision in the UK, we keep being told it's the future and that we all should want it. But for many people the term "fibre optic" itself means nothing. This short buyers guide aims to get you up to speed with what it is, why you should want it and how to go about getting it.

What is fibre optic broadband?

At its simplest level it's just a broadband supply that's delivered to your house by means of a fibre optic cable, rather than over your older copper BT telephone line.

A fibre optic cable is made up of very thin strands of glass which laser light is beamed down at incredibly fast speeds (quite literally the speed of light!) to carry data to your house. Unlike broadband that is delivered over copper telephone line fibre optic broadband does not get slower the further away from your exchange.

So it really is down to the type of cable that hooks your house up to the internet.

What are the different types of fibre optic broadband?

Now, though we said above that it's just about having a fibre optic cable rather than an old copper telephone line to get your broadband, as always with technology, it's not quite that simple.

Some fibre optic services don't quite get the fibre optic cable all the way to your house, to do so for every house would mean digging up an awful lot of the UK, so some get very close to your house with fibre optic cables and then use older cables that are already installed for the last few yards.

There are two main types of fibre optic provision in the country at the moment:

  • Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) - This is where you actually have a fibre optic cable all the way into your house and you use a fibre optic router that can read and send signals using laser light. This is actually a very rare type of broadband provision in the UK at the moment, and is only available in a very few areas. As the fibre comes right into your property there are no problems with loss of speeds at all, and some FTTP broadband providers can offer speeds of up to 1Gbps which is incredibly fast, and on a par with the very best broadband networks in the world.
  • Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) - This is where the fibre optic cable does not quite make it all the way to your house, but instead reaches as far as your local street cabinet. You've probably never noticed your local street cabinet, though they are incredibly common, they are usually green or gray (though confusingly some may also be underground, but this is rarer due to the flooding risk) and there will be one within a hundred yards or so of your home. Between the street cabinet and your house the broadband supply will use your old BT copper telephone wire (or in the case of Virgin Media customers will use coaxial cable). As the last section is not on actual fibre optic cables there will be some loss in speed compared to FTTP services. Current maximum speeds on FTTC fibre optic is 100Mbps for Virgin Media (though they are trialling 200Mbps) and around 80Mbps for BT telephone line based suppliers. However these maximum speeds will probably rise in the future. The vast majority of current fibre optic broadband customers are on some kind of FTTC fibre optic supply.

The advertising governing body (the ASA) has deemed that all type of FTTP and FTTC broadband can be collectively described as "Fibre Optic Broadband" and for the rest of this buyers guide we will use the term for both types.

Can I get fibre optic broadband?

At the time of writing around 65% of the UK has access to some form of fibre optic broadband. If you live in a city or large town then the chances are good that there will be some availability. The less urban and more rural you get the chances decrease considerably.

We have detailed information on fibre optic availability in our broadband postcode checker, just give us your postcode and your phone number and we can let you know for sure what is available from which suppliers in your area.

Who supplies fibre optic broadband?

There are more and more suppliers coming on stream with fibre optic deals all the time. The major players are:

  • Virgin Media - The pioneers of fibre optic broadband in the UK, Virgin are probably the single biggest fibre optic broadband provider. They have the luxury of having their own fibre optic network that they use exclusively. Their network does not provide FTTP, but is a FTTC style network with the last few yards completed with coaxial cable which is superior to copper cable. As such Virgin Media can offer higher speeds with more stability than other FTTC suppliers.
  • BT Wholesale - After Virgin the second largest fibre optic network provider in the UK. The vast majority of their network is FTTC with last few yards being completed with existing BT copper telephone wires. A smaller amount of provision is FTTP. They are currently growing their network and will before long be the largest fibre provider in the UK. BT Wholesale do not supply connections directly but instead rent the usage of their network to other providers. Current suppliers using BT Wholesale include BT Infinity, TalkTalk, Sky, Eclipse, Plusnet and Zen.
  • Regional and Local Suppliers - There are a number of much smaller fibre optic broadband suppliers who have small regional or local networks and are usually FTTP networks. Providers include Hyperoptic and H2O.
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1

Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Broadband with Calls More Info

Special offer: Free for 6 months + free connection!

802.11n Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (15.95 pounds)

3 Stars up to
38Mb
truly
unlimited
18
months
£96

Free
£14.99 after 6 months

Line rental from £12.99

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 073 1120

2

Hyperoptic Hyper-lite with Evening & Weekend Calls More Info

Buy now, pay nothing until Spring! 3 months FREE broadband and phone service!
1Mb upload speeds!
Add AnyTime calls for an extra £3 a month, or International calls for an extra £5 a month!

