With FTTC broadband, a network of fibre optic cables runs to your local telephone exchange cabinet from where data travels through (often old) telephone copper cables for the final few hundred metres or kilometres to your home.
Since copper wires tend to significantly slow down the speed of a connection, FTTC broadband has a maximum speed of 100Mb, and the speed degrades the further the data has to travel along a copper wire. So depending on how far your home is from your local cabinet box, the speed you're able to get could be far lower than 100Mb.
To get anywhere near the superfast broadband speeds of 1,000Mb that are possible with fibre broadband, you need to live in an area where there are FTTH connections available. In these cases, fibre cables run all the way into your home. Fibre-to-the-home is often called pure fibre as it doesn't rely on old copper wires for any of the network.
If you live in an apartment building, there might be a FTTB (fibre-to-the-building) connection, where the cable runs all the way to the outside of the building, but is then piped via alternative means to your apartment.
Virgin Media offers fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) broadband, which can deliver speeds of up to 500Mb. Unlike some providers such as Sky, who piggy back off Eir's network, Virgin Media owns and manages its own fibre network.
Virgin Media offers the fastest broadband speed that is widely available in Ireland and the provider is regularly awarded for its broadband speeds. However, the actual speeds achieved by an end user will depend on a number of factors, including distance from the local cabinet and the number of devices connected to the network at a given time.
To test the speed you're getting with your current provider, just visit broadbandspeedtest.ie. And if you're looking to increase your broadband speed, try these 13 tips to speed up your broadband connection or consider switching providers.
Until recently, fibre connections tended to be the preserve of cable operators like Virgin Media, and generally only available to customers in urban areas.
However, Eir has invested substantially in its network in recent years, and SIRO, a joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone, has been rolling out a fibre-to-the-home network with speeds of 1,000Mb to premises in Ireland for several years now.
Finally the National Broadband Plan aims to deliver fibre to over 500,00 premises in rural locations and small towns over the coming years. These are areas that haven't been served by Eir or SIRO to date. The plan has been delayed several times over the past few years but a decision has finally been made by the Government to proceed.
Most urban users with good broadband connections may not notice significant differences following a change to this new technology, however rural customers with poor connectivity will benefit immensely.
In the case where a rural customer has a traditional non-fibre DSL connection with speeds of around 2Mb, fibre will bring about a significant increase in speed. For example, a connection achieving a speed of 100Mb will enable a user to download a 700Mb feature-length movie in around a minute as opposed to an hour!
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