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Fibre Broadband (FTTC / FTTH) Guide

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What is fibre broadband?

Fibre broadband is a new type of broadband that is currently being deployed in the UK by BT, Virgin Media and other operators which uses fibre optic cables to help increase the speed of your broadband connection. It is often referred to as 'super-fast broadband' or 'next-generation broadband' as it offers faster speeds than have been available to date using older generation networks. It is available to both home and business users.

There are generally two types of fibre broadband connections

Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC)

Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) involves running fibre optic cables from the telephone exchange or distribution point to the street cabinets which then connect to a standard phone line to provide broadband.

This is combined with a copper cable from the cabinet to the home or business which uses VDSL or similar technology that can deliver much faster speeds over shorter distances.

FTTC Diagram - Fibre to the Cabinet

Fibre to the home / premises (FTTH or FTTP)

Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP), also often referred to as Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) provides and end-to-end fibre optic connection the full distance from the exchange to the building and can deliver faster speeds than FTTC as there is no copper leg at all.

FTTH/FTTP Diagram - Fibre to the Home/Premises

How fast is fibre broadband?

FTTC broadband comes in two varients which offer a downstream line speed of 80meg (80Mbps) or 40meg (40Mbps), but the actual maximum speed of the service will be slightly lower than this at around 78 / 39Mbps. Different upstream speeds are available at either 2Mbps or 10Mbps on the 40meg variant, and 20meg up on the 80meg.

Not everyone will receive the maximum speed as it depends on the length of your phone line to the cabinet which is providing your broadband service, but BT Openreach will guarantee that the minimum sync speed will be 15Mbps or 30Mbps. Some retailers may offer the 20meg upload product with a 40meg downstream speed, this is achieved by capping the downstream speed in the retailers network.

If you already have fibre broadband, why not try our broadband speed test to see how fast your connection is. It is best to carry out speedtests at a variety of times, both peak and off-peak, as at peak times the congestion in the retailers network may affect your speed significantly. Our tbbMeter tool will let you keep an eye on your browsing and download speeds when using your connection, plus has a variety of testing tools built into it.

If you are lucky enough to live in an area that will receive FTTP (full fibre), download speeds of 330Mbps and upstream speeds of 30Mbps are available. The FTTP products offer the same speed options as on FTTC (at the same price) and also faster versions at 100meg down /15 meg up, 110/15meg, 100/30meg, 330/20meg, and 330/30meg. Further speed upgrades for full fibre to 1Gbps (1000Mbps) will arrive in future years.

What speed can I expect from fibre broadband? (FTTC)

The speed of your connection will vary depending on the distance to the fibre cabinet that serves your house. If you know roughly how far the cabinet is, you should be able to calculate the speed you should receive based on the figures in the table below:

Distance to cabinet (metres) Estimated downstream connection speed Estimated upstream connection speed Cumulative %'age of premises at this distance
100m 100 Mbps 25 Mbps 5%
150m 80 Mbps 20 Mbps 10%
200m 65 Mbps 18 Mbps 20%
300m 45 Mbps 17 Mbps 30%
400m 42 Mbps 16 Mbps 45%
500m 38 Mbps 15 Mbps 60%
600m 35 Mbps 14 Mbps 70%
700m 32 Mbps 11 Mbps 75%
800m 28 Mbps 10 Mbps 80%
900m 25 Mbps 9 Mbps 85%
1000m 24 Mbps 8 Mbps 90%
1250m 17 Mbps 5 Mbps 95%
1500m 15 Mbps 4 Mbps 98%
VDSL2 Profile 17a, cabinet to premises speed estimate

Can I get fibre broadband?

Fibre broadband currently has a limited roll out. As of March 2012 around seven million homes had the option of fibre from Openreach (28% of UK households) this is expected to rise to ten million by the end of 2012. It should be remembered that while an exchange is announced for FTTC/P that not all premises served by an exchange will benefit, generally only 85% of properties see their cabinet enabled for FTTC on an exchange. BT have committed £2.5 billion to invest in the technology which will allow them to reach two thirds of the country by the end of 2014.

