Broadband

What is full fibre broadband? Is it the same as gigabit broadband?

Full fibre broadband, also known as gigabit broadband and sometimes referred to as Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) or Fibre to the Home (FTTH), is much faster, more reliable and uses a different technology than standard broadband.

Whilst traditional, standard broadband is delivered via copper telephone lines, fibre broadband uses fibre optic cables to deliver high speed broadband services directly to your home. This allows for significantly faster download and upload speeds than traditional networks.

The fibre optic cables can be installed underground in ducts, or as overhead lines using new and existing telegraph poles.

FTTP installation requires a broadband engineer to bring the fibre cables all the way into the home or business, which may take a few days to install.

Find out more on our ‘what is full fibre’ page.

What is gigabit or gigabit-capable broadband?

Gigabit or gigabit-capable broadband means download speeds of at least 1 gigabit-per-second (1 Gbps or 1000 megabits per second, Mbps).

A 1 Gbps download speed would allow a high-definition film to be downloaded in under 1 minute.

Gigabit-capable broadband can be delivered by a range of technologies, including: full fibre connections, high-speed cable broadband and potentially 5G networks.

What are the benefits of a full fibre or gigabit broadband connection?

Gigabit broadband (also known as full fibre) is the future of fast, reliable broadband. One gigabit (Gbps) is 1000Mbps which is really, really fast.

Our lives are more connected every day. And at home more and more gadgets and appliances are connected to the internet.

With increasing demand for data from multiple devices and more people working from home – faster and more reliable broadband will become essential.

The higher the download speed, the faster you can download files – resulting in better quality video and TV streaming.

Gigabit broadband isn’t just about a faster internet experience, it’s about everyone in a household being able to do their own thing online, all at the same time.

Businesses can use gigabit broadband to come up with better solutions for customers while helping their staff work more flexibly and saving money by reducing travel costs.

Whether you use the internet for business or for leisure, gigabit broadband can make your online life easier and more efficient:

  • Upload, download and stream content faster
  • Speed up connections and improve reliability
  • Save time with more efficient working

Research by Ofcom shows that some customers may be paying more than they need to on existing broadband contracts for lower speeds – so it’s always worth checking if you can switch to a better deal.

How do I check if full fibre is available in my area?

Our postcode checker shows what speed broadband is available in your area.

You can also check if your area is already covered by the big commercial providers by using the Openreach or Virgin Media postcode checkers or take a look at our list of suppliers who we know are active in Cambridgeshire.

You can also use an independent online postcode checker such as Ofcom to see the services available in your postcode area.

Shop around for the best deal using an independent comparison site or ask your current broadband supplier if you can upgrade to full fibre within your existing contract.

How do I upgrade to full fibre?

To upgrade to superfast broadband you need to contact an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to find out if they are offering Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) fibre broadband packages in your area. You can do this by using a broadband comparison website such as thinkbroadband.com.

Because this is a newer technology, not all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer full fibre (also known as Fibre to the Premise (FTTP)) services yet in all areas, although more will become available as the fibre network expands.

Use our postcode checker to find out if we are aware of any suppliers’ plans in your area. Or if you check your address via the Openreach postcode checker, and your premise can get full fibre, you will see a list of ISPs currently offering FTTP in your area.

Once you have placed an order, your chosen provider will arrange appointments for an engineer to install fibre to your property, which usually takes around four weeks to complete.

What are the different broadband speeds available?

Different internet service providers will offer different packages and may use different speed terms, but here is a rough guide:

Standard broadband – 10 megabits per second (Mbps): good for broadband basics e.g. reading the news, keeping in touch with family and friends, some online shopping.

Superfast* broadband – from 30Mbps to 100Mbps: Broadband basics + watching tv and films, and listening to music.

Ultrafast broadband – in excess of 100Mbps and up to 900Mbps: supports multiple devices at the same time – for working, streaming, gaming, video-calling or uploading.

