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What is Fibre Optic Broadband Exactly?

By Edited Feb 13, 2014 0 0

Understanding the Technology

When it comes to this technology, it can be very confusing for the uninitiated.  Even we that consider ourselves quite tech-savvy can sometimes get confused by the different types of technology such as ADSL, ADSL 2, ADSL 2+, fibre optic , mobile broadband, 4G and so on and so forth.

This article will focus in on fibre optic broadband so that you can understand why it’s so good and why it is the future.  After reading this piece, you should understand more about the technology and what you can do with fibre optic broadband.

ADSL Technology

Before we go into fibre optic broadband it’s worth having a look at what came before. ADSL technology was built using the BT telephone infrastructure.  This infrastructure involves copper cables that are laid to around 99%+ of homes in the UK.  Therefore the majority of people in the UK can get ADSL technology of one form or the other.  It was the biggest leap forward in broadband in history when it took over from dial-up narrowband connections. 

In the early days, ADSL provided speeds of a couple of megabits per second max.  Nowadays, we have connections up to 24Mbps on ADSL2+.  The challenge is that the level of connectivity you will receive on ADSL really depends on how far you are from the telephone exchange.  If you’re only a few 100 meters from the exchange, you’ll get close to the advertised speed.  However, if you live a long way and down poor copper cables, you may well get intermittent connections and poor speeds. 

The limits to the technology really do come about because the infrastructure was designed for landline voice calls and not super fast internet data.  And that is why we now have the upgrade to the system being rolled out across the UK.

What is fibre optic broadband?

This method uses purpose-built cables that are being laid around the country in order to transfer internet data much faster.  Consumers can receive speeds of 100Mbps on Virgin Media  and are soon going to get 330Mbps on BT.

BT is running the cables over their telephone infrastructure so that in the future everyone will be able have access through them and their sub providers.  BT Openreach offers the opportunity for other providers to use their network in order to offer a  service that is branded by the sub provider.  In this way companies such as BE , Plusnet , Sky, The Post Office, Tesco, and so on are able to offer really good services on a fibre optic basis.  In the future, the numbers will increase just as they have with ADSL. 

The Make-up of the Fibre Optic Broadband Cables

The cables are made of three layers in normal situations.  You have a core, you have an inner layer surrounding the core, and then you have an outer protective layer casing.  The core transfers the data and the inner layer reflects light back in to ensure integrity of data.  The design of these cores enable more pulses per second than with copper cables and therefore much more bandwidth.

The cables are perfectly designed to allow data to travel without any impediment, interference, or resistance, and therefore there should be no loss of speed over distance, unlike with the copper cables of ADSL.

BE , Sky , Virgin , and All the Others

Right now there are many providers vying for position in the fibre optic broadband market.  It’s worth noting that only around 50% or 60% of the country currently have access, as the infrastructure is not rolled out fully yet.  It tends to be the case that cities and urban areas are the first to be delivered fibre optic broadband.  This makes sense since there are more inhabitants to benefit from the solutions.  Over time, more rural areas will receive it, and there are special projects going on in order to achieve this.

There is a fight between BT and Virgin Broadband to roll out their networks as fast as possible to capture market share.  Indeed, the faster BT can achieve this the quicker companies like BE , Plusnet , Sky Broadband, and the others that rely on the BT infrastructure will be able to offer their services to the masses.

At the moment, Sky offers their service to around 30% of the UK population.  In areas that Sky cannot access, and Virgin have their cables, Sky tends to have equipment installed in the telephone exchange to improve their ADSL service in order to compete with Virgin on the broadband front and therefore win more customers for their digital TV packages too.

Can you get fibre optic broadband

If you want this from BE Broadabnd, Plusent, Virgin, or anyone else, the quickest way to find out whether it’s available to you is to do a postcode check on one of the many Ofcom approved website tools.

If you do a search for ‘can I get fibre optic broadband’, you’ll be brought up a number of results from which you can choose one to use.  You simply pop in your postcode, and sometimes your telephone number, and then you’ll be brought up a list of providers that offer services in your area.  If you find out you can’t get it, your next protocol will be looking for a loop loop unbundled service where providers have installed their technology into the BT exchange and therefore can provide better service levels.

The Future

BT is going to provide service to almost 70% of the country by the end of 2013, according to projections.  Virgin Broadband is equally rolling their network out as fast asthey can.  We should expect by the end of 2014, the majority of the country to have access to the network and superfast broadband will become the norm.  

With BT looking to offer 330Mbps connections on their fibre-to-the-home offering, we really are going to have super fast speeds.  Businesses are also going to benefit from 1GB connections already in place in certain locations, and these are going to be more the norm over the coming years.  The future is exciting for fibre optic broadband, and for consumers that seek to get the most out of their internet connections, both for pleasure and for business.

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