Covering more than 96% of the UK, Superfast or 'Fibre to the Cabinet' (FTTC) broadband, is the most common type of broadband available.
While not as fast as Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), Superfast broadband is generally considered to be suitable for most households. But how fast is 'Superfast'? Read on to find out.
Superfast broadband key points:-
- Superfast broadband is also commonly referred to as 'Fibre to the Cabinet' (FTTC) or 'partial fibre'.
- It is the most common type home broadband in the UK.
- FTTC broadband uses a blend of fibre optic and copper telephone cables to deliver its connection.
- Similar to ADSL, Superfast broadband requires an active phone line to work.
What is Superfast broadband?
Superfast or Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) broadband, involves running fibre optic cables from the telephone exchange to the green cabinets you often see on pavements and street corners. Then, from the cabinet to your home, standard copper telephone cables are used to complete the connection.
Who offers Superfast broadband?
Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who use BT's Openreach network offer Superfast broadband packages. However, with the PSTN switch-off planned soon (more on that below), a select number of providers have stopped offering Superfast broadband deals.
How fast is Superfast broadband?
Speeds with Superfast broadband will vary depending on the package you opt for, but average maximum download speeds are offered at the following variations:- 38Mbps, 52Mbps and 76Mbps. Upload rates are 2Mbps (on a 38Mbps connection), 10Mbps (on either a 38Mbps or 52Mbps connection), and 20Mbps (on a 76Mbps connection), respectively.
Openreach has also deployed a faster FTTC technology known as G.Fast, which offers speeds of up to 350Mbps. However, availability of G.Fast is extremely limited, and you must live within a minimum distance from the exchange in order for it to work.
If you live within 100 metres of the cabinet and there aren’t too many otber users on the network, the above download and upload speeds are mostly achievable during non-peak hours.
But it's important to remember that neither the download or upload speed of an FTTC connection is guaranteed and the performance will depend heavily on your distance from the cabinet, as well as how many others are using internet connections from that cabinet. The provider you sign-up with should tell you what your actual estimated speeds will be.
Who is Superfast broadband good for?
Whether you need a Superfast broadband connection or not depends on your personal circumstances, including what online activities you use the internet for, how many people you live with, and how heavy their internet usage is.
To help calculate the broadband speed you'll need, it's a good idea to allocate at least 10Mbps of bandwidth for each person in your household.
Pros and Cons of Superfast/FTTC broadband
Although the most widely available type of broadband, Superfast broadband still has its pros and cons.
Faster than ADSL
Because the connection between the telephone exchange and the cabinet is made by fibre optic cables, an FTTC connection will provide you with faster speeds than an ADSL line.
With around a 96% availability rate, FTTC broadband is one of the most accessible types of broadband in the UK.
Because of its high availability, FTTC has now become of the cheapest broadband options.
Slower than full fibre broadband
Although Superfast broadband is much faster than ADSL, it's still much slower when compared with full fibre.
A busy network
If your home is located a significant distance from the cabinet, or are sharing the network with a lot of other users ("highly contended" in industry jargon), the speeds you get will be worse.
Superfast broadband and the PSTN switch-off
What is PSTN?
PSTN stands for 'Public Switched Telephone Network' and has been in use since the 1800s. PSTN uses copper telephone wires to provide homes and businesses across the UK with a reliable means of communication.
Thanks to Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) - a process that allows other ISPs to provide broadband and phone services on the BT Openreach network - most broadband providers use the PSTN network. However, PSTN is now considered a 'legacy network' and is due to be switched off completely by BT Openreach in December 2025.
Once switched off, these providers will still use the Openreach network, but the broadband services they offer will be full fibre only.
How does the PSTN switch-off affect Superfast broadband?
Because the PSTN is being switched off by December 2025, every phone line in the UK will be moved to a fully digital network. So instead of copper wiring, phone calls will now be made over VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) - a technology that allows you to make phone calls using your broadband internet connection.
In other words, all phone lines will soon digital. Because Superfast broadband relies on copper telephone wires for the journey from the green cabinet to your home, this broadband type will need to be upgraded to a full-fibre connection.
Why is the PSTN switch-off happening?
BT has stated that the PSTN network is not only old, but that its technology is failing to keep up with current demands for internet and communications services. Switching to an entirely digital network will mean that households and businesses will receive overall faster and more reliable internet, as well as a clearer signal with phone services.
What is the 'Stop Sell'?
'Stop Sell' means that once more than 75% of an exchange area can access full-fibre broadband services, Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) broadband will no longer be available to new and existing customers.
And, because Openreach have already replaced the PSTN network in some exchange areas, it is now no longer possible to sign-up for Superfast broadband.
If you live in one of these exchange areas and are currently using FTTC broadband, you don't need to switch to full fibre just yet.
But if you are looking to upgrade your broadband service, run a quote with us to see what deals are available in your area.
I have an active phone line for my Superfast broadband connection. Will I still need a landline once the PSTN is switched off?
No. Once you switch Superfast to full fibre broadband, you will no longer need an active phone line to connect to the internet.
If you do want to continue using a landline to make calls after the switch-off, a digital phone line option will be available from most, if not all, current providers on the Openreach network.
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