Fibre-optic (or fiber-optic, if you're in the US) broadband is a type of super-fast broadband that's delivered by cables in the ground, unlike ADSL broadband that runs over copper telephone wires.
Optical fibre cables are made of glass or plastic, both of which are materials that facilitate fast movement of data along their length. In traditional ADSL broadband, which is delivered along copper wires, speed is lost quickly over long distances, with the result that speeds vary depending on how far a house is from the exchange.
With fibre-optic broadband, however, less speed is lost over long distances. This makes it a superior option for those looking for super-fast broadband.
Fibre-optic broadband is much faster than ADSL broadband because the cables are made of glass or plastic which is much better and quicker at carrying data than traditional copper wires. But what speeds can you actually expect?
Depending upon your provider and the type of connection you have, cable broadband can deliver speeds of up to 330Mbps in the UK — but this is only available on BT's pure-fibre option, which is still quite limited.
Realistically, you're looking at speeds ranging from 38Mbps on lower-tier options, 76Mbps on mid-tier options and 100Mbps or faster with Virgin Media's higher-end options.
As recently as 2010, Virgin Media was the only UK fibre optic broadband provider. With maximum speeds of 300Mbps, it's still one of the fastest services around.
However, since then a host of competitors have come to market with rival products. Not least BT, whose lightning fast Infinity products are available in a choice of fibre to the cabinet or pure fibre options. Choose the latter and you can expect speeds of up to 330Mbps in select areas. Go with the former and the fastest connection available is up to 76Mbps.
TalkTalk's top-end fibre broadband product also offers speeds of up to 76Mbps, as does Plusnet's, TalkTalk's and EE's.
Fibre broadband customers on the Sky's and John Lewis's premium service, meanwhile, can expect top speeds of up to 38Mbps.
Find out about BT Infinity and compare our best Infinity deals at uSwitch's BT Infinity page.
To compare all Virgin Media's broadband packages see our dedicated Virgin Media provider page.
Virgin Media has a range of fibre optic broadband offers to suit every need and, more importantly, every pocket. The sheer speed of Virgin Media's service means its offerings are many people's pick as the top fibre optic broadband deals around.
The fastest broadband speed on offer with a Virgin Media fibre-optic broadband deal is 300Mbps. If you're in a large town or city, there's a very, very good chance you'll be able to sign up for Virgin Media cable broadband.
Check out deals on Virgin Media fibre optic broadband.
The UK's oldest telecomms provider offers a fibre-optic broadband service dubbed Infinity, with a host of fibre-optic broadband deals coming under this banner.
Cheaper Infinity packages feature maximum speeds of up to 76Mbps or 38Mbps. These use 'fibre-to-the-cabinet' technology rather than 'fibre-to-the-premises' technology. This means that BT Infinity customers' broadband speeds can still be affected by the distance from their nearest exchange to their home, although not as much as with copper phone lines.
As with Virgin Media, BT Infinity broadband can be combined in a broadband bundle with other services such as YouView on-demand TV and a home phone. In fact, BT Infinity is only available to people with a BT landline, so you're going to need to bundle with a home phone service if you're considering signing up for it.
Compare fibre-optic broadband deals on the BT Infinity range.
TalkTalk, EE and Plusnet all use BT's fibre-to-the-cabinet technology to deliver maximum broadband speeds of up to 76Mbps. All three stand out for generous usage limits, offer free routers and are available in large towns and cities where BT has upgraded its network.
Customers on standard ADSL broadband TalkTalk packages can upgrade to TalkTalk's fibre-optic service by adding a TalkTalk Fibre Optic Boost to their package for an additional monthly fee.
Cable broadband is available to millions of UK households mostly in towns and cities. If you aren't sure whether you can access cable broadband at home, use our postcode checker to find out.
If you're not in a Virgin Media cable area or you're in a part of the country where BT's pure fibre broadband service has yet to reach, you may still be able to get a super-fast fibre connection with BT's fibre-to-the-cabinet Infinity broadband service or from the providers detailed above who use BT's network infrastructure.
Find out about Infinity and compare Infinity deals at our dedicated BT Infinity page.
Compare all cable broadband packages here.
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