I live in the city centre - why can’t I get fibre broadband?

Why can't I get fibre? icon

I just moved to a flat right in the centre of my city, and just found out that I can’t get fibre optic broadband. What’s up with that? The rest of the city has fibre!

Alyssa, via email

That sounds frustrating! Unfortunately, though, it's not unusual for this to be the case. You're most likely to find fibre broadband in areas that have a lot of homes and businesses… but sometimes providers have to skip parts of city centres.

There are a few reasons why they might do that.

For a start, it's difficult to dig up a city centre to install fibre cables. It can be extremely disruptive in such a busy place, and engineers are more likely to encounter problems with listed buildings, fancy pavements, and so on. That also means the wires in the ground have probably been there a while now, and might be a bit too old to handle the kind of speeds and bandwidth that fibre broadband would bring.

City centres like London are also densely packed - you'll find lots of homes, flats, and business all sharing a broadband line within a very small area. Even if fibre is available, the local cabinet may be so overloaded with subscriptions that there isn't room to connect an extra household.

And for that matter, the nearest cabinet or exchange might be too far away if there isn't much space to put one in.

Or, at the other end of the scale, if your area hasn't got enough people actually living there, providers may not consider it economically viable to roll out fibre. This could be the case if you're in a business-heavy area without many flats or houses.

In fact, blocks of flats themselves can make fibre connections difficult. It means there's a longer distance from the cabinet to your apartment, and a lot of it is dependant on the wiring in your building. All of that can drag speeds down a bit too much and, again, make it not worth it for providers to roll fibre out to the area.

So what can you do?

There's still hope for fast internet… but don't hold your breath.

You can register your interest in a fibre rollout for your postcode over at the Openreach or Virgin Media websites. This'll help encourage providers to come and connect your area - but there's no guarantee, and it could be a while before anything happens.

In the meantime, you can go for a regular ADSL broadband package if speeds are adequate enough for you - or have a look at mobile broadband and wireless broadband. Watch out for low download limits with those, though.

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