Current roll-out plans are predominantly FTTC and BT expect FTTH/P to make up around 17% of the completed fibre deployment. In 2013 the FTTP on Demand option should launch, which will allow small businesses and home owners to pay perhaps £500 to £1500 to get FTTP installed to their home if they live in an area with FTTC.

To check if you can get FTTC broadband, follow the below steps:

If your area is enabled, you may not be able to get fibre broadband from your current provider. Below is a list of fibre broadband providers and some of their products.

Fibre Broadband Packages

These speeds are based on information collected from ISPs over time - In light of the new advertising standards on broadband speeds, until ISPs publish updated packages we can update, we would strongly urge you to check the product offering from the ISPs directly prior to subscribing to any service.

ISP Package Downstream Speed Upstream Speed Usage Price / month
(inc. VAT)
AAISP Fibre Broadband
Home::1 40/10 40 Mbps10 Mbps 100 GB £35
Home::1 80/20 80 Mbps20 Mbps 100 GB £40
Home::1 40/10 High Usage 40 Mbps10 Mbps 200 GB £45
Home::1 80/20 High Usage 80 Mbps20 Mbps 200 GB £50
Aquiss Fibre Broadband
Aquiss Family Option 1 38 Mbps2 Mbps Unlimited £33.00
Aquiss Family Option 2 38 Mbps10 Mbps Unlimited £35.00
Aquiss Business Option 1 38 Mbps2 Mbps Unlimited £54.00
Aquiss Business Option 3 76 Mbps20 Mbps Unlimited £58.80
BT Fibre Broadband
BT Infinity 1 Broadband w/ Weekend Calls 38 Mbps9.5 Mbps 20 GB £21.00
BT Unlimited Infinity 1 Broadband w/ Weekend Calls 38 Mbps9.5 Mbps Unlimited# £23.00
BT Unlimited Infinity 2 w/ Weekend Calls 76 Mbps19 Mbps Unlimited# £28.00
BT Infinity 3 200Mb w/ Evening + Weekend Calls 200 Mbps20 Mbps Unlimited# £39.65
BT Infinity 4 300Mb w/ Evening + Weekend Calls 300 Mbps30 Mbps Unlimited# £50.00
Claranet Soho
SOHO Fibre 40/10 Capped 38 Mbps9.5 Mbps 50 GB £43.19
SOHO Fibre 40/10 Standard 38 Mbps9.5 Mbps Unlimited £52.79
SOHO Fibre 80/20 Standard 76 Mbps19 Mbps Unlimited £64.79
SOHO Fibre 330/20 Premier 330 Mbps19 Mbps Unlimited £115.19
Eclipse Fibre Broadband
Eclipse Business Fibre Essential 40 Mbps10 Mbps 50 GB* £27.50
Eclipse Business Fibre 80 Mbps20 Mbps Unlimited £45.00
Hyperoptic Hyper-lite 20Meg 20 Mbps2 Mbps Unlimited# £9.00
Hyperoptic Hyper-active 100Meg 100 Mbps100 Mbps Unlimited# £22.00
Hyper-sonic 1Gig 1 Gbps1 Gbps Unlimited# £47.00 Fibre Broadband
Fast FTTC 20GB 40 Mbps2 Mbps 20 GB £22.45
Fast FTTC 45GB 40 Mbps10 Mbps 45 GB £27.56
Fast FTTC 100GB 40 Mbps10 Mbps 100 GB £51.05
IDNet Fibre Lite 38 Mbps9 Mbps 50 GB £19.80
IDNet Fibre Pro 76 Mbps19 Mbps 200 GB £28.20
IDNet Fibre Pro Plus 76 Mbps19 Mbps 500 GB £37.80
IDNet Fibre Unlimited 76 Mbps19 Mbps Unlimited £76.20
Plusnet Fibre Broadband
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre 38 Mbps2 Mbps Unlimited £14.99
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra 76 Mbps19.5 Mbps Unlimited £19.99
Sky Fibre Broadband
Sky Fibre Unlimited 38 Mbps9.5 Mbps Unlimited £20.00
Sky Fibre Unlimited Pro 76 Mbps19 Mbps Unlimited £30.00
TalkTalk Fibre Broadband
TalkTalk Fibre Medium + SimplyBroadband 38 Mbps1.9 Mbps Unlimited# £15.00
TalkTalk Fibre Large + SimplyBroadband 76 Mbps19 Mbps Unlimited# £20.00
Fibre Medium + Plus TV (YouView) 38 Mbps1.9 Mbps Unlimited# £30.00
Timico Fibre Broadband
Timico FTTC Standard 100GB 38 Mbps9 Mbps 100 GB £38.40
Timico FTTC Standard 500GB 38 Mbps9 Mbps 500 GB £72.00
Timico FTTC Plus 100GB 76 Mbps19 Mbps 100 GB £44.40
Timico FTTC Plus 500GB 76 Mbps19 Mbps 500 GB £78.00
Virgin Fibre Broadband
Virgin Up to 50Mbps (cable broadband) 50 Mbps 3 Mbps Unlimited^ £28.50
Virgin Up to 100Mbps (cable broadband) 100 Mbps 6 Mbps Unlimited^ £33.50
Virgin Up to 152Mbps (cable broadband) 152 Mbps 12 Mbps Unlimited^ £41.00
Vispa Fibre Broadband
Vispa FTTC Home 25GB 40 Mbps2 Mbps 25 GB* £21.99
Vispa FTTC Home 50GB 40 Mbps2 Mbps 50 GB* £31.99
Vispa FTTC Home 75GB 40 Mbps10 Mbps 75 GB* £41.99
Vispa FTTC Home 100GB 40 Mbps10 Mbps 100 GB* £51.99
Vivaciti Fibre Unlimited 80 Mbps20 Mbps Unlimited* £37.20
Zen Internet
Fibre 1 and Phone 38 Mbps9.5 Mbps 50 GB £19.50
Fibre Unlimited 1 and Phone 38 Mbps9.5 Mbps Unlimited £27.00
Fibre Unlimited 2 and Phone 76 Mbps19 Mbps Unlimited £30.00
Business Fibre Unlimited 2 and Phone 76 Mbps19 Mbps Unlimited £30