802.11n Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (12.50 pounds)

4 Stars up to
20Mb
truly
unlimited
12
months
£113

Free
£12.50 after 3 months

Line rental £12.50
First 3 months free!

Go to site

3 2.5 Stars up to
25Mb
truly
unlimited
12
months
£124

Free
£4.95 after 3 months

Line rental £14.45

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 027 8850

4

TalkTalk Fibre Medium with SimplyBroadband More Info

Hurry, ends soon! £100 Love2Shop voucher + 6 months half price + free connection online!
Already With TalkTalk? Upgrade Today!

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (16.70 pounds)

2.5 Stars up to
38Mb
truly
unlimited
18
months
£127

£6.75
£13.50 after 6 months
Voucher only available to switching customers ordering online

Line rental from £15.03

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 049 7867

5

BT Infinity 1 with Calls More Info

Hurry, ends soon! £50 Sainsbury's gift card + free for 6 months + Christmas Treat!
Free BT Sport app and online player!
Order before 18th Dec to get a Cadbury's Selection Stocking

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (16.99 pounds)

2.5 Stars up to
38Mb
20GB 18
months
£127

Free
£15.00 after 6 months

Line rental from £14.16

Go to site

6

Virgin Media 50Mb Broadband plus Phone Weekends More Info

Special offer: 6 months better than half price + Metro WiFi + free connection online!
Ofcom's least complained about broadband and phone provider

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (16.99 pounds)

3 Stars up to
50Mb
unlimited 18
months
£135

£5.00
£17.50 after 6 months

Line rental from £12.00

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 083 8870

7

BT TV Starter with BT Infinity 1 and Calling More Info

Hurry, ends soon! £50 Sainsbury's gift card + free for 6 months + Christmas Treat!
Free BT Sport app and online player!
Order before 18th Dec to get a Cadbury's Selection Stocking

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingTelevision ServiceLine Rental (16.99 pounds)

2.5 Stars up to
38Mb
20GB 18
months
£146

Free
£15.00 after 6 months

Line rental from £13.32

Go to site

8

John Lewis Broadband Fibre with Talk Evenings and Weekend More Info

Special offer: Free for 6 months + free connection!

802.11n Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (13.50 pounds)

3.5 Stars up to
38Mb
100GB 12
months
£150

Free
£25.00 after 6 months

Line rental £13.50

Go to site

9

Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Broadband with Anytime Calls More Info

Special offer: 6 months free fibre + free connection!

802.11n Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (15.95 pounds)

3 Stars up to
38Mb
truly
unlimited
18
months
£156

£5.00
£19.99 after 6 months

Line rental from £12.99

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 073 1120

10 2.5 Stars up to
38Mb
25GB 18
months
£157

£10.00

Line rental £16.40

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 083 8871

11

BT Infinity 1 Unlimited with Weekend Calls More Info

Hurry, ends soon! £50 Sainsbury's gift card + 12 months better than half price + 12 month contract + Christmas Treat!
Free BT Sport app and online player!
Order before 18th Dec to get a Cadbury's Selection Stocking

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (16.99 pounds)

2.5 Stars up to
38Mb
truly
unlimited
12
months
£157

£10.00
£23.00 after 12 months

Line rental from £14.16

Go to site

12 2.5 Stars up to
40Mb
truly
unlimited
12
months
£160

Free
£8.95 after 3 months

Line rental £14.45

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 027 8850

13 2.5 Stars up to
38Mb
truly
unlimited
24
months
£167

Free
£14.75 after 3 months

Line rental from £11.00

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 027 8850

14

TalkTalk Fibre Large with SimplyBroadband More Info

Hurry, ends soon! £100 Love2Shop voucher + 6 months reduced price + free connection online!
Add Fibre Large to your package if it's available in your area when you checkout with Fibre Medium

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (16.70 pounds)

2.5 Stars up to
76Mb
truly
unlimited
18
months
£187

£11.75
£18.50 after 6 months
Voucher only available to switching customers ordering online

Line rental from £15.03

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 049 7867

15

EE Fibre with Weekend Calls More Info

Special offer: £5 for 3 months + free connection!

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (15.75 pounds)

2.5 Stars up to
38Mb
unlimited 18
months
£195

£5.00
£19.95 after 3 months

Line rental from £11.00

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 079 5120

16

Virgin Media 100Mb Broadband plus Phone Weekends More Info

Special offer: 4 months better than half price + Metro WiFi + free connection online!
Ofcom's least complained about broadband and phone provider

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (16.99 pounds)

3 Stars up to
100Mb
unlimited 18
months
£204

£6.00
£22.50 after 4 months

Line rental from £12.00

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 083 8870

17

TalkTalk Fibre Medium with Essentials TV, Broadband and Phone More Info

Hurry, ends soon! £100 Love2Shop voucher + 3 months reduced price + free connection online!
Already With TalkTalk? Upgrade Essentials TV with Fibre Medium for only £5 per month first 6 months!

