Fibre broadband refers to networks of cables that can transmit broadband at faster speeds than any other type of network. Fibre cables comprise of thin strands of glass, only slightly thicker than a human hair, that transmit digital data using an infra-red laser light. Speeds of up to 360Mbps are currently available on Ireland's fibre network.
What is fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC)?
Where fibre-optic broadband is available, connections may be limited to speeds of up to 100Mbps because the fibre lines from the provider run only to the telephone network junction box on the street, after which it has to run through regular copper cables to get to your home. In technical terms, this is usually referred to as a FTTC (fibre-to-the-cabinet) connection.
What is fibre-to-the-home (FTTH)?
To get anywhere near the superfast broadband speeds of 360Mbps that are possible with fibre cables, you need to live in an area where there are FTTH (fibre-to-the-home) connections available. In these cases, cables run all the way into your home.
What is fibre-to-the-buliding (FTTB)?
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.
What does the future hold for fibre?
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 own network, and Vodafone has now partnered with ESB to spend €450 million building a 100% fibre wholesale network over the next four years.
The new ESB-Vodafone service is called Siro and it will run fibre cables along ESB power lines and directly into homes and businesses. Because there will be no copper “last mile” to travel, Siro promises to deliver speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
Significant work on Siro commenced in 2016 and it has been reported that over 300,000 rural homes will benefit which means that availability of superfast broadband connections across the country will improve significantly in the years to come.
eir has also commenced the roll out of its 1 Gbps fibre network to many of Ireland's rural broadband blackspots.
What is this technology really capable of?
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 could benefit immensely.
In the case where a rural customer has a traditional ADSL connection with speeds or around 2Mbps, fibre could bring about an immense increase in speed. For example, a connection achieving a speed of 50Mbps would enable a user to download a 700Mb feature length movie in under two minutes.
Fibre broadband is more stable than ADSL connections and does not suffer from drops in speed as a result of multiple users users. In fact, this technology, which allows for bundled services, is thought by experts to be the only connection type capable of handling the expected growth in demand for high-speed broadband over the next decade.