Hyperfast broadband – offers download speeds in excess of 500mbps: Multiple devices at the same time – working, streaming, gaming, video-calling or uploading.

Gigabit broadband – 1000Mbps+: An internet connection that offers a speed of 1 gigabit per second (1gbps) to support multiple devices at the same time – working, streaming, gaming, video-calling or uploading.

Gigabit-capable broadband is a big leap forward in connection speeds that could benefit you into the future. Gigabit broadband also supports symmetrical connections – meaning your upload (e.g. posting videos to social video) and download speeds can be the same. A 1Gbps download speed allows a high-definition, 90 minute film to be downloaded in under 1 minute.

*Superfast broadband was defined as a download access speed of 24Mbps when the Connecting Cambridgeshire intervention programme was launched, however, it is now defined as 30Mbps.

Connecting Cambridgeshire has already brought access to superfast broadband to nearly 99%  of premises in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The programme is now working hard with Government and Suppliers to ensure that as many premises as possible can access gigabit-capable broadband.

How much speed do I need?

Good internet speed can mean something different for every household.

For instance, if you are using your home Wifi for nothing but web browsing and email, you might feel that you have fast internet with only 10-24Mbps.

On the other hand, someone who streams 4k video on multiple devices, plays video games online, and has connected smart home devices, may not be satisfied with 100Mbps.

The experience using an internet connection depends on several factors:

  • How many devices are connected and in use simultaneously?
  • How many people are streaming video from Netflix, YouTube, or another service?
  • Are you using your home WiFi for competitive online gaming?
  • Do you frequently need to send large files for work?
  • Do you regularly stream 4k video, or do you mostly stick to simple online tasks?
  • Do you get frustrated easily if your game lags or your webpage takes a while to load?
How can I find out my current speed?

There are many websites that allow you to check the actual download and upload speeds you are getting. Here are some you can try:

You don’t need to download any software or sign up to special offers to run the broadband speed tests – just click on the option to start the test. You can also check what services are available to you using the BT Wholesale checker. For the best results use your landline telephone number.

Speed test tips

To get an accurate check of speed:

  • Make sure that only the computer you are testing is accessing the internet.
  • Do not touch the keyboard or mouse while the test is running.

Speeds will vary depending on the time of day, or day of the week, so try repeating the test to see the range of speeds you get.

Is it possible to improve my current broadband speed without upgrading?

One of our long-standing Broadband Champions has provided some useful tips to help improve your current broadband speeds and details can be found on his Increase Broadband Speed website.

I can’t afford broadband – can I get a reduced tariff?

Some providers offer reduced tariffs for households and existing customers claiming certain benefits.

There is a round-up of all the other social tariffs on the Money Saving Expert website which lists the full qualifying criteria for each one (plus info on a different scheme for jobseekers from TalkTalk).

How is FTTP installed?

Installing FTTP usually involves an engineer bringing the fibre connection into your property in several stages.

Your chosen Internet Service Provider will be able to provide you with specific information, but here is a rough guide:

  1. Survey or tests to assess the best way to bring fibre to your property from the nearest drop point and if additional work is needed. You need to attend this appointment.
  2. External work to bring the fibre cable to the outside of your property underground or overhead, and fit a small connection box to the outside wall (if needed). You do not need to be present, but be aware that your phone line and alarm systems could go down briefly.
  3. Internal work to complete the fibre installation inside your property by fitting a fibre connection point in the most convenient place, close to a power source. You need to attend this appointment – allowing 2-4 hours for the engineer to complete the work.
  4. Connect the router supplied by your provider using ethernet cable or Wifi.
Which companies are building full fibre networks in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough?

A list of full fibre suppliers building networks in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough can be found on our Active Suppliers page.

It should be noted that the organisation that owns and operates the physical full fibre network can differ from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) who provides your broadband service over that network.

I’ve received a letter requesting wayleave access to my land to install full fibre broadband equipment, what does this mean?

Full fibre suppliers, where possible, use Highways land to install their ducts, poles and cabinets to build their network.

