8th May 2021

Hello and welcome to the third edition of the toob blog. Thank you for joining us as we continue our adventures in blogging! In this post we look at how our connection to the internet has evolved, measuring the impact that fibre optic cables have had in delivering a faster and more reliable service.

A time before broadband

Anyone old enough is sure to feel a deep sense of nostalgia when thinking about dial up internet. Unplugging the phone line, connecting your modem and waiting for the noise. Ah, the noise. The glorious symphony that greeted you each time you wanted to browse the web. A noise synonymous with the internet in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Often, the thrill of being connected to the worldwide web was short-lived. Connection was usually quickly followed by shouts of “get off the internet, I need to use the phone,” coming from the next room.

That was before broadband revolutionised the internet. By allowing the signal in one line to be split, broadband enabled users to make calls and be online simultaneously.

A game changer

As with most new technologies, broadband was extremely expensive when it launched in 2000. Despite ground-breaking speeds up to 512 kbps, uptake was slow for a few years. It wasn’t until 2008 that broadband usage really took off. The surge in popularity and availability resulted in over 50% of UK homes having access to a broadband service by the end of 2009.

The speed and reliability of broadband sparked a digital transformation. It helped to change consumer habits forever and revolutionise the way we communicate with each other, access content, listen to music and watch TV and films.

Fibre optic revolution

Designed to replace the older copper wires which traditionally connected us to the internet, fibre optic cables began being used to provide broadband in 2008. Over the last 13 years fibre has gradually been phasing out copper in the broadband infrastructure of the UK.

By transmitting information via pulses of light, fibre optic cables have been responsible for dramatically improving broadband speeds. In the UK, average download speeds have increased by a factor of 20 between 2008 and 2020, from 3.6 Mbps to 72 Mbps in the most recent Ofcom report. However, there is a very large proportion of the UK still using copper wires for some, or all, of their connection to the internet.

Given this, it is perhaps unsurprising to see the UK placed at 47th in the world for broadband speeds in the latest speedtest.net ranking. With over a quarter of the country still receiving average download speeds below 30 Mbps, the UK is lagging the rest of the world when it comes to providing world-class connectivity.

Fibre, just not full-fibre

Fibre broadband packages have been advertised for several years but most fibre connections still rely on copper wires to reach your home. This type of connection is known as fibre-to-the cabinet (FTTC). With around 50% of all connections in the UK being FTTC, it is by far the most popular choice. In a FTTC connection, fibre optic cables are used to transmit information to the local cabinet, usually located somewhere in your street. From there, traditional copper wires carry the signal into your home.

FTTC has undoubtedly improved our connectivity in recent years. However, using copper wires for the final stage of the journey dramatically reduces the speed and reliability of the service you receive. The slowdown from the cabinet to our homes is really highlighted by the average FTTC speeds, which in 2020 were approximately 50 Mbps for download and 10 Mbps for upload.

A reliance on outdated technology means FTTC connections are vulnerable to adverse weather, temperature fluctuations and electromagnetic interference. The distance from the cabinet, throttled speeds at peak times and the age of the wire being used will also impact on the speed and reliability of FTTC connections. With so many potential obstacles, FTTC networks experience a bigger variance in speed and performance, especially at peak times, when network capacity becomes strained.

Future-ready broadband

With a full-fibre connection these obstacles are negated and the whole journey benefits from information being transmitted at the speed of light.

Full-fibre connections are usually referred to as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) or fibre-to-the-home (FTTH), with fibre optic cables used for the entire journey into your home. This full-fibre optic journey provides next generation speeds and a much more reliable and consistent broadband service.

Full-fibre networks also have the advantage of being able to handle significantly more users and data transmission. Unlike FTTC connections, there is no battle for bandwidth, with an increased network capacity removing the need for download speeds to be prioritised over upload speeds. With a 900 Mbps symmetrical service, toob can offer up to 18x faster speeds for download and 90x faster for upload compared to the average FTTC connection.

Although there is still a long way to go before FTTP connections are widely available, thanks to providers like toob, access to full-fibre connections is growing rapidly, with around 20% of the UK able to access FTTP connections. As our journey continues, we look forward to giving more people the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of full-fibre.

The future

Being well connected has never been more important to the UK. As technology becomes more embedded within our lives, a fast and reliable internet connection will only become more essential. The future will demand that we quickly overhaul dated technology and degrading infrastructure and replace it with a future-proof, full-fibre network. As the future becomes our reality, we guarantee toob’s full-fibre network will continue to deliver the broadband speed you need.

Looking ahead

In the next edition of the toob blog we focus on Ofcom’s annual report on home broadband performance. The 2021 report is set to be released next week and gives us the opportunity to analyse the progress made in the UK over the last 12 months. Join us as we review average speeds and access to full-fibre connections to provide a snapshot of the current broadband landscape in the UK.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. We would love to hear from you so please feel free to reach out to us via our social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter to share your questions or comments and to let us know what you would like to read about in future posts.

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