FTTP vs FTTC broadband

You will hear the acronyms FTTP and FTTC used a lot in the broadband world. They are quite self-explanatory really. In both cases the ‘FTT’ part stands for ‘Fibre to the’, while the ‘P’ in FTTP is for ‘Premises” and the ‘C’ in FTTC is for ‘Cabinet’.

Both use fibre optic cables, and both are faster than standard ADSL broadband. But there are important differences. Fundamentally, FTTP is faster, but harder to get and more expensive; FTTC is much more widely available and lower-cost, but not as fast.

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What is fibre broadband and how does it work?

Fibre broadband, quite simply, uses fibre optic cables to carry signals rather than copper cables. Fibre optic cables are made up of hundreds of tiny strands of glass or plastic and, as you can easily imagine, they are much faster and more reliable. Even a small fibre cable can carry thousands of broadband connections and voice lines, so it’s ultra-compact and (in theory) easier to install to the cabinets and to offices and homes.

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What is FTTP broadband?

FTTP means that the fibre cable that carries your broadband service comes right to your door – to your business premises or home (it is sometimes referred to as ‘FTTH’ as well).

However, getting a fibre connection that runs all the way to the connector in your wall is usually not that straight-forward, as the fibre optic cable has to be physically installed – and most busines and home premises in the UK only have a ‘standard’ copper connection in situ.

These days, if there is a new line being connected to a building, most local authorities prefer it to be underground, which, of course, takes time and can be expensive, as it means someone has to dig a trench in the ground or access existing ducts. To do that you need permission and a specific time-slot. It needs to be done safely and with the proper authority. Even if you are allowed to run fibre optic cable above ground, it’s not going to be cheap.

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What is FTTC broadband?

With FTTC the fibre goes as far as the dark green junction box or cabinet that will be situated out on the street somewhere – hopefully not too far away – from your offices or where you live. To get from there, the broadband signal will get to your office or home via the standard copper cables. These are simple twisted-pair wires that were (and still are) used to carry voice calls.

As FTTC only has to get to the cabinet, it is cheaper. But that last bit of copper cable (often referred to as ‘the last mile’) slows it down. For FTTC, fibre optics are deployed as part of the core network, and this makes them easily accessible and available to all service providers. You subsequently get a lot more availability and choice of FTTC services.

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FTTP vs FTTC – which is better?

As already noted, FTTP is faster, but not as easy to get, and costs more. FTTC is not as fast but quite widely-available and not as expensive.

If you can get the fibre to run all the way into your building, it’s obviously going to be really fast. Indeed, this is why it’s generally referred to as ‘ultra-fast’. With FTTP, it’s possible to achieve download speeds of up to 1Gbps, although most services will tend of offer speeds of up to 300Mbps.

With FTTP, unless the fibre cabling is already installed to the building – as it often will be now with newly-constructed properties, you will have to pay for the work to be done. You may also have to wait a while, as planning permission and an appropriate time-slot will have to be found for the work to be carried out.

With FTTC, that last bit of copper slows things right down and top download speeds tend to be up to 80Mbps. But as there is no additional work to do up-front, it’s not as expensive.

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Key comparisons of FTTP vs FTTC

In terms of speeds, FTTP is faster – it will give you up to 1Gbps download speeds, although most services are offered at up to 300Mbps. FTTC will typically be offering up to 80Mbps.

The cost of FTTP is always going to be higher – usually around £50 per month for a 300Mbps service. If you want something that gives you up to 1Gbps, it will often be double that price. There are cheaper options – but they may not be available where you live.

FTTC will typically cost between £30 and £40 per month, depending on the overall package. There are many more FTTC options available, so you may want to shop around for something that really suits your needs.

Installation time of services is also worth mentioning. Implementing an FTTC service will normally take no longer than standard broadband, since no new cabling is required. For FTTP, unless the fibre is already in place, it be weeks or even months before the line can be installed. There will also be a one-off cost, which could be several hundreds of pounds. It is well worth getting firm quotes in advance for FTTP installation.

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Who offers FTTP broadband?

While just about all Internet Services Providers can offer FTTC, when it comes to FTTP services, there are only a limited number of suppliers, as they have to be willing to put the necessary fibre optic cabling in place.

As a result, most ISPs are dependent on FTTP being made available by Openreach, the company that maintains and builds out the UK’s main connectivity network, to provide FTTP options. Even where these are available, there may still be groundworks to be done before the service can be installed.

There are a handful of so-called ‘altnet’ providers as well, who are building their own fibre networks in certain cities, or towns. These include Hyperoptic, CityFibre and KCOM and they will usually charge an installation fee, unless the building is already wired-up for fibre. What many of these suppliers do is target specific industrial estates or buildings in which there are multiple prospective customers. This makes it a less risky investment for them to lay the fibre cabling and lower-cost for any business that makes use of the service.

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