Everything you always wanted to know about Ultrafast broadband but were too afraid to ask

If you have questions rolling around in your head about Ultrafast broadband and what it actually is, you won’t be alone. Here we provide some answers to all the most common questions.

What exactly is Ultrafast broadband?

It does depend on who you are talking to but generally the term ‘Ultrafast’ has become synonymous with fibre-based broadband services. As a general rule, you can think of Ultrafast being in excess of 100Mbps download speeds. Often, full fibre Ultrafast services will be advertised with a top download speed of over 300Mbps

What are ‘FTTC’ and ‘FTTP’ and what’s the difference?

FTTC is ‘fibre to the cabinet’ and FTTP is ‘fibre to the premises’. There is also a service called ‘G-fast’ which is a way of boosting FTTC signals to deliver a faster speed on an FTTC connection.

FTTC is easier to provide, as it means that the fibre only runs from the exchange to the junction cabinet out on the street. That last part of the connection won’t run on fibre, but on the existing copper wire that runs between the cabinet and your premises.

With FTTP the fibre cable runs all the way to your router. However, FTTP costs a lot to install and it takes time, as it means putting that fibre cable into the ground and gullies between the cabinet and your premises.

This is why providers are also offering ‘G-fast’ as it can boost the FTTC signal quite significantly but does not entail and groundworks, so it’s not anywhere near as expensive. You should however, expect top pay more for G-fast than you would for an FTTC service.

What’s the difference between ‘superfast’ and ‘ultrafast’

There is no definitive answer to this question but generally, FTTC is seen as ‘superfast’ and FTTP as ‘ultrafast’; but with FTTC you are only going to get a top download speed of perhaps 24Mbps – so nowhere near the kind of speed you’d get from a full FTTP connection. If you want to be sure of what you are getting, look at the advertised top speed.

Can I always expect to get the top speed advertised?

There is quite a lot of fuss made about the way that broadband services are promoted and advertised, and you will usually see a top speed claim qualified by the words ‘up to’. This is because on most services, the theoretical top speed can’t be guaranteed. In fact, it will almost certainly never be attained by most users.

With FTTC, where the last part of the Ultrafast broadband connection has to travel over copper wire, the speeds you get will depend on the distance between your premises and the cabinet on the street. If it is only a few meters away or around the corner, you should get pretty close to the top speed range. But even if it is some distance – a few hundred meters say, you should still get better performance.

There is another very important factor here though, and that is contention. All broadband lines are actually shared lines, so there will be other companies or people sharing the same fibre superhighway connection that runs between your local cabinet and the national network. When everyone wants to use their broadband services, the speed to each connection might slow down.

You get contention on all broadband lines, so you may well have experienced it on your current lines. In practice though, contention is rarely an issue for most users. If your broadband does slow down inexplicably, it could be for other reasons and it is always worth calling your service provider to report the variation, which they can then explore and rectify.

Why do I even need Ultrafast broadband?

The question of whether we all really need faster broadband and more bandwidth has always been there. Yet every time faster broadband services are made available, there is always immediate and almost insatiable demand for them. All of us are doing more online – using online banking apps, searching for products, placing and managing orders, using hosted voice and cloud-based applications services. There is no question that, if you make extensive use of the Internet and web services, Ultrafast will speed everything up and make life easier.

Can I even get Ultrafast?

You need to check with your local broadband supplier or expert. In all urban areas of the UK now, FTTC services are available and in an increasing number Ultrafast is also an option. There are only a few areas where neither is available right now. Clearly, FTTC is easier and cheaper to roll-out, so that is coming first. To make Ultrafast available, requires some further work but even when it is made available, there will still be the need to get a fibre cable connected between your premises and the cabinet. If you are lucky enough to be in a relatively new build, the fibre infrastructure will already be there. If not, you will still have to wait – possible for a few weeks – and pay something extra to get the installation done.

Will it get easier, more affordable and more available?

Yes, it will. But it will take time. The best approach now is to contact your local broadband supplier and talk to them about the options today and what’s likely to become available in your area, and when, in the future. And do not be afraid to ask questions – it’s a complex market and everyone, even people in the industry, find it hard to keep track of exactly what is happening at times.

 

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