Broadband & Internet Connections

How do they work & what’s the difference?

Choosing the right type of connection to suit your business can be confusing, even for the most savvy business owner. Also if you are an IT technician who knows the jargon and the technology it represents, you may have to break it down into simple terms to the decision-makers who will ultimately give the go ahead for a budget for an upgrade.

In this article, we will run through what FTTP, FTTC and ADSL connections are, how they differ and what each technology means.


What is Fibre Optic?

To understand any ‘Fibre to the Whatever’ options, you first need to understand what a fibre optic cable is. Fibre cables are made up of one or more very fine optical fibres, as fine as a single human hair. Amazingly, these tiny fibres can send huge amounts of data at the speed of light across vast distances. This is achieved by using light instead of electrical pulses. When using a telephone connected to fibre optic, analogue voice signals are converted into digital signals, zeros and ones. Those digital signals control a laser that flashes on and off at one end of the cable to send data to the receiving end, a little like Morse code. The fibres is coated with two layers of plastic to create a mirror effect. The light is transmitted bouncing along the fibre at shallow angles thanks to the total internal reflection of the optical fibre – OK that is getting a little technical…basically, light is shined in one end and come out the other.

What is FTTC?

FTTC – Fibre to the Cabinet

This consists of a mix of traditional copper wire and fibre optic cable. The fibre optic cable runs from an exchange or distribution point to roadside cabinets that are probably on your street. Once the fibre cable reaches the cabinet, it joins the copper wire that connects to your business. The reason so many businesses opt for FTTC is purely economical. To install the fibre optic cable directly to your building, a lot of digging and infrastructure implementation may be required. The copper wires offer a cheap way to get fast internet into your premises at a lower cost. FTTC also has the advantage of DLM (Dynamic Line Management). DLM is an automated system that helps monitor and manage quality and connection speed.

What is FTTP?

FTTP – Fibre to the Premises

Instead of taking the cheaper copper substitute from the street cabinet to your business, FTTP uses optical fibre all the way. This is usually is a significantly faster connection and reliable compared to the copper option. While the costs can be prohibitive for homeowners (in which case it is often called Fibre to the Home – FTTH), it can make good sense for many business environments. With more businesses are relying on cloud services for critical business apps and VoIP etc., the demand for ultra-reliable FTTP is increasing. Fibre-optic Internet is many times faster than even the highest-speed copper Internet connections. Furthermore, you shouldn’t experience any issues during peak demand periods like you can with other installation options.


What is ADSL?

ADSL – Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line

ADSL used copper cables right from the telephone exchange to your premises, unlike it’s hardy younger brother, copper cable is prone to corrosion, static and electrical interferences which makes for a less stable connection than the glass and plastic that fibre optic cables are made of.

ADSL is also prone to signal strength issues over distance so you are at the mercy of your local telecoms infrastructure. The further you are from the exchange, the weaker your signal strength. This all sounds rather damning for ADSL but let us not forget how much faster it is than what we had before…remember the squeaky modems? It also has the advantage of having wide availability and low cost, so for small-businesses with limited online needs, it still has a place. While FTTP availability is not yet on par with FTTC, nearly all of the main FTTP players have been announcing major plans to expand over the next few years. As more full fibre providers continue to race for market share, your chances of getting FTTP installed at a reasonable price will only improve. In the meantime, businesses in urban areas are going to find it easier to switch to FTTP than those in rural locations. Although with some good speeds and ‘Unlimited’ tariffs becoming widely available, 3G/4G and in some areas 5G may be a better option


Which is best for your business?

Any business with multiple users and a need for a reliable connection is likely to look to FTTC or FTTP for their internet connection, especially if you want to use VoIP, cloud-based storage or cloud-based SaaS systems. Reliability aside, the main difference for businesses is the speed and cost associated with installation.

These are the approximate download speeds that can be expected for each connection type:

ADSL: 8 to 50 Mbps
FTTC: 80 to 100 Mbps (although distance from cabinet can have huge impact)
FTTP: Up to 1 Gbps

If you are looking leverage the power of the internet more, VoIP, cloud-based services or are growing your team; it may be time to consider an upgrade. It also worth noting that many providers quote an ‘up to’ download speed and there can be significant variances depending on the factors discussed. For advice on the right connection for your needs in your area, speak with a member of our team, who will analyse your location and we will provide you with the best solution. While you would, by now at least, expect FTTP to carry higher costs than FTTC or ADSL, there can be considerable variances by supplier. While doing your research and requesting quotes, makes sure to look out for hidden costs, implementation timescales and reviews on their service. Q6IT has experts on hand who can provide free FTTP advice for price comparisons to give you a idea before you begin deeper research into vendors.

Implementation costs can vary most when it comes to the physical implementation. Understanding from each provider who is digging the trenches and what is included in your connection setup is essential to making the right selection.