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What is FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet)?

What is FTTC Fibre To The Cabinet

FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) is the most common type of broadband connection used in UK homes. It uses a blend of fibre and copper cables to deliver broadband into the premises via existing copper telephone wires. This makes it quick and cheap to install, as well as highly available throughout the UK. 

An FTTC connection is shared (contended) with many other users around your local area. This means it’s performance will be hindered during peak hours (when many other people are using it). And because it’s a contended connection, FTTC is not powerful enough for most businesses, especially those that rely heavily on internet use. 

Instead, uncontended connections such as microwave internet are commonly used by businesses. For households on the other hand, FTTC provides a cost-effective solution that will handle most of the common requirements such as streaming, internet browsing, VoIP and social media use.

How Does FTTC Work?

Put simply, FTTC is a fibre connection from the exchange to the cabinet, where it’s shared out among various people via copper phone lines. 

A fibre connection is made from your nearest exchange to your nearest “cabinet”. These cabinets are the green boxes you’ve likely seen around your local area, which are used to distribute the internet out to various people on the network.

The connection between the cabinet and the home is known as the “last mile” – a term that’s a little misleading as it’s often not as far as a mile. 

Your “last mile” of an FTTC connection is delivered through old copper phone wires, which transfer data (internet) much slower than fibre optic cables or a PTP microwave link. 

The further your premises is from the cabinet, the slower your broadband will run, as it will have to travel further along slow copper wires. 

Other Names For FTTC

Some of the other common names people use when referring to FTTC include:

  • Super Fast Broadband
  • Infinity
  • Fibre Broadband

Install Time

Typically speaking, the installation time for a FTTC connection is between 14-30 days. If a line is already in place, you’ll likely be looking at the lower end of that scale. Whereas, in the uncommon scenario (around 4% of the UK), where there isn’t a cabinet in the area, it could take over a year.

FTTC Speeds

The speed of your FTTC connection is heavily dependent on your distance from the nearest cabinet and how many others are sharing the connection.

Download Speeds

Generally speaking, FTTC is offered at three different download variations, these are:

  • 80Mbps download (76Mbps maximum throughput)
  • 55Mbps download (52Mbps maximum throughput)
  • 40Mbps download (38Mbps maximum throughput)

Upload Speeds

The upload speeds offered for FTTC are typically 

  • 20Mbps upload (80Mbps download)
  • 10Mbps upload (55Mbps or 40Mbps download)
  • 2Mbps upload (40Mbps download)

Neither the download or upload speed of an FTTC connection is guaranteed and the performance will heavily depend on the amount of data other people on the network are using, as well as your distance from the cabinet.

If you live within 100M of the cabinet and there aren’t too many other users on the network, the above download and upload speeds are very achievable during non-peak hours. Otherwise it’s worth checking prior to taking out any contract what your actual estimated speed will be.

Bonded FTTC

For most businesses and many people, the above speeds are too slow and so the option of bonding two FTTC connections together is often a good, cost-effective solution when internet connectivity isn’t mission-critical. 

By combining two FTTC connections together, you can double your download and upload speeds, while paying a fraction of what you would for a leased line.

This is good for households and startups who need to keep costs low, but isn’t very well suited for businesses as you’re still on a contended (shared) network that runs slower during peak hours. 

Another issue is that although you have two connections, they are both coming from the exact same source – so if one goes down, they both go down. Hence why FTTC isn’t offered with a mission critical service level agreement.

Benefits Of FTTC

  • Low Price
    FTTC is one of the cheapest connections to the internet currently available in the UK. It utilises existing phone cables, which keeps the set up costs low, and there’s little to no ongoing maintenance costs. There’s also a very low monthly rental fee
  • Highly Available
    The vast majority of the UK has FTTC available in their area. Currently, in 2021, there’s around a 96% availability rate, so you’d be very unlucky to not have FTTC available
  • Faster Than ADSL
    Because the connection between the cabinet and the exchange is made via fibre, an FTTC connection will provide you with faster speeds than an ADSL line.

Disadvantages Of FTTC

  • Highly Contended
    Because there are many other users sharing the same connection, your download and upload speeds will fluctuate throughout the day, making it difficult to use in business environments
  • Slow Speeds
    Although a FTTC connection is faster than an ADSL, it’s still incredibly slow when compared to a fibre or wireless leased line
  • No SLA
    Service level agreements give guaranteed uptime, fast service restoration as well as round the clock monitoring of the connection. This is fairly commonplace when looking at business internet connections, however it is not able to be offered on a FTTC connection.

FTTC vs FTTP

fttc vs fttp graphic

FTTC and FTTP (also known as “Fibre To The Home” or “FTTH”) are both fibre internet connections you’ll see companies offering for domestic use, but why does one cost more than the other and what are the differences?

  • FTTC
    FTTC uses fibre cables to deliver the internet to your local street cabinet, but after that it uses slow copper cables to reach your home.
  • FTTP
    FTTP works the same way, only instead of using slow copper cables from the cabinet to your home, it uses fibre cables instead.

This makes FTTP much faster than FTTC. However, it will cost more money per month and availability is limited in the UK.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is FTTC internet?

FTTC is an internet connection used by the majority of homes in the UK. The connection is delivered over a mix of existing fibre and copper lines, making it easy to set up, but relatively slow. FTTC connections are “contended”, meaning they’re shared with many other users – this means its performance is greatly hindered during peak hours. For many homes, FTTC is powerful enough to cope with the general demands of a regular sized family, however most businesses will struggle to function on such a limited connection.

What does FTTC stand for?

FTTC stands for “Fibre To The Cabinet”, an internet connection that uses fibre lines to the local street cabinet, and then copper wires (your existing phone line) to your house.

What is the difference between FTTC and FTTP?

FTTC uses a mix of fibre and copper lines to deliver an internet connection, whereas FTTP uses just fibre lines, making it considerably faster in both upload and download. Both FTTC and FTTP are connected to your local green street cabinet, which unfortunately means both connections are contended. This means they’ll run slower during peak hours and are not suitable for most types of business use.

What FTTC speed can I get?

The speeds you can get with a FTTC connection will vary based on how far away you are from your nearest cabinet and how many others are using internet connections from that cabinet.

You can typically get download speeds between 40 – 80mbps and upload speeds between 2 – 20mbps on FTTC internet connections in the UK.

Further Reading