We’ve all been there at one point or another. Sick of our Internet service, looking for a new way to connect to the Internet, but confused by the many different options. How do you know which to go with?
In situations like this, it’s easy to simply go with the recommendations of your provider, or just give boosting your WiFi signal a try. But are you really getting the connection that’s best for you? For now, two of the more advanced types of connections will be covered – Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) and Fiber to the Cabinet (FTTC).
What is FTTP?
FTTP, also called Fiber to the Home (FTTH) is a pure fiber-optic cable connection running from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) directly to the user’s home or business. Fiber optic cables are made of one or more optical fibers, which are designed to carry light. These optical fibers have the width of human hair, and are covered with two layers of plastic to create a mirror around the fibers, total internal reflection.
Light travels through the fibers and bounces at very shallow angles off the mirror-like sides of the plastic, managing to stay inside the cable at all times thanks to the total internal reflection. When speaking on a landline connected to a fiber optic cable, analog voice signals are transformed into digital digital signals. A laser at one end then flashes on and off at precise intervals to send each bit of data. This is how information travels through the cable.
Today, billions of bits can be transmitted per second, with just a single laser.
What is FTTC?
FTTC is a blend of a traditional copper wire cable and fiber optic cable. It uses fiber optic cables right up to the street cabinet (gray or green cabinets on the street that house active and passive broadband equipment), and then copper wire to connect the cabinets to homes and businesses. This is because it is incredibly expensive to install fiber optic cables in a home or a business, so copper is used as an economical substitute.
It also has a feature called DLM, or dynamic line management. This automated system ensures that the connection remains stable and error-free, as well as fast and high-quality. It monitors the system and when there is a problem such as poor-quality or low-speed, it acts and will either apply interleaving (correct errors in the line, such as problems with signals) or it will slightly reduce your speed. Much of the time, however, DLM does not need to take any action.
How Are They Similar? How Are They Different?
While both FTTC and FTTP promise high speeds, FTTP’s complete fiber optic connection allows for much higher speeds than FTTC. They are both faster than conventional ADSL, of course, but FTTP is much faster than FTTC, reaching speeds of 330 Mb/s while FTTC reaches speeds of up to 76 Mb/s. It is important to note that these may not be the speeds you are actually getting, so it is vital to test your internet speed from time to time.
FTTC stands out as a copper/fiber optic blend, which makes it less expensive to install. However, it was not built for the long term and its potential bandwidth is very limited, while FTTP was built so that it could be expanded on and improved upon.
But in terms of availability, they differ greatly. FTTC can be easily found for the casual user wanting to be hooked up at home. FTTP is typically only available for businesses.
What Are The Pros and Cons of Each?
FTTP is great in that it provides high speed broadband service to users in their homes and businesses. Not only that, but it is designed so that people can go back into the system and add-on to it as needed, built with the future in mind.
However, installing FTTP is incredibly expensive. While it can be considered the broadband of the future as well as the most future-proof connection (in that it will be simple to add on to the system), trying to connect everyone would simply be far too expensive. New infrastructure would need to be added, and that involves digging up the roads and the sides of the streets to lay the cables.
On the other hand, FTTC still provides great Internet speeds. The UK-based company Zen promises a minimum of 15 Mbps. You are also more likely to be able to find a provider for FTTC if you’re just a casual user. Many providers only offer FTTP connections to businesses, so the high-speed connection is not taken up by users at home.
But FTTC is on the way out. A recent study by the Technical University of Eindhoven and Dialogic predicts a need for about 165 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload by 2020. FTTC just won’t be able to support that.
How Can I Get It?
Despite Australia’s sparse population, FTTP coverage is decent. The previous Australian government was working on launching a $36.9 billion National Broadband Network to 93% of the population at speeds of up to 1 Gbps. When Tony Abbott was elected, he promised to downgrade this project to FTTN, saying that for the average Australian, the current speed of 25 Mbps will suffice. Nevertheless, FTTP plans can still be found. Through Internode, NBN fiber broadband plans start at $49.95 and can be as much as $164.95 a month. The speeds offered are decent as well, starting from 12/1 Mbps and going up to 100/40 Mbps. Check out this article by Guy McDowell for more information on understanding Internet speeds.
In the United Kingdom, FTTC is still more common because coverage is sporadic and installation is expensive, because digging up roads in already established areas is simply too costly to justify. You are unlikely to find anything faster than FTTC unless you own a large business. However, there are still good FTTC plans. For small businesses, Zen offers plans starting from £15.31 to £79.00, with up to 17 Mbps. There are also BT Infinity packages for up to 76 Mbps starting for £25 a month.
In the United States, Verizon’s FiOS is the largest FTTP deployment to date, offering speeds from 25/25 Mbps up to 500 Mbps, with prices ranging from $54.99 to $284.99 a month. AT&T offers U-verse With AT&T GigaPower, but that isn’t as widely available as Verizon’s FiOS yet.
Keep in mind these may not be the speeds you are actually getting, especially if you use BitTorrent, as your ISP may throttle your download speeds.
Why Should You Care?
If speed is what you’re after and price is not a factor, FTTP could be the broadband choice for you. If you’re on a budget and fine with speeds that are still faster than a regular connection but not as fast as FTTP, FTTC could be what you’re after. Either way, both are incredibly advanced broadband connections and care should be taken when making a decision.
Thinking about changing your internet service? Tried FTTP or FTTC before? Leave a comment below and we’ll chat!