However, there are situations where they need to access or use privately-owned land in order to connect individual people, businesses or whole communities to their network.

This is often the case where there are privately-owned roads or shared driveways.

In these circumstances the full fibre supplier will request a wayleave that sets out the terms by which they are allowed to install and maintain their infrastructure sometimes with a small one-off fee for the property owner.

Why can’t I order faster broadband even though it appears to be live in my area?

There are a number of reasons you may not be able to upgrade to faster broadband.

Some premises may be too far away from the fibre cabinet they are served by to receive superfast speeds. In addition high demand for fibre broadband may mean some fibre cabinets get full up and need extra capacity adding before more people can place orders. If this is the case, you will see on the Openreach checker that there is a “waiting list” for the cabinet you are connected to. See our further FAQs on fibre cabinet capacity and Exchange Only lines.

Fibre rollout doesn’t always follow postcode or area boundaries and so there may be instances where some homes have been connected but others haven’t.

Our getting better broadband page explains what you can do if you’ve done all the checks and believe you should be able to get fibre broadband, but are unable to upgrade.

Do all premises in an area get improved broadband at the same time?

Fibre rollout doesn’t always follow postcode or area boundaries and so there may be instances where some homes have been connected but others haven’t.

Our getting better broadband page explains what you can do if you’ve done all the checks and believe you should be able to get fibre broadband, but are unable to upgrade.

Can you provide a more accurate timescale for when my area will get fibre broadband?

The Connecting Cambridgeshire rollout is now complete  – we have delivered superfast broadband to over 125,000 homes and businesses that would otherwise not have it and full fibre (FTTP) to over 7,000.

Gigabit capable broadband is being delivered in our area by a mix of commercial fibre delivery and government funded schemes (Project Gigabit and the rural Gigabit Broadband Voucher scheme).

There are many suppliers (in addition to Openreach and Virgin Media) now actively planning and delivering fibre networks in our towns and villages. You can see the suppliers that are actively delivering fibre in our area on the getting better broadband page.

Suppliers plans can be subject to delays and changes and it is difficult for them to share too much detail in advance and so it is not always possible to be accurate on timescales or even coverage levels. We are working with them to try and get as much detail as we can on their plans and coverage and will reflect these in the postcode checker where we are able to.

The Openreach checker contradicts information on your website, why is that?

The Openreach website is a national site and we are therefore unable to influence the information it provides about different stages of their rollout.

If you are unsure of the plans for your area, please take a look at your postcode on our postcode checker or contact us via our ‘contact us’ page.

I’m trying to order superfast broadband but the fibre cabinet has reached capacity – what does this mean?

High demand for broadband means some fibre cabinets (that provide FTTC) get full up and need extra capacity adding before more people can place orders.

If this happens, Openreach will need to add a new connections ‘card’ or even a new cabinet, which may take several months.

If this is the case, you will see on the Openreach checker, that there is a “waiting list” for the cabinet you are connected to, which means you won’t be able to order until the additional capacity has been installed.

Please email Connecting Cambridgeshire if you are unable to order superfast broadband because the cabinet has reached capacity, so that we can report this to Openreach and check progress to install extra capacity.

How long does it take to increase the capacity of a fibre cabinet?

When a cabinet is installed BT know how many properties will be connected to it and estimate how many of the available connections will be taken up.

Therefore, cabinets are installed with around a third of their total capacity initially so there is room to increase it where demand is high.

The majority of the cabinets have enough room to connect 288 lines. There are also smaller cabinets which can connect 96 lines.

BT aims to provide extra capacity as soon as possible for those parts of the network where they are experiencing high levels of demand.

Catering for additional demand in an area can take time to plan and may involve expanding the existing infrastructure to accommodate the extra equipment needed.

In some cases, BT may even need to supply an additional fibre cabinet to increase capacity (Incremental Cabinets) as this has to progress through planning it can take a while.

Cabinets at capacity are reported to Openreach, who have a rolling programme to install extra capacity, but it may take a while before you can order fibre broadband through your chosen internet service provider.

