While most broadband connections use telephone lines or mobile networks, fibre-optic or cable broadband is delivered through special underground cables separate from the telephone network. This allows the signals to travel much faster than through traditional copper cables, with the result that UK broadband providers can offer super-fast connection speeds of up to 330Mbps.
Although most broadband providers offer cable packages, the two main companies are Virgin Media and BT's Infinity service.
Cable broadband is not currently available everywhere in the UK though there are plans to roll it out across the country.
Virgin Media's top-end cable broadband service provides speeds of up to 300Mbps. BT's Infinity service features a headline speed of 76Mbps, but this rises to 330Mbps if you're lucky enough to live in an area where BT offers a special so-called 'pure fibre/pure cable' broadband service.
BT rents its fibre-optic network to other broadband providers such as TalkTalk, Plusnet and Sky, so you can also get cable broadband from them, too.
BT's pure fibre or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) Infinity service is the UK's fastest connection at 330Mbps, but it's only available in select locations.
A pure cable broadband service is when the fibre-optic cable runs from your provider directly to your house. That's in contrast to other, so-called fibre-to-the-exchange fibre services where the cable runs as far as the network box outside your home. Standard copper cables are then used for the last bit of the journey that brings broadband to your home.
For example, with a 100Mbps connection, you can:
For more information about speeds and download times, read the uSwitch guide to broadband download times.
The speed of a cable broadband connection can lie anywhere between 30Mbps and 330Mbps. The different types of fibre-optic connection available are:
FTTH (fibre to the home): With FTTH connections, cables run directly into your house, providing the fastest connection available.
FTTB (fibre to the building/basement): With FTTB connections, cables run into your building but not directly into individual flats or houses.
FTTC (fibre to the cabinet): With FTTC connections, cables run to the local junction box and then use traditional copper cables to connect to your home.
FTTN (fibre to the node): FTTN connections are similar to FTTC connections except that the junction box can be much further away, up to several kilometres.
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