With blisteringly fast speeds, and impressive reliability, fibre optic broadband’s perfect for shared households, large families, or anyone who likes to watch TV and movies, listen to music or play games online. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s so special about fibre optic broadband?
If you want to get the most out of the internet, you need a fibre optic broadband connection.
Why? Well, it's the fastest type of broadband you can get in the UK for starters. Compared to a standard broadband connection, fibre is like Usain Bolt on rocket-powered rollerskates, making browsing the web as smooth as butter and allowing you to download movie-size files in just a few minutes.
Read on, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about superfast fibre optic broadband deals, including how to get it, how to find out whether you can get it, and whether or not you really need it.
Video: Fibre optic broadband
Which providers offer fibre optic broadband?
Most national broadband providers now offer fibre optic broadband packages. So if you’re interested in a superfast package, you might want to consider the likes of:
To compare fibre optic deals, enter your postcode into the box above to see what you can get in your area.
To find out what's best between BT Infinity and Sky Fibre, see our BT Infinity vs Sky Fibre review.
Can I get fibre optic broadband in my area?
One of the biggest drawbacks of fibre broadband is that not everyone can get it yet. In some areas, you may be able to pick and choose from loads of fibre optic deals, whereas in others - particularly in the countryside - you may find you have no options at all.
That's changing though. Fibre optic broadband's now available to more than two thirds of homes and businesses in the UK and, supported by government investment, that's likely to hit 95% by 2017.
So, if you're interested in getting fibre optic broadband right now, you should check to make sure you can get it. Pop your postcode into the box above to see what fibre optic deals are available in your area.
What can you do with fibre optic broadband?
The extra grunt you get from fibre will give general browsing a boost, but there are some online activities where you'll really see a the difference. Here are just a few:
You can download files, including films and music, very quickly
Fibre optic broadband download speeds are so fast that downloading files becomes a snap. With a 100Mb connection, for example, you can download a DVD quality movie in less than five minutes, and an entire album in just a few seconds.
The whole family can get online at the same time
Your internet gets slower if lots of people are using it at once. Large households often find that they can’t do what they want as a result. With fibre that's less of an issue. Your connection will still get slower, but because it's so much faster to start with, it's unlikely to drop to unusable levels.
You can stream films and TV in high-definition
If you like to watch TV and films online, through services like BBC iPlayer and NOW TV, or subscription services like YouView from BT and TalkTalk, you'll love fibre. It gives the smoothest possible experience, with minimal loading, or interruptions, even in high-definition (HD).
It makes gaming smoother and faster
If you're a serious gamer, you need fast broadband. It could help performance of multiplayer games - ensuring you don't miss the crucial moment in a match on FIFA 2014 or a once-in-a-lifetime headshot in Call of Duty. But more importantly, it will let you download the games themselves, extra content, and updates and patches very quickly, so you spend more time playing and less time waiting to play.
You can make video calls reliably
Phone calls are good and all, but sometimes you want to speak to someone face to face. On a video screen. It's especially useful if you have friends and family overseas. Online video calls and conferences can be data-intensive, and the faster your connection the smoother your experience will be.
Do I need fibre optic broadband?
For some people fibre optic broadband does indeed revolutionise their lives, but it is more expensive than regular broadband, and you don’t necessarily need it. So who does?
You will are likely to benefit from fibre optic broadband if you:
- Have a large family living in the same house
- Share accommodation with more than one other person
- Watch a lot of movies online
- Regularly use online TV catch-up services like BBC iPlayer
- Have a TV service like YouView, which allows you to stream content from the web
- Regularly upload photos and videos to the web
- Play games online
- Regularly download and upload large files
- Use video calling services like Skype on a regular basis
However, if you live alone or in a small household, and typically only use the internet for checking email, going on Facebook, and occasionally watching iPlayer, you can probably save money by picking a cheaper non-fibre package. To see what else is out there, simply use our broadband comparison service.
How does fibre optic broadband work?
Unlike telephone lines - which have essentially been repurposed to carry broadband - fibre optic cables are custom-built for broadband. Information is transmitted as flashes of light. The thing about light is that it travels extremely quickly. There's less chance of interference slowing down fibre too.
This means the broadband speeds you get from a fibre package are much faster than you'd get from a 'traditional' connection, and you get speeds much closer to the ‘up to’ speeds advertised by providers to boot.
That's not to say speeds will be exactly the same as advertised, mind you. Most superfast packages use fibre optic cables to your nearest cabinet - the green box on or near your street - and run from there Into the home via copper telephone wire, which is unreliable and prone to interference at the best of times. As a result, some drop in speed is inevitable - how much depends on the distance covered.
The exception to the rule is Virgin Media , which has its own network. In this case, coaxial cables - which are designed to reduce interference - run right into the house, so you are more likely to get the up to speeds advertised with Virgin Media than you are with other fibre broadband providers.