Is there a reason I can’t order FTTC even though it appears to be available in my area? What is ‘Stop Sell’?

In some areas, Openreach will stop FTTC from being sold/offered as an option once an exchange area has a certain level of FTTP coverage.

This will only apply to a new order or an upgrade for those premises on the exchange who are able to order FTTP.

If FTTP is not available at a premises, then the ‘stop sell’ will not be applied. More details about stop sells can be found on the Openreach website.

Is it possible to be connected to a nearer cabinet?

Due to the historic complexity of the cabling connecting premises to a cabinet, which does not always follow the shortest routes, it is not as straight forward as simply connecting you to closest cabinet.

The network over which fibre broadband is provided is bespoke, and all premises are served from dedicated fixed distribution points.

Why should I upgrade, won’t it just cost more?

You pay for the speed package that you order, regardless of the technology. Higher speed packages via full fibre (FTTP) may cost more than you pay now for a slower speed, or you can order superfast speeds at the same prices as Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) customers.

But, recent research by Ofcom shows that some customers may be paying more than they need to on their existing broadband contracts – so it’s always worth checking to see if you can switch to a better deal.

Can residents help to bring fibre broadband to their community sooner?

Government-funded Gigabit Broadband Vouchers are available for people experiencing slow broadband speeds in rural areas. You can check if you and your neighbours are eligible, to apply as a group, on the official Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme website.

Residents interested in helping their communities to get better broadband speeds sooner may also wish to look into community funding a solution. One such example is Openreach’s Fibre Community Partnership (FCP) programme (other broadband suppliers can also utilise the vouchers).

Any community interested in helping themselves to get better broadband speeds can register with their chosen broadband supplier to see what the possible solutions and costs are.

Registering for a Fibre Community Partnership does not represent any commitment from the community at this stage, however it enables you and us to find out more about potential solutions and costs to deliver better broadband to your area.

If the Fibre Community Partnership team can give cost estimates for a solution, there may be opportunities for match funding from Connecting Cambridgeshire or from the Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme.

If delivery and funding of a solution is then agreed upon, Connecting Cambridgeshire can work together with residents to manage the delivery to reduce the time demands on their community.

If your community is interested in exploring this option and has registered with the Fibre Community Programme, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Connecting Cambridgeshire team for extra support.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the rollout of broadband?

Work to repair and maintain telecoms networks across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – including rolling out fibre networks for broadband – continued during the Covid-19 pandemic as digital connectivity was deemed to be critical by the Government.

The Connecting Cambridgeshire superfast broadband rollout continued to be delivered by Openreach and its contractors, within Public Health England guidelines, to reach homes and businesses in hard-to-reach areas that would not get coverage otherwise.

You may have seen Openreach engineers working in the street, digging trenches and installing new cables, during lockdowns – however, they were advised to avoid entering customer premises if restrictions didn’t allow it, unless it would have left a vulnerable person without a connection.

This did mean delays in some connections for Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) services. However, there were a few exceptions for those classed as vulnerable.

Streetworks guidance published by the Highways Authorities and Utilities Committee confirmed that the that works involving network maintenance and fault repairs, customer repairs, network build, and increasing network capacity were allowed to continue during the pandemic.

What is the ‘copper switch off’?

Analogue phone lines that rely on copper wire networks have been around for decades, but the plan is that by the end of this decade the service will be fully decommissioned. The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which is the copper telecommunications network used primarily for landlines, will be phased out from 2026 and replaced with digital systems delivered over broadband connections. Openreach will stop selling products that rely on the PSTN, and in the lead-up to the switch off will upgrade some 14 million analogue lines. The Openreach ‘stop sell‘ programme is intended to result in homes and businesses not being able to buy copper broadband if they are upgrading, regrading or switching telecoms provider, and instead will only be able to order Fibre to the Premises (FTTP or full-fibre) broadband networks. You can find more information and a video on the Openreach website where they explain why they are retiring their copper network.