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What is fibre-optic cable broadband?

Cable broadband uses special fibre-optic cables to deliver internet connections far faster than traditional copper phone line cables.

The signals travel significantly faster, so internet connections can reach super-fast speeds of 300Mbps in some areas.

The nation’s cable broadband infrastructure is jointly owned between Virgin Media and BT, the UK’s largest telecoms providers. Other companies — including EE, Sky and TalkTalk — have launched their own networks using the BT infrastructure.

Between the two cable networks, a large portion of the UK is covered, but fibre-optic broadband still isn't available everywhere in the UK yet. Virgin Media currently offers over 13 million UK homes with cable broadband at speeds of up to 200Mbps in some areas. Even though these top speeds aren't available to everyone, the majority of homes can achieve a still super-fast 60Mbps.

You can find out more about Virgin Media at our dedicated Virgin Media page.

BT's fibre-optic network — called BT Infinity — currently offers speeds of up to 300Mbps in select areas (speeds of 38Mbps and 76Mbps are more widely available) and will soon have the majority of the UK upgraded to fibre-optic broadband.

Read more about BT Infinity at our dedicated BT Infinity page.

Fibre-optic cable speeds

Most cable connections can provide a speed of up to 76Mbps. These connections are known as fibre to the exchange connections as they offer fibre-optic connections to your local junction box. Standard copper cabling then connects your home to the fibre-optic network.

In some areas, you may be fortunate to receive a direct fibre to the home connection, which means cable broadband runs directly into your home, providing speeds of up to 300Mbps.

To find out more about internet connection speeds and download times, check out our guide to broadband download times to see what you can expect with that level of speed.

Types of fibre-optic cable connections

The speed of your fibre broadband connection can vary depending on the technology used to connect your home.

  • FTTH (fibre to the home): With FTTH connections, the cables run directly into your home, providing the fastest possible connection speeds.

  • FTTB (fibre to the building/basement): FTTB connections have cables that run to your building but not directly to your living space. This provides a very fast connection and is most common in flats.

  • FTTC (fibre to the cabinet): In this type of connection, cables run to the local junction box, which can be a few hundred metres away and is therefore a bit slower than FTTH or FTTB. This is currently the most widely available connection.

  • FTTN (fibre to the node): With FTTN connections, the cables run to a junction box further from your home. This can be up to a few kilometres away which slows the connection speed significantly.

fibre optic cable

The benefits of cable broadband

In summary, cable broadband has some big pros for users:

  • Cable broadband is incredibly fast thanks to fibre-optic cable technology.
  • You can receive fantastic packages including cable TV, phone and internet-ready technology.
  • Super-fast connection speeds of up to 300Mbps.

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