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingTelevision ServiceLine Rental (16.70 pounds)

2.5 Stars up to
38Mb
truly
unlimited
18
months
£214

£14.25
£18.50 after 3 months
Voucher only available to switching customers ordering online

Line rental from £15.03

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 049 7867

18

BT TV Entertainment with Infinity 1 and Calling More Info

Hurry, ends soon! £50 Sainsbury's gift card + 6 months better than half price + free YouView+ Box! + Christmas Treat!
Free BT Sport app and online player!
Order before 18th Dec to get a Cadbury's Selection Stocking

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingTelevision ServiceLine Rental (16.99 pounds)

2.5 Stars up to
38Mb
20GB 18
months
£221

£5.00
£22.45 after 6 months

Line rental from £13.32

Go to site

19

Hyperoptic Hyper-active with Evening & Weekend Calls More Info

Buy now, pay nothing until Spring! 3 months FREE broadband and phone service!
100Mb upload speeds!
Add AnyTime calls for an extra £3 a month, or International calls for an extra £5 a month!

802.11n Wireless RouterPhone CallingLine Rental (12.50 pounds)

4 Stars up to
100Mb
truly
unlimited
12
months
£225

Free
£25.00 after 3 months

Line rental £12.50
First 3 months free!

Go to site

20

Virgin Media Big Easy More Info

Special offer: 12 months reduced price + Metro WiFi!
Most reliable TV and broadband provider, uses underground fibre optic cables so isn't affected by storms, TiVo with Netflix offers more boxsets on demand than any other provider

802.11ac Wireless RouterPhone CallingTelevision ServiceLine Rental (16.99 pounds)

3 Stars up to
50Mb
unlimited 18
months
£242

£16.00
£22.00 after 12 months

Line rental from £12.00

Go to site

Or sign up by phone
0800 083 8870

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Broadband.co.uk

What are the downsides?

We've sat and racked our brains to try and think of what the possible downsides of a fibre optic broadband supply are, but we struggle to find any negatives other than cost.

It's not always the cheapest kind of broadband, so if you are very cost conscious then it may not be for you. Otherwise we can't think of a single reason not to go for it if it's available in your area.

How do I compare fibre optic broadband?

Comparing fibre optic broadband is very similar to comparing any other type of broadband. You need to consider what your needs are and go from there:

  • Cost - Is price a major consideration? This is a simple one to compare on, just go for the absolute cheapest deal that meets as many of your other criteria as possible.
  • Speed - After price this is the second most important of the criteria for most people. As we explained above not all fibre optic broadband is fast as other types, so make sure you look at the headline speed offered with a deal. Unlike other types of broadband you are much more likely to get speeds approaching the headline speed advertised, so it's less of a worry when comparing.
  • Download allowance - The faster your broadband supply is the more you are likely to download over it, so be sure to sign up with a deal that has an adequate download allowance. With unlimited download allowance deals always read the fine print carefully as some can end up a bit less unlimited than you imagine.
  • Contract length - Watch out for long contract lengths, especially if you know you will soon be on the move. It can be worth checking if you can get the same deal in the areas you may move to so you can transfer your supply if you are still in contract.
  • Customer feedback - It's always worth checking out broadband reviews from real customers of a supplier to get an idea of how well their service actually works.
  • Customer support - How comfortable are you with looking after your side of the broadband connection? Some people are more tech savvy than others, it's worth considering what level of support you'd like to be able to fall back on in case of problems.
  • Included equipment - Most providers will supply you with the equipment you need to get connected, but you may want to check what exactly they provide as you may wish to buy something of your own with more features and capabilities if you need them.

So as always, get the information you need to make your own personal comparison and then choose the deal that ticks the most boxes.

What's the future for fibre optic broadband?

Fibre optic broadband is so fast moving, it wasn't even an option for home users back when we started our site in 2004. Since then we've seen a massive growth in fibre provision, first by Virgin Media and then by BT.

We expect that the majority of the urban UK will have some form of fibre optic broadband availability within the next 5 years, with FTTP broadband gaining market share against FTTC broadband.

For more rural areas the picture is not quite so clear. There are several government plans being mooted to bring fibre optic broadband to the rural consumer, but it's not yet clear which (if any) of these will go ahead and in what timeframe.

The ultimate goal would be to see fibre optic cabling to every house in the UK no matter how remote (similar to how just about the whole country is connected to the electricity national grid), but how far off that dream is we cannot tell.