A Guide to Fibre Optics and Broadband

If you want to update your internet to something a bit quicker then fibre optic broadband could well be the perfect solution.  Fibre optic broadband is different from ADSL in that it doesn’t use the telephone lines and has special cables laid for it.  Remember that ADSL slows down over the copper cables of the telephone infrastructure because the telephone infrastructure simply wasn’t built to support such fast and heavy data use. 

This broadband is a great deal faster than ADSL offering top speeds to consumers through Virgin Media of 100Mbps.  If you can get on to fibre optic broadband, and you value the speed of the things that you can do online, then it’s certainly a good option.

This article will look at how fast you can do things on different types of broadband.  Help you understand some of the providers in the industry, help you find out whether you can get this broadband and talk through exactly how this broadband works.  Then we’ll go through some advantages and disadvantages and types of broadband through fibre optics. We’ll end by discussing what the future holds.

The Speed of Fibre Optic Broadband

Below you will see a list of everyday activities that we do online and how fast they will be completed on different speeds of broadband.

Downloading an e-mail of 80Kb

  • Basic broadband 2Mbps – 0.3  seconds
  • Standard Fibre 20 Mbps – 0.3 seconds
  • Virgin Media 100 Mbps connections – 0.006 seconds
  • The Proposed BT 300Mbps connection – 0.002 seconds

A Photo of 4.25MB

  • Basic broadband 2Mbps – 18  seconds
  • Standard Fibre 20 Mbps – 1.8 seconds
  • Virgin Media 100 Mbps connections – 0.036 seconds
  • The Proposed BT 300Mbps connection – 0.012 seconds

A Youtube video of 12MB

  • Basic broadband 2Mbps – 25  seconds
  • Standard Fibre 20 Mbps – 5 seconds
  • Virgin Media 100 Mbps connections – 1 second
  • The Proposed BT 300Mbps connection – 0.034 seconds

A Music Album of 100MB

  • Basic broadband 2Mbps – 6 minutes 51  seconds
  • Standard Fibre 20 Mbps – 41.1 seconds
  • Virgin Media 100 Mbps connections – 8.22 seconds
  • The Proposed BT 300Mbps connection – 2.74 seconds

A 720Mb High Definition Film

  • Basic broadband 2Mbps – 50  seconds
  • Standard Fibre 20 Mbps – 4 minutes, 45 seconds
  • Virgin Media 100 Mbps connections – 59 seconds
  • The Proposed BT 300Mbps connection – 19.75 seconds

Every Simpsons Episode Ever

  • Basic broadband 2Mbps – 1 day, 13 hours
  • Standard Fibre 20 Mbps – 3 hours, 50 minutes
  • Virgin Media 100 Mbps connections – 45 minutes
  • The Proposed BT 300Mbps connection – 14 minutes, 54 seconds

As you can see from the comparison of the different times it takes to do things, they get exponentially faster as you get a better broadband speed.  The difference between downloading the Simpsons episodes between basic broadband of 36 hours or more compared to the proposed BT connection of 300Mbps and the 15 minutes really is a massively marked difference.

Providers of Fibre Optic Broadband in the UK

The top providers currently in the market are BT and Virgin Media.  There are also a lot of companies that are piggy-backing off the BT infrastructure and these include Sky, Talk Talk, and Plusnet.  The big competition between Virgin and BT is on, with both rolling out their networks to more and more consumers every week.

Checking whether you can get fibre optic broadband

The easiest way to find out whether this broadband has reached you is to do a post code check.  This is available of a number of sites including uSwitch, and cable.co.uk.  Look for a service that is Ofcom regulated.  Pop in your postcode, click search and you’ll find out in no time at all whether you can get fibre optic broadband.

How fibre optic broadband works

This broadband is the fastest leap forward in broadband since the internet moved from narrow band 56kb dial-up connections to ADSL broadband.  We now have 100Mbps connections available to over half of the population and things are getting faster and faster.  Fibre-optic cables work by allowing light pulses to travel through optical fibres.  The interference on fibre optics is far less than on ADSL, which means that the strength of signals retains even over long distances.  The frequency of pulses is also much higher than on ADSL meaning a much greater bandwidth and faster broadband speeds as a result.  Fibre-optic cables are normally made up of an outer covering of plastic to protect the inner working cables.  There’s then a padding of silica glass, which ensures that light is reflected back into the fibre core reducing interference; the core is made of silica glass as well and this is what carries the signal.

Positives and Negatives of Fibre Optic Broadband

Fibre-optic broadband is super fast offering speeds that will soon reach 300Mbps for retail consumers. As well as speedy downloads, there are upload speeds of up to 30Mbps.  All of these add up to many people being able to jump on the same connection at the same time and do high intensity activities.

The negatives include the cost.  Deals start from around £15 and £20 a month but can be a lot more.  As well as this, the services aren’t available all around the UK.  With BT and Virgin Media having deployed to around 50% or 60% of the population so far.

Types of Fibre Optic Broadband

There are three main types of configuration of this broadband. 


With fibre-to-the-cabinet the fibre-optic cables go all the way to the street level cabinet and then the remaining leg of the journey for the internet is covered on the cables made of copper to the home.


With Fibre-to-the-Premises, the fibre-optic cable goes all the way through the cabinet and up to the premises.  With individual flats, this may mean that there is a leg of the journey that is done within the building over copper cables.


Fibre-to-the-Home involves every dwelling receiving fibre optic cable right to their door, or living room.  This is the fastest type of connection because there’s no leg of the journey over which the internet has to cover copper cables.

The Future of Fibre Optic Broadband

We’re sure to see the speeds of this fibre broadband rising further in the future. BT has already stated that their fibre-to-the-cabinet offering is going to rise from 40Mbps to 80Mbps.  And that their fibre-to-the-premises offering will be up from 100Mbps to 330Mbps.  Right now it’s possible to request fibre-to-the-premises at the 330Mbps speeds. 

So there you have it, a look at the ins and outs of fibre optic broadband.  You should now be in a better position to understand how it works and how you can get the most out of it.

Make Better Use of your Broadband

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