What is fibre broadband?

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F

ibre broadband is fast becoming an essential utility. So what exactly is it and does your family need what it can offer?

What is Fiber Broadband?

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Unlike ADSL broadband connections, which use standard copper wires to send data, fiber optic broadband works by sending laser light along a plastic or glass cable – literally at the speed of light. This means that data can be sent and received at much better speeds.

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There are two types of fiber broadband, FTTC – Fiber to the Cabinet – being the most common. This connects the fiber cable to the green cabinet in your street, which is then connected to your home with copper wires.

FTTP — or fiber to premises — is where fiber-optic cables run to your property instead of stopping at a street cabinet.

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Since copper has no wires, it is also known as ‘full fiber’. This is the fastest type of broadband, but currently only accounts for a minority of UK connections.

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What are the benefits of fiber broadband?

Because it’s faster, it provides slicker web browsing, seamless streaming, and a generally more satisfying online experience. Fiber broadband is also much more reliable when multiple members of the same household need to be online at the same time.

How Fast is Fiber Broadband?

According to Ofcom’s regulator, superfast FTTC fiber connections (some with copper wires) provide download speeds of at least 30 Mbps (megabits per second).

Ultrafast FTTP connections (‘full fiber’ straight to your door) provide download speeds of at least 300 Mbps, with some packages offering up to 900 Mbps or even 1 gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) .

For reference, according to Ofcom, the average broadband speed for the UK is 71 Mbps.

For the best deals on speed, check out the table below.

the provider

package

Length of contract (months)

Highest Average Speed ​​(Mbps)

cost

Virgin Media

Gig1 Full Fiber Broadband + Home Phone VoLTE

18

1130

£58.00

community fiber

Gigafast (12 month contract)

12

920

£50.00

KCOM

full fiber 900

12

900

£29.99

hyperoptic

Minimum 12 months – 1GB fiber broadband only

12

900

£40.00

gigaclear

Hyperfast 900 with Smart WiFi

18

900

£49.00

bt

full fiber 900

24

900

£55.99

Sky

Sky Broadband Ultrafast Plus

18

500

£42.00

EE

Unlimited Fibermax 300 Broadband

18

300

£52.00

shell energy

Ultrafast Fiber Plus Broadband

18

290

£46.99

talk Talk

fiber 150

18

145

£28.00

Comparison Technologies, December 2021

How much does it cost?

Fiber is more valuable than standard broadband, especially for ultrafast speeds via FTTP where a broadband-only package can cost more than £50 per month. There may also be set-up costs to consider. However, FTTP deals don’t require you to have a phone line, which goes some way to offset the expense.

Do I need fiber broadband?

Fiber-optic broadband is ideal for busy, modern families for regularly downloading movies or games or uploading substantial digital files. It is also becoming imperative for domestic workers dependent on high quality video calls.

Can anyone get fiber optic broadband?

This depends on whether your area is serviced with a fiber connection from either of the two main fiber providers – BT Openreach and Virgin Media.

Most broadband providers use the OpenReach network – enter your postcode on the OpenReach Online Fiber Broadband Checker to see if you can get it. Virgin Media has its own postcode checker that you can use to check if your area is serviced.

What if I am not getting fiber yet?

While most households have access to FTTC, FTTP is currently only available in about 15% of households. But that is about to change with government targets set to add more homes.

If your area is not yet serviced, you can register your interest online with BT Openreach. If there is enough demand from other locals who have also submitted interest, BT can get in touch.

You can register for an update with Virgin Media if you currently cannot receive Fiber to your address.

How do I get the best fiber broadband deal?

You have to compare the broadband packages on offer in the same way as with the standard broadband deals. Results can be filtered by cost, but it’s important to remember that it’s not just about price. A cheap deal may not offer the speed or service you are looking for.

You should consider the length of the contract as well as whether you want an ‘unlimited package’, which means you don’t need to worry about download limits.

Also think about the ‘add-on’ elements offered with many fiber broadband packages. These include TV subscriptions, mobile plans and other features that may provide better value than your existing set-up.

Can I switch broadband providers at any time?

You can switch your broadband provider at any time, but you may have to pay a fee for early termination of your contract if you are still in your contract period.

If you’re not sure, check with your provider or ditch your contract to see how much time you have left on it.

