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Do UK ISPs have fibre optic networks?

Last Edit: 10/01/10

You may have been wondering what a fibre optic network is and how it applies to broadband. Currently the majority of UK broadband connections are operated over UK landlines which are made from copper. A landline connection is described as an electrical connection.

Fibre optic cable differs to an electrical connection. Instead a light is transmitted across optical fiber. These pulses of light have a big advantage over the standard electrical connection. Listed below is the key points which make fibre optic networks superior to their copper cousins,

  1. Higher bandwidth. Meaning you can download alot more data faster.
  2. Less data loss over distance. (up to sixty miles, compared to one or two for copper)
  3. Less cross talk.
  4. Simplicity. One fibre optic cable can do the work of countless electric links.

The disadvantage to fibre optic is as follows,

  1. Very expensive.
  2. Less functional, a copper wire can transmit data and power outputs.
  3. Fibre optic cables can be problematic to splice and can fuse.
  4. Not needed for low bandwidth activities due to it's cost of implementation.

To achieve super fast broadband (download speeds of 50mb plus) fibre optic networks are the only option. Copper networks are not capable of providing the bandwidth necessary for tomorrow's digital technologies. Virgin media implemented the UK's first fibre optic network for broadband users. With a download speed of 50mb, it's currently the fastest broadband service available to UK users.

The one issue with the service, is that it is only available to 8.3 million Britons. Due to the prohibitive costs of installing a nationwide fibre optic network. It is doubtful whether rural area's will have access to super fast fibre optic broadband in the near future. Virgin do plan on increasing access to 12.6 million Britons by 2010. But that still leaves over 40 million Britons without access to it. While the UK government has looked into ways to fund a nationwide fibre optic network, no concrete plans have yet to be set in place.