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Fibre-optic broadband - What is Fibre?

Fibre-optic broadband, often mis-spelled as 'fiber optic', is a high-speed form of internet connection, but how does it work?

You may know that fibre-optics are a fast way to transfer data and you're lucky if you can get it, but what is fibre, or optical fibre, exactly?

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 300Mbps.

Find out about BT Infinity at our dedicated BT Infinity page

Fibre-optics in the UK

In the UK optical fibre is not available everywhere, and is mostly on offer in urban areas.

Virgin Media fibre optic broadband is very popular in the UK. The company provides approximately 12.6 million UK homes with fibre-optic cable access and offers speeds of up to 152Mbps.

Find out about Virgin Media fibre optic broadband at our dedicated Virgin Media page

BT Infinity service is also widely available across the UK and offers speeds of up to 300Mbps, if you're lucky enough to be in area where you can sign up for its super fast fibre to the premises product. If you're not in one of these locations, you can still sign up for Infinity but it will be the slower service with a top speed of 76Mbps.

The likes of TalkTalk, Sky and PlusNet also use BT's fibre infrastructure as a platform to offer a fibre service of their own.

Find out about BT Infinity at our dedicated BT Infinity page

Fibre optic broadband is sometimes mistakenly spelled as 'fiber optic' but it won't, as far as we're aware, do much to help your diet.

Virgin media fibre-optic

Fibre-optic speeds

You can expect speeds of well in excess of a standard ADSL broadband service even with the cheaper fibre-optic connections. These are usually those that combine fibre with copper wire to deliver the connection to your home and are referred to as fibre to the cabinet broadband.

With this type of connection, the 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 an FTTH (fibre to the home) connection, the fibre-optic cables run all the way into your house and provide speeds of up to 300Mbps.

What does 50Mbps optical fibre mean to the user?

At 50Mbps, you can:

  • Download a 100MB album in 16 seconds
  • Download a 10GB BluRay movie in 27 minutes
  • Stream HD video straight to your computer without buffering
  • Host multiplayer games with dozens of players
  • Download games in under 2 minutes

For more information about speeds and download times, read the uSwitch guide to broadband download times

What is fibre? Types of fibre-optic connection

The speed of your fibre broadband connection can vary between 30Mbps and 300Mbps. 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 service, 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 and BT’s Infinity.
  • Lightning speeds of up to 300Mbps downstream

Compare all our fibre deals at our dedicated fibre-optic broadband page.