Sep 13, 2022

The world of telecoms is full of acronyms and the way in which broadband has been marketed over the last 20 years has added to the alphabet spaghetti. In this Insight, we’re going to explain two of these acronyms: FTTC and FTTP.

What is FTTC?

FTTC stands for Fibre To The Cabinet and is also marketed in the UK as “Superfast Broadband” or “Superfast Fibre”. In recent years it has become a very common type of internet connection favoured by old-fashioned legacy network operators who are keen to make as much use of their old copper networks as possible. This is understandable from their perspective, as it costs a lot of money to build, operate and maintain networks.

When ‘always on’ broadband, as opposed to dial up internet (remember that?), was first deployed or “rolled out”, legacy telecoms companies used digital signalling equipment (ADSL or ADSL2+) in the local exchanges which utilised their decades-old copper wires which were used for telephone calls to connect your house to the internet.

While this was an improvement over dial up internet, partly because you could surf online while using your telephone and partly because the speeds were theoretically faster, there was an unavoidable and inescapable problem: the strength of the signal decreased as the length of the copper wire increased!

This is why broadband used to be marketed as “up to” such and such a speed. The “up to” speed quoted was the maximum speed at the exchange before the electrical signals had started on their journey over the copper wires to your house, and that’s what you were charged for, as opposed to being based on the actual speeds you experienced at home, which was often much slower.

To help overcome this, shorter runs of copper wire were needed, and the only way to do that was to install the electrical signalling systems closer to people’s houses. And to do that, the legacy service providers installed thousands of “streetside cabinets” all over the country, which they would connect to using an optical fibre (hence Fibre to the Cabinet - FTTC) from the exchange, and from there to you they continued to use the old telephone copper wires that had perhaps been in place for decades. They also used a different type of electrical signalling system called VDSL (and sometimes yet another one called G:Fast!).

They marketed this, and continue to market it as “fibre broadband”, which in many people’s view, is not fibre broadband at all. Afterall if it uses copper wire to connect to your home, how can it be fibre optic?VirginMedia/O2 uses the same technique on their network but instead of copper wires they use copper-coax cable, the type of cable used to connect a TV to an aerial. The signalling system they use is different from that used over copper wires, being DOCSIS rather than a member of the DSL family or G:Fast. While this combination of DOCSIS over copper coax-cable is standard practice in the CableTV industry, where VirginMedia/O2 has its roots, they themselves have publicly stated in press releases that they will be switching their old DOCSIS/copper-coax cable network over to a real fibre optic one, similar in fact to the one we’re already building, over the next few years.

Which brings us to the second acronym FTTP.

What is FTTP?

FTTP stands for Fibre To The Premises and the clue as to what this is, is literally in the name! Unlike FTTC, the fibre optic cables are connected directly to your property and no copper cables or wires are used at all. This means that FTTP broadband can offer ultrafast broadband speeds of up to 1000Mbps for uploads as well as downloads, and can in fact go even faster at 10,000Mbps in both directions, or symmetrically as the telecoms industry refers to it as.

Comparing FTTC and FTTP

Deciding whether FTTC or FTTP broadband is best for your home can be confusing, mostly because legacy copper services are marketed as “fibre broadband”. To help you make the right decision, here are the pros and cons of each broadband connection type.

Pros of legacy FTTC copper broadband

  • Excellent coverage - more than 90% of properties can have FTTC broadband.
  • FTTC broadband deals are very affordable.
  • Cons of legacy FTTC copper broadband
  • Download speeds are slow
  • Upload speeds are even slower
  • Connection speeds are affected by the length of the copper wire or copper-coax cable from the street-side cabinet, and a host of other copper related issues
  • Copper-based service speeds are adversely affected by signalling interference – known as crosstalk
  • FTTC broadband is affected by peak busy-hour trafficFTTC is no way near as fast as FTTP broadband.

Pros of FTTP broadband

  • Ultrafast internet speeds of 1000Mbps or more
  • Symmetrical speeds provide much faster upload speeds, often the same or even faster than downloads speeds
  • Doesn't require phone line rental

Cons of FTTP broadband

  • Possibly more expensive than FTTC broadband, but there are some amazing deals out there!
  • Availability is currently not as widespread nationally as legacy copper-based services, but the rate of FTTH build by modern altnets is increasing

You’ve forgotten FTTH!

FTTH as you’ve probably guessed means Fibre To The something… and that something is Home. Obviously, Fibre to the Home is a kind of FTTP, as a home is a type of premises, but usually FTTH refers to a residential premises. The types of fibre optic or full-fibre services offered to businesses are often slightly different from those offered to regular homes. For example, a business internet connection often has to support multiple employees all at once, and they may require fail-over or back up circuits, possibly through diverse routing.

Which is best?

If you're looking for a faster internet connection, you're probably best served by either a modern 21st Century FTTP network such as the one provided by Netomnia via our service provider partners, or from one of the other “full fibre” network operators that are now operating in the UK. A legacy copper-coax cable service from VirginMedia/O2 will be your next best option. If neither of these are available in your area and you have to use a legacy FTTC copper wire service, don’t despair! We’re building out as fast as we possibly can and hope to be in your area soon.