In the UK, there are a variety of different broadband solutions available. This can make it tricky to decipher which type of connection is most suited to your requirements. Do I need the fastest connection possible? Which will give me the best deal? This guide breaks down two of the most common types of broadband: fibre and ADSL. Whilst fibre is a newer technology, there are circumstances in which ADSL broadband may be a favourable (and the only) option.
What is fibre broadband and how does it work?
Fibre optic cables are used to transmit data in the form of light. Each cable, which is thinner than a strand of human hair, contains tiny tubes. Data signals, transmitted in the form of light pulses, ricochet off the walls of the reflective tubes until they reach the recipient’s equipment. All of this happens within a few milliseconds.
Types of fibre broadband
In your search for the best broadband, you may have noticed that there are multiple types of fibre connectivity, which can be confusing. We’ve broken down the differences below.
Fibre to the premises (FTTP)
With FTTP broadband, fibre wires run directly from the exchange, all the way to the connected property. This direct ‘full fibre’ connection currently provides users with impressive download speeds of up to 330Mbps, and is classed by Ofcom as ‘Ultrafast broadband’.
FTTP is also commonly referred to as FTTH (fibre to the home), but both terms refer to the same product.
Unfortunately, FTTP is currently available to a small minority of UK premises, although Openreach does have plans in place to change this in the coming years. If you do not have access to full-fibre broadband in your location, G.Fast can offer similar speeds and is more widely accessible.
Openreach’s G.fast broadband is essentially a halfway house between FTTP and slower fibre connectivity. As a broadband solution, it utilises the existing fibre- and copper wire infrastructure used to deliver fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) broadband – the most widespread and popular form of fibre broadband currently delivered to UK homes and businesses.
Although FTTC benefits from being more widely available, using copper over the last mile from the green roadside cabinet will drastically affect the speed and quality of the end user’s connection. Copper wires are notoriously prone to damage and line attenuation and do not have the same capability as fibre, when it comes to data bandwidths.
The solution provided by G.fast is the addition of a special pod to the side of the street cabinet, which allows internet connectivity to be ‘supercharged’ through the copper wires, resulting in speeds up to 330Mbps – similar to FTTP connections.
Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC)
Fibre to the cabinet is essentially the ‘non-supercharged’ version of G.Fast, in that it uses the same combination of optical fibre and traditional copper cables to deliver a broadband connection. The main difference is that the speed boost provided by the cabinet-side module is not provided.
FTTC is the most popular form of fibre connectivity currently offered, due to the balance between speed, easy implementation and lower costs. However, reliance on the old copper wire network significantly reduces the maximum speed a customer is likely to receive. The expected theoretical maximum is around 80Mbps. This will drop the further the customer is away from the roadside cabinet.
Diadvantages of fibre broadband
Despite offering the fastest broadband speeds available, there are several limitations associated with a fibre optic connection.
Availability of fibre connectivity
Although the Government has rolled out plans for 3 million more homes to have access to FTTP, it’s currently estimated that only 6% of properties across the UK have access to the network. Whilst FTTC is a more widely available product, some areas of the UK do not have access to any kind of optical fibre infrastructure.
FTTP provides premium-grade connection quality and speed, but admittedly comes with a premium price tag, especially when installation is taken into consideration.
Although FTTC is considerably more affordable, it is positioned as a mid-range product. For some small businesses or lower-income households, it may be a cost that they either don’t need or may add up to a significant proportion of income, especially if it is bundled with additional unwanted services.
As suggested above, mixed fibre and copper networks suffer with a disparity between headline speeds and actual speeds. Whilst often advertised as providing download speeds of up 80Mbps, copper line attenuation will cause a signal to degrade the further it travels from the source. proximity. In other words, the further away your premises is from the street-based cabinet, the slower your internet will likely be.
The other issue comes from line contention: the sharing of a line with other neighbouring premises. This can lead to the speed of the connection fluctuating depending on the time of day. Peak-time usage in the evening will cause connection speeds to drop.
What is ADSL broadband?
Before the development of fibre broadband solutions, the internet connectivity relied upon ADSL (asymmetric digital line subscriber) technology. ADSL broadband relies on the traditional copper telephone wires to deliver a connection to customers.
In simple terms, ADSL works by splitting the copper telephone wire into two channels, separating the frequencies. It was initially developed as an upgrade from the outdated dial-up connection, which prevented users from using their landline and internet simultaneously.
Most premises across the country will be happy to find that they can access ADSL broadband, regardless of their location. ADSL is typically also the cheapest broadband solution on the market, as it relies on pre-existing telephone infrastructure.
However, despite being affordable, it is also the slowest solution – most ISPs advertise ADSL as providing up to 8Mbps.
Another huge issue with ADSL broadband is reliability. Copper wires are prone to damage and degrade; if any of the cables delivering your internet are damaged, you will experience a much poorer connection, or even a complete drop in connectivity. Fibre optic cables, on the other hand, are far more robust.
Which is better: fibre or ADSL broadband?
The word ‘better’ is very subjective when it comes to broadband. What may be ‘better’ for one user, may be entirely different for another. For a small business looking to upgrade their broadband solution, a reliable connection may be of utmost priority. However, their neighbour may be on the look out for the cheapest deal on the market.
If reliability and consistently fast download speeds are an essential feature for you, you’d be well advised to look into a full fibre broadband solution. However, if you have a smaller budget and don’t require the fastest speeds available, standard fibre or ADSL will be better suited to your requirements.
Still feeling unsure which broadband solution is better for your business? At Structured Communications we cater to all types of consumers. Get in touch today to find out how we can help.