If you don’t understand the difference between broadband, fiber, and full fiber, you’re not alone.
Research suggests that many Britons don’t know what these terms really mean – although many of us like to pretend we do.
Regulator Ofcom has found that while 73% of internet customers say they are comfortable understanding internet connection jargon, almost half (46%) mistakenly think they have fast fiber optic broadband when in fact this is not the case.
Confusing – and often misleading – advertising from internet service providers has not helped Brits understand the different types of broadband.
Connect: Modern broadband comes in a variety of different speeds depending on the technology powering it
Internet customers may soon get clearer information on this as part of plans being drawn up by Ofcom.
But for now, we explain the difference between all types of broadband – and how to tell which type you currently have.
What is the difference between standard, fiber and full-fiber broadband?
In short: speed and material. Standard broadband relies on copper wires to carry a signal to your property.
This form of internet connection is called asymmetric digital subscriber line, or ADSL for short.
A level above is fiber broadband, which, as the name suggests, uses fiber optic cables to transmit faster broadband to your nearest street cabinet, then copper cables up at your home.
Street cabinets are the green boxes you might see in your area, which are used to distribute internet to homes.
The fastest form of fiber broadband is known as cable. This uses fiber optic cables to carry broadband to street cabinets and then Virgin Media cables to connect to properties.
A level above fiber broadband is full fiber, which uses fiber optic cables to your property. This broadband is the fastest of the lot, and the most expensive too.
Currently, fiber optic broadband is primarily chosen by households with multiple occupants who stream movies, games, or work from home at the same time.
Broadband fiber is sometimes referred to as “fiber to the office”, while full fiber is referred to as “fiber to the premises”.
Find the fastest and cheapest broadband – and see if you can save
Broadband, TV and phone contracts are notoriously rigid, with customers often allowing deals to last for many years while providers raise prices.
But you might be able to get faster broadband, a better TV package, and a better phone deal, all while saving money each month.
It’s always worth comparing prices to see if you can save – especially as the cost of living crisis hits.
This is Money has partnered with Broadband Choices to offer readers the ability to easily find the best and cheapest deals for their broadband, mobile and TV.
> Can you save? Compare broadband, TV and telephony offers
Almost all households (99.9%) can access standard ADSL broadband, while 96% can access fiber broadband, according to comparison firm Uswitch. Much of the remaining 4% of housing is in rural areas.
Exactly a third (33%) of properties have access to fiber optic broadband. The low availability of full fiber is because this form of the Internet relies on being able to lay fiber optic cable at your doorstep, which is not yet possible everywhere.
You can check if your property is eligible for fiber optic broadband using a free online tool from Openreach.
There are also two other ways to get broadband worth mentioning: mobile and satellite.
These two forms of broadband are rarely confused with anything else due to their specialized nature.
Mobile broadband relies on the user having either a USB dongle that provides web access to the device you plug it into, or a special mobile broadband router.
Meanwhile, satellite broadband – which is extremely rare – requires the installation of a satellite dish on the property.
What is the confusion between fiber and full fiber?
The main problem is that the terms “fiber” and “full fiber” are widely used by broadband providers.
Ofcom notes that “the term fiber is applied inconsistently by the industry”.
This means that some providers mistakenly use “full fiber” in their marketing materials when they really mean “fiber” because no fiber optic cable connects directly to a potential customer’s home.
Ofcom’s director of connectivity, Selina Chadha, said: “It’s essential that customers are given the right information to help them choose the best broadband service for them.
“But some of the industry jargon used to describe the underlying technology supporting their broadband service can be unclear and inconsistent, meaning customers are confused.”
How do I know what type of broadband I have?
The best way is to talk to your broadband provider and check the documentation they sent you.
This type of connection is used for ADSL and broadband fiber
But there are ways to determine what kind of internet you have.
Standard Broadband and Fiber Broadband use routers that plug into a main telephone wall socket, while Full Fiber Broadband Routers connect to a special box inside your property called an optical network terminal .
Internet speed is also a sign of the type of broadband you have.
Optical network terminals are used for full fiber broadband
ADSL broadband normally has speeds of 6 to 25 megabits per second (Mbps)
Broadband fiber speeds vary between 30 and 80 Mbps.
For cable broadband, these speeds are between 30 and 500 Mbps.
Full-fiber broadband can reach speeds of 1,000 Mbps.
You can check your broadband speed using free online tools.
How do broadband speeds work?
Just to make things a bit more confusing, many broadband deals aren’t just advertised by type – ADSL, fiber, etc.
Instead, providers use words like “superfast,” “ultrafast,” and “gigabit.”
Super-fast broadband has download speeds of 30 Mbps or more, according to Ofcom.
Ultra-fast broadband speeds range from 300 Mbps to 1000 Mbps.
Gigabit broadband has speeds of 1,000 Mbps or more – or above a gigabit.
However, those terms are vague, and broadband companies are advertising offers are faster than Ofcom’s guidelines suggest.
Full fiber packages are usually more expensive, and whether or not you need them depends on your internet usage and what you’re using it for.
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