The Rise Of Fibre Optic Broadband In The UK

Fibre optic cables have been used for telecommunications since the 1970s. There are tens of thousands of miles of optical cable resting across the landmasses and oceans, originally to allow telephone calls to be made from the UK to the rest of the world ...

In today's world, we now consume a lot more data than ever before and strangely, the UK has one of the lowest ratios of fibre optic cables connecting homes and premises to the local telephone exchange than any other country in Europe.

When broadband started in the UK, it was designed to transmit data across the traditional BT copper phone line that nearly every household already had installed at home!

At first, people clamoured to upgrade from the old dial-up modem service they had used for many years so they could send and receive emails with an 'always on' service. That was back in 1999. The first download speed was a slow 1/2 Megabits per second (Mbps), also known as 512 Kilobits per second (Kbps).

By 2010, the Internet had grown exponentially and consumers wanted a lot more from their broadband services. The telecoms industry realised that now was the time to build a new fibre-based service across the UK which would increase download speeds.

The easiest way was to lay fibre optic cables from the exchange itself to the 'green' boxes we see on our streets, but still to use the copper infrastructure from the green box to the premises (such as a home or business).

Although typical speeds have now averaged at 50Mbps for downloads, we have seen that with the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for internet services at home has risen exponentially so keeping connections robust and stable has proved difficult.

Commercially, fibre optic services have been around for over 20 years and were very expensive at first. Only companies who had the budget and requirements for a 'dedicated' line would order a fibre cable to be installed into their building.

This was a luxury even up to a few years ago until alternative providers to BT and Virgin Media (the Big 2 as they're called) stepped into the UK market. Now, laying their own fibre optic cables in the ground, both to commercial and residential premises is forcing prices downwards.

One company who has come up to challenge the Big 2 is City Fibre. They have started to offer consumers (through various partnerships with Vodafone, TalkTalk and Sky) a direct fibre connection with synchronous upload and download speeds from 100Mbps to nearly 1 Gigabit per second (1 Gbps).

With the number of devices in the home now averaging around thirty products including laptops, PCs, games consoles, smart TVs, smart speakers, alarm systems, cameras and a whole host of other internet-enabled devices, the demand for data has again shot up.

It is only going to get higher in the future as more businesses realise that their employees can work from home efficiently. The UK infrastructure companies are now in a 'race' to outdo each other and now all new housing estates only have a fibre optic cable to our homes at an affordable price.

"A word of caution though!"

A commercial fibre optic connection is totally different so don't expect to pay £60.00 per month as with a residential connection. There are many technical differences in the transmission process, not the physical fibre. It's all down to the equipment used and the contention ratio on a housing estate compared to a business park or industrial estate.

However, typical prices for a commercial fibre service have dropped dramatically for a 1Gbps service from around £1k per month a few years ago to as low as £295.00 per month.

That's likely to keep dropping as demand grows.

If you feel inspired to find out more then do call me on 07555 807700 or leave a comment below and I'll be in touch as soon as I can.