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Full Fibre Broadband Explained

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Full Fibre Broadband Explained

Did you know that in 2017 the UK government pledged to make full fibre available to everybody by 2033?

Since then, new articles on the subject have been published regularly with clear excitement around the subject. So, what exactly is full fibre broadband? And, why is it going to change our world?

How the internet worked in the UK from the beginning

Copper cables formed the original telecommunications network. These were used for normal landline telephone use, but in more recent years became used to transfer internet data too.

Fibre optic cables were added to the network to handle data. These are different from copper cables because they use light to transfer data, which makes them faster and more efficient. 

Until now, the telecommunications network in the UK has been updated by adding fibre optic cables to the network from exchange to exchange (those big green boxes that you see at the end of many streets across the UK). But they've rarely been added from exchange to premises.

[pic BT exchange]

Today's hybrid broadband for the half-fat internet experience

Most broadband connections in the UK today use a combination of fibre and copper to deliver data to our houses and businesses. This convenient fusion of technologies has allowed us to improve internet speeds over the last couple of decades.

Yet, today's broadband comes with limitations because fibre optic cables have mostly been installed from exchange to exchange in the UK, and copper has been left to pick up the slack from your house or office to the exchange.

It's this leg of the journey that brings a serious slow down to the transfer of your data to and from the internet. Once that data reaches the exchange, the fibre optic takes over and your data transfer speeds up again. That's why we've seen improvements in internet speed over the years.

The limitations on data transfer speed across copper cables are most noticable when your premises is further away from the exchange, which can lead to much slower broadband connections despite transfer rates quickening up once the data reaches the exchange.

Full fibre broadband explained

Full fibre broadband eliminates copper cable completely by bringing the fibre connection straight from the exchange to your property, enabling a fast connection to the exchange and to the wider internet beyond. This is also known as Fibre To The Premises (FTTP).

The concept of full fibre is not new though. It has been privately installed by businesses for years and has been called "dedicated fibre". This often entailed digging to lay new fibre optic cable to the property. 

If you're an IT manager and suddenly got excited about the prospect of jumping the queue to install a dedicated fibre connection, be warned, we know of projects that have taken up to 18 months to complete due to the digging requirements to lay the new cable. Not to mention the fact that dedicated fibre currently costs around 10 times more than a normal business broadband connection.

What does full fibre deliver that doesn't already exist?

Speed! Once the copper cables from our premises to the exchange have been replaced with fibre optic you can expect speeds of up to 1Gbps, which according the BBC is enough to download a HD TV programme in five seconds!

Although, it's important to recognise that once we're all on and sharing those connections the likelihood of getting the full 1Gbps would be low, but that said, the new speeds will still make today's internet seem like dialup... remember those days?


The news about the 2033 target for full fibre in the UK is great news. We can all look forward to a much better experience on the internet as we continue to integrate it into our working and private lives. Although, it's important to remember that 2033 is still far into the future, and there are a range of existing and immerging solutions that can work for you if you're currently in an area with a poor broadband connection.

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