* Usage quoted is peak-time data included only. Off-peak data is also included with this package.
# Fair usage policy applies and may be subject to traffic management.
^ Traffic management policy applies.

Do Virgin Media offer fibre broadband?

Virgin media run a cable network which is a coax-fibre hybrid network. It works in a similar way to Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) where fibre is run to a street-side cabinet and from here a connection is made to your house using a coaxial cable. This coaxial cable offers more resilience to interference than a standard phone line so it is possible to run faster services over this. These Virgin FTTC cable products currently offer speeds ranging from up to 50meg to up to 152meg.

The architecture of the Virgin Media network is often referred to Fibre to the Node, and is based around DOCSIS 3.0.

FTTC/FTTP routers

FTTC or FTTP is an engineer installed product and will include a VDSL2 capable router to which you can connect your own router or computer. You will need to connect a device that supports PPPoE to use it. This is usually a standard 'broadband router' or 'cable modem' router which has a WAN port. If you currently have an ADSL router with a built in ADSL modem, this will NOT work with the FTTC service and you will need to get a new router. If you are only using one computer on the connection, you should be able to connect the BT provided router directly to your computer and create a PPPoE network connection to get online.

How does FTTC broadband work?

Fibre-to-the-Cabinet broadband uses fibre optic cable from the local telephone exchange to connect to the nearest street side cabinet which serves your property. This is normally within a few hundred metres of your property. BT Openreach will usually install a new cabinet adjacent to or near the existing 'green cabinet' which serves your phone line. The new cabinet will house a VDSL2 capable DSLAM (a mini-version of what currently provides your ADSL broadband service) to which your phone line will be connected. As the cabinet is close to your property and also uses newer VDSL2 technology, the speed of your broadband is usually much higher.

