Fibre-to-the-home broadband connections, or FTTH broadband connections, refer to fibre optic cable connections directly to individual premises.
These networks can deliver digital information e.g. telephone, video, data etc. much more efficiently than traditional copper cables.
FTTH broadband connections are already a reality for more than 1 million consumers in the United States, while more than 6 million in Japan and 10 million worldwide enjoy its benefits.
A key benefit of FTTH, also sometimes called FTTP, for “fibre-to-the-premises” broadband, is that it provides for far faster connection speeds and carrying capacity than twisted pair conductors, DSL or coaxial cable. For example, a single copper pair conductor can carry six phone calls. A single fibre pair can carry more than 2.5 million phone calls simultaneously.
FTTH networks typically provide 100 Mbps speeds but in Korea, Japan and elsewhere this figure reaches 1,000 Mbps (1Gbps). Speeds of 40Gbps have been demonstrated in Sweden. As long as the fibre is in place, speeds will increase as new modulation and transmission techniques are developed.
FTTH connections are considered the only technology with enough bandwidth to handle future consumer demands, reliably and cost effectively.
This Wikipedia article provides more information on the different ways of providing next generation broadband, including the inferior fibre-to-the-cabinet being deployed in some parts of the UK by the big commercial players.
Broadband Fact: South Korea has provided one million homes with 1 gigabit per second connections – enough to download a two-hour film in just 12 seconds!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Q: What’s available in the UK?
A: The main providers in the UK are supplying fibre-optic broadband via FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet). This involves running fibre-optic cable to the street telephone cabinet and relying on traditional copper cable from their into the home. This allows a good broadband service, with speeds far faster than DSL broadband (which relies on existing copper home phone wires). However, the fastest broadband speeds with FTTC are typically up to 76 Mbps, versus the average UK broadband speed of 12 Mbps (August 2013).
Q: What’s available in the Worth Valley?
A: Virgin services are available up the valley to parts of Haworth and the BT Infinity programme has now reached some parts of our area too. Experience tells us there are still issues with distance to the nearest fibre enabled cabinet and anomalies with people connecting to boxes further away than expected. We also know that despite the ramped up roll out by BT, some areas are still so far away from a fibre enabled cabinet as to be totally offline.
Q: What is bandwidth?
A: In a network, bandwidth (what engineers call bitrate) is the ability to carry information. The more bandwidth a network has, the more information it can carry in a given amount of time. Networks with high bandwidth also tend to be more reliable because fewer bottlenecks disturb the flow of information.
Q: How much bandwidth – or information delivered by bandwidth – do we need?
A: A standard-definition television signal requires a bandwidth of about 2 Mbps – two million bits (zeros and ones) per second. HDTV requires as little as 2.5 Mbps if the image is rather static – a person being interviewed, for instance. But fast action, such as in some sporting events, requires more – as much as 8 Mbps, even with new compression technology such as MPEG-4. Now, full-frame 3D TV is on it’s way and 3D immersive HDTV – a technology already being used in some academic and industrial settings – will require between 50 and 300 Mbps.
Q: What about data?
A: Bandwidth requirements for many kinds of data are exploding. For example, the digital cameras that consumers buy can create larger and larger images. In health care, the medical images produced by equipment such as CT scanners are orders of magnitude larger than camera images – a hundred times larger, and more. The biggest growth in data transmission has been for video, and this trend is expected to continue at least for the rest of this decade. Video requires not only extra bandwidth but also extra reliability. The smallest delay in data transmission can result in distorted views.
Q: Can’t copper carry high bandwidth?
A: Yes, copper can support high bandwidth, but only for a few hundred yards. The longer the signal travels on copper, the lower the bandwidth. Optical fibre is unique in that it can carry high-bandwidth signals over enormous distances. Another difference is that fibre is better able to support upstream bandwidth – that is, from the user out to the network. High upstream bandwidth is important for video communication such as live streaming and for many business applications.
Q: What exactly makes fibre “future proof”?
A: The equipment necessary to send light signals keeps getting better. So equipping an existing fibre network with newer electronics and with lasers that pulse light faster, or lasers using different wavelengths of light, can vastly increase available bandwidth without changing the fibre itself. The new electronics are very cheap compared with the original cost of laying the fibre. Once fibre has been deployed, network operators can keep increasing bandwidth at very little cost. In May 2011—German scientists set a world record for optical communications by transmitting 26 trillion bits of data per second—enough to download 700 DVDs in an instant!
Q: How long has fibre optic technology been in use?
A: Fibre optic cable has been used in communications networks for more than 30 years. The first trans-Atlantic fibre cable was laid in 1988. Almost every country on earth has some fibre, delivering services reliably and inexpensively.
Q: All providers seem to claim they have fibre networks. What’s different about Fibre To The Home?
A: Don’t be fooled! It is true that most cable and DSL networks use fibre. In these networks, the fibre carries the signal close enough to a home so that copper can carry it the rest of the way. However, this approach requires expensive, difficult-to maintain electronics at the point where the fibre meets the copper. The available bandwidth is far less than an all-fibre network. And these halfway approaches do not allow symmetrical bandwidth – existing cable and DSL systems can download much faster than they can upload information.
Q: Isn’t that good enough?
A: That depends on what you want to use your bandwidth for. If all you want is to send emails, download songs or share family photos, the bandwidth provided by today’s cable modems and DSL lines may be good enough. If you want to log on to the corporate LAN from home and work effectively, you’ll need more. And what about uploading a high-def video of the school play, or sitting down to dinner with family members a thousand miles away?
Q: Why does it matter how close to the home fibre comes in DSL and cable systems?
A: With copper cable, there is a marked relationship between distance and available bandwidth. For example, the latest commercial versions of DSL can carry a signal of more than 200 Mbps for about 750 feet. Over a distance of a mile, DSL can deliver only about 30 Mbps. That’s the theoretical limit. In practice, the real bandwidth is less.
Q: With cable and DSL, there’s often a difference between advertised and actual bandwidth. Is that true for fibre?
A: Cable, DSL and even wireless networks are usually more heavily oversubscribed than fibre – that is, providers promise users more than the total amount of available bandwidth because they know all users aren’t going full throttle most of the time. As a result, copper-based networks slow down during periods of heavy use – such as when teenagers come home from school.
Fibre has enough bandwidth that providers can guarantee high speeds with little or no oversubscription. If a fibre network is designed properly, users will always get the speeds that are advertised.
Q: Is FTTH technology expensive?
A: In new construction, fibre costs about the same as copper to build, and it costs much less to operate and maintain. Building fibre to the home is expensive only when compared with not building anything – that is, with adding new electronics to an existing copper network or building fibre only part of the way to the home. The problem is that these less-expensive solutions don’t always meet users’ needs.
In the last few years, the flood of video content has outrun the ability of older technologies to handle bandwidth demands. Providers are shutting off or slowing down service or imposing prohibitive fees for customers who exceed monthly bandwidth caps. Customers don’t like these restrictions, and they don’t appreciate being called “bandwidth hogs” for using services they have paid for. In addition, it’s not clear that providers save money by failing to meet users’ needs, because limiting bandwidth means limiting revenue potential as well.
Q: How fast is FTTH technology?
A: Very fast! FTTH typically delivers 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) symmetrical broadband. In the United States 1 Gbps is being used as the benchmark for network deployment. In other countries even faster speeds are available.