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Your quick guide to FTTC and FTTP technology

Would you like to know a little more about broadband technology but don't want to wade through extensive articles packed with tech-speak?

Perhaps you are considering a new broadband contract and would like to have a better understanding of the options? Or would you just like to know more about FTTC or FTTP broadband?

We are here to help!

Rather than make you read an entire article full of statistics and technical jargon, we've put this quick guide together. 

What follows are some short questions and answers designed to tackle the most common queries we see.

What is FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet)?

FTTC stands for Fibre To The Cabinet. This is the most common type of fibre broadband, where the network uses fibre optic wires to the street cabinet and then copper phone line to your home.

How fast is FTTC?

FTTC broadband can reach speeds of around 80Mbps, though in practice the average speed tops out at about 67Mb.

Much will depend on how far from the street cabinet your property is. The closer to the cabinet you are, the faster the connection. This is because that final leg that uses copper slows everything down.

How much does FTTC cost?

According to Broadband Genie, FTTC broadband starts at around £20 per month. Faster speeds and packages which include extras like TV will add to the cost.

Do you have access to FTTC?

96% of the UK has access to FTTC broadband with speeds of 30 Mbps or higher. There is a range of maps and postcode checkers available that can tell you exactly what's available in your area.

Is Virgin Media fibre broadband?

Virgin Media uses similar fibre technology as BT and other providers. 

Like other providers, it runs fibre optic up to the street cabinet, but then utilises coaxial cable from there to your property rather than copper telephone lines. This is known as Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC).

Coaxial cable is capable of faster speeds than copper, which is why Virgin Media offers faster speeds than BT or other FTTC providers.

What is FTTP (Fibre to the Premise)?

FTTP stands for Fibre To The Premises. Unlike FTTC, this uses a fibre optic connection all the way to the property, instead of relying on the old copper phone line for part of the connection. It is also known as Fibre To The Home (FTTH) and full-fibre.

How fast is FTTP?

FTTP broadband is capable of much higher speeds than FTTC as there's no copper cable involved. Most providers currently offer up to 1Gbps (1,000 megabits per second!), though it is capable of going even faster.

Not everyone needs that kind of speed, but FTTP providers offer a wide range to suit any household, with most offering entry-level services of 30-50Mbps. 

How much does FTTP cost?

FTTP starts at around £20 per month. Prices increase alongside the speed, with the very quickest gigabit broadband deals starting at around £50 per month.

Do you need full-fibre broadband?

You may not need the very best speeds offered by full-fibre broadband. However, you'll find an extensive choice of packages offering various speeds, and prices are similar to FTTC broadband, so there are no real downsides if it's available in your area.

Can you get full-fibre broadband?

Full fibre broadband (FTTP) is available in around 30% of UK homes, or around 8 million properties. 

You can find out whether it's available in your area using a postcode checker from a reputable website. Type your postcode into the box and select 'Search All Broadband Deals'.

The checker will assess what's available in your area and list your options.

Which providers offer full-fibre broadband?

A range of providers offer full fibre broadband. They include major names such as BT, Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk, EE, and Vodafone (but only if Openreach have installed the fibre cables to your property). There are many smaller specialist providers, some which are installing their own fibre cables that are completely separate to the Openreach network, such as Airband, Jurassic, Wildanet and Gigaclear.

What can you do if you can't get fibre broadband in your area?

The majority of homes can get basic (ADSL)  broadband using a BT phone line, so if fibre is not available you can still get internet access. However, ADSL is much slower than fibre so you may wish to look into alternatives that can provide a similar performance to fibre. 

Your options include 4G/5G mobile broadband, wireless broadband, and satellite broadband.

4G or 5G mobile networks can provide fast internet speeds (especially 5G, which is quicker than many home services). And there are now packages designed for home use which include appropriate data limits and equipment. But strong network reception is essential to ensure you get a fast and reliable connection. 

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is also an option in some locations. This uses a network of masts which communicate via radio waves to receivers attached to the outside of homes, providing reasonably fast speeds without a phone line or any other wires. This can be an excellent choice for rural areas that lack fast fixed-line broadband, but the catch is that it is a niche service with only a handful of providers serving specific locations.

If all else fails, there's always satellite broadband. Satellite internet works anywhere, so long as you are able to mount a dish with a clear view of the sky. It can also deliver some fairly respectable speeds. The major drawback with satellite is it can be quite expensive. Most satellite broadband also suffers from very high latency (a delay in sending and receiving data). The exception is SpaceX Starlink, which beams down fast, low-latency broadband from a vast constellation of satellites in low earth orbit. But that service comes at a premium.

Written in collaboration with Broadband Genie.

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