The cabinets are available in a variety of sizes, and installation requires the cabinet to be supplied with mains power, as well as ducting to link it to the old cabinet and of course ducting to carry the fibre back to the telephone exchange. In some areas the fibre from a cabinet does not go back to the existing exchange, but a neighbouring exchange. This does not affect the speeds possible, since fibre can run for many kilometres without the signal being affected.

How does FTTP broadband work?

Fibre to the Premises runs over a fibre optic cable from the telephone exchange, all the way to inside your property. The fibre from the exchange is normally terminated on the outside wall of a home, and a short fibre lead run inside to the fibre modem, which then offers an Ethernet connection to a broadband router.

The fibre itself is relatively fragile, so rather than being pulled through ducts or hung directly over telegraph poles it is blown through tubes that have been installed into the ducting. The installation of this tubing is the most obvious sign of fibre to the premises being deployed.

In areas where ducting is available, the hardware for FTTP is installed in the various chambers, in areas with telegraph poles, weather proof enclosures are used to house the fibre splitters that take the fibres from the exchange and divide them out to go to individual premises.

A big advantage to FTTP is that is not subject to interference, which can affect ADSL and VDSL2, thus fibre connections are generally a lot more reliable. Alas the extra work to get each fibre to the home makes it expensive to deploy to every home.

How does Openreach FTTP and Fibre Voice Access work?

Fibre Voice Access is an Openreach product that allows your telephone service to be delivered over their FTTP product. At the start of 2013 we are only aware of BT Retail offering a BT Fibre Home Phone service. The service is optional, with the majority of providers currently opting to still use the old copper wiring for the phone service. The telephone service is presented on the Tel1 socket of the Fibre ONT that is installed by the Openreach engineer and if Fibre Voice Access has been ordered, the engineer should also install a faceplate to the Openreach master socket in the property.

The fibre service for broadband will usually go live before the fibre voice access, but once the voice has switched (indicated by the green Tel1 LED on the fibre modem) to arriving down the fibre optic cable, the customer needs to flip a switch on the new interstitial faceplate from copper to fibre. This switch isolates the external copper wiring at the property and allows you to use your existing telephone extension wiring.

Fibre Voice Access (FVA) can support two distinct telephone numbers, by switching on the second Tel2 socket on the fibre modem.

If there are problems connect a telephone directly to the Tel1 socket on the fibre modem to check that the issue is not something to do with the telephone wiring in the property.

What is Fibre on Demand, is it different to FTTP?

Around Spring 2013 Openreach will make available a new option for people wanting to improve their broadband speeds. Fibre on Demand will only be available to those parts of the UK where Openreach has its Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) network, the on demand product means that when you order the service Openreach will plan and provide details of the cost to install a Fibre to the Premises (Home) product to that property. Once installed the service behaves identically to the FTTP product that is available to some properties in the UK.

Fibre Aggregation Node with plastic cover and trays visible

The cost to install will vary according to how much work is needed, but current estimates suggest that on top of a fixed £500 installation fee, a property that needs around 500 metres of fibre deployed will see an extra charge of £1000. Those closer to the fibre aggregation point will pay less and those further away will pay more. As of January 2013, there is no detail on what difference in price an overhead or underground deployment will make.

The Fibre on Demand product does not use any hardware in the existing fibre cabinet, but is limited to FTTC areas as it relies on there being the fibre links back to an exchange and a fibre aggregation node which is located close to each FTTC cabinet. This means if you are estimating the potential cost the distance to your street cabinet is reasonable approximation.

Fibre Manifold, the last fibre infrastructure before a property

The costs of FTTP on Demand are high for installation, but in theory the full range of GEA-FTTP product speeds will be available, which start with 40 Mbps downloads, rising to 330 Mbps down and 30 Mbps up and the monthly costs should be the same. A a retail provider should be able to offer a 40/10 FTTP product for the same monthly fee as the equivalent FTTC product.

The first person to order fibre on demand product for a cluster of properties will pay a proportion of the costs of installing the extra fibre run, fibre splitter and manifold. Subsequent orders on the same manifold will pay the same proportion, so being first to order should not unduly affect the cost, the difference is that subsequent people ordering will have a shorter lead time for the installation.