If you do end up switching, don’t forget to note when your new deal expires—this will serve as a reminder for you to compare prices again, to make sure you’re on the go. Still on the best deal.

best fiber optic broadband provider


1. Virgin Media – 5/5 stars

Average download speed: 466 Mbps

Average Monthly Cost: £42

Complaints per 100k customers: 60

our decision

54% of households eligible for Virgin Media’s cable broadband service may have some of the fastest broadband speeds available, and at 9p per Mbps (in other words, the average monthly cost divided by the average download speed), the best value services. One of the lot.

Each tariff comes with an 11-antenna, dual-band Virgin Hub 3 router or the Virgin Hub 4 version with its gigabit tariff. Ofcom Data ranks Virgin Media on the national average for customer satisfaction.


2. BT – 5/5 stars

Average download speed: 448 Mbps

Average Monthly Cost: £49.99

Complaints per 100k customers: 50

our decision

BT offers a full-fibre tariff with an average monthly cost of £49.99 and average speeds of 448Mbps, giving you 11p of cost-per-Mbps. As with your standard fiber tariff, the Stay Fast guarantee will solve any speed issues in 30 days or pay you £20 and allow you to opt out of your contract without penalty.

Ofcom’s 2020 customer satisfaction tracker found that 86% of BT’s customers were satisfied with its service.


3. EE – 5/5 stars

Average download speed: 448 Mbps

Average Monthly Cost: £48.67

Complaints per 100k customers: 22

our decision

Mobile network cum broadband provider EE scores very high for customer satisfaction, and with an average tariff price of £48.67 and an average download speed of 448 Mbps, it matches BT for the money.

Each tariff comes with an EE Smart Hub router. Dual-band, seven-antenna hardware promises to intelligently manage connections and reach every room in your home.


4. Zen Internet – 5/5 stars

Average download speed: 450 Mbps

Average Monthly Cost: £51.74

Complaints per 100k customers: data not available

our decision

With the speed and prices of EE and BT in terms of value for money, Zen Internet is a strong contender. Fees start at £38.99 for speeds up to 100 Mbps and each one Fritz! The Box 7530 comes with a router that allows visitors to access your connection without having to share your Wi-Fi password.

Ofcom has not published any customer satisfaction data for Zen Internet, but it averages above the 4.1 stars for broadband on TrustPilot.


5. TalkTalk – 4/5 stars

Average download speed: 272Mbps

Average Monthly Cost: £36

Complaints per 100k customers: 87

our decision

TalkTalk is the cheapest full fiber broadband provider on our list, but it offers the lowest average speeds. Its two tariffs cost £32 and £40 per month respectively, and offer average speeds of up to 272Mbps. Subscribers get a D-Link router.

TalkTalk scored 78% in the Ofcom 2020 customer satisfaction tracker’s overall satisfaction category, which is lower than the national average of 85%.


frequently Asked question

What is the difference between fiber and copper broadband?

Using the Internet involves sending and receiving data from your computer or mobile device. Generally speaking, there are two main ways to transmit data: copper (often called ADSL) or fiber optic cables (and sometimes a combination of both). There is also satellite and mobile broadcasting which we look at below.

When transmitted using copper telephone wires, the data is translated and sent as pulses of electricity. Copper is an excellent conductor with relatively low electrical resistance which makes it a good medium for sending and receiving data.

Data sent through fiber optic cables moves at the speed of light resistance free. This makes transmission much faster than copper broadband.

Copper broadband can transmit data at up to 24 megabits per second (Mbps). In contrast, fiber broadband can reach speeds in excess of 1,000Mbps (1Gbps), making it 40 times faster.

A hybrid copper and fiber connection type known as fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) uses copper cable from an exchange to the nearest roadside cabinet and then to your home. Speeds are significantly faster than copper alone, topping out at around 80 Mbps.

Fiber to the home (FTTH) or fiber to the premises (FTTP), however, uses fiber optics from the exchange to your home. It offers the fastest possible broadband connection with speeds of over 1Gbps.

What factors affect my broadband speed?

Other factors, as well as your connection, will determine your home broadband speed.

For example, wired connections can generate faster speeds than wireless ones. The more devices connected to your router, the slower your speeds are likely to be.

Some factors are out of your control. For example, the distance between your home and the house…

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