Unlike the majority of broadband connections in the UK, which use telephone lines or mobile networks, fibre-optic broadband is transferred along special cables under the ground. The signals move a lot faster than they do along copper cables and offer speeds of up to 100Mb. Or even a lightning fast 120Mb in select areas.
The two largest fibre broadband market players in the UK are Virgin Media and BT, both of whom between them own the nation's cable broadband infrastructure. However, several rival providers have launched fibre broadband services on their own using BT's network, including EE, Sky and TalkTalk.
Find out about Virgin Media at our dedicated Virgin Media page
Find out about BT Infinity at our dedicated BT Infinity page
In the UK, the service is not available everywhere, but should now be available in areas with high population density such as cities and towns. Virgin Media provides approximately 12.6 million UK homes with fibre-optic cable access and offers speeds of up to 120Mb in select areas and 60Mb in all locations served by the network.
BT's fibre network offers speeds of up to 76Mb and is expanding its reach all the time.
You can expect speeds of up to 76Mb with a regular fibre-optic connection. Also know as fibre to the exchange connection, this means that a fibre-optic line runs from the provider to the junction box outside your house, at which point regular copper cables run it inside your home.
If you are lucky enough to have a superior FTTH (fibre to the home) connection, the fibre-optic cables run all the way into your house and provide speeds of up to 120Mb.
For more information about speeds and download times, read the uSwitch guide to broadband download times
Types of fibre-optic connection
The speed of your fibre broadband connection can vary depending on the technology it employs. The types of fibre available are:
FTTH (fibre to the home) – fibre-optic cables run all the way to the outside of your house. This is the quickest possible but is not widely available.
FTTB (fibre to the building/basement) – fibre-optic cables run all the way to your premises. If you are a flat in a large building, the fibre terminates at the building, rather than your individual living space.
FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) – fibre-optic cables run all the way to the cabinet in the street, which can be up to 300m away. This is the most common connection.
FTTN (fibre to the node) – roughly the same as above, only the street cabinet can be further away (up to several km away) with the rest of the distance to your house being covered by regular copper wiring.
The benefits of fibre-optic broadband
- A fast, sustained and reliable connection which results from transmission through fibre-optic material rather than ordinary copper wires.
- Options to receive cable TV, phone deals and excellent product bundles with packages such as Virgin Media’s XL offering and BT’s Infinity.
- Lightning speeds of up to 120Mb downstream
Compare all our fibre deals at our dedicated fibre